Thou shalt market II

March 2, 2010


See part I

For this year, I’ve decided to live off a small nest egg left to me by my mother, and to withdraw from actively promoting my work as well as accepting commissions I’d do only for the money.

In a way, this is as creative an act as it is radical because it flies in the face of the prevailing folk wisdom,  ‘Thou shalt be successful’. 
Of course I’d like success in the form of people knowing what I do and wanting to pay for it.  But I tend to think that this is a byproduct of an authentic life rather than the ultimate goal.

Traditionally, artists held themselves apart from mainstream culture. Their often eccentric authenticity acted as a commentary on society or a precursor of new trends that hadn’t even been sensed yet by the rest of the populace. With their distance from the marketplace, they were the visionaries and critics and fulfilled an important role in renewing the culture.

But now, radical art has been absorbed into the commercial mainstream, robbing art  and artists of this role.

One could argue that creating a magnetic identity on internet and attracting followers (and sales) simply by the nature of who you are (and how far up the search engines you appear) is a new alternative to previous ways of marketing art. But the principles are still the same: you have to strive to be visible, to compete with others to ‘jump out’, and you need to put considerable effort into staying in that position once you hold it.

If this jockeying doesn’t come naturally to you or you question it in any way, the fault lies with you. And you remain invisible, in that arena at least.

In the book T-shirts and Suits, A guide to the business of creativity,  David Parrish writes;

Successful creative enterprises are truly customer focused.

He qualifies this saying, ‘not in the sense of firing products at them but putting customers at the centre of their  universe so that their entire business revolves around them’.

I will obviously never have a successful creative business because I believe that the work comes first.
If it is done with quality and integrity, and you are persistent and have a bit of luck, modest income and recognition follow naturally.You don’t hide your light under a bushel, but your departure points are different from the average entrepreneur.

And what if you don’t sell anything, ever?

If your art heals you, it is good. You are healing a part of the world.

If your art is about exploring a piece of reality, then you expose that for us all to see.

If your art is about connecting previously unrelated areas, you have built bridges for us all to walk across.

If your art is about holding a certain energy you have created a sacred container for the earth and for all living things.

 If your art is about dreaming, you dream our dreams.

If your art is about transforming, you are society’s alchemist and we need the gold of your spirit.

This art can be subsidised, but it has no price tag and it can’t be packaged.
It is about the light of passion and integrity that can shine out of one life to illuminate the way for others.

Popularity leading to increased income isn’t the first or last question related to art. Nicholas Roerich said, (paraphrased)

‘ Create, create , create, and the joy of your creation will radiate out into the world and take care of your bread for the morrow’.

8 Responses to “Thou shalt market II”

  1. Helen-Anne Says:

    Great stuff, Sarah!

  2. sarah Says:

    thanks Helen-Anne. I know you are up against some of the same issues.
    Maybe if enough of us refuse to go with the prevailing marketing trends, a new, truly creative way to integrate art and life could emerge- one that supports the artist.

  3. Claudia ;D Says:

    Totally agree! “If your art heals you, it is good. You are healing a part of the world…” and all wonderfully said Sarah. I think this way of thinking (and creating) would not only support the artists but everyone who would be able to enjoy art not just according to how hight the price tag is or how high the ranking, but just for how much it inspires or heals. And doesn’t this world need a lot of healing, so also a lot more art that does that? (Instead of just decorate the walls)

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi Claudia, I’ve been thinking more about this, and feel that the problem is deeply rooted in the society as it is now. I don’t have any illusions about being able to radically reform the way art and artists are dealt with, but I can at least ask questions and hopefully inspire others to think outside the current box of marketing art as a consumer product.

  4. mary Says:

    Sarah living without worrying about making money for a year sounds like a fantastic ‘creative retreat’ I hope that it will bring forth lots of wonderful creations.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      thanks mary, it has been like falling down a rabbit hole, the first few months of this year have truly been trying. Like kicking a habit. And just today I’ve been starting to get an inkling of how I’d like to use my time (besides completing and publishing my book). More on that later. I love your idea of a creative retreat, that is what it is beginning to feel like. Once you truly put aside the goal of earning, some subtle shifts start happening. More on that later too.

  5. bonnielu Says:

    Hi Sarah, thought I’d stop by and visit your site. I love the sea shell — there is something serene about it.

    This particular post resonated with me. As someone who has made a career in marketing and advertising where it’s all about giving customers what they want, I can appreciate what you described above.

    Wish there were easy answers!

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Thanks Bonnie.
      I read your post about being between jobs (unemployed is such a negative term for a period full of possibilities). I hope you eventually find something suited to your spirit and creativity.
      Sometimes I feel like such a sourpuss with all my marketing tirades, but I truly feel we are missing something vital by all turning our art and ourselves into products.
      I did my stint as a working artist, calligrapher and graphic designer back in the 70’s when delivering quality and having a little luck were enough to ensure a decent income.
      There are more opportunities now, but it is also harder.
      no easy answers for sure.

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