The Struggle of the Artist

I'M BACK!

 

Remember to leave a little room to breathe
My new mantra!

 

I have been on vacation! It was much needed and I managed to see the sun providing warm weather for the first time in 12-months. You know the kind of warm weather, anything hotter than single figures which we get all of the time in the UK. I also didn't see any rain. But you know those vacations where the minute you get back to work you need another one straight away? Well, it was one of those. I have returned to so much work that it has been almost impossible to find the time to sleep.

That's one of the joys of running two jobs, but I am determined that one day I will be able to ditch the non-art related job and concentrate on my art. The problem is that I need the non-art related job to pay the bills for now. That seems to be common in the arts, even in LA, you can see a known actor serving tables in between jobs and you would be surprised at just how many celebrities actually do have second jobs. I'm actually gathering a list for a future blog so if you know of any famous people who have a second job that is a little more down to earth, please do let me know!

While I was away though I met a few people, always the best part of any vacation and we talked about the upcoming art auctions on board the cruise ship. I mentioned that I was an artist and I was surprised to hear that two of the people I met were also artists! We talked about how difficult the market is right now, but also how you can create new markets sometimes by just thinking differently. So this week I am going to give you an insight to the struggle of an artist in the current market and how you can think a little differently to increase your art sales.

It’s been a while since I covered some of the news in the art and technology industry having been focussing since December on providing support to local and independent artists around the world. I have had a lot of feedback during this past few months, so I am planning to relaunch some of the news stories as well as continuing my series of blogs on giving support and advice to those who have chosen the arts as a career.

There will be a few other changes too! You might have noticed that you will no longer see my Amazon Affiliate links in the sidebar, I will be posting the best deals instead on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia.

The reason is that affiliate links really do hurt search engine optimisation and trying to increase readership has been difficult of late with all of the algorithm changes in various search engines, now I have removed the affiliate links my SEO is way better than it ever was, so there’s a tip for you, affiliate links can damage your SEO!

How much? Well, prior to including the affiliate links my readership was getting higher, when I started including the links my search engine referrals reduced by more than 3,000 hits. Now I have removed the links, my search engine referrals are up over 650%.

Other changes I have planned are to launch a brand new collection of art. What you would probably call my premium collection. This will be formed from a few collections of works that will be produced as a series. What makes these works special is that I will be using new software to create them, and some new subjects that I have never attempted before, and I will be returning to a traditional paintbrush and acrylics for a few planned works.

The first series will focus on my travels around the world, so it will be an eclectic mix of inspiration that I have gained during my trips overseas and on the seas! I am also working on some blueprint designs, and I will be creating another series featuring textures.

I also plan to get back to my roots a little as an abstract and landscape artist. The new ranges will appear on a new page I have planned for this blog, La Galleria de Art, so come back and take a look as the new page and new content emerge over the coming weeks and months. I will be giving you the full low down soon.

Another development is that I have decided to start offering some works exclusively available from me directly. Payment will be via PayPal, and the prints will be offered as strictly limited editions and will include some of my photographic work.

All of these prints will be signed and will come with a signed certificate, and best of all, the prices will be starting as low as around $20 per print including P&P! A pricing table will be available on yet another new page I am creating called “buy direct”. In the meantime, you can contact me for direct sales of existing artwork.

IN THE NEWS

Just back from vacation and the news has been far more interesting than it was this time last year. Firstly, there will be an exhibition to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, opening next year at the British Library. Now I am feeling old, because I remember reading a first edition of Harry Potter way before the book appeared in the top 10 of anything, and I have purchased every first edition since. But I cannot believe that it has been 20-years already!

The exhibition will feature material from J.K Rowling’s archives, and range of wizarding books, and information about the origin of the philosopher’s stone. The exhibition will run through from 20th October 2017 until the 28th February 2018, and tickets will be available from the British Library from spring 2017.

For lovers of Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, both Oscar-winning actors are teaming up with writer and director David O Russell for a TV show.

Details of the plot have not been revealed but The Wrap reports that the American Hustle director has "already had multiple offers for the project sight unseen". There are no details as yet on which TV networks are involved.

CHRISTIE’S

News from my favourite auction house this week brings us a private sale of Elizabeth, with the portrait being acquired by the Royal Museums Greenwich. The Christie’s press release went on to say: Christie’s is delighted that the historic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I has been secured for the nation after negotiating a private sale to the Royal Museums Greenwich on behalf of the Tyrwhitt Drake family.

