23 January 2008
I've been thinking lately about the tension I feel between what's necessary for any kind of remuneration in the art world, and personal satisfaction as an artist. If you continue reading past that last sentence, please bear in mind that I know my situation is not the same as some other artists, and I'm acutely aware that my stuff isn't exactly going to win the Grand Prix. However, given that by any objective comparison, there is ample evidence to support the idea that my work is no worse, and substantially better than, much of what's for sale in the world. I could, in theory, be getting paid for this. At least enough to keep me in expensive papers and slick mechanical pencils.
What's needed to get paid for art is, in a nutshell, marketing. A person has to be willing and able to show their work to other people, and not only expect them to like it, but also expect them to want to pay for it. These things have historically been difficult for me, for a variety of reasons. I'm starting to get on top of it being OK to show my stuff to people, and I'm starting to be OK with the idea that some of them will like and possibly want to buy some of it. What's still troubling me is that final step about expectation, and the further bit about setting a price and collecting the money.
I feel dirty when I think about making art to sell. I don't know how to explain it better than that, but let's just say that whatever I make generally gets made because it seemed right, in the part of my brain that governs my sense of how the world should look. I can see that the perfect combination is to make stuff that appeases that part of my brain, and then package it in a way that sells. For instance, a scribble on a cocktail napkin looks like a scribble on a cocktail napkin... but if you have it professionally mounted and framed, it will then look like art... even if you don't LIKE it, you'll still recognize that it is an object that someone is trying to pass off as art.
So... when someone looks at something I've done, and says, "Oh, you could totally sell that" I am immediately seized with the urge to destroy it. Why? Who knows. I'm not sure that matters. But this puts me in a bit of a bind. Sure, agents and gallery representation is GREAT for people like me, because I don't have to get my precious psyche dirty. But in order to get an agent or gallery representation, I have to show it to someone, and I have to expect them to like it, and as soon as I start thinking about that, my brain seizes.
Probably my best bet is to stockpile a portfolio, and then get it all professionally mounted, and photographed, and then sucker someone else into showing it around. Preferably someone with style, and charm, and a general lack of scruple. I think that'd be worth a percentage.