Watercolor: Afternoon with Wyeth (& the Pros and Cons of Artistic Exposure)


Afternoon with Wyeth 19×24 Watercolor (sold)

When you make art for the simple joy of creating – there’s incorruptible magic in the act. It’s fueled by your own expression, your personal sense of aesthetics, and your choice of media & subject. The entire adventure belongs to you. But as soon as you think about showing & selling your work – whether via social media, an exhibition, an online shop, or taking commissions – everything changes. Now, you’re making art for other people, and they might give you money for it, or your creative time is fused with desires for winning Best of Show. The switch from private playtime in the studio to taking your art out to the public, or making a living with art can inject a critical overseer inspecting every molecule of an artist’s experience of “making”.


Talking to patrons at the San Diego Artwalk in Little Italy – (I’ll be in Little Italy again this weekend [4/30&5/1], so stop by my booth and say hello)

Artists selling work were previously dependent exclusively on galleries, where they split sales proceeds to be insulated from the marketing, selling & public end of the business.  Now, with the internet, artists who sell directly to the public are wearing many hats while tossing the pizza dough in a tight kitchen – creating, marketing, exhibiting, updating online shops, writing blogs, closing sales, invoicing, shipping and managing collector relationships. The audience is in the kitchen too; public reaction to your art is on a daily drip campaign, straight to your iphone in the studio.  Your brush strokes can be influenced by directives from your patrons, comments left on a Facebook post, or scrolling through another artist’s absurdly successful art.  While mixing colors, you can ponder: What will patrons think? What’s selling? Should I alter my preferred subject matter based on what’s winning prizes?


Mel Stabin teaching & painting in front of 20 students

That kitchen pig-pile is crowded enough to freeze many artists into creative block, or even worse, abandonment of any artistic practice at all.  If you’re one of those rare artistic souls with skin that’s impenetrable to criticism & lack of sales, or you experienced wild success right out of the gate, and your passion to create supersedes all concerns about what the public thinks or buys, then you’re good to go. Have at it & a galaxy of power to you.

learning to be an artist

Unadulterated, joyful, playtime marinating in the wonderment of making art.

But if you’re just starting out, or you’re thinking about becoming a full time artist, set up a plan & map out a body of work based on your personal aesthetics, and your own sense of artistic joy BEFORE you start showing & selling to the public.  Build creative muscle-memory with the subjects & a style of art-making that you love for you. Painting for yourself develops your skill set, and lays a solid foundation under your art-house.  When you show the fantastic results of your creative determination, your audience’s critiques, feedback and suggestions may influence little adjustments that appeal to you, but they won’t burn your whole house down in favor of constructing a giant termite mound, because, you know, everyone thinks those are so cool these days. ????


In the studio: Working

Allowing patrons and the public to direct your studio practice can empty an artist’s cupboard of all inspiration, because everyone has a different idea of what makes great art. You could be changing direction every day if you listen to advice from your family, your art peers, magazines, art marketing gurus and the like. Making a consistent body of work is challenging enough without all of those chefs yelling at you. Make your art first, and then find your patrons.   This is just my opinion about it, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts…

Painting Supplies

Ask yourself what sort of art you’d make if no one ever saw it. What subjects would you choose if you were the only person viewing the work? What supplies would you reach for if the process was meant to be nothing beyond fun. And setting all modern art trends aside – putting a cork in the Niagara Falls of influence & comparisons posted on social media – what exactly are you compelled to create?  Perhaps it would be a little slice of paradise to gift yourself those parameters in your studio for a few weeks. What do you think? IMG_7699

If art making & selling is your livelihood, these questions might be impractical, but I think there is merit to barring the audience outside the studio door at least some of the time, to pull out all your favorite supplies, and make art that’s just for you. Maybe you’ll never sell it, but you can lean your whole weight into the conviction that you’re honing skills, exercising intensions, having fun, and moving forward in the most personal aspects of your creative journey. Artistic development isn’t age-based; we start as kids with crayons, and we can make things until we’re too feeble to hold a pencil and a sketchpad. At least some chapters of that life-long development merit a little security guard of protection from the outside world in order to feel safe enough to explore, experiment & continue sprouting.


Joyful pastels in the garden: my lovely & dearly missed Aunt Shirley

Do you make art just for yourself? And have you ever made art for a show, and felt the strangle of What People Will Think? If you make art for a living, how do you balance the needs of your patrons against the needs of your own creativity, if there’s a gap between the two?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You’re welcome to subscribe (free) to get this blog via email here, or my newsletter via email here.