The sale of this iconic painting, which represents a key moment from the Golden Age of British history, takes place during Christie’s 250th anniversary year and is the culmination of a national campaign of many months.The painting has been acquired by Royal Museums Greenwich, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, contributions from the Art Fund and over 8,000 public donations. The occasion marks the first time the portrait has been sold in its 425-year history and will enter public ownership. The huge public interest in the campaign demonstrates the historical significance of the work and its continued relevance to the nation.

A representative of the Tyrwhitt-Drake family commented: “On behalf of the Tyrwhitt-Drake’s, I am delighted that this exceptional work has been safeguarded for future generations to be admired by all in Royal Museums Greenwich, a public institution where it can be viewed for generations to come. The success of the fundraising campaign, coordinated by The Art Fund, has ensured a rightfully prestigious place for this exceptional painting, which has been passed by descent within our family for generations, having possibly been owned or even commissioned by Sir Francis Drake, one of the great heroes of Elizabeth I’s court.

The significance of the work can be seen in the context of our nation’s great history and I would like to thank Christie’s for furthering the relationship with the museum and all partners who have made this possible.”Painted c.1590, the work commemorates the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588, remembered as the most famous conflict of Elizabeth I’s 45-year reign (1558-1603). The inspiration for countless portrayals of Elizabeth I in film and on stage, it is one of the most famous images in British history, capturing a vital moment in the English Renaissance.

Unusual for its horizontal format and large size (110.5 x 125 cm), the portrait which has been, since at least 1775, in the collection of the descendants of Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral of the English Fleet at the time of the Spanish Armada, and one of the great heroes of Queen Elizabeth’s court.

The acquisition of the work by the Royal Museums Greenwich follows the Christie’s facilitated private sale of Rembrandt’s portraits of Maerten Soolmans and his wife Oopjen Coppit to the French and Dutch states in February 2016.

In other Christie’s news, after 12 years with Christie’s, Nicholas Hall, International Head, Old Master and 19th Century Paintings, is leaving to return to private trading in the Old Master field.

Nick joined Christie’s New York in May 2004 following the acquisition of Hall & Knight Limited, the gallery he opened in 1996 with Richard Knight, a colleague from P & D Colnaghi Gallery. During his time at Christie's, Nicholas Hall made a significant contribution to the Old Master Paintings department. He was involved with the move of the important Old Master New York sale to April and the development of innovative cross category theme sales Renaissance and Revolution. His previous activity as a dealer helped his involvement in the sale of the Duccio Madonna to the Metropolitan Museum, among a number of high level private sales. Karl Hermanns, Global Managing Director, will continue to have overall management responsibility for the Old Master teams while Francois de Poortere leads the Old Master team in Americas and Henry Pettifer continues to lead the Old Master team in London working with the highly experienced and established specialists and deputy chairmen globally.

So good luck to Nick in his new venture, we wish him all the very best.

IN THE GUARDIAN

There is a new art controversy which has been reported in the Guardian newspaper, and it is that an Australian Art magazine [Vault] a quarterly publication, has resurrected the debate of the digital age.The latest edition of Vault, was distributed last week with round yellow stickers covering the subject’s nipples.

Allegedly the distributor of the periodical had contacted Vault to request that stickers were placed over the nude on the front cover, because they were concerned that stockists would not stock the magazine.

The painting titled Bloom, is of a nude woman who is pregnant and also depicts fruit. Created by Lisa Yuskavage, has previously appeared on book covers produced by the artist.

So my question to you all this week, is it appropriate to show fine art on the covers of art magazines depicting incidental nudity or is it too risqué in this modern day?

COMING UP

As you know, I have just returned from spending a 14-day vacation on a cruise ship. Of course I spent some time perusing the $8m art collection on board, and I also spent some time at the art auctions delivered by Park West Gallery, who just happen to be one of my favourite galleries at this time. In fact I started following Park West on a previous cruise.

If you have ever purchased art from a cruise ship I would certainly like to hear about your experiences, so please do get in touch with any experiences you have had, good or bad.

 

THE ARTISTS (Please don’t use the word Journey!)

The Struggle of an Artist


Never Give Up

 

For years an artist hones his or hers skills, practices new techniques, new subjects, and generally builds up the confidence that the artist needs before they realise that their work might be good enough to sell. During this time the artist may have attended art school, and then had to start paying off the loan that he or she had to get in order to study his or her passion.

The artist may have spent years self-teaching, whichever way they learned, they committed time, money, and energy. If they are truly lucky they will have been born with a natural talent, but even those with a natural talent still need to continuously learn throughout their careers.

