Monday, September 10, 2012

99 How to sell paintings Pt 1

SELLING PAINTINGS is not easy in the best of times. But there's one sure way to sell paintings; create paintings other people value. Note that I emphasize creating paintings other people value. It's pointless to pretend you're a frustrated genius whose work is unappreciated by the masses. The immutable fact is that the final arbiters of financial success are other people.

To create valuable paintings you must embrace authenticity. If you're trying to paint like your favorite artist your paintings will not be fully valued because your story will be the story of an imitator following the path of an innovator. A distinctive style indicates a unique way of viewing the world. That style is an expression of a unique personal history. To imitate is to adopt an inauthentic story.

Some people claim that the foremost art form of our era is story. The case can be made that the preeminent artform of all eras is story. Artists that became respected and prosperous during their time were painters whose stories reflected the uniqueness of their era. I'm not suggesting that we invent a history. But it's helpful to understand how successful artists became successful. Think of the artists you admire. Is their artistic journey interesting? Is there something unique about them and their art that allows them to position their art above the rest? 

I admit that I don't fully celebrate this somewhat off-putting reality. In a perfect world the validity of art should be independent of history. But there's something incredibly naïve about such an attitude. It's very possible that my personal journey will never be interesting enough to warrant my art being appreciated at the level I would like. But that in no way relieves me of the necessity of understanding the forces at play. What we understand we are more likely to control. We can use such understanding to our own best interests should we so desire.

Read any news source to witness how modern celebrities and superstars manipulate story to promote themselves. Celebrities embrace a sense of drama and their public lives are more theater than reality. Thankfully visual artists have a different tradition and history. Our collectors expect a different kind of story (perhaps more akin to an olympic athlete's). But the fact remains that every successful artist from Da Vinci to Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Odd Nerdrum has a unique and inimitable story.

Read part 2 here.

Brad Teare August 2012

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  1. "..the fact remains that every successful artist from Da Vinci to Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Odd Nerdrum has a unique and inimitable story."
    For these artists their story was always secondary to the art they created. But I would say this view point is certainly embraced by many post modernist, Damien Hirst comes to mind. This was a topic that the late critic/historian Robert Hughes wrote volumes on.
    Hughes passed yesterday, good topic to ponder today.

  2. Hi Jim. Yes, I agree. The story evolves from the art. I don' think Van Gogh had any notion that his story would become so fascinating to the world. Nor would he ever have considered getting a publicist. Great artists will always be interesting to other artists. However, non-artists need story to make the prospect interesting enough to invest in. I appreciate your comments. Many thanks!

  3. Picture your painting on a wall, if it looks good with any color,it might sell quicker, but it won't necessarily be your best work. However, if your work is well executed, it will sell no matter the colors you use because the person who loves it will repaint a wall to make it work.

  4. I love most of Burne-Jones' work. But he should have painted thicker! :o) It is true that the color of a painting can help sell it. I actually don't begrudge people buying a painting for that reason. After all, artists paint their studios with neutral colors to match their paintings.


Thanks for your comments!


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