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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Self-Delusion Thy Name is Painting

I have tried for many many years to make and sell paintings that I hoped made people feel good. I have painted hundreds and hundreds of paintings. Most years I have broken even, financially, whether I painted a lot or a little. Many years ago I felt I could have the money, or the time, to paint, but never both at the same time. Now I have both time and money, but cannot sell my work, and when I do sell it, I cannot make any money.

I underpriced my work in hopes of getting "known". Not only did I not make money on it, it was an expensive habit.

I am thinking I was an idiot ever to become a painter. If it were not for my husband, I could not afford to paint much at all. Plus, it takes tremendous emotional and spiritual effort to do this sort of work, and people feel they can freely criticize an artist's work as if it were not coming from the heart and soul.

My heart is breaking today. I deluded myself into thinking I could continue doing as I have been for years, painting and shipping and having a few sales. That is a foolish notion.

I am probably never going to be terribly well-known. My website has never sold even ONE painting. All my efforts in going to art fairs resulted in me spending more money than I ever took in. Besides that, I was out in the weather, having to pay for food and water, with porta-johns and no place to wash my hands.

It is harder to paint every year, because it is so discouraging. I take photos, do sketches, buy materials, do paintings, make slides, send out slides, ship paintings to galleries, and when they sell I get half of the selling price. I sent out slides for years, and found only a few galleries were interested in my work. It is not "cutting edge", but it is not "commercial" either. Well what IS it then?

Friends urge me to paint. Why should I? Give me one good reason. I need to make a living too. See post below for precipitating event for this existential crisis.


Anonymous said...

Aw Enjah, I am so sorry you are feeling like this.

As you know, I belonged to a group of writers that produced some really imaginative and ground-breaking work. A few of them became famous, and made quite a lot of money. Most did not.

A lesson I learned very early was that you had the option of doing your best work and scratching around for a meagre living, or producing commercial crap and making a slightly better living.

I always advised people who said they wished to write for a living to make sure they got a decent job and to write for their own pleasure. That way the pleasure of creating is not tinged with the desperation of an empty wallet.

The purpose of writing; the purpose of painting, is to produce something that will communicate on a deep level with other people. Your paintings do that, so in that sense you are a success.

The only mistake you might have made is in thinking you might get the reward you deserve. Unfortunately art is not valued to the extent that makes this possible.

No, your work is not commercial. Neither is it the kind of stuff that galleries tend to be attracted to. It is good representational art, which is probably the least commercially rewarding style you can have.

People who are totally lacking in aesthetic judgement will not like your work because 'the colours are wrong'. 'It looks a bit modern to me.' 'That shade of blue just wouldn't go with the curtains'.

Those who know something about art will distrust their aesthetic response because they know that representational art is somehow inferior, and they might glance at it shiftily, like the married man glancing in at the door of a lapdancing establishment and then hurrying on, feeling guilty and hardening his face in a disapproving frown.

I think your stuff is *really* good. It transports me. I have spent ages just staring into one or another of your paintings, feeling layers of perception parting like the skins of an onion, revealing more and more significance in the juxtaposition of your colours, the burning light of your landscapes, the love of your subject that comes through really clearly.

God, if I were rich I would buy a gallery of your paintings.

Please don't feel discouraged. But equally, don't expect to make a living painting. Just be glad that you have been given this wonderful ability and have worked it into a talent that can show us aspects of the world we haven't seen before.

People call an artistic talent 'a gift'. Of course, it is nothing of the sort - indeed it can be a curse. It is, perhaps, a gift to the more mundane of us, who gain something from looking at your work. It is your gift to us.

It is appreciated, very much so. I hope that one day you are rewarded to the extent that you deserve. But if that doesn't happen just be glad that you have made a difference to the world.

Most of us die without having had any effect. Those of us who struggle to produce something good without compromising our talent have the satisfaction of knowing that at least when we leave this place we will have left something that will mark our passage; something that will bring pleasure to people yet to be born.

In that sense it *is* a gift.



Enjah said...

Thank you my dear friend; your comment is quite a gift to me! I feel comforted and uplifted by your words and wisdom.

robyn said...

my goodness, I wrote a long comment on this as well but...well, it's not here.
I have come home from work tired and weary and then gone to your gallery. Your work has uplifted me and given me a real sense of peace. I have come away enriched.
I love your art work.