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An artist I respect recently thought of a scheme to get  people to buy her work. She sells inexpensive sweepstake tickets and has a draw, giving away several artworks a year this way.

It is clever. Artists need to be as creative in their promotion techniques as their work these days.

I am still enmeshed in an ongoing moral dilemma about doing the promotion needed to sell my art or not. Early in my career, selling went without effort. I had a show, I sold work. People came to visit, they saw something they liked they bought it. I had a stand at a quality juried art fair and sold work easily.

For some reason that all changed when I moved to another culture. Here in Holland, it was years before I created a good social network, but even then it couldn’t compare to being naturally embedded in my home town, Pittsburgh, where the people I and my parents knew, loved and valued art.

Here in the Netherlands, the shows I had sold little, people walked past my stands at the various mediocre standard fairs I did attempt to do (and then mercifully stopped with) , and there is only one friend of ours who, every few years, sees my work and falls hard for a piece and actually buys it.

Because I’ve known a modest degree of professional recognition and success, I refuse to take the low sales figures personally. My work, if anything is growing in quality and depth. The factors have more to do with a different mentality here in northern Holland about art, and buying art. And many artists I know are fighting an uphill battle with this and the fallout from an ongoing financial crisis here.

In the last years, I’ve argued that the path of selling  art was not for me, but it never really feels resolved. I hear about my friend and her sweepstakes tickets, putting in everything she has to be able to make her art, and I feel doubt about my own stubbornness in refusing to use the social media, in promoting my work more actively etc. One main difference is that strictly speaking, I don’t have to live from my art anymore. People who have chosen to survive from their art have harder decisions to make. But I do miss the feeling of having something the society values and will pay for. And it would certainly make my day if my work were to start selling again. Unlike most socially engaged artists, I still seriously paint and draw. And this creative work is the source I draw on to move out into the society and share my skills, and knowledge of the creative process. It is fundamental to it.

Yet writing this makes me realise that I’ve made a healthy decision for me-  I’ve stopped doing things which weren’t working, and which didn’t make my heart sing. But doing so also has severed me in some ways from my old tribe of struggling artists. It landed me in ‘the place between’- when the old wasn’t working and the new hasn’t yet materialised. But I think each of us who rejects a path that no longer fits us is forging a new way, for ourselves and for others to follow at some point. Each step on the invisible path creates a new way forward. But on days like today, it is lonely and uncomfortable.

Luckily there are artist friends I can still toss these dilemmas around with. And also people who have arrived in a similar place to me like Milenko Matanovic who says,

Long ago I decided that making art for galleries and museums was not going to serve my notion of making communities and society more meaningful, liveable, and beautiful.

 

genuine (no tricks, promise) 4 leafed clover found on last walk

genuine (no tricks, promise) 4 leafed clover found on last walk

I just want to mention that I have 2 other WordPress sites.

Tendingtime is my transition blog- the story of my personal reflections and experiences as I navigate a period between life phases, professional identities, and lifepurpose. At first I chose to locate it away from artcalling because it really wasn’t about profiling as a working professional, but rather a more vulnerable venue for musings when moving away from a particular professional identity.

I also still meet prospective customers who want to see what I do, and was not quite ready to publicly reveal my profound sense of alienation from previous design, illustration and calligraphy commissions and deadline work on this blog.
Anyway, I paint regularly, teach and write, and am involved in some activism locally, so it isn’t as if I no longer work.

Now I am more certain of the kind of work that beckons me, I am less concerned about coming across as less credible to the aforementioned type of customer. I sense that my future work will take the form of collaborations with other artists and creatives in a similar phase to my own, and that once and for all any kind of professional posturing won’t be demanded of me.

So maybe I will in time, move tendingtime over here. It is an increasingly important part of my life and reflects honestly where I am on the subject of alternative paths for the arts. This last subject is why I started artcalling 7 years ago.

My other wordpress site, Artwell,  contradicts nearly everything I just wrote, and is a showcase for my work. As well as being a gallery for my current oil paintings, I see it as a document of past achievements which I am proud to share. There is calligraphy, harpsichord decoration, oil pastel drawings, etc.

