This post is by Debra Keirce, contributing author for FineArtViews. She's painted full time since 2010 after a lucrative career in biochemical engineering. She says, "I offer perspectives on art from an engineering mindset. Everything is a problem to be solved. Problems, like art, have boundaries and solutions. You can always find a way to improve efficiency and quality..." Debra is an Art Renewal Center Master artist and a signature member of several societies including American Women Artists, National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society and Miniature Artists of America. She is also a juried member of Copley Society of Art, including their portrait registry, Salmagundi Club, and International Guild of Realism. Her work has been published in several books and magazines, and she has art in the permanent collections with Amazon in VA, Customs House Museum in TN, WaterWorks Art Museum in MT, Church of the Nazarene in Belize, Perigord Retreats in France.
Success in Art - It’s a last human standing wins game.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ―Thomas Edison
Give your strategies time to manifest sales and successes. Realize that this can sometimes take years.
Don't give up on learning. I have offended artists a few times by inviting them to be students in workshops I have hosted. Sometimes I was the instructor, sometimes friends who are master artists who were instructing. Each time it caught me by surprise that they felt too good to learn. Nobody is ever as good as they can ever be. If you choose to stop learning, maybe you are as good as you WANT to be, but you could get better if you cared to. Personally, my goal is to be the best painter of realism that I can be before I die. Have you put a limit on how much you care to learn?
If your answer is yes, I'm sure you have your reasons. If they are thoughtful and sound, congratulations on achieving your goal. I am truly happy for you. But if you have just chosen to stop learning because it's low on your priority list, you may want to revisit that decision.
Don't give up on your art pieces. Breathing new life into unsold paintings is better than a bonfire in my experience. I don't do this often enough myself. Crop, touch up, make them into triptychs, give them new perspective, change their hue or key. Old art reworked sometimes sells better and wins more awards than my current pieces.
Plus, if you are going to possibly throw it away anyway, why not experiment? Use it in a demonstration, donate it to a charity, or paint over it if you must. But make sure you've gotten all the usefulness out of that piece before you give up on it.
Don't give up on collectors. Be persistent. Some may not buy for years. Engage and have consistent interactions. Don't write people off just because you never hear from them. I had a collector show up at an opening of one of my solo shows at a gallery 5 years ago. She'd been following me for 7 years and had a file of my mailed notes and postcards. I'll admit it felt a bit creepy, but I had no idea she was a big fan. She never communicated. You don't ever know who is watching.
Some people delete newsletter subscribers who are categorized as "cold" on their FASO newsletter system. A quick email note or a phone call could turn that person from cold to hot in a minute.
Don't give up on students. I've seen people take up to five workshops and every instructor tells them the same thing - check your ellipses for example. In the sixth one, they will finally do it. And they act like it's the first time anyone ever told them to check their ellipses. Sometimes we humans have to hear things multiple times before we process them. (Hence the passed down advice about advertising in print at least 7 times if you want your ads to work for you.)
Just because your student is not absorbing the teaching you are giving them, don't assume your time is wasted. You are laying the groundwork for a future learning experience for them. When they are ready they will receive and process the information.
Don't give up on galleries and other sales venues. It's no surprise many artists find it difficult to develop successful gallery relationships. It is always a changing landscape. Even when we are not having pandemics or other roadblocks to sales, the gallery model is always changing to keep up with technology and current trends.
Most museums and galleries regularly switch from realism to modern art to southwest art to international art, etc. Just because you are not a good fit for a gallery or show one year, doesn't mean you should never try to work with them again. Owners and customer demographics change, and they are always on the lookout for work that will freshen their wares.
Don't give up on art show openings. If nobody shows up at your opening it doesn't mean nobody saw the show. It doesn't mean the venue failed you. It doesn't mean your art stinks. Even in pandemic times, museums and art centers have been so creative at innovative ways for patrons to engage with their art. My sales and awards have actually been better at some of these shows without receptions because of the increased online presence.
The more exhibitions you participate in, the more opportunities will come your way. It's a numbers game. There are so many advantages to fully engaging in art shows. You may have sales, but you will definitely develop relationships with the organizers and other artists. These will lead to future sales and show opportunities over time. Don't underestimate the value of the good things that manifest AFTER a show ends.
Don't give up on trying new things. I have had what I thought were epic fails in new painting series I have started. It turned out, it just wasn't their time yet.Years later, somebody noticed them and I found myself painting more of them.
I did a few paintings of ice cream in cones or fancy glassware several years ago. They sold very slowly, and didn't win any awards. Then, one I had used as a decoration in my own home found its way into the gallery I was represented by in Charleston. It sold right away and they wanted more. So, I painted more. I painted some larger ones and put them in my gallery in Maryland. Those sold. I had a few commissioned pieces. So I painted more.
Then I thought, why not paint other things besides sticky melty ice cream that's impossible to take a zillion photos of, or paint from life? I started painting candy, flowers, fruits. My "indulgences series" was reborn, and today I have some of those pieces in all five of the retail galleries I am represented by. And, several have taken first place cash awards in the last few years!
Don't give up on striving for awards at art exhibits. If you are not winning them yet, maybe this motivates you to get better. But some people walk away discouraged and that's a shame. Truly, there are art shows for every skill level. If you enter the ones with fewer entries and more awards, the odds will be in your favor.
I have gone for over a year and not gotten juried into society shows where I hold signature membership. Sometimes they are THAT competitive. Consider your odds in the shows you enter and then decide which are worth your while. The Bold Brush monthly contest is free with our FASO subscription and we should enter every month. I am so appreciative with all the FAV 15% awards I receive, and they are great! But I've never won any of the other awards - the ones that many of my peers and friends have been judges for. That's okay. It's super competitive, and anyway it's free. There are SO many great deserving FASO artists. Someday might be my turn. If not, oh well. The FAV 15%'s put me in the pool of people whose biographies are possibly sent by FASO to their newsletter list, and that's always a fun free promotion.
What aspect of your art career have you given up on lately? Is it time to give it a second, third, fourth or fifth chance?
Share what you decide to NOT give up on. People want to know. Comment with YOUR story.
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