Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paint What Inspires You And Success Will Follow

One might think that painting what inspires you as an artist is a universal truth — that this is what motivates all artists. You'd be wrong.

In my years working as a full-time fine artist, I have been surprised by the number of artists I've met who think of their work in terms of product. They paint for "the market". The subject matter they paint, or draw, or sculpt is directed by their perception of art buying trends and interestingly, not a single one of the artists I've met who approach their work in this way have seen much success artistically or financially.

Painting for the market is a term you might hear on occasion and I see it often at some of the shows I attend. For example, an artist sees that another artist's western landscapes sold very well at a particular show, and the following year that artist brings a bunch of western landscapes — only to sell very few, or often not sell a single one.

This way of thinking about art (at least from an artist's perspective) is flawed. Being an artist and selling well is most often a long process of finding what it is that inspires you to paint and painting countless hours to develop your identity as an artist, while slowly gaining a following of loyal collectors. These are collectors who not only buy your work because they enjoy the subject matter, but because they connect with your work on an emotional level and appreciate you as an artist. It is through the relationships of an artist's collectors that the artist will find long-term success and these relationships can't be cultivated if the artist isn't true to what inspires them. Savvy art collectors are very good about noticing the subtleties that communicate an artist's intentions in their work; did the artist paint this subject because it inspired them, or did they paint it because they thought it would sell?

I paint western landscapes and wildlife because it's what I love. My paintings are romanticized versions of my experiences in the outdoors. I grew up in the west. My subjects are ones I'm intimately familiar with and I paint them because they inspire me. Fundamentally, I am a painter and I would be painting regardless of whether or not I could make a living doing it. I simply must paint. My subject matter is what I love to paint. I hope this comes through in my work and that people who enjoy my work can see this. I'm not concerned with financial success as much as I am artistic success (growing as an artist, and eventually producing work that moves myself and others). In the end, I believe that by staying true to what inspires me as an artist, success will eventually follow — both artistically and financially.

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