Last night I was reading through Robert Genn’s Twice Weekly Newsletter and I became upset. Normally this newsletter offers inspiration or motivation for artists, and this article was written in the same manner, but I just couldn’t agree with what he was saying. The article was called “The Aggressive Artist” and was written in response to a reader’s question,
“I know quite a few artists who are really serious about marketing and selling their art. However, it seems like they are not aggressive enough and I wonder if that might be the reason for their lack of sales? Do artists need to ‘wine and dine’ potential customers or should they trust their art to sell itself?”
Robert proceeded to answer that question by saying that artists should concentrate on improving their technique rather than trying to sell their work. He went on to say that good work sells itself, so the artist needs to spend their time in the studio. I agree that improving ones technique and skill is important for an artist. But so is actively working to sell your work (if you actually want to sell it.) A brilliant piece of work can’t sell itself if it never gets outside the studio.
This doesn’t mean that one should sacrifice their vision, their voice in order to sell their art. There isn’t just one extreme or the other. There needs to be a balance between making your art and making contacts who can help you find the people who can help you find the perfect home for your work. You need to get out into the larger world, network, make new friends and connections.
I’m not saying that I’ve perfected the balance of making and selling my art. I do believe that it is a disservice to tell people that if their work is good enough, they don’t need to try to sell it. It’s that same old argument saying that art needs to be made purely for art’s sake. Anyone who tries to sell their work isn’t a “real” artist. I have news for you. The medieval and renaissance masters not only tried to get money for their works, but they actively sought patrons out and petitioned them for their patronage. If someone who’s internationally recognized for creating great art, such as Michelangelo, had to get patronage to support his “art habit,” what makes anyone think that their work is good enough to sell itself?
What do you think? Am I the biggest sell out ever? Does trying to sell my art make me any less of an artist? Go ahead, tell it like it is. Leave a comment here. Go read the original article and comment there. Keep the discussion going.