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

Showing Your Art to the Public

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 Рwhether via social media, an exhibition, an online shop, or taking commissions Рeverything 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”.

SanDiegoArtwalk
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)

Artist as Self-Marketer

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 Рcreating, 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 these days?¬†Should I¬†alter my preferred subject matter based on what’s winning prizes?

MelStabin
Mel Stabin teaching & painting in front of 20 students

Artistic Perfection vs Beginner Artists

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¬†and¬†lack of sales, carry on. If 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 – and a galaxy of power to you.

learning to be an artist
Unadulterated, joyful, playtime marinating in the wonderment of making art.

Practical Planning for Your Artistic Journey

But if you’re just starting out, or you’re thinking about becoming a full time artist, set up a plan. Grab a notepad, and map out a¬†body of work based on your personal¬†aesthetics, and your own sense of artistic joy.

Make this plan BEFORE you start showing and selling to the public.  Build creative muscle-memory with your favorite subjects. Repeat paintings in 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 those critiques and suggestions¬†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.

You have your own tastes, preferences and likes, so find them first.

workinginthestudio
In the studio: Working

Find Out Who is Driving Your Inspiration

Allowing¬†patrons and the public to direct your studio practice can empty an artist’s cupboard of all inspiration.

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…

Finding Your Own Art Style

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 and 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?

Pondering Who You Want to Be as an Artist

If art making and selling is your livelihood, these questions might be impractical mid-way up your career climb.

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 that art, 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.

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

Making Art for Yourself

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!

Belinda

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

art-afternoonwithwyeth19x24
Afternoon with Wyeth 19×24 Watercolor (sold)

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
a monotype ghost print with colored pencil added to enhance details of a woman floating in water with her eyes closed

Seven Questions to Help You Roll Past Creative Block

Yield: Progress
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Stagnant creativity feels like a heavy fog pill slipped into your coffee when you weren’t looking. How do you get past Creative Block?

You want to make things. But there’s an invisible sludge haze blocking creative idea generation, inspiration and motivation to get something started. <---Started is the key word.

If you feel like your creativity is blocked, and inspiration eludes you, try this exercise. Sometimes, you just need a hand to hold on the Start part of making art....

Instructions

  1. Secure 30 minutes, a pen, a note pad, and some quiet time. Sit in a favorite chair, in a sunny spot in a quiet corner. If home is too chaotic, go to a coffee shop and sit in a sunshiny spot. In either case, if it helps, use earbuds or headphones, and listen to instrumental (no words) music. Fill in the blanks below…
  2. If I were the King/Queen of the world, and I could sweep a magic wand to clear time and space to create a beautiful piece of art, I’d work in (fill in your medium: oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil, graphite)._____________________________. tin watercolor palette
  3. I could make something abstract, or impressionistic, or representational – and since I have a magic skill wand, I think I’ll choose _________________________________. watercolor-sketching-landscape
  4. Since I’m in charge, when I think about size and format, I’d like to make something (small, medium large, huge)__________________________, and in a (horizontal, vertical, square)___________________________ format. using a magnifier light to paint tiny details of a face in profile
  5. I’ve got a hankering to work on (paper, yupo, aquabord, canvas, panel, gesso’d paper)_____________________________________. three hahnemuhle paper blocks
  6. I’m imagining colors that appeal to me right now, in this season of my life, so I’ll focus on a prominence of these three colors, with supporting hues around them: ______________________________________________________. watercolor test swatches for wet in wet painting experiments
  7. I know I can choose any subject that appeals to me, like figurative, portrait, still life, landscape, city scene, interiors, sky/cloudscapes, animals, ocean/shorelines and genre scenes. So, right this second, I feel like painting a __________________________________, with elements of __________________ and ____________________ included. shading a graphite drawing of roses and a bowl of apples
  8. Now, flip open to a fresh page on your notepad, and stomp on that creative block by doodling some layouts, angles, and compositions (no details, see below) that might fill the format of your paper or canvas. 9 tiny pencil sketches of still life flowers and fruit arranged in different compositions

Notes

Feel free to print this, and alter the questions or add new ones that fit your style. Think about times when your art-making was more active, and jot down elements from that time (positive, encouraging) that you can visualize and pre-plan to help you get past the hump of stuckness.

You aren't alone in this. Every artist in history has felt creative block at one time or another, so we are all rooting for you. Set some time aside, and slay it. You've got this.

14 thoughts on “Watercolor: Afternoon with Wyeth (& the Pros and Cons of Artistic Exposure)”

  1. Marilyn Thuss

    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

    1. 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. ūüôā

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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”.

    1. 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.

  5. 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

    1. 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!

  6. 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

    1. 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. ūüôā 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.

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....