Friday, April 4, 2014

Tightening Up

The business of art is a tricky proposition. Art is seriously undervalued in our society, and as an artist we not only have to work very hard at creating, we also have to market and sell and ship and manage all on our own. Are we chasing our dreams or working for our clientele? Isn't there some middle ground?

What's become more and more evident as I work my way through things, is that the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" has become a very real thing. I can do a lot. A LOT. I work in watercolor, acrylic, oil. I can use pastels, sculpt, and throw on a wheel. I'm good at all of those things, I've sold from all of those mediums. Then you have genres further widening what you can do (abstract, portrait, fantasy, fairy tale, still life, realistic, etc) and suddenly you realize you could completely populate a gallery with every medium and style all on your own. Which is really cool, except... Except it simply doesn't work as a business model.

I've had to come to grips with the reality that it doesn't matter that I can paint in the abstract and throw a set of dishes and sculpt a dancing lady for the front lawn while painting a dragon. It might matter to me, but when it comes to business... well, business is business. In business, your clientele NEEDS to know what you offer. They need you to be a master at what you do and know exactly what they're getting when they come to look at your work. They need some idea of expectations.

More, when you are branching out with all those other mediums and styles, you can find that you have stopped growing. Sure, you may get better at one aspect or another, but "good at" is not "mastering" anything. I have come to realize and accept that as a business I need to focus on a few mediums that all have something in common with one another (and this is easy for me: oil, acrylic and watercolor is my answer), and one style with a focused subject.

I thought that doing my Fairy Tale art would allow for me to just throw a random dragon or fairy down (aren't they all part of the fantasy realm after all?), but that turns out to not be the case. It's too broad a category. I realize that now, and I'm accepting it. I realize that my art business needs to be tightened up. I need to be the master in it, and you cannot be a master in anything if you keep moving on to new things.

This all sounds depressing, but I'm actually very excited! I realize that I derive a deep satisfaction from certain paintings, and next to nothing from others. I realize that when I work on my actual Fairy Tale paintings, I feel fulfilled. 

This painting took me months, but I'm beyond proud of it!

When I do a random dragon or Christmas tree or mouse, I realize... I'm playing. That's not business, but it's nice to understand that I AM still able to play. It's something I thought I had forgotten how to do, and now realize that I was actually doing too much of it. Yes, I've been selling my playful results, but I realize that may actually be a mistake business-wise. 

I did this painting for a special friend, but it only took one afternoon. I like it, but it's not something I'm going to look back on in 30 years and feel like my life's work was well spent. This, I realize, is me playing. Play is important, but it's not work.

I had a dream the other night, and in it I saw my business as it needed to be set up. I woke up feeling like "I've got it. I've really got it now. I understand!" I saw my art booth set up exactly as I plan to do it. I realized that my major originals (like the White Rabbit) are undervalued, and under and misrepresented in my offerings. But I know how to fix it. I've finally GOT IT.

So, my new focus is similar to what I've been saying, but... it isn't. My love is of Fairy Tales. I will continue to paint my Fairy Tales, but all my professional work will be directly related to that topic, with a deeper meaning and more going on within the paintings. My paintings need to be a story. The ones that have a story, a deeper process, those are the ones that make me feel like I am doing what I am here for. Maybe painting fairy tales isn't curing cancer, but it makes me feel like I have a place in this world, as silly as that may sound.

Part of this is also accepting that I am not a fast painter. The reason my bigger fairy tale paintings take longer is because I spend a lot of time thinking them through.

This video is of Tea Time, but it took me months and months to paint it. The physical act? Probably 120 hours, maybe more... but the thinking through it? More. Even though it was all mapped out, it took more. Plus, I was also doing what I have been doing - extra little side art that doesn't mean as much to me, but I thought was all a part of my larger business. 

I feel good. My business has a focus. More, I know that if I want to play, I need to NOT do it during business hours. Those hours need to be focused on my bigger paintings, and I feel that with that focus will actually come more productivity even though my process is a slow one. I still plan on writing my own fairy tale and painting a series to go with it, because that's all still part of the correct path.

The little art, the playing, the "daily art" will stop and find it's correct place - my play time. I'll still sell it, but it won't be the backbone of my business anymore and it won't be the bulk of my offerings. I had inadvertently set the balance there, and I'm realizing my mistake and fixing it. 

So, I'm excited. A bit frustrated that it took this long for me to get what I pretty much already knew, but excited nonetheless.

My Queen of Hearts is on my easel, and I'm working my way through her. I don't know if I'll be done with Alice after her, or start working on a new Fairy Tale. I haven't decided yet, but I think I want to move on to something new. I can always come back and add to the series if something gets stuck in my head that simply must be painted!

Working out the garden area, inching closer to the rabbit behind her.

And a tree with wisteria! I love purple! I hope we move somewhere that I can grow these in my yard in reality!

So that's where I am at. Tightening up my focus and buckling down. It actually feels really good to not be casting about and wondering what to do! 


Almost Precious said...

A most logical post. I guess artist do tend to take on many hats, try different arts and experiment with different mediums, but sometimes we can end up flooding ourselves with too much extraneous "stuff" and loosing our focus.

I've always adored your White Rabbit painting, all of the details within it make it truly magical. And your Queen of Hearts is coming together beautifully, she is going to be gorgeous.
Wisteria are divine, I wish I could grow them but my last attempt (in Miami, Florida) was a dismal failure. Guess it is too hot and humid here. My mother had a vine in Ojai, California but it never bore blossoms. Maybe bad luck with wisteria just runs in my family. :D

Carmen said...

Love this post. I think I'm on your path to enlightenment. I have finally come to realise that I want to be good at SOMETHING rather than be drawn to try EVERYTHING. So last year I really went through my supplies and drastically reduced it down to mainly acrylics, watercolours and pastels and a few mixed media supplies and decided to accept that I can't do everything else that I admire so much on other people's blogs. I should just admire them (and maybe support them by buying THEIR stuff!) Now I'm figuring out what I'm drawn to subject wise... which is fairy tale/folklore, myth and legend... and zombies! So am practising at those while I find my way. I totally agree with this post, love it!

Carmen said...

Oh and crows. Love drawing crows. OK maybe I'm a ways down the path yet ;)

Magic Love Crow said...

I think this is fantastic! Good for you! You have found out what you truly want to do, deep down in side! What makes you happy ;o) Excellent ;o) Your paintings, truly are wonderful! You can see the detail and feel the stories!