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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Commercial work vs. growth work

"Red Delicious"
Original Oil - 6x8"
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A common dilemma among professional artists is the need to produce commercial output and the desire to focus on growth as an artist. It seems that one almost always comes at the expense of the other when trying to merge them.

After several years of straddling the fence between the two, I have found what works best for me is to keep them entirely segregated. When I'm painting for a show, I focus on painting at my current skill level - no double gainers, cliff diving, or juggling balls of fire allowed. Taking chances mid-painting when I have a deadline adds unneeded pressure. I cut myself a lot of slack and don't do much second guessing. If the work is competent, it gets signed, and I get on with the next one.

On the other hand, when I am working from a model or doing still life, or any other kind of work where challenge and skill building are the key motivators, my bar goes way up, and I don't let myself off the hook for anything. The goal is to rise to the challenge or die trying, no excuses, no cop-outs, no fear. Failure is welcome here. That said, whining is frequent and ongoing.

In keeping the two camps separate, I find I can give myself fully to each one without conflict,  making me a happy painter and allowing me to perform to the best of my ability whichever roll I'm in.

14 comments:

  1. Yes I think Im the same, the less risky approach always seems the best when Im producing work for galleries. So important not to dismiss our creative side, I think the more experiments the more lessons we learn.

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  2. Beautiful, rich red!

    Congratulations for the Ray Mar finalist!! Well deserved - it's a gorgeous painting.

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  3. Well said and I couldn't agree more. I decided to up the bar for my last show and froze right up doing one disappointing painting after another. Bad, bad, bad idea. From now on I'll be keeping exploration and painting for commissions and shows totally separate!

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  4. Well said, good advice, and well timed. I was pondering that issue myself. Thanks

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  5. Thanks for that very clear explanation of your approach. It is very confusing at times because without sales, you don't know if your work communicates with people but then, you don't want to succumb to just churning out what sells. Really helpful. Nice moody dark apple surrounded by that fiery orange, by the way!

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  6. Great advice, Liz and sweet apple!

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  7. Thank you for making the distinction between the two "approaches" and that it's OK to do both!Very sage advice.

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  8. Thanks Liz, very clearly expressed. I think it's great advice.

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  9. What happens Liz when i appreciate both work equally as a buyer? I thought size could be a good criteria, and that one paints small (while experimenting) or paint bigger (for galleries).

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  10. Prabha, what happens when you appreciate both work equally as a buyer, is that I LOVE YOU!

    Personally I find smaller lends itself to experimenting and pushing boundaries, large is much more daunting and therefore more comfortable to tackle when working within the comfort zone of my current skill level.

    That said, for some folks, growing and exploring is about painting large. I think it's different for each of us...

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  11. Thank you for that well said explanation of keeping the two sides going. I have often grappled with that question. It is something to keep in mind so that we don't feel too crazed by working on pieces that will go to galleries for sure, and pieces that are more inclined to be for growth.

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  12. Such a timely post. Thank you! I am now preparing for a show in Feb. and have been wanting to do different pieces with new mediums. As you can imagine it was becoming quite stressful. I am now going back to what i know and save the experimenting for other days. I love the deep colors in your apple. Beautiful!

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  13. Truly excellent advice, Liz. Your apple just 'pops', and I love it!

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  14. So true, Liz. It's a delicate balance & hopefully we strike the right note. Love the deeply, rich tone in the painting

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