Prismacolor pencils on Canson Pastel Board. Own reference.
Today’s featured coloured pencil drawing happens to be my biggest selling print as a greeting card not only in Australia, but overseas. For some reason this drawing has universal appeal. Is it the subject, the medium, or the colours and shapes?
I recently took part in ArtWalk 2019, an annual local council arts initiative at Port Macquarie (Australia) where I’m currently residing. For 3 hours on Thursday, July 18, between 6-9pm, about 11,500 people visited the CBD to witness a massive range of visual and performing arts. This event gets even more popular with every passing year. I wish though that it be held over a weekend, not simply an evening. On my stall I offered cards and prints for sale and my return this year exceeded my participation in last year’s event, so from that point of view I was successful. Unfortunately, I was situated well away form the fine art stalls and performers, limiting the amount of customers I could have had if I were nearer to the ‘action.’
What pleased me most was the reaction of people to my work. The vast majority were amazed that my cards and prints were derived from actual coloured pencil drawings. Two comments stand out: “They’re only photographs,” and “I wish I could take photos like that.” I’m not sure what to make of either!
Despite the popularity of my work, why has it been such a challenge to sell my original drawings?
Creating art is part of a process that often involves extensive research, planning, making, framing and marketing. If you simply create art for your self, then it’s about the processes involved in making something and keeping it for yourself. Sharing one’s art is a very different matter and can be classified as the ‘serious side of art.’ It also can involve a great deal of expense for materials, framing and promotion. The latter can also include gallery representation, a website and market stalls.A selection of my recently released prints of some of my coloured pencil drawings that are also available as greeting cards.
For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that we first and foremost create art for ourselves, enjoy the process and take solace from the products that result. When one crosses the line into the commercial art world, strange things can happen. One can be seduced by the market’s demands and produce work that’s popular. ‘Popular’ has a great chance of selling. If that’s the way you want to go, you can expect a reasonable financial return for your efforts. But what if you want to simply ‘be yourself’ and create work that has personal meaning? Starve?
There are a number of artists who have succeeded being ‘themselves,’ I’m not one of them. The past few years have not been good for me sales-wise in respect of my coloured pencil drawings. I am however, enjoying success with my greeting card range and lately, with my recently released range of prints. Despite some limited commercial interest, I’m wondering though if it’s all a waste of time. I get depressed when I see art on social media that is popular, selling and what I consider insincere and of questionable originality.
I promote my art as one should on various social media outlets, my website, online galleries, my RedBubble shop, this blog, through my art workshops and in 3 galleries for (lately) very little return. Having been away from my home state of Tasmania for the past 3 years hasn’t helped maintain the sales I was experiencing before I left. Breaking into new (local) markets has been a challenge that has eluded me. I’ve been featured in national art magazines as well as overseas publications and books. This ‘promotion’ has resulted in no sales of my work whatsoever. I’m beginning to question if it’s all worth the effort and I believe that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
The art market seems to pay little attention to the skills of artists. If people like an artwork and are prepared to pay for it, then a sale is made. Producing ‘commercially popular’ artwork sits way above any comparison to artists’ skill levels in many instances. ‘Nice, happy, friendly, non-offensive’ artworks will more often than not, sell. I can understand that if art’s your living you have to make art that brings in the dollars, but is the joy of creating art diminished? For some, maybe not and good luck to them!
From time to time I’ve questioned my skill level, but with 50+ art awards to my credit, I must be doing something right now and then. Maybe my subjects are too personal; what I like to draw lacks ‘commercial appeal.’ It may be the fault of my preferred medium, coloured pencil. The latter is a point worth consideration and is worthy of a blog post itself. There is (still) a deep misunderstanding concerning the merits and value of coloured pencil drawing as genuine artworks of merit in the Australian art market, especially away from the big cities. Why are my greeting cards so popular, while many of my originals still reside in my studio?
Next year I’ll be returning to Tasmania and to my own studio as well as re-connecting to the local art scene. This will be the ideal time to re-evaluate my involvement with art. Should I continue with drawing with coloured pencil or should I return to painting or my love of digital art/photography? Can I combine them all? Should I continue teaching? If so, should I change my approach? I want to write a book about my art and after several starts it’s still a ‘work in progress.’ Maybe it’s time to get it done. Are more public art demonstrations and art markets the answer? If all else fails, it’s back to fishing and golf!
Before any decisions can be made it all depends on whether or not I can continue to find ‘joy’ in anything creative, for without a love for what one does, how can joy be found? Why one does art is just as important as the art one creates.
At the end of the day, our priorities in life will determine the journeys we take.