Should I give up?
August 25, 2009
Yesterday, Dana Finch of the UK wrote: "I have been painting for years. I now have to work at a fulltime non-art job but I still consider myself first and foremost a painter, and spend most weekends, evenings, holidays, etc., doing it. I studied at art school and have a degree in art. Despite my dedication I am getting nowhere trying to interest a small provincial gallery, let alone a London one. I do sell a few things, mainly through friends, but not in a consistent way. Am I really a bad painter and should I give up? What do you advise? I know you are not an agony aunt for painters, but my problems may resonate with other struggling painters."
Thanks, Dana. Agony uncle I'm not--mostly I can be found chugging up my own mountains. But when it comes to my fellow-travellers, I try to be a positive guy. And while brazen approval and blind encouragement are often as effective as any crit, there are some practical concerns that artists need to think about. Thanks also for mentioning "other struggling painters." My groaning inbox tells me your plight is currently quite universal.
Your work has a fine sense of feeling and atmosphere--rain, fog, etc., and a simple, understated honesty. But is this enough? Is there enough to really carry a viewer away? Is there possibly a sense in the minds of many potential collectors that they could have done one of these themselves? As I see it, and there will be many who will disagree, this sort of work is really a bit too facile and too easy to do. So you can get my drift, we've put a selection of Dana Finch's work at the top of the current clickback.
While there are exceptions to this, the hard, cold facts tell us that only a few top workers are truly thriving. The competition is tough. To the admirable virtues of feeling and atmosphere, one needs to leverage skill, craft and a degree of hard-won cleverness that the average person on the street cannot easily attain. When you add a personal style that distinguishes you from the others, opportunistic gallerists are more likely to check you out.
I've never advised anyone to give up. It's not in my DNA. But I've suggested that some need to re-examine directions and invest in a new and rigorous program of private study and daily labour. This may sound cruel and simplistic, but to get a decent ride on the train of joy, many artists need to spend more time shovelling coal.
PS: "Never, ever, ever give up." (Charles Schultz)
Esoterica: Perhaps a lot of Western Art has tipped too far toward our personal demands for private joy. Further, many artists are trying to combine casual pleasantries with secure cash flows. It's nice work if you can get it, but it may just be mastery that gives the truest joy. "The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." (Pearl S. Buck)
Coach Sherrie Says: I don't think the Clickback works here for you to see Dana's work, but I thought it was quite beatiful. I normally don't bother looking at landscapes, but I would consider buying hers. Maybe she just needs to expand her sales horizon.
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