Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Selling Our Art - and Self-Worth

You may or may not know that I paint. Writing and painting have been plying me with their respective demands since I was a very small child. Over the years I discovered that my paintings had a market, and I picked up a small following of collectors for my naive (and sometimes not so naive) paintings. I remained a writer, but saw - and still see - how very difficult it is to get my particular fictional interpretation of my world into the hands of readers. Painting became my major pursuit. I've been told many times that my pictures are like little stories in themselves, and that makes sense to me as a writer. I don't ask you to examine the image for deeper meaning, but just to follow each story.

This, then, is why painting draws me back again and again, for its immediacy. Whether you buy a painting, or not, you'll perhaps see it, although the selling of it is the ultimate goal for the sake of validation.

I found I had to stop painting six months ago to Get Back To The Writing. I just don't seem able to manage both during the same period. The writing is sometimes painfully demanding, not necessarily a joyful pursuit, and of late I've felt the urge to paint again, because it is happy work. I mentioned this, if you recall, in an earlier posting.

The dilemma is that the writing will be neglected. I feel as if I am watching the imminent departure of an old friend. She is packing, getting her bits and pieces from the bathroom, preparing to leave for the airport. We sit waiting for her cab, trying to make bright small talk, but saddened by the effort. And so it is with my writing.

I am going to write today, determined to complete two more chapters this week. I'm hoping that this will push the painting bug firmly away for a bit longer. I'm not confident, really. Already I've started scribbling out my funny little sketches on scraps of paper. I've been thinking about really big canvases. (And I'm going to need more sealant, as the can I have has dried up.)

Go for it, you say. Paint away and be happy, you say. But here's the bad news. Art isn't selling. I've been looking, watching, researching for months now, and I can honestly say that we artists are hitting a bad patch. It's all very well for me to produce some charming little picture, amusing and colorful, but I need reassurance. That comes from selling. No sales, no encouragement.

If I'm sounding somewhat down today, I'm sorry. For me it's a double-whammy. It's terrible enough for those of us who produce paintings, or other artworks, knowing how difficult it is to sell, regardless of price. (Most of us have tried discounting to get our work out there.)

But for writers, it's the constant reminder, from blogs and news articles, of how poorly the publishing sector is doing. Everywhere I turn, I see some new comment on how very, very hard it is to sell our work.

And so, today, I confess I am discouraged. Artist, or writer, how do we maintain our enthusiasm for our work? It's all very well to acknowledge that just the act of creating is the point, and that we should be grateful to have that gift. But we are also sensitive and fragile, and we need concrete acknowledgment that our work has value.

I'd be very interested to know how some of you feel about this. It's a long posting, and even now I'm not sure I've expressed it completely - the way I'm feeling. Do you suffer from self-doubt when you have no feedback on your work, whatever form that work takes?

Please comment. I am in need of huge amounts of self-worth boosting.

Oh, and Boadicea seems to have gone on R & R. I could use some of her bravery about now...


Embee said...

I know exactly how you feel! I've been determined to get down to the business of writing, but I'm finishing up my degree (and will be starting another in August), plus I work full time, and have a family, so something had to give, and guess what it was? Writing! Once I graduate this month, however, I've set myself goals for writing this summer and I will not be deterred!

As for painting and art, I am envious that you have fulfilled that ambition, if even in a smaller way than you wish. I have dabbled at artistic pursuits, and I love painting, but have never received the nuts and bolts "how-to" training to paint properly. I suppose if I was truly drawn to painting (no pun intended) I would teach myself. Of course it's one of those things on my to-do list but it keeps getting pushed down further and further until I never get to it at all.

However, I am determined to complete every single thing on my to-do list before I leave this lifetime, and since painting is on the list, I'll get to it eventually!

Try not to be discouraged. You've certainly had some good bits of luck and circumstance lately, so keep up the hard work and if the only thing art and writing does for you now is nourish your soul, there's something to be said for that too. There is a time and purpose for everything and even if sales of word and canvas are slow now, they will pick up again in the future because they nourish everyone's soul and we all need that kind of nourishment no matter the economy!

Keep up the good work! BTW, do you have a site where you post pix of your paintings? I'd love to see your work!

Fran said...

I needed that Embee. Go to http://francaldwellstudio.com to see the art.

Embee said...

Hi again - I checked out your art site, and I love the folksiness of your style. My favorite is "Fall Quilt Sale." Very, very charming and - snapshots from life. Awesome!

Melissa Marsh said...

I've hit the abyss of discouragement lately, too, because as you say, the market for artists - whether painters or writers - isn't very good.

I know this advice is going to sound weird, but...maybe you should just wallow in the discouragement for a day or so. I find that if I just let those feelings out, if I acknowledge that I'm not feeling encouraged and productive, the next day will be infinitely better instead of if I just tried to whitewash my feelings by saying, "Oh, it's not that bad! Tomorrow will be a better day!" Wallowing has its virtues.

Does that sound a bit goofy? Maybe it's just me. Ha!

But, dear Fran, I think you should do what is in your heart right now, whether it be painting or writing.

Fran said...

It did something - that griping. I wrote 2,000 words later! Thanks, Melissa.

Casey said...

I'm sorry you got so discouraged, Fran. I think we all go through our phases of that. Isn't it lovely having such a supportive community to turn to?

I'm glad the wallowing helped. I'll remember that for myself!

Fran said...

What would I do without you all?