Being creative is a gift but creativity takes many forms. I know creative people who cannot draw a stick man figure, yet they can make a sculpture out of an empty tin can. Creativity takes many forms, but whatever creative ability you do or don't have, you need to continue learning. Finally you make your first sale and there isn't a feeling quite like it. You produced something that someone else wanted, that they saw the beauty in, and suddenly you are a published artist. You might have an immediate thought that you are on the right path to making the big time.

I sold my first artwork when I was around fifteen, I had the ego of a stereotypical teen, on reflection if I had have been my parents, I would have sent me to a boot camp. I thought I was a professional. It wasn't until I had done the whole traditional career thing and come back to art that I realised that my first sale was luck, and the art world was so much more difficult to break in to.

That feeling of invincible elation from my first sale didn't last. I needed to get a job and pay my way and I sort of fell in to the usual career choices, studying at college and university for what my parents would have called a proper job. I never gave up the art but for more than a few years I only ever doodled occasionally, there was just no time. It wasn't until much later that I picked up the paintbrush again.

I left school over thirty years ago. I studied after I had finished school and I carried on doing the whole career thing. Not that my day job these days could be classed as anything like normal or mundane, that's a story for another time. I'm still doing that career thing today, but I made a decision after I had left my career related studies to go back to college and study art.

When I had completed that program of academia it was still a long time before I started to create work that I thought I could eventually sell. Now I look back and think if I had made slightly different choices I would have been in a completely different position today. Maybe I would have become a professional artist sooner, maybe not.

Ultimately those choices and decisions to enter a traditional career were mine alone, but when I was younger I listened a little too hard to conformity. I felt I needed to chase what is known as a traditional career whilst my real passion was the arts.

The arts were out of reach, or at least that's what we had been told during those school career meetings with the teacher who had been given the unwanted job of careers advisor. The moral of this story is that you really need to follow your heart and remember that you don't have to conform to the norm. It really is OK to be different and if you want a career in the arts you can have a career in the arts.

It's just a bit of hard work. Despite the fact that I have a bit of an odd day job, I have still managed to have an art career in tandem. This isn't to say that having two simultaneous careers is easy, it's not. Both of them are probably the two careers that sit at opposite ends of the career spectrum, both of them alone cover complex subjects, but art as I have discovered is a subject so varied and like no other.

My day job aside, being an artist is wonderful, you are allowed to be creative and you can really open up new boundaries and break down walls, sometimes even literally. But artists have bad days too so let's take a look at what it's really like to be an unrepresented and truly independent artist in the 21st Century and what you need to do to become successful.

THE REAL STRUGGLE

When things are good they are great. You sell a piece of work and that feeling of elation sweeps across you for at least a brief moment. The length of that moment can be a few days or it could last a few weeks, but that feeling can pass all too quickly if another sale doesn't happen for months.

That's a harsh reality for many artists. Sales can be sporadic. I have dry periods where sales are so slow or even non-existent. This I have discovered is just the industry, and just like any other industry there are good times and bad times. If you haven't sold much lately, you are not on your own. I know successful artists who are going through the exact same lull.

Let light shine out of darkness
Let light shine out of darkness

 

It's during these slow times when all of a sudden your gift for creativeness will seem to have run in to a brick wall. It could take days, weeks, or even months for something to come along and inspire you. You keep going somehow but you feel lost. It's at this point you will be doubting your ability and it's tempting to call it a day. Don't call it a day, you need to be persistent. At times you may become envious of another artists ability and it doesn't matter how good you are. You could be the next Matisse but you will certainly at some point in your career think that you will never be as great as someone else.

By now you are probably ready to give up, except you hold on for a little longer because actually your passion hasn't gone away. It's still within you, it's just that it’s buried under a pile of self-doubt and a sprinkling of no confidence. Then out of the blue you will make a sale. It's as if a higher calling is sending a message to not give up.

It's at this point your creativity starts to once again flow. In fact a positive comment from someone you respect might be enough to open the tap of creativity once again. No matter how long you have been an artist these thoughts will come back from time to time. Artists who sell hundreds if not thousands of prints and original works over their lifetimes also experience these emotions more than you would think. I have come to believe that these emotions are what makes an artist an artist.

WHAT DO PEOPLE LIKE?

Even over a period of years these feelings never really go away, but what I have realised is that whilst it is a worry when you rely on generating an income and you're making zero sales, some of the feelings actually stem from the fact that no one seems to be interested in your work. Artists are the harshest of self-critics and it is as if though no one likes what you are doing anymore. You take it personally and you think that your art just doesn't make the grade.

What should I create that people will like? That's a question every artist yet to find their niche has asked themselves over the years. At this point you need to be honest, the question you are really asking is not what people will like, but what will people buy? If sales are slow it really doesn’t have to be because your work is not loved, but there is a difference between what people will like and what people will like enough to buy, and what people can afford.

