There have been a few occasions in the past when I thought I would go out into the wide world, metaphorically speaking, and seek my (however tiny) fortune on the strength of my artwork. I happen to think I’m a pretty good artist. Even other, seemingly sentient and sane, people have given me reason to think I’m a pretty good artist in somebody’s eyes besides my own. Not that I would be in the least biased.
So I’ve looked into various ways to ‘put it out there’ [Ed: don't be ridiculous. NOT THAT!], from looking at DIY publishing, either online or on-demand, of prints of my artworks or of books–I’ve got a whole stack of book pages laid out with my art and writing on a whole slew of topics and themes, all stashed away digitally for Maybe Someday use–to sending hard copy prototypes of said books and artworks to various publishers, galleries, shops and the like to see if they’d be interested in aiding me with their resources. The answer, always, has been No. All who respond with anything other than simple form responses indicate that they, too, think my work is good stuff. But the other universal response is: I’m too hard to ‘package’. After whatever amount of hemming and hawing is required in the instance, the clarification is that my work (usually referring to the visual parts, but written forms have been included as well) varies too much. I’m not same-same-same enough to be marketable, apparently.
I consider this high praise. But it’s rotten for business, as you can imagine. Yes, I’ve sold both speculative and commissioned artworks, but only privately and by word of mouth and for very modest sums and, frankly, none in quite a long time. I’ve had a number of gallery showings, but virtually all ones that I organized myself, paid for from start to finish, framed and installed and lit and removed myself (though as my family and close friends will attest, not entirely without enslaving some of them for some of the schlepping and heavy lifting)–and nearly all of these also garnering me good reviews, when I could get any critics to attend, and lots of enthusiastic appreciation from attendees, but no sales. I’m actually beginning to think they might be onto something, those crazies who sell high-end mansion properties and deal with slow sales by jacking the prices higher and higher until equally crazy buyers consider the places posh enough to capture their highfalutin imaginings and plunk down megamillions of dollars or Euros or what-have-you. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here on my little paper and digital treasure trove of creative wonders and selling occasional copies of them for pennies at Zazzle.com.
The other aspect of the critiques I’ve sought that always seem to end with ‘gosh, you’re wonderful, buuuuuuut . . . ‘ is that the same people who tell me I’m too diversified (if not wholly a dilettante and a flighty fool) for my marketable good often tell me in the same conversations that I have a very recognizable style, so no matter how much my subjects and media and moods vary, they find my work fairly easy to identify. And they say this as though they, too, think that’s a good thing. Can’t say I can untangle how the good seems to be perpetually the enemy of the moneymaking; clearly a puzzle I haven’t solved. Yet.
Until then, I keep doing-what-I-do, plodding along and enjoying the process because if it isn’t making me (or my patient partner) any income, it should at the very least be fun to do it! And I do find that no matter how much my attention wanders or my themes hop around from light to dark, from complex to childlike, from crudely handmade to semi-seamlessly digital, I see more and more the marks of my own nature and personality and style peering out at me from each work. I may draw characters that are as far from my own ‘type’ and experience and even beliefs or prior interests as can be imagined (by me), but each of them ends up being somehow a child of my own making or a member of the larger family of my creative spirit, and that’s pretty good, too, I’d say.