So there are number of challenges I face as an artist, and I can only assume that other people deal with many of the same things I do. Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else, but hopefully these things will resonate.
This is probably the biggest. When you’re just starting out (at anything), you’re going to be a nobody. This really sucks but it’s true.
I guess when I became an artist, I just expected that people would start buying my paintings left and right, that galleries would reach out to me to represent me, and museums would want to house my art.
In fact, very few of the people I know in real life have actually bought my paintings. And even fewer “strangers” have bought from me. I have yet – after two years of painting – to be contacted by a legit museum or gallery to be represented.
You really have to work to make a name for yourself. You have to do shows, or promote yourself online, or go to galleries yourself to get into them.
As if promoting yourself wasn’t enough work – outside doing what you actually love, creating – you also have to deal with saturation. No matter what type of art you create, this challenge of having to compete with other artists is only going to get worse.
Now, it’s not that you’re competing with them per se, but when it comes down to selling your art or getting it into museums/galleries, you’re just another number in a long list of numbers.
I hate to break it to you, but… There’s a lot of similar work from similar people. Your work is probably not as unique or ground-breaking as you think.
And because of this, because there are dozens (if not hundreds) of people creating similar things, you have to compete with them in the marketplace to make sales or get your art seen.
It’s a sad and unfortunate truth.
Now, you may have the ONE THING that really separates you apart from everyone else, but generally I find that thing that tends to separate people isn’t the technique or “uniquity” of the work – it’s the amount of effort they put in: into the work, into the technique, into the promotion.
This tends to be the deciding factor of who wins in the marketplace.
Since everyone can pretty much say whatever they want these days (both online and off), it’s HIGHLY LIKELY that someone, somewhere, at some time WILL INDEED criticize your work negatively. It’s gonna happen.
And guess what?
It’s happened to me. Even my own grandmother thinks my abstract paintings could have been made by my kids. True story.
But I’ve also had people online say it was garbage or childish or blah blah blah.
But who cares?
I’m not making my art for them. I’m making it for me. And for the people who DO like it. (And are willing to buy it)
Don’t worry about the negative comments towards your stuff. It really doesn’t matter as long as you do what you love.
This will probably never go away. And it’s kind of a good thing.
For me, I ALWAYS question whether my work is good enough to sell or promote.
And if I don’t think so, I’ll give it away.
But worrying about whether EVERY PIECE is good enough of not will drive you to madness.
Yeah, sometimes you feel that way, but you can’t let that feeling override your desire to create.
Pieces have flaws. It happens.
You just gotta accept that nothing in life is perfect.
Now, I’m not advocating that you put out junk, but on the flip side, don’t expect every piece to have no flaws or imperfections. Make as good a piece as you can, put it out in the world, and let the market decide.
Charging for money.
Many artists deal with the issue of charging for their pieces. They’ll either undercut their prices or just give their artwork away all the time.
How can you stay afloat if you just give it away?
I’m not against giving away select pieces for select reasons, – like giveaways, free promotion, or charities – but just giving it away all the time? No.
If you get into this practice, you’ll be harming not only your wallet, but your self-esteem.
Look at it this way: If you don’t respect your art enough to charge for it, how can you expect someone else to respect it enough to buy it?
And people rarely respect things they got free. It’s just facts.
You need to set a price that’s comfortable for you, then raise it over time. The more pieces you sell or the more shows you do or the longer you’ve been around are all valid reasons to raise your prices.
And as you do so, your self-respect goes up. I tell you what – when I sold a thousand dollars’ worth of paintings to the same person, it only made me want to paint more.
Finding your style.
Here was MY biggest kryptonite as an artist. I actually dealt with this for almost two years, and it wasn’t until recently that I found my true style (which is scraped abstract paintings BTW). I tried a number of styles and replicated other artists to kind of find my “thing.”
I think that copying artists is okay for learning, but you must also find your differentiating trait at some point.
All the while, it frustrated me to no end that I saw all these other artists, succeeding much faster than me in shorter time. Gallery offers, sales left and right, getting into magazines – all within a year or two of starting. Some of us are not so #blessed. (lol)
What I didn’t realize at the time was their consistency was the key to their success.
Once I learned to pick one style and follow it over and over again, it only got easier to create, and my desire to master the technique drove me to paint more, not less.
I think that many people are afraid of being pigeonholed into one “style,” but for me, what that really meant, was that I lacked the desire and focus to commit to that one thing. Now that I have something to master, it gives my work meaning and purpose – aside from sales.
I’m sure there are other challenges that artists face, but this was the most pressing I could think of.
I wish you all the best in everything.