This is also a time to reflect on our achievements, and where we have missed the mark in the past year. To consider what practices we should continue and which we should drop because they just do not serve our purpose or help us move toward our goals.
Sometimes we must look beyond the obvious symbols of achievement to see what truly signifies achievement.
With this in mind I am writing today about the pursuit of my goals as an artist...
The studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never-ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion.
I went into school, so pleased, on the Monday after the opening. I saw one of my teachers in his office and told him excitedly about the show, the turnout and whatever it was that pleased me so.
His response was a single question.
How much did you sell?
Well … nothing. Boy that was deflating.
I’ve been thinking about that lately, because I’ve just had another of those openings. The show is at an alternative gallery space. One of my artist friends calls such exhibits ‘fake shows’ because there is no gallerist puling in the prospective customers and generating sales for their commissions. I disagree.
OK , let us establish that an artist needs to sell work. Can that be the only standard?
The show was well advertised. There was a pretty good turnout at the opening and no sales, except for one packet of note cards. In the ensuing weeks I’ve sold more note cards.
If we look at sales as the only criteria, that opening too, was a failure.
But is that the only reason to show your work?
I really don’t think so.
I believe that all artists who are creating work that they love are making the world better. But only if the work is accessible. If even one person is reached, one connection is made, one viewer is touched by beauty or meaning, they carry that out to the others in their life.
Much as I’d like to be showing my work at a prestigious gallery or in a museum, these alternative spaces offer a possibility for many people to come in and experience the art.
So was that opening at that alternative space a success?
Yes because, I shared my work with people, many of whom had never seen any of my work before. And there were at least a few pieces that no one had seen before.
The people who came to the opening for the most part were truly engaged with the work.
They asked questions, they told me their impressions.
One woman said, in response to my saying that these paintings are a synthesis of my observation of the world, that she wanted to live inside my head a while. “I recognize something of the world in these paintings but the world around us does not look like this!” she said “I wish it did!”
It was gratifying to me to hear that assessment. And if that woman would like an answer to her wish to live inside my head, it would be, buy a painting, hang it on your wall and then it will be part of your life every day.
That aside. It is a wonderful thing for an artist to hear. Artists need encouragement just like anyone else.
Even more meaningful to me was standing next to a man whose eyes filled up as he looked at my work.
This was one of the most touching moments of my entire life as an artist. This is my reason to paint. To communicate with other people, to touch them with beauty and peace. To call people out of their dailyness and cause them to pause in reflection.
I know this man slightly. He said “ I cannot believe I know a person who paints these beautiful paintings.”
Then he asked “Why don’t you do this full time? Your work is so beautiful?”
Someday, I will.
The reason I accept invitations to show at alternative gallery spaces is to get my work “out there” so I will continue to expand my audience and I will find buyers among the admiring public.
And just now as I was writing this someone contacted me who had seen a piece a few months ago and said “I liked so many of your pieces and I’ve been thinking of that one piece since I saw it and I want to buy that one.”
So see it will happen. One person at a time. One painting at a time. I will sell my work and people will live with my paintings, and those paintings will enrich their lives.
It is a wonderful thing.
May your New Year be filled with wonder, and color and peace and may you welcome the new year with gratitude, inspiration and hope!