Why do you create art? Who do you create it for? I create art because I will be loony if I don’t. The thought now of giving it up makes me hyperventilate, seriously. I have said it before, it is the act of creating that is important to me. Once it is done, I need to start something else. I have found my stopping point; I can tell it is over, on to the next one. What makes it a personal investment vs a professional one? When you learn to let go of what you created.
This is a very common issue with beginning artists, how can you sell your work? How can you let it go? For me it’s easy, I will create something else. It may not be as good next time but perhaps in the 3 others, it will be better. To be a professional, you have to keep creating and you must let go. You let go of the things that sell, you let go of the ones that are awful. You shouldn’t keep everything. If for no other reason than your kids will hate you when they inherit. What will they do with all that stuff? The other reason? Sooner or later, you will need to move. My family moved from a small art co-op to a farm in Yakima and my mother had the biggest darned bonfire you have ever seen. Friends were screaming about the stuff she was tossing to the flames. Mom would yell, “Pull it from the fire if you must but I NEVER WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN!” There were thousands of prints, original drawings and paintings going to feed the rising flames. Back then, you couldn’t print on demand. If you had a limited edition of 1500, you stored 1500 prints until they all sold. Now a days, you can order 5 of each image you have and if they don’t sell? Pfft.
The biggest reason for the fire? Not everything you do as an artist is going to be a keeper. I have painted over 93 originals this year alone. How many do you think are 5 out of 5 stars? How many do you think I believe are 5/5? There are some real dogs. I am not going to point them out to you. You will never see them. They quietly went away to become….. compost. It’s okay, I allow myself some failures. Remember? Learn to fail so you will also learn to persevere.
Ultimately, this is a business and you are not going to be able to sell everything you create. There isn’t a magic buyer for every one of your artistic endeavors. Sorry, no Fairy God Buyers coming to save the day or the original from the rubbish bin. Grade your work, I do it 1 through 5. 3 and above gets framed, 2s get shrink wrapped for the print bin and 1’s, well we all know what happens to 1’s. Let them go. It’s okay, you will create more. Give yourself permission to recognize that what you have in front of you is an artist failure. It wasn’t a waste of time, never. You learned so much. Color lessons, composition lessons, material; all of it wasn’t ever wasted.
I challenge all of you to find 5 pieces you have done that are awful, and burn them. Don’t listen to your mother/father/best friend/grandparent. Reassure them, I won’t quit. This isn’t the end of my journey as an artist, this is my phoenix lesson. Watch the flames, I’m about to take off.