So I have been arty to one degree or another ever since I was a kid, and like many other artists family and friends alike tell you ” You should sell your art” or ” Your good enough to sell in a gallery”. I don’t know about most artist but as much as I love my family and friends and really appreciate the comments and encouragement………But,….. your never really sure if they genuinely mean it or if they are just being nice.
That aside nearly 10 yrs ago now I decided I wanted to pay more attention to my art and wondered if I could really do something with it.
But here is the CRUX!!!
The art world is brutal and in more ways than one. When I first went back to college as a mature student, I had no clue, zip, na da, not a idea on how to sell art, get it into galleries, or just sell my stuff in general. Over the summer hols that students get to enjoy, I decided I would just pick some random exhibition and enter a piece of work from my coursework. I set the goal of just getting it excepted, that is all I wanted to achieve. I picked the Discerning Eye Exhibition which is held every year at The Mall Galleries in London. Now nut shelling a long story, my work got accepted, went into exhibition, sold before the private view. My little book sculpture, only the second one I had every made sold.
Well that spurned me on, maybe my friend and family love em were being totally honest with me.
So I entered another, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Rip Cycle competition ( which was a world wide one) and then came 4th, Ripley’s now own the piece.
Well I must be doing something right, right ………wrong.
I think that my naivety protected me and even though I have had work in galleries over the last couple of year I have only sold what I call bread and butter work not what I call my passion which were my first two above mentioned pieces.
This is the problem, art as with any market has its trends, lots of artist don’t really make any money until they die, ( really don’t want that to happen), You end up producing art for the market and not necessarily the art you want to sell. That is where my personal problems begins and why I feel I am winging it most of the time. My art is unconventional, unusual, different, off the wall ect.
My art is niche and trying to find my market is proving a little difficult. So I enter my work into galleries and comp’s, expos and the winging it bit comes if they actually want it. (Because you need to research your judges and what kinds of art they are involved with ect.) Now I am not trying to do myself down, I love what I do, I love the reactions that bloom over peoples faces when they see my work, I produce stuff that is not as common as you may think………………and 99% my work does not have a meaning. This also causes a problem.
I would love one day to see something that I had loving sweated my heart out over to be owned by the Tate or displayed at the Guggenheim, but my art does not really have meaning, my art is what it means to the viewer, its the emotion that is evoked within them when they look at what I produced with my little mits and visually impaired mind.
I would quite often have conversations with one of my tutors in the conceptual studies lessons, (which when I first started these lessons I did kind of wonder what was the point of them and thought I was going to be bored ridged, but funny enough I wasn’t,) about the meaning of works of art. We were opposite ends of the scale, for him everything was beautiful, he loved everything and I mean everything, until I worked out his “oh I love that” had various tones depending on how much he really did like them. For me personally some of it I got and some times I thought he was really stretching his thoughts on what an artist was really trying to say. I have to say as much as I did disagree with him, I did learn a lot. But he believed all art had meaning and must have meaning and I believe it did not necessarily need any.
I kind of got the impression that if I wanted my art to eventually be displayed at the Tate or Guggenheim there are rules you end up having to follow to get there.
- You have to have gone to some form of art college or university course.
- Your art must have meaning.
- You seem to have to use your pain to convey your meaning, it seems to need to be sad, tragic and not normally happy.
- You need to have a dramatic life of some description, depression,accident,or your just plain mad.
Yeah Ok maybe I am just going off on a tangent but you get my point, for me most artist that are recognisable are ones who have very remembered characteristics, for example, Grayson Perry, Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Dali, you get my drift. Other artist are available as I am still learning.
Which takes me back to my conversations with my tutor. Why does it need meaning? , Why should I use something that inflicts me to create something?
Well I do understand more about art now than I ever did and I have to say I am starting to enjoy the history behind pieces and why they were created and I realise that the viewer does want a story, wants to understand why an artist created a piece. But I have come to understand that maybe my tutor was (she types grudgingly) kind of right. See I can’t use what pains me as I use my art to take me away from it ( childhood family problems, continued health issues, previous trauma) I don’t want to show what it did to me, I use it as a form of escapism so in around about way I am still using my pain, its just hidden or expressed in a different way.
This is the other part of the CRUX!!!
I as an artist do not want to change what I do, how I do it or what I wish to make. No artist should. But does that mean I will be excluded from the places I would like my art shown?
Pablo Picasso — ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’
Is that what I am going to have to do? I am all for learning new techniques and skills, its just more strings to my ever growing bow and gives me a lot more variety but is that going to have to apply to exhibitions and galleries?
In the mean time I will just carry on making and doing in my own way, but what I have learnt about winging it when it comes to competitions and exhibitions is this:
1. Pick a contest to challenge yourself just to see if you can get excepted on your own merits. But make sure its one you do not have to pay entry too.
2. If your first starting out and your entering a pay for entry competition start with smaller cheaper contests. Some of these can cost up and above £25 per entry ( and the more well known ones can be more but some like the John Ruskin on do student discounts) and that does not mean it will get accepted, it just means it will get looked at. If you enter a few items and non of them get accepted, it gets expensive.
3. Research your judges and previous winners of a competition or exhibition, if your work is nothing like the kind of work the judges are picking or the kind of art they create themselves or previous winners are producing, don’t waste your money.
4. If it’s a contest you want to take part in then the above applies and create your work to fit the contest if that is what you wish to do.
5. Choose your galleries wisely, galleries charge in different ways, check their charges before you submit work. For me I have a preference to galleries that except your work and charge a commission when your work has sold, this can be nearly half the price of what you sell it for, but you adjust your price to accommodate this, I feel they try harder to sell your work. Other galleries will charge you for shelf or wall space and if it doesn’t sell you have still paid out to get nothing back.
6. When submitting your main pieces, make sure you take browser pieces if the gallery does this, I sell more prints and greetings cards of my art than of the actually pieces which is depressing but that is the way it seems to work.
7. Keep in mind you will get more rejections than exceptions. I remember reading somewhere that only 1 in every 10 works you submit will get excepted. But don’t give up, keep trying.
The same kind of rules apply to competitions, personally I would not pay to enter a competition, they can be run by unscrupulous people and will promise you the earth and give you nothing in return for your hard earned pennies. This is not my personal experience but I have heard it from many another artist. Some art mags are run this way also.
But mostly be true to yourself as an artist. I am going to still do my thing, still do weird stuff and you never know eventually may end up in the Tate or the Guggenheim with my art piece that does not have any other meaning than what you the viewer thinks it has.