I have found myself in several completely separate and unrelated conversations lately and one theme keeps coming up.
Why do we do that thing we do in that way that we do it? Actually I’m not sure if that sums it up well. I might write on, and see if this all becomes clearer by the end.
Danielle LaPorte has recently written a new book called White Hot Truth. Her premise is something like this. You know all that self help reading, self-proclaimed-expert advice seeking, program signing up, soul searching, affirmation reciting, clairvoyant consulting, life coaching, Insta-guru worshipping, all of that? Yep, It’s probably all ensuring that you can’t actually get to what you already know you want to do or be or create. It’s all just telling you on repeat that you are not quite enough….but if you just do this course, or that retreat, or read that book, of repeat that mantra, or follow these secret 7 steps, or spill your guts in front of this seminar audience, then you might just get there. You might then be complete, you might then be ready….and if not, there’s always the premium program, or the invite only masterclass. There's always somewhere to defer your efforts and your better judgement.
Undoubtedly, there are some genuine and brilliant sources of guidance out there....but not many.
Danielle writes from experience, and I'm so glad that she has.
People often ask me where I sell my work and I feel a sudden urge to justify my existence. The expected answer consists of a list of art galleries. But that’s not my answer. I have exhibited in galleries and art shows fairly regularly over the last few years, but I’ve got to say I’ve often done it for all of the wrong reasons. There’s a lot about the experience that has felt in opposition to all of the reasons I do this work - for work rather than for a hobby.
I don’t mean to rule out exhibitions for the rest of my career, and when opportunities present I consider everything, because it’s a bit stoopid not to. What I would like to rule out is being the bunny at the end of the exhibition string. Exhibitions where artists have to pay actual money to be considered for entry (yes, that’s a real thing) are out. Exhibitions where the gallery staff “design” the art are also out (yes that’s a thing too).
Who am I, you may say, to be throwing stinky mud at the fine folks of the art world.
No one is the answer, I’m no one important.
But I am an independent artist and I’m allowed to say that certain aspects of the way art is marketed and sold are absolute bollocks, and as such I’m allowed to do it differently. To my friends operating in gallery world who are blissfully happy and fulfilled, I’m clearly not talking about you here.
So the actual answer to the question of where I sell most of my work, is directly to the people that love it. Most of my work has been sold directly to clients via word of mouth, social media or more commonly through my private online events. What I love about working this way is that I usually get to have an actual conversation with the person who is buying my work. The people who buy my work almost always want to know how I painted it, or where the idea came from, and why. And I’m happy to tell them. It isn’t art-speak rubbish, it’s a real human connection. It's also the reason I seem to do a lot of commissions - because conversations and human connections. It is special to me that someone appreciates what I’ve made so much that they want to part with their money, in exchange for living with the art. That’s quite a significant transaction. I know that people put a lot of thought and consideration into buying something from me, and that’s the way I like it. I want you to buy it only if you actually love it, and it has real meaning or feeling for you. So perhaps you can see that whacking paintings up on a wall among a bunch of other “pictures for sale” feels kind of lacking something.
People are frequently buying art to match the cushions, and it will all be junk when the next series of “The Block” begins and they realise the cushions and the art are no longer trending. It’s hard to know what you love when you are always looking to a tv show or a magazine or to Instagram to find out what it is you are supposed to love at moment, what the cool people love. People are buying art because it's trending, and mistaking that for discernment. I find that a bit hilarious and a bit disturbing.
Knowing what you don’t want in life is sometimes easier than putting your finger on exactly what you do want, and I don't want to be in next summer's garage sale.
The conversations I’ve been having lately revolve around this. What is it you actually want and how can you actually go about creating it?
Some of these chats I’ve been having are with friends who are right in full career change swing and entrepreneurs riding the waves of the journey. Some conversations are with the “you’re so lucky” crowd, some are with curious bystanders.
Here’s what I've learned and what I know. You just keep doing what feels right, what feels like you - not comfort zone you, but deep and true you, most excellent self you. No one else’s 7 step plan was made for me, and at some point you need to stop seeking guru advice and top 10 recommendations and guaranteed quick fixes from outside of yourself, and start answering your own questions. Then my friend, the rubber meets the road, you put your money where you mouth is, you start to walk your talk. Please insert your own favourite “get that shit done” metaphor.
In the past, I have walked away from careers when I’ve gotten in deep enough to see the cogs and ugly machinations at work. I’ve opted out and walked away feeling all noble for not being a part of it anymore (talking to you fashion world). But I can’t walk away from art because I’m not sure what of me would be left. So instead I’m working, and walking my less than traditional path in a career with no promises, and no limits, and of course no manual. I'll be over here doing what feels right and I'll put my fingers in my ears and sing la la la la if I hear the words "If you want to be a real artist you should......"
This is absolutely not an advice column, way too many of those already. But if you know someone who might find this useful, please share it with them via social media, or any other way you like.
Thanks for sticking it out to the end!! Let me know what you think, or if you can relate.
ps. I mentioned private online events (read exhibitions, studio sales, pop-up stores). They are for my mailing list buddies only and if you think you might to be there, then I’d love you to join me with the form below . I have something special to announce in about 48 hrs so don’t delay!!