Monday, May 10, 2010

Reply to Artelasticum PepsiCola

Stapleton Kearns, Osama drowning kittens 16" by20"


I can sympathies. I have had periods of time where I sold nothing for months, never a year, but its the same thing. Here with bullet points (oh, how I love those!) are my thoughts.
  • I know your art and you are a skilled painter, but something is wrong. You can't change the world, so you are left with no choice but to change what you are doing. Immediately acquire "Lead the Field" by Earl Nightingale and memorize it, better still, tattoo it in reverse on your chest so that you see it in the mirror first thing every morning. You can download it to your i pod for about ten bucks I have been told. You need Earl! I am not kidding here, this is the best piece of advice I could possibly give you. nough said.....
  • Different towns, different galleries and different sections of the country have different art markets, each with their own preferences. Find out what your market wants, or find the market where what you make is wanted. You may have to find a gallery that is far from your home. Look in the art magazines and get an idea of who is selling what. I moved to New England long ago to have my career because where I was in Minnesota the kind of art I was making was not in fashion. They wanted ducks, I got out. If you are making quirky, very personal art and you are working in a traditional style, that's a harder fit than landscapes. If you are painting still life, you could think about what sort of places people put things in their homes and what might fit there. You can paint quality still life with integrity and still make things that will appeal to peoples taste for their homes. See Fantin LaTour, or Chardin. You don't have to do everything that way, just add it to the list of pictures you make. Experiment with painting some subjects that you don't usually do, something might click. Throw a lot against the wall and something is bound to stick sooner or later.
  • If the galleries you are showing in are into the avant- garde, go elsewhere. There have got to be galleries within a days drive that fit what you do. Initially you should find three. Then give each of them six paintings. I know that's a tall order, but that's what I think it takes, for starters.
  • You might have a discussion with a gallery owner whose inventory you respect and ask him what you could be making that would appeal to his customers. That may seem a little mercenary, but this is a business. I am able to make the kind of work I like and have no conflict with the artistic versus commercial. There are plenty of artists who are making work that is supposed to be commercial that fails. I think the public is mostly hip enough to reject a lot of them,. People don't know much about art but when the money starts flowing they get a lot smarter. They know the want integrity.
  • You need to have a fairly large body of art in several galleries, if it doesn't sell then, you may have priced it too high. I know we have all heard the admonishment to never drop the prices lest it hurt their sales. you don't have any sales. These are tough economic times, but getting better. My sales last year where horrid, this year I am right about on track. Things are improving and I think the art market is righting itself, but the herd has been thinned and a lot of galleries and artists have been purged. If your sales pick up at a lower price point, you can gradually increase them. Incidentally, no one cares how long it took you to make a given painting.
  • Make compelling, beautiful paintings. Once I asked an older artist "what kind of paintings sell best?" He told me "good paintings" Find something you have a flair for and polish that ability until you are making the most exquisite paintings of that sort in the marketplace you inhabit.
  • Do shows, do demos. Help other people who don't have the considerable skills you yourself possess. Besides being the right thing to do it builds a fan base who will speak well of you. Every workplace and family has someone who is the "art expert" try to teach and help those people who are usually amateur painters. If you want more from the world you have to put more value out there.
  • Present your work well. You may need simpler frames, are yours too baroque for your market? maybe they aren't the quality or are too fancy, or too something. There is a sweet spot on that. As an artist you may have exalted taste in frames that is playing over your clients heads.
  • I have written a series of posts entitled the art business waltz. Search my archives and read those. I have tried to spell out how to break into the gallery scene.
  • Some artists I know have a hundred or more paintings out there consigned. I don't have that many, but you need to have a pretty good number. The more you have the better your odds become. Also rotate your paintings, if you have work unsold in a gallery for a year, maybe less, its time to rotate it out to another dealer.
  • If you make art that is political, or very personal, or full of weighty ideas, or humorous, that can mkae it harder to sell. Not impossible, but the market is smaller. My own teacher R.H. Ives Gammell made a lot of stuff which must have been the devil to sell. But he could afford it. He was wealthy. I am not.


