Selling Your Art versus Selling Out

23 11 2009

The way to sell art is to make imagery or objects that appeal to the person buying it, or so says the Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams. I tend to agree. For example, I would perhaps buy the soundtrack of “Wicked” after I’ve seen the Broadway show, because now that I’ve enjoyed the show, I connect with the music on some level.

My glass is selling reasonably well by most people’s measuring sticks. My own measuring stick tends to magnify failures as mountains the size of the Alps and successes as the size of a penny, so perhaps I’m not the best judge. But my numbers don’t lie. What sells the best are my repetitive things, the things I have streamlined into a process that requires no artistic involvement. And my newest ideas are not necessarily ideas that easily connect with people. Stained glass has historically been this medium of “safe”-ness, this medium that calls forth medieval churches and landscapes by Tiffany and pinwheels of happy color. I know of only two stained glass artists that have deliberately stepped way outside of that zone, Peter McGrain and Judith Schaecter. I love their work, but I suspect it’s an acquired taste for most people.

I don’t know if I’m brave enough to cast caution to the wind and make whatever I please, but I know that I am growing discontent with selling products that feel like production art for the masses. I would like to turn my hand to art that speaks loudly. But art that screams “I don’t give a damn whether you buy this piece or not, it’s the idea that’s of paramount importance!” isn’t really within my comfort zone either. As someone who seems to have a better than average head for business (for an artist anyway… I don’t think I’d measure up against CEO’s of multi-national corporations) and a mostly Type A personality, my business brain keeps telling me to not rock the boat, to keep selling what sells even if it doesn’t make my heart sing very much. That’s the same part of me that tells me I’m darn lucky to be selling my art at all, thank you very much, and I should be grateful. Yet my artist half is behaving lately like a dog whining at a door… my psyche won’t stop making noise about this, and if I disregard it long enough, it will result in a mess to clean up, just like the metaphorical dog.

You can see how this would drive someone crazy.

And so I end up at the beginning of my ramble… asking myself, “Where is the line between selling my art and selling out?” If you think you have an idea, drop me a line and shine a light onto a path I feel I’m navigating blindly.

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One response

26 09 2011
Raquel Carneiro

Expend most of your time and energy on what sells. Devote time for a few choice peices a year that are “wow” and completely your own idea. Show them off.
Pray that one day you can make a living on the things you love to make, rather than the things that bore you. But keep making the things you love most.

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