Thursday, February 11, 2010

Art revelation

We must talk.

After recent, long discussions with two of my gallery owners, an interesting subject has come up. Its the subject of improvement. The discussions have been about a conflict. An artist improving their skill versus not changing their art to keep a buying clientele.

I find this very disturbing!

Personally my drive has always been to improve upon myself. Upon my art. I think its true for many of you as well. Its a natural thing. An athlete strives to do their best and pushes for more. A musician, a doctor, a scientist, an engineer, every career I can think of, a person benefits from improving their skills. Why is this not true for an artist? How do we come to a place where it is no longer appreciated? Why? Why? Why...

In December one gallery owner talked about a very popular artist in the gallery. This artist painted ladies or children at the beach in a very bright and luminous way. She punched her reds and her yellows glowed. Edges were soft and dreamy, movement was captured and colors were very high-key. Her art was eye catching and her sales were high.

This past summer she arrived with changed art. Still ladies and children at the beach, but minus the huge areas of glow that, to me were sometimes overdone. When he asked why the change, she replied, "I'm evolving. I'm refining my art. I'm becoming a better artist."

Her sales dropped tremendously.

The gallery owner explained to me, in long detail over the phone, how the buying public bought her art because of the unusual glow. He said it was as though there was a light placed behind the canvas. Now her art was dark and even he too didn't like it as much.

Later I went to the gallery. I saw this artist's work. I loved it. In my opinion it had improved tremendously. The glowing was there. I thought the artist had brought new works in to please the owner. These were not dark at all. They were wonderful!

I asked the owner. He said they were the changed art that wasn't selling...

Just yesterday, my conversation turned to this same subject with another gallery owner. He too confirmed it as a fact.

In a struggling economy, where sales are difficult, what does an artist do with this revelation?

I know there's benefit to improving one's art. But does there come a point when it isn't appreciated anymore? Is everyone incapable of seeing improvement, except another artist? Are we the only ones who can appreciate when something was masterfully created?

I'm in shock. I feel confused and crushed. I need to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment.

Posted is a Susan Roux work in progress...


  1. this is a very relevant and powerful post, thanks so much for sharing this Susan. I think it is a comment better shared over coffee in your kitchen, but here goes..!
    Art and artists are a peculiar species, unlike an athlete who gets better by training and just wants to beat a time or win a game, our work is held up subjectively to the taste of others. it is common to find ourselves in a place where our work is so different or captivating by others that it almost has a life of its own. A dear friend of mine is in this very situation, afraid to move in a new direction, because her lifestyle is dependent upon her sales. Of course, many of us including my friend want to grow and change and do new works, but the buying public has to be able to accept this change as well.
    I think new works have to slowly make their entrance, and there are a number of ways of doing this, one way is to have a blog and to get the new work exposed, accepted and critiqued. the other thing that is most important, is to have different galleries that are willing to take new work. I have 3 very different places that represent me and one that will take anything experimental, and that is how I keep stretching and growing. ciao, bella!

  2. Susan - could it be just a coincidense that the artist's work stopped selling because of the downturn in the economy and not because of the work itself? Twenty years when I had just begun to market my work (with great success), an older successful artist warned me not to change my style because the sales would drop immediately. I haven't found that to be true but have found that different styles of art just appeal to collectors with different tastes.

  3. Interesting post Susan. It reminds me of what musicians go through. They may personally feel they have grown musically. Or that their later work is superior to their earlier recordings. Yet fans at concerts always want to hear a predominance of older material performed.

    Speaking for myself if I had to keep on creating the same type of piece over and over again I'd soon begin to hate it.

  4. This is a good topic. I think galleries need to be more engaged in the evolution of their artists. Ideally they should enroll patrons in their growth. Some premiere galleries do this. Maybe that's why they carry a small group instead of dozens. Perhaps an increased understanding of the nature of creativity would make certain galleries less of a slave to what has sold and more of a champion for new work. That in itself might lead future sales simply by virtue of showing some enthusiasm for the fresh artwork. Complacency is toxic and galleries are not immune.

  5. Hi Susan,
    Je connais de nombreux peintres qui restent authentiques et continuent de peindre ce qu'ils ressentent et qui peignent aussi du "commercial" pour manger. Ils signent leur travail sous des noms différents. Les galeristes se moquent de leur état d'âme. Ils veulent vendre...
    Des écrivains aussi font ça.
    Nous sommes dans un monde féroce.

  6. Hi Susan, We are talking about two different subjects. 1. Creating art and 2. Marketing art. When an artist joins a gallery, he/she must become sensitive to the gallery's needs. If they are successful with sales, obviously the gallery owner will want to continue in that direction. A gallery is interested only in sales, if you want to show growth, I agree, go to another venue, another gallery or museum. It is up to the artist to decide how to best blend these two aspects.

  7. Thank you Carol. You make it very clear. They are two different things and I really shouldn't let it get under my skin. Thank you all for helping me by explaining it. I love your comments...


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