I missed an opportunity to direct my life’s course when I cheated on an occupational interest inventory in high school. It was my friend’s fault. Just before we started, he challenged me to skew every response so the test would suggest “mortician.” For the next hour, I guessed what a mortician might answer, and the test came back saying I should work alone, far away from the rest of humanity, like in a fire tower.
Even without clear results, though, I can tell you—no test would ever suggest I go into sales. I’m a lazy pusher of product and have never wanted to make a million. I’d like enough to support my family and live simply… and maybe buy an iPhone.
But I’m in a new reality. My wife has been out of work for eighteen months. Like so many other families, we’re redefining “essential” and “expendable.” A teacher’s salary is not enough to pay a Chicago mortgage and eat. Though we haven’t accumulated the debt many have—we saved for a rainy year—the clock still ticks. Our savings dwindle.
I’ve been tutoring, teaching summer school, looking for stipends at work, but my means of making more money at my job aren’t great. Suddenly those Facebook ads telling me I can profit from writing look appealing, and I’ve wondered, can my avocations be profitable? Can I sell this stuff? If I can’t, can I afford to do it?
Upstairs I have a portfolio full of mixed media art on Aquarelle Arches 140 pound hot-pressed watercolor block, which costs two dollars a sheet. I paint every weekend and usually have something going during the week too. About one of five pieces is successful in my eyes, but as long as I’m stashing paintings in the dark, success hasn’t mattered. Just the doing.
And, generally, I like it that way. I prefer not to judge my artwork and think it’s easier to paint when I don’t. I am, after all, a naïve (read “outsider”) artist, informally trained. Before now, I’ve sold paintings bemusedly, tickled that people value my work in dollars.
But I also know… it feels good to sell artwork. If art is, as Zola suggested, “living out loud,” buying art is hearing—for the artist, it’s verification you’re worth listening to. For the last week or so, I’ve been uploading my artwork to cite called Zatista that will sell my work for a commission, a project that has created strange salesman feelings. I’m writing blurbs and pricing. I’m thinking about marketing (I’m marketing now) and considering my potential clientele.
Though I haven’t used the words “Buy my art,” that message underlies everything I’ve done thus far. It’s not that I think my art is better—I hope it gives some people pleasure but understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not arguing it’s a good investment—who has the money to buy art now and who knows the future? I’d just like to make a sale.
For me, these are foreign and confused feelings. In my last post, I spoke of the artist’s faith in reaching a larger audience—but selling your work is taking another step. Chutzpah like that is difficult duty, and I wonder if I’d enter into it if necessity didn’t push me. People have sometimes told me not to “hide my light under a bushel.” It’s an odd expression—I don’t see many bushels these days—but I tell myself I’m lifting one.
To be a successful salesman you have to believe in your product, and, for some of the writers and painters I know, that comes quite naturally. For me, not so much so. But I’m saying those words, “Buy my art.”
Maybe I’ll have to answer why I’m saying so more accurately later. But, right now, please visit Zatista, look at my work, and—if you like it and have the means—please buy my art.