This post is by Jack White, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Jack has enjoyed a forty-one year career as a successful fulltime artist and author. He has written for Professional Artist Magazine for 14 years and has six art marketing books published. In 1976 Jack was named the Official Artist of Texas. He has mentored hundreds of artists around the world. Jack authored seven Art Marketing books. The first, “Mystery of Making It”, describes how he taught Mikki to paint and has sold over six million dollars worth of her art. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Want to know what our favorite sporting event is? I know most of you would think I’d say the Super Bowl or the Final Four. You’d be wrong. Mikki and I love horses; our all-time ultimate sporting event is The Kentucky Derby. In 1994, we had the good fortune to spend a week at the Derby with press credentials that gave us free reign of the grounds. Arriving on the backstretch at five each morning, we visited with owners and trainers for the seven days leading up to the big race. Mikki was in heaven sketching horses, trainers and jockeys in the shadow of the famous twin spires.
One day, Mikki and I were in an official press conference with Nicholas "Nick" Zito. Zito began his career at the very bottom as a hot walker, worked his way up to groom, then assistant trainer, and finally became a trainer. His first top level horse was Thirty Six Red. With Nick as his trainer, he won the 1990 Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes and earned a second place finish in that year's Belmont Stakes. Nick Zito went on to win the Preakness once, the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes twice. He got his big break in 1991 when he won his first Kentucky Derby with Strike the Gold.
There were a couple dozen real reporters asking questions. Nick explained he was going to tweak his mount a little for the derby. Standing up with press credentials dangling from my neck I asked, “Mr. Zito, will you put blinders on Go For Gin to help him focus?”
My hubris was showing. I wanted to sound like I knew some of the finer details of horse racing.
Nick paused, turning to ask his hot walker a question before responding, “Great question. Right now I think we will let him run free. He seems to be laser focused.” After the interview, I went to the betting window and placed $2 on Go For Gin to Win and $2 more on Strodes Creek to come in second. I won on both bets. Total winnings were $9.
We are two very lucky people, Mikki and I have been to a couple of Super Bowls, the NBA Finals and a World Series game. Those were nothing compared to the two minutes of excitement at the Kentucky Derby. I can close my eyes and hear the thundering hooves pounding the track as they turn for home. You can feel the roar of 140,000 people screaming as riders spur their mounts past the grandstands.
I’ve come to the conclusion artists have the same temperament as pure blood race horses. A flying bird or honking car can distract them from their task. Most of the time, the reason really top horses lose is they can’t remain focused for two minutes. I help a lot of artists and have been mentoring some for several years. It’s common to receive an email with their list of goals. In most cases, the goals are beyond realistic but I never discourage their dreams. I just wait because it never fails. Sometime the reply comes in weeks, other times it's months.
"Mr. White, I hate to tell you this but I just can’t make it. I’m going to find a nine-to-five job. My wife is fed up with me not making sales. The reason is no one is buying art. Galleries are not taking new artists. The economy is really bad. eBay is dead, NO ONE is buying on eBay any more."
I know that is not true. For the last few months, Mikki has been listing some 6” x 6” painting on cradle panels and we are doing very well. Our listings all begin at a penny and seldom do any fall under $200 at the end.
Not long ago, a really skilled artist we’ve worked with for a long time lost his focus. His email contained a list of his art equipment he was going to sell. I fired back, “What are you doing to put your work in front of buyers?”
“I have been painting some of my best work. I posted them on my website and Facebook. I even tried Craigslist.”
I asked him to hang in one more month. I also suggested he begin contacting his client base. As if by magic, several commissions showed up and he began doing much better on eBay. He did about $2,500 last month with prospects of having some big months ahead. He is not going to sell his brushes and easel. Now, he is laser focused. It’s like he placed blinders on in order to focus.
Paul wrote, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters.” I have found art to be a jealous mistress. She wants your full attention or her jealousy will find a way to destroy your life.
I get up each morning and write. I do this every single day we are home. My goal is a thousand words. If I reach more, it’s a plus. I did a painting for Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment - just to name a few. He told me “I write two thousand words a day. No matter what is going on, I find time to write two thousand words.” He is successful because he is laser focused. Larry wears blinders when he is at the keyboard.
My dear friend Stephen Pressfield, author of several books that have been made into movies is laser focused. The axiom “Focus or Fail” is more important than ever. I don’t expect the economy to suddenly improve but there will be artists who continue to succeed. They are the ones wearing blinders. They also have ear plugs. They don’t listen to outside gossip. They tune out the negative news, filling their minds - not with Pollyanna in the sky thinking, but realistic thoughts of success.
I have written fourteen books. A Hollywood producer is interested in reading my last book when it’s finished. The book is being edited. It’s the true story of John Wesley Hardin, a gunfighter who killed 42 men by the time he was 25. They are thinking of making it into a miniseries. I also know the reality is very thin but I can certainly dream.
Please listen to this old broken down cowboy. If they knock you down, get back up. Force a smile across your face. Don’t let them know the blow hurt. If a gallery or publication rejects you, smile. Know someone will appreciate what you do. I plan to keep on keeping on until one of my books hits the jackpot. Find a set of blinders and, together, we will trudge along our way to the top.