Today's Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author.
One of Chris Issac's recordings on his Baha Sessions album, contains the following line: "Pretty girls don't cry, they know exactly what they want". It's common human experience that beautiful people seem to get all the attention. My sister had to do very little to get attention from the opposite sex, while I, on the other hand, hardly got any. That's because my sister was beautiful, and I was just so-so. However today, she's getting just plain old, while I'm older too. The difference between her and me is that she's still trying to use her looks to get ahead, while I'm using paintings.
Great Work Gets Attention
Pretty paintings (or rather great works of art) easily gain attention. I see art as a great equalizer when it comes to my getting the attention of collectors, no matter what I look like or how old I am. The better my paintings are, the easier I get that attention. To sum up how one usually gets top billing in the art world... it's not art marketing techniques or business plans alone that make artists famous, it's the attractiveness factor of their work.
Gaining national recognition is rarely, if ever attained by positive wishing or a magical formula. My more famous artist friends are sought out by galleries and collectors world wide. They did not use visualization techniques or follow a clever marketing recipe to get where they are -- they arrived, first and foremost, by becoming one of the best artists in the world. Having achieved that, they then found ways to get their work in front of collectors' eyes.
While I'm not saying that we artists all must be the best in the whole world, what I am suggesting is that we might work towards being the best in our world. (I got this idea from reading Seth Godin's book Tribes.) Here's an example to illustrate my meaning: I am a pretty spanking-good watercolor painter, and I can back that up with the fact that I've had my own instructional column in Watercolor Magazine for 2 years. However, while my watermedia paintings have gained national notoriety, my galleries have asked me to paint in oil because they think those works sell more easily. Up until now, I've obliged.
Excelling In My World
My world is the arena of watermedia painting - because that's what I do best and enjoy most. I'd probably rise faster to national recognition if I were to ignore my gallery dealers' pleas to work in oil, and make a decision to focus on watermedia paintings. While I'm an "OK" oil painter, I have a realistic chance at being one of the best in the watercolor realm.
What it Takes
Anyone with natural artistic ability, intelligence, patience, good education, trustworthy mentoring, and a great work ethic can climb to, or near to the top of the national art market. While this is most certainly true, only a handful of artists make it there. Why is that? I can't possibly know or list all the reasons why artists don't make the grade, but I can confidently state one of the main attributes that successful artists possess: They are more concerned with taking the quality of their work to a higher level than just about anything else.
When I join my "Putney Painter" friends in Vermont, I rarely hear or engage in conversations concerning making money or selling paintings. We mostly talk about how we can make better art. The Putney Painters instinctively know that excellent artwork will ultimately be followed with sales.
Because I have befriended nationally famous artists throughout my professional career and even tasted the national art market for myself, I've decided to embark on a series of articles that uncover the ways that these well known artists have achieved national notoriety. In the weeks and months that follow, I'll interview my more famous artist friends and report my findings for subsequent Fine Art Views newsletters. I'll take note of the personality traits these artists have in common, what events catapulted them to the top in their field, and what actions they say they'd avoid if they had to do it over.
My first interview (next week) will be with Kathy Anderson,a vivacious woman who didn't make the big time until she was in her late 50s. Recently a gallery that advertises in the first few pages of collectors' magazines, contacted her saying they've been watching her work and would like her to participate in an upcoming event. She didn't get to this point by accident, luck or wishful thinking, but by growing technically and entering national competitions. More on Kathy - next week.