The other side of this is that you might not be promoting your art sufficiently or in the right way, or you are reaching out to the same community repeatedly. There is an art to promotion and there is no easy answer until you stumble across what works for you and you start to generate sales.

You might be undervaluing your work. This is something that so many artists do. I had been selling art for a number of years mainly to friends and colleagues, but when I started selling online I didn't get anywhere near as many sales. I started with what I now call the price of no confidence. My sales were rarer than hens teeth. My philosophy had been to sell low priced art in huge quantities. Oh my was that the wrong strategy. I was competing with IKEA. I raised my prices and sales began to increase. I wasn't getting the volume, but I was suddenly selling more work. Apparently people who buy non big box store art will buy when they see something they like. I would never have believed raising prices was a strategy that would increase sales but it worked.

ALL CONSUMING ENVY

Envying other artists and thinking that your own work will never reach their standards is something that even the most experienced artists will feel at some point in their careers. But envy shouldn’t rule you. If you are swamped under the burden of envy your art will suffer as you will no longer enjoy the creative process. Instead turn envy in to inspiration. I see so many artists who produce a new technique and I think wow, I wish I could do that. The thing is you can. Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy” and how right he was.

I have some tremendously talented artist friends on Facebook (you all know who you are!) and it would be all too easy to become consumed with envy of their phenomenal talents. Instead these artists inspire me to become even better. That's a far better approach than expending negative energy.

Then there are the times when an artist becomes desperate to gain exposure or make a sale and they fall for the oldest trick in the book. Please can you create this amazingly complex artwork and oh, we don’t have a budget but you will get great exposure, and we might need last minute changes because we really have no idea what we want, and also we are not going to listen to your experienced voice.

Now if I were to ask my local plumber to come around to my house and ask him to repair my once again dripping tap, but then say to him that although I can’t pay him but I can tell all of my Facebook friends who live around the world that he is the best plumber ever, I can only imagine what he would say.

In summary he would use two words to say no. An artist has to have the confidence to know their work has a value. It has a cost associated with producing it, it has a cost associated to it when shipping, and the exposure should at least cover those costs.

My experience of taking on free work has generally resulted in zero sales, and next to zero exposure. Whilst I don’t mind doing the odd commission if the exposure will be good, or if the commissioner is one of the charities I support, I now always ask for a specification and I limit the number of revisions.

The latter reflects a commission I carried out a while ago. 77 revisions, and the work was for the wall of a staff canteen for a company who had a total of 22 employees. Out of those 22 employees, none of them went on to purchase my art and the company forgot to even send a thank you note, although one of the employees thanked me in the car park when I delivered the piece and said it was unlikely the company would thank me at all. The promised exposure never arrived either, it must be sitting next to the thank you note.

Now I always ask commissioners to sign a contract, even if the work is free. If they are promising great exposure in return, they need to be clear what that exposure is likely to be. If I produce a work for a charity, we need to agree on how the work will benefit the charity. If someone has a low or no budget at all, we need to agree on the amount of revisions if I actually accept the commission. Remember that you don't have to accept anything that you won't be paid for.

In some instances the contract will also cover placement. Where will the work be placed, for how long, and for commissions which the buyer actually pays for, I set out the terms of exclusivity. Can I sell reproduction prints, do they want to sell reproduction prints, or do they want me to destroy the original file for my digital work.


THE STARVING ARTIST


At times an artist may hold a belief that they are a starving artist but it depends on the definition of what a starving artist is that you use. The sometimes all-knowing Wikipedia defines the term as:
A starving artist is an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork. They typically live on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes toward art projects.


My definition is: Someone who sells on print on demand sites, works 70+ hours per week and has to learn advanced marketing for a sporadically low return.


Every successful artist has at some point spent way too much on art supplies, or can’t afford to both eat and paint. We have all been starving artists at some point, some of us continue to be starving artists and especially during the summer when the art world prepares for Autumn exhibitions and fairs. The reality is that you do not have to be poor or rich to make incredible art, and I wonder if in recent years we have overly romanticised the term.


There are so many conflicting definitions around where the term originated, I was told recently that originally a starving artist was one who could only afford one assistant, and also to describe artists like the Bohemians who chose a life of poverty, or at least they did in theory.


The sentry’s to the art world have crumbled with the emergence of the internet and the way art is viewed in the 21st Century. You no longer have to carry around a huge portfolio in order to get your work publicly seen, you can write a book and publish it on your own, you can paint a landscape and you no longer need anyone’s permission to make it as an artist any more.