Art Quote
If you love what you do, keep doing it…. Have patience –  if something sounds great on Monday, and it does not sound so good on Tuesday. Don’t give up. It means that it’s not yet there, so keep practicing, slowly, again and again. And by Wednesday, it’ll be slightly better, and by Thursday, even a little more…

Itzhak Perlman

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14 Responses to Watercolor: Afternoon with Wyeth (& the Pros and Cons of Artistic Exposure)

  1. Marilyn Thuss 04/26/2016 at 6:44 am #

    Hi Belinda, your post is spot on for me right now. I have been pressuring myself by thinking only of what might sell. I can’t believe it….thanks for shaking me upside down! Today I start my new approach…..you are the best. Your words and wisdom, and your artwork of course, are my main source of inspiration. Thank you so much. Marilyn

    • belindadelpesco 04/26/2016 at 9:41 am #

      Hi Marilyn – You’re in good company. We’ve all used that lens to select the next art to make, but if you can re-route the telescope to what you love to paint, I think your brush strokes will shine a little brighter. Thanks so much for the feedback. I always enjoy your company. 🙂

  2. Judy Koenig 04/25/2016 at 8:48 am #

    You, your blog and art are truly an inspiration. I’m forwarding this to a dear friend. xoxoxox j

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/25/2016 at 9:09 am #

      Awe, thank you, my friend! I appreciate the visit and the encouraging words! See you at an art festival soon, I hope! 🙂

  3. Kathleen Noble 04/23/2016 at 6:38 pm #

    Your painting is such a beautiful slice of life, and your mastery of reflected light is a real inspiration.

    I appreciate your advice to work on art we love without regard for sale-ability or others’ opinions. In my brief experience with living a more artful life (about three years), I began by doing commissioned pet portraits. While I do enjoy the challenge and it makes me very happy when customers say that I’ve really captured their pets’ essence, it’s pretty stressful to me to have to try for a perfect outcome every time. I’ve purposely taken in-person and on-line classes to loosen up and truly enjoy what I’m doing, but even then, when you know you’re going to be sharing your work, you wonder what your classmates’ opinions will be. So thanks for making the case to create, at least some of the time, just for ourselves!

    Every time I’m notified that you have a new blog post, I look forward to savoring your art, musings, and quotes. As other readers have stated, you are making a very positive difference in my life.

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/25/2016 at 6:05 am #

      Hi Kathleen, Thanks for this lovely note, and for sharing your experience. I hope there is a little respite in knowing you’re in fine company. So many of us are looking for balance between un-restricted creativity, and the pressure-to-produce (perceived or real). We’ll all just keep reminding each other that we love what we do, so managing the internal chatter is a skill set like any other to be mastered with time. Happy art-making to you!

  4. Bonnie Cosgrove 04/23/2016 at 12:56 pm #

    Thank you for this post, Belinda. I feel as though a burden has been lifted and my mind has been freed. We artists all get weighed down at times with the elephant in the room–our public, or I should say what we feel they might like and buy. I recently closed an Etsy shop because I realized I was painting what I thought the public would buy, and I felt as though I had lost who I was as an artist. I feel much more creative painting what I love as it allows me to get in touch with my creative self. I love your blogs. They’re always informative and uplifting.

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/25/2016 at 9:18 am #

      Hi Bonnie, Good for you to make a decision based on your own artistic happiness. I took a painting workshop with a very established watercolorist years ago, and he warned the newbies in attendance that if we tried selling work too early, we’d be painting with Dollar-Sign glasses clouding our vision. I didn’t know exactly what he meant at the time, but I get it now. Bravo to you, and happy painting from here on out.

  5. Bonnie Rinier 04/23/2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Beautiful – Afternoon with Wyeth. I can see why it sold. On creating and selling. I pretty much paint what I love – otherwise I find no joy in it. I am them happy when it sells. I did one commission work that I was sorry I said yes to, but other than that, I’m happy with my art business. To me, it just takes one wonderful customer who comments how much they love my work. It “makes my day”.

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/25/2016 at 9:15 am #

      Hi Bonnie – I agree with you… we should paint what we love. And then find the audience that appreciates those subjects. That way, everyone is happy. And yes, one compliment from a happy customer is enough to full our tanks for the next dozen paintings, so congrats to you on finding that perfect balance.

  6. Margaret 04/23/2016 at 12:08 pm #

    I always enjoy your posts and demo’s I am a watercolorist and printmaker, at 85 I still try to do some art work every day, you are an inspiration to me to keep going, thank you. Margaret

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/25/2016 at 9:12 am #

      Hi Margaret – Hearty applause that you continue making art at the festive young age of 85! You’re trailblazing for the rest of us, so keep going. We are all grateful for YOUR inspiration!

  7. Janene Ford 04/23/2016 at 7:13 am #

    How refreshing to read ypur post. Usually I only follow this train of thought with myself. Being true to ourselves and our personal art journey is the best aspect of making art. My best work comes from that place. But I also show and sell work through a gallery.

    I only frame work that I expect will or may sell. Its expensive and an additional investment financially and in time -so must be considered part of the process. Not my favorite oart for sure.

    I follow your blog and although you have not influenced my art process yet – you have widened my appreciation and taste for printmaking. My path may take me there some day. Thanks for the inspiration. Janene

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/23/2016 at 10:35 am #

      Hi Janene, Thanks for taking the time to chime in. I agree with you that our best work comes from the unrestricted, exploratory, inspired creative space, and if a few of those seem show-worthy, then those pieces get a frame. 🙂 And I’m happy you’re inspired to appreciate and maybe even try printmaking. It’s lovely, experimental and full of surprises. Happy adventures to you.

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