Susan McCullough said...

Wow- good advice and a great painting.

Unknown said...

That is one of my favorite paintings of yours.. maybe because it is a bit different than many. It reminds me of Carlson.
I got to thinking as I read all of our comments, and I feel maybe I spoke too quickly(a fault of mine) to our Mr. PepsiCola. The fact that you say he has considerable talent weighs heavily in his favor. I don't think you throw out meaningless flattery.
so, to Mr. PepsiCola, I want to say I neglected to put myself in your shoes more, and was too quick to spout out "advise". For that, I'm sorry. I do think it might still be helpful to get some feedback.
and what Stape offers here is practical, sound, counsel. I hope things pick up for you.

Mary Byrom said...

Nice wide variety of comments from the readers and from you Stapleton; good practical advice. Excellent post!

Barbara Carr said...

Where are those cute baby animals....?
Stape, I've taken your earnest advice myself and ordered Nightingale's tapes. Thank you. Now I will shut up and paint.

jake gumbleton said...

The painting attahced to this post is really splendid. Great stuff.
I am poised to buy a pochade box and am looking forward to starting some plein air stuff.
I really enjoy your blog, Easily the one i read most, so much great advice and discussion.
Keep it up! said...

Yep, that sums it up. Innovate or expand market base. If you want your art on walls you have to either give it away or sell it. If you sell it, art is a business.No getting around it.

billspaintingmn said...

Dear Pepsi,
Hi! My analogy would be gardening.
If you hoe a row, plant a seed and keep the weeds from choking it
things are bound to happen.
The fact that you're in this post says a lot.
To every time there is a season, and to expect 'drive thru' results my be the wrong perspective.
Trust that nature will takes its
course and do what you do have control of, and that is make art!
yours truly, "Bud Wieser"

D Curtis said...

Stapleton, I'm curious about how Gammell became wealthy? You said he was wealthy so he could afford to paint whatever he wanted. Was he a wealthy person who just decided to become a painter/teacher, or did he become wealthy as a painter?

McKinneyArtist said...

Stape I read your post very carefully everyday and still I end up learning something in almost all of them.
Bought the Foster Caddell books and the Nightingale tapes. Both great products. But I do live in fear of what else you will advise, as I know I will buy it, if I think it will make me a better artist.

Darren said...

Gammell came from a wealthy family.

If my memory is correct (from reading his writings and writings about him as well as talking to some of his former students), for a period of time he also received goverment help (via the GI Bill) in order to maintian his atelier.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Wow, I have missed a few days reading your blog Stapleton. I've been busy. First of all let me say what a beautiful daughter you and Kathleen have. With such a desire to nurture others and share her talents with many she truly is a jewel. You both are surely proud.
You know the old saying about the acorns not falling to far from the tree. Thank you for sharing the pic.

You have had some good group discussions. Also Congrats on the
Stape 500. What a feat in it's self. Your energy fuels our fire so
Keep On Keeping On!!

As for the artist, I can only hope he will find peace within. He is not at all happy with himself
I feel. The world out there is not
always cuddle and warm. But this world is what we make it. This is what we have control of...What "WE" Make It!

Deborah Paris said...

Love the painting. And that title is wicked funny!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like that one. usually I hate my art.It was a hard crowd around here the other night.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I like those open forum discussions, that has worked real well.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The kittens became uncomfortable with the whole scenario and went back home to mom. Osama is in France.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. Whenever I get one of you concept art cats, I always scratch my head in wonder. Glad you are here, hope I am useful.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thats the truth.

Stapleton Kearns said...

More advice for the lovelorn!

Stapleton Kearns said...

D. Curtis;
Ives family became wealthy in the wool trade in the mid 19th century.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You need a bass boat and a Z-28!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe several students who were vets used their GI bill to study in the atelier, but he taught everyone else for free.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.More good advice. The world can be very cold to the art type who is extra sensitive in the first place..

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I thought it was kinda catchy. Humanizes what might otherwise be a cold sort of a painting.