It took me a long time to realise that the art world is difficult to maintain a living from. Getting your work seen is almost a full time job on its own. Artists now have to be familiar with marketing and customer service. We have become our own sentry's. Once I had realised that unless I started to spend time on marketing myself and my art, I wouldn't make sales from simply just uploading my art.

Whilst the gatekeepers are fewer, and it is easier to get your work seen, there are other challenges that have replaced previous challenges. Now you need to find a market whereas previously if you could get past the sentries the market would be found for you to a certain extent.

In general it has over the years been used to describe anyone who has suffered for their art, and it seems that there is a growing trend that for art to be meaningful the artist should have suffered along the way. You only need to watch reality TV talent shows that find the next music artist to see that a majority of the winners have been on that often used term "a journey". I don't actually believe that you need to have been on any journey. If your art is good, should you really have had to have suffered to create it in order for it to sell?

SERIOUSLY?


Far too often art is looked at as something of a hobby, except it’s not always a hobby. I speak to colleagues in my day job who have found out that I am an artist and I am often surprised at their reactions. Oh, is that what you do in your little spare time? No, it's how I support this job because I am not paid nearly enough.

They are surprised to hear just how much work is involved when they ask if it is easy to become an artist. They are all too often surprised when I say that for every hour I create a piece of work I usually spend two-hours working on promoting it, and that it can sometimes take 20-30 hours to create a good sized work, sometimes even longer. Learning the intricacies of marketing, writing a blog, creating new work, it's not the easiest way to make a buck. They are more than taken aback when I say I spend around 20-hours a week working on this blog.

THE PROFESSIONAL ARTIST


Artists will often feel self-doubt, they struggle to believe they are a professional but the reality is that artists who sell their works are professionals. It doesn’t matter how successful you are as an artist you need to believe in yourself. Pablo Picasso once wrote: When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.

What makes a person a professional is because they have overcome their own self-doubts and continue to do what they do every day. Not necessarily that they are paid highly and achieve lots and lots of sales. Professionals still have self-doubt, but a professional doesn't allow self-doubt to consume them. If you strive every day to be more creative than yesterday, it doesn’t really matter if the work sells or not, you are a professional because you continue to drive yourself forward.


OVERCOMING THE STRUGGLE


You probably recognise most of these experiences, thoughts, and emotions if you are an artist. It is ok to be different, it is ok to not sell as many paintings as you would like, but what is really important is that you don’t let the small stuff grind you down. You need to build up your confidence, not let self-doubt get in the way, and then you will become a professional.

If you want to become a successful artist then you can make it happen. The only person that can stop you becoming a successful professional artist is you. It is not an easy path, times in the industry are tough, but if you follow your passion, you will succeed. You also need patience, and you need to explore where your market may be.

There will be times when you experience all of the above. That’s ok, it comes with the job. It took me many years to realise this and I still continue to experience these emotions and especially whenever I hit a dry patch of sales, as does every artist I know. Spend your energy positively, it is so much more rewarding.
So if you are going through the dry spell of sales, remember that others are in this not so exclusive club too. If you have sold work, someone has loved it enough to buy it. You just need to find others who love it too. But most of all, never give up. Those humans we call customers are actually out there, amongst the 7+ billion humans on earth.

How do you overcome your self-doubt? I would love to hear your stories and I am sure there will be many others who will be inspired too. Please do leave a comment below.

New beginnings art by Mark Taylor

GET IN TOUCH

If you are an artist or you make handmade crafts and other items and would like to be featured on my Artist Spotlight page, please do get in touch. I will be featuring local and independent artists from around the world. All you need to do is provide a short bio, tell me what inspires you, and where people can follow you, buy your art, and how to get in touch with you, and I will feature the best on the site. If you can include small images (up to 600 x 800 with a watermark if needed) Please email mark@beechhousemedia.co.uk

Remember that it doesn't cost you anything and whilst I can't guarantee you sales, you will get at least some of that "free" exposure!

M.A

Remember you can purchase my artwork on this site and over at http://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com and join me on Facebook at https:facebook.com/beechhousemedia and in my two artist groups, The Artists Exchange, and The Artists Hangout. Both are free to join and offer access to a great community of artists, buyers and lovers of art.

You can also follow me at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia and on Twitter @beechhouseart You can also now follow me on Instagram @beechhouse_media

When buying my art you are helping me to continue working on this site and you will also be helping me to create new art work. If you purchase from Pixels or Fine Art America, you will also receive a 30-day Money-back guarantee! You can even download the Pixels app for iOS and Android to view my work hanging on your wall in virtual reality before you purchase!

See you all soon and I will be catching up with you all in the Artists Exchange on Facebook!

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