I manipulate metals and minerals and bonding solutions in order to provoke emotional responses from people I will usually never meet. That which happens in the process some people call art. My talent for creating icons and illusions turned into a lifetime of manipulations... in various pigments, bronze and steel, some quite large, which loom in museums, schools, collections and public places all over Texas. Here on this blog you can watch my creative actions and insights unfold...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Encouragement- and a jolting Challenge


It comes in all kinds of packages.  As a fellow artist, my mother understood that I needed  it, as well as regular bubble popping, and she had a strange and wonderful way of weaving the two. Neither her praises or her admonishments ever came when I was "ready" for them.

I had this naive conviction that really good art did not need to be sold. That it sold itself. I did not want to stand in front of my work and sell it. If it did not sell itself, it was probably not very good and I should just get a job. This is what I based my future on.

And that idea had to go. I've been striving in the art business for over forty years now, and rarely has the art ever sold itself. Commissions have to be negotiated. Paintings have to be "placed." Sculptures have to be stored so as not to decay or hurt someone. They cannot sell themselves lurking in my dusty studio. When my art was hung in public places, it... most of the time it just hung there. Sometimes I would get an inquiry. "I saw your painting, I wonder, can you paint...???"

I hardly ever remember my art selling right off of the wall through a second party, (like a restaurant or business lobby show)  who was not actively interested  in the commissions they might earn.  No, my art did not sell itself. People said nice things, goggled at my prices, raised their eyebrows, sometimes even asked about what it might cost for that dream custom art they always wanted... but usually never ordered from anyone. My art sold when somebody, usually a gallery or an agent of some kind endorsed it, with conviction. Somebody had to provide the personal contact. Art, music, entertainment of any kind is very relational. 

Meanwhile I made a living mostly by selling a few works by word -of-mouth, in my own sphere, and doing commissions, teaching art, custom framing, commercial signs, and lots of odd jobs in-between.  Finally after years in the business, there was enough word of mouth that art jobs came in fairly regularly- but it was still very hand-to-mouth. 

These were always big projects for public art, as I proved myself capable of pleasing the expectations of schools, museums and businesses.  The works, mere concepts and yet to be done, could not possibly sell themselves. My previous accomplishments sold my work. Not only did my works not sell themselves, I had to communicate with my clientele and sell them on the work yet undone!

So what am I getting at? I have not been able to separate my art from personally promoting it. I HATE sales. I never wanted a job being a salesman, but it was either sell-  or Hell. (Hell in the modern Christian perspective is usually seen as the absence of God... total loss of  relevance, eternal nothingness)

An artist waiting for the positive re-enforcement that includes financial compensation, encouragement if you will, to launch their art career, will wait for a painfully long time.

A long, long time. Maybe forever. To be an artist, you have to be as passionate about it as President Obama's staff was that forged and forced "Obamacare" through to govern an unwitting society. Be willing to deceive, connive, manipulate, whatever, to make the art and push it  out the door like a cowbird on a mission- (Machiavellian, cowbirds commandeer other bird's nests and kick out their eggs and replace them with their  own). You have to be almost ruthless. It is survival of the fittest. 

And it is NOT because you are just a mediocre artist. It is because the world is distracted and does not have time for you. It never has. The artists of old ingratiated themselves with the ultra-rich and the church to carve out a living. It is a fairly recent idea that artists sell to the "common folk." It is still not really a viable concept either. Fine Art plays a very tiny part in our American economy. Check out the numbers (annually) of visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts, as compared to Reliant Stadium. There's your cultural dilemma. 

Having talent is only the beginning of your misery.  Harnessing and utilizing it for the common good (including yourself) is a totally separate issue. Most artists never even discover the common good, much less harvest their potential. They create their art in a vacuum and wait for somebody to discover their genius... clinging to that old adage: "Build a better mousetrap..."

And THAT was a damned lie. The world does not beat a pathway to your door. Except to leave dirty diapers. You have to either beat your own pathway, I'm talking with a big machete, or like my friend Leon Collins has done, set up shop on the world's highway... to find those folks you did not want to face and sell to them... face to face. 

I plan to do just that here in Navasota in the coming weeks. The City of Navasota is passing an ordinance to give us artists the opportunity to sell directly to the public downtown in Blues Alley (an alley adjacent to the store by the same name). 


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a journey of faith. I hope more cities start opening up venues for artists to sell. I wonder where this will go as we move into the digital age. Hopefully it'll increase a demand for something tangible.