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Retail Art and Feeding the Creative Spirit?

Garden Path, paper collage by Sue Steiner 2006

Well here I go again…. in the middle of changes and trying to find my place again.

I have been feeling a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction in not really having a clear vision for what I want to do with my art.   In a way NOT having a direction is what I am craving…. a time to just let myself do what I want with my art.  Today maybe I feel like painting a horse, tomorrow a flower, another day a landscape.  To be able to indulge those impulses is what I am craving I believe.

The daily paintings I did a year or more ago were a wonderful way to get that unsettled feeling out before I sat down to work on commissions or something more involved.  And the beauty of the daily paintings is you can be all over the place in what you want to do.  I’ve been trying to fit some of this kind of stuff in but its always with a feeling of guilt because I have other things I need to paint.

I ‘need’ to build my inventory in my studio at the gallery. ~ That means paint what I think will sell in different price points but also to not let myself get pigeon holed into people expecting only one kind of art out of me.  To do this I need to get a feel for my audience and either try to deliver what I think they want or to bring my target audience to me.

I ‘need’ to paint commissions.  Usually this is what pays my rent and supports my horse habit!  I need to be fresh for these and I am finding to be fresh I need to be able to do my own thing sometimes too.  Yes, I want to keep on doing commissions but I am getting a clearer idea of what I need to do in order to sustain good productivity.

I ‘need’ to have paintings for special events, opportunities, show submissions. ~  I really am lacking in this category…. I do want to leave enough creative space to submit work to shows and collect enough inventory so I have things to submit.  This feels like an area of growth for me but how to make room when I am doing the other ‘needs’ as well.

And last but surely not least, as an artist I ‘need’ to feed my artistic spirit.  How does one do that?  Play, explore, dig, dwell, linger and feel.  This is a continual process that should be onging in order to have growth and satisfaction.  My artistic spirit cares nothing about money which more or less drives the other needs.  

Another way to say all of this is how to channel creative urges AND be productive and commercial (in the sense you are selling your work)?   How do you keep the interest up for what people want you to do vs. what you want to do.  How do you keep inventory up but have variety?

I really enjoy when I can be a spontaneous painter– that is where I sit down and just let things flow.  It is an entirely different process than planning out a piece and knowing exactly what you want to do with it.   It is entirely different than knowing what the outcome will be.  Spontaneous painting does not care about the outcome as much as the process.

Sometimes with a painting there is just an element that draws you in… I will be doing a portrait of a beautiful young woman.  Last night we met and I took some photos to use as a reference.  In one photo in particular she had her long bangs with light shining thru on one side of her face and on the other was a refection of her outfit that cast a beautiful blue- purple-y color on her chin.  I loved those elements and because of them it makes me want to paint this portrait!!   So is the trick to doing ‘retail’ art to just hunt for what I love about something and not paint it until I can find that thing?  And how do you do that on a schedule?  Or do you just learn to get into work mode and just do it?  How do you do this and not feel stale?

The paper collage up above is one of my very first nice pieces I did when I was beginning to explore art.   I am a late bloomer to art on one hand but very much like an impulsive child who wants to just dig in as fast as possible on the other.  Like my husband has told me– you are always at odds with yourself!  Well, yes!!  I set myself up in a situation with a art studio and gallery space (which I love)  in which I need to be commercial in order to pay rent etc. but on the other hand I only want to produce if I can have fun with it?  How immature is that?  Who in real life only ever has fun with what they do?  No one.  And for me this applies really only to painting… I do other things that I don’t just absolutely love.  I do laundry, mow the lawn, clean dishes not because I love it but because I know it needs done.  Why, when I apply this same thought to my art, the art suffers?

So where am I going and what I am doing?  I’m not sure yet but am sure I will post the results here when it happens!

I would love to hear from other artists who also struggle with this.  In talking with artists I do not feel alone because from what I’ve heard everyone has their own version of this story to work thru.

Happy trails!

Sue Steiner http;//

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