I have read many things about the art market recently that make me very confused. I wonder if anyone else shares my confusion and concerns.
First, I read that those artists who show work in a gallery are asked to work in a series. They aren’t to submit work in a completely different medium or venue. The thinking is that patrons want to collect art that matches, so that they can collect 3 or 4 from the same artist and they are all similar in style and medium. My push back on this is basically, how many people get multiple purchases from the same patron?
Also as an artist I get bored with one medium. I will typically work months and sometimes years on watercolor, exploring different subjects until I feel I have learned and experienced all I can for the moment. Then I turn to a completely different medium. Sometimes I switch to oils or acrylic. Sometimes I’ll explore printmaking for a while, or even sculpture. Right now I’ve been working extensively in charcoal and really getting comfortable with the range of value and emotion I can get. I also have spent the past few years working in collage. I am really loving the search for just the right color range as well as the feeling that I’m recycling old magazines instead of throwing them away and contributing to some landfill somewhere. I know I’ll get tired of it sometime soon but not yet. Is that bad? Does that make me an artist without a “style” or genre that collectors can identify? I really don’t think so. After all, didn’t Picasso have his “blue period” and “red period” before experimenting with Cubism? Still I am told that galleries will not show my work because of the range of style and medium in my portfolio. I suppose I could show only one style to one gallery and a completely different medium or style to a different gallery.
The other thing I feel about diversifying my styles and venues is that getting “jobs” as a freelance artist is not the easiest proposition. I have created logos, illustrations for children’s magazines, Photoshop manipulation for people with family portraits that weren’t “perfect,” and even cutting out people from photo backgrounds for web purposes, etc. If I couldn’t do a wide number of things and a varied style, I would have few jobs.
I have an account with Outsource, which is a website for artists and illustrators to find people who need drawings, illustrations, logos and Photoshop work, and vice versa. There are at least 15 artists biding on each job and only one gets the work. I find I am constantly underbidding what I think I should be getting or what I am worth just to get the work. One of the key problems here is that Outsource gets the business. If I want to build up my own brand I shouldn’t use a program like this to get work, but times are hard. I have bills like everyone, so I bid on jobs and underbid at times.
I remember reading that Grant Wood did a variety of things to make a living in Iowa during the 40’s and 50’s, including painting signs for business and creating logos and illustrations for the newspaper. If you don’t know it, Grant Wood is the artist who painted American Gothic, the portrait of an Iowa farm couple with pitchfork in front of their farmhouse. He became famous for that painting but still had to make a living. That’s just the way art is.
Does anyone else feel the confusion I feel? Galleries want purists, patrons want consistency, the job market wants diversity, and artists just want to pay their bills and make a living.