Friday, February 18, 2011

Into the Sunset

The time had come to make one of those decisions that changes one's life. They're always hard and sometimes sad, but necessary.

I decided it was time to give up the dream of making art as a business.

The art business never did make enough money for us to live on; in fact, we lost a LOT of money over the years. A sale here and a sale there just doesn't do it. After a couple of decades (literally), with one of those decades being full-time as an artist during this never-ending economic depression, it's time to stop the money leak. I've reached my "stop-loss": the gambler's term for the maximun amount one is willing to lose in the pursuit of riches.

I've gotten a lot of advice over the years from artists who say they're surviving just fine, although their income may have gone down somewhat over these last few years. Some of the advice was conflicting: "Keep your prices low until you get better established" vs. "You really otta double your prices."

In fact, I've taken a lot of the advice I've gotten, and ya know what? NONE of it made any difference, one way or the other!

The recession (or depression, as I call it) affected many artists badly; for me, however, sales dropped even before the housing bust. I saw sales decline when gasoline prices rose in the mid-2000's, supposedly because of the worldwide demand for oil, especially from emerging economies such as China's, and from every storm that blew through the Gulf of Mexico. It cost more for people to get around, so they stopped traveling to art shows or galleries. Those who still drove their cars just weren't buying.

On top of that, the galleries I used to be in had their own ideas about what I should paint -- paint BIG (something I never felt I was good at), and paint Tuscany scenes (Gallery A) or local desert scenes (Gallery B). There were a few sales, but now we have closets stuffed with large paintings. And no interested galleries.

In addition, buyers in California and Arizona -- even in the art mecca of Scottsdale -- want non-Southwest, impressionistic/expressionistic/abstract works that match the sofa or "tie the room together." In fact, I'm still amazed at how many people re-decorate their homes and save the art-buying for last. It's easier to switch out paint and furniture color than it is to find art that's truly meaningful to the buyer, regardless of the colors in the art. But then, maybe that just demonstrates the low priority people place on art.

I'm left with quite a mixture of emotions: sadness, anger, bitterness, disappointment, frustration. I know I can always re-enter the art market if/when things change. But I'm not counting on anything like that happening in my lifetime. For now, painting is a hobby that I'll work at when I can. I'll take my time, work when the mood strikes me, and produce works that are as close to perfect as I can make them, given the skills I have at that time. If I happen to sell any paintings, great; if not, well, the pieces will look wonderful on our own walls.

Meanwhile, I'm still a part-time instructor at the local community college, and I've applied for a full-time biology instructor position that recently opened. And I'm looking for a Plan C in case the college loses the funds to pay my wages and I become unemployed. Plan A (the art business) is finished.

So for now, I'm heading off into the sunset. If you happen to be one of my buyers, I say: thanks so much for fueling the dream. But the paint brushes and supplies have been put aside for now, and I'll revise my Website (which I still plan to keep online) to become a portfolio of my favorite paintings rather than a selling site.

Yo voy a Dios.


Greg Long Artist said...

You will be back Mark, even if only as a part time artist. You will miss it too much, and your art is too important to you.

. said...

Bummer. Let us know how it goes with the college. I'm glad to hear you don't intend to stop painting all together. You have too much talent to not use it. It'd be like hiding your light under a bushel...or something. :) Let me know if you want help re-creating your website.

. said...

Oops...that last comment was from me. :) Kari.

Mark J said...

@Greg -- you're probably right. Even though sometimes I HATE art! =)

@Kari -- thanks for the offer to help re-design my Website. I think I'll be OK, however.