I wish Tendingtime had more of a readership. Having been spoiled on this blog with over 200 followers last time I checked, I’d forgotten how long it takes to build up a readership without being on Facebook or Twitter. What excites me though, is that that blog is connecting me to others with a similar philosophy and experience. Those are such rich connections and I am grateful for them. Rather one of those than 100 of the ‘I follow you will you follow me?’ kind.

So please go over to Tendingtime if you are interested. I am also using that blog to document walking ‘The Pieterpad’, my 480 km journey (in phases) from the northern to the southern tips of Holland.

Transition post

December 29, 2013

If you are interested in transition issues and how they apply to personal choices, please go on over to tending time, where I’ve just written a post on some questions brought up for me by two books I’ve recently read: Charles Eisenstein’s, ‘The More beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, and Charlotte du Cann’s, ’52 flowers that shook my world, a radical return to earth’.

It is hard to pinpoint why I don’t write these posts for artcalling- they seem more private somehow, and I feel that they will be more relevant to people in transition themselves, and less to others who are still striving to ‘make it’ commercially as artists.

 

Transition

June 24, 2013

Though it has been mentioned occasionally here, I’ve been wanting to talk more about the ‘place’ I’ve been in on and off for about 2 years now.  Until recently the only way I could frame it was as a light burn out or some kind of long incubation period before the next creative cycle.

But it seems to go deeper than that this time. I have no energy or desire to promote myself or my work within an art world context, and my interests seem to be veering steadily away from the prevailing ones in this society. When I realized that there was no shared language to talk to even my online artists support group about my aversion to current contexts and marketing techniques for art, I realised that I am in a transition period comparable to the one I experienced when I was in my late 20s.

At that time, I had had 6 years of professional success as a calligrapher, artist and graphic designer in Pittsburgh, and I was facing the fact that internally I had no idea of a direction for the future other than more of the same. That started me a long internal search which ended up leading me to an international spiritual community, now an ecovillage, in Scotland.  It was a radical move to leave my family, boyfriend, cats and career to jump into the unknowns of communal life.  I’d expected to stay 2 years but ended up living there for the period between my 27th and 33rd year.  6 intense and beautiful years which formed my values and consciousness profoundly.

Now I am in my early 60s with the feeling that my best work is still in front of me. But the issues I care deeply about – the ones that I have always cared about most- are pushing to the surface and asking to be acknowledged and honoured.

I feel a new urgency to align with the healing, rebuilding, and transformative forces emerging in society, and not just through the arts. One recent trigger for this was the book ‘Walk Out, Walk On’, by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze. The two take a magical journey around the world visiting 7 different communities. These communities are almost all located in poor, dangerous areas with few resources or opportunities to build a safe, comfortable life. Yet through initiatives of  impassioned individuals coupled with the strength of community, these communities have found ways to be positive, resilient and healthy by drawing on their own resources, traditions and culture. And most significantly, without outside aid.

Always in these stories, one person takes a risk with a new idea. This one small step sometimes ends up spreading until it gathers momentum to become a major transformation which radically improves conditions for many people. One example of this kind of viral idea (I think they call it a meme)  is microcredit started by Muhammad Yunus.

So even though I live out here in the rich, Western world,  I, too, feel to be in a transition which many others are also facing. How to use my energy to help transition to the new society wanting to emerge in the midst of our broken dysfunctional systems. It is a healthier, more resilient society built on trust, community, collaboration, creativity, caring. That is my work as a person and an artist, and in a sense always has been.  I just don’t yet have an idea of what it is going to look like here in the north of Holland.

For right now it is just about taking the next step here- cleaning our home, tending the garden and my relationship, going deeper with my painting because that is where I draw my inspiration.

And holding still. Not grabbing at the first opportunity to be useful just to alleviate the discomfort of seemingly doing and achieving nothing. These periods of unclarity and sometimes darkness are necessary in transformative processes.They are rarely documented because one feels so uncertain and confused whilst in them. But things are a bit clearer now, and it is an important place to communicate from.

Of course I am also active, writing as guest author a chapter for a new book on care; reaching out for new connections in the circles which are involved with transformative societal work; planning my courses for next season; keeping up my blog and important new connections with other bloggers in transition(more on some of these great people in another post); and perhaps even starting a new blog just to track this journey, which I am sure will be ongoing.

Coming along for the ride? Would love to have you. I’ve started a new blog on this subject, you can see it here, www.tendingtime.wordpress.com