I’ve been taking my art on the road this fall and winter, trying to cast a wider net and find a larger audience. I know a lot of people think art should be done for the pure joy of creativity, and that’s certainly a wonderful thing, but I have to make mine support itself, at the very least, and me, should the going get tougher.
With those goals in hand, I am pretty shameless about self-promotion and putting my art out there. None of this “oh, I can’t really put a price on it” attitude from my camp! These are not my “children;” they are products of my fertile imagination, a snippet of God-given talent, and tens of thousands of hours of hard work. So, people adding them to their collections is the idea; money in my bank account is how they do that.
We all know how bad the economy has been, and really, art is not a necessity. I’ve done road shows for years now and watched the yard art, jewelry, and pottery survive in these hard times, while fine artists are scrambling to get folks to do anything more than say “it’s just lovely.”
I decided to aim higher: only “fine art shows” so I wouldn’t have to compete with $35 lawn ornaments (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and bigger shows in bigger cities. I started applying only for the Top 200 shows, and only the top 100 if possible. These shows are rated on art sold, so that’s got to work better than throwing a dart at a list, or a map.
The results have been mixed — for everyone involved. The big shows are better. They are also harder to get into, and cost more money to do. That said, they are not necessarily big, big moneymakers, even for the seasoned pros who have been on the circuit for years. People are simply reluctant to part with their money for anything other than what they consider necessities.
A few years ago, at the height of the recession they wouldn’t part with money at all. You couldn’t make an affordable painting, though the big ones were still selling here and there to folks who hadn’t noticed the downturn. Now, people are feeling better, but it seems that art is still on the “nice, but not now” shelf. It isn’t me, or you or the type of art we create, or the price — it’s the new prevalent mindset that says “this could all end tomorrow.”
It’s kind of sad, really. People do enjoy art, and they love it in their lives. They apparently don’t realize that if they do not patronize artists (and not the “look down on” meaning of that word either!) then art will not continue. In the Renaissance, artists had actual patronage, wealthy families who kept them on retainer, to do portraits and altar pieces and make their lives beautiful. Some modern artists have collectors who function in a similar way. Perhaps it is up to us, as artists, to show people what they will be missing if they don’t support the artists in their communities.
What do you think?