Friday, October 17, 2008

I am Choosing to Look at the Bright Side


Storm Clouds, 2008, Oil on Gessobord, 4x4

My sales have slowed down considerably since June when my NYC gallery closed. In fact, September was the worst month I have had since I began exhibiting in 2004, with only one small painting selling from a gallery. Since June, two more galleries that represent me have closed and sales of my work are way down at all of the others. As I have said before, I do not take this personally, I know it's the economy. I am not established enough for my work to be viewed as an investment, and my prices are too high to be considered an impulse purchase.

I have mixed feeling about all of this. I can't say that I don't miss selling my work, I love the feeling that people like a painting of mine well enough to pay money for it and then live with it in their home or office. I really love that and it is a big part of the satisfaction I get from painting; that other people like what I do. Maybe that is politically incorrect to say if one is an artist, but I don't care.

So now, though, paintings aren't selling and I have some options (luckily I do have options because while my income is useful, our family is not completely dependent on it, thankfully:), most of which are a lot of fun. So despite feelings of unease about my "career" and where it's headed, I am also very thankful to have this time to reassess things. I am trying to develop new work, taking a much needed break from painting landscapes (I was edging close to burn out on those after painting so many, so fast, for years), yet I am able to go back to painting on a small format just for fun, and with a new vision of painting landscapes, all of which is very exciting. Although I haven't yet, I can do other things that interest me and that have been on the back burner for so long, such as drawing, collage, and working with encaustics. I am also taking my time in considering which galleries to stalk pursue and am holding out for one or two that will advance my career, not simply move it sideways.

There are some drawbacks to this silver lining though, the main one being that I don't really have any deadlines. I don't handle self-imposed deadlines well, and without constraints, I have a tendency to flounder a bit, and I certainly have been doing that. But for now I am relatively disciplined and am managing to be fairly productive.

This is a worrisome time for all of us. I can easily get myself so freaked out about what may happen in the future that I become immobilized. However, I just try to do what I can today, and remind myself that things are ok today. And today I have things to do. There are always things to do, right?

PS. But don't think for a minute that we haven't hashed over a few alternative plans. After all, Doug's company does sell expensive and ultimately unnecessary items (fossils) and while they are still doing fine, there are no guarantees. We have had more than a few conversations about how we could farm our 22 acres full time, pay the mortgage and feed ourselves; all of which will certainly include less art making and way more shoveling shit. Heh.

15 comments:

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

You said it Tracey: suddenly retail sales (for artists) are in the toilet....

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

OOOOOOOOOOPS! No E :)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Tracy - I have a hunch that your painting slowdown over the summer may partly have been due to the need to take a break (hey - artists can have holidays too!) and partly because you subconsciously recognised what was coming in terms of an economic slowdown - which now looks very likely to turn into a recession.

In a weird sort of way I think people who work out ways of delivering more affordable art - the sort that doesn't make you think three times when you look at the price - might do even better in a recession if it's very good quality. There's going to be a lot of people out there in need of an affordable treat - because there is only so much anxiety you can carry before you need an antidote. What nicer than a small artwork by Tracy? :)

Tracy said...

Yeah, retail is not holding up well, maybe it's good that we cut back on consuming, but, kinda bad for artists.

Katherine, Well, I definitely slowed down the painting part-I did need a break and then after Ginger got sick, i was glad for the extra time. But during that time, sales really dropped off too, even though I still had plenty of work in the inventory f the various galleries. Still do as a matter of fact.

And definitely, I agree that creating and selling less expensive art is a way to get by if need be. I am dabbling in that but have decided for now that it won't be my main focus during this time.

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Tracy. I too think its a good time to take stock of career plans but I guess I am a bit of a contrarian to what seems to be the prevailing view- to make smaller and/or less expensive art. I think many people who might have bought art at lower price points (I'm talking up to say $2000)are to a very large degree not buying and probably won't be for a while, at least not in great numbers. Higher priced art is still selling though- I've had the best year ever and almost totally due to the sale of large pieces (even this month). Example, in a museum show 2 weeks ago I sold my 30 x 36 but not my 10 x 12. I don't know if this will continue of course, but my dealer in Chicago's take is that people who buy at the higher end are not strapped and will buy what they want regardless. He's been in the business for over 25 years so I hope he's right! So my plan is to paint large and build an inventory (and look for another gallery that will as you say move me up not just sideways). I too choose to look on the bright side!

Tracy said...

Hi Deborah, great to hear that you are still selling through all of this! Your comments reminded me of a conversation that my husband had with an art dealer recently who said that the rich will still be rich through this and will continue to buy high priced art. And there will always be a market for really inexpensive art, $500 or less, but it's the artists in between who will be most affected by this economy. And mostly that is what I have seen happening and certainly is in my case.

It would be a great time to build up my inventory of landscapes, however however I have a pretty good bunch just sitting here and I'd like to get at least one new gallery before I paint any more big panels.

Michelle said...

Well, having just starting to sell, I can see that for now at least I need to diversify. ANd oppertunities have come my way. I am no where near gaing a steady income from it, but it may be good. I think we will all have to get just a little more creative in the near future!

Jelaine Faunce said...

Tracy, I'm right there with you, except for the "shoveling shit" part.

Stacey Peterson said...

I'm with you on this one Tracy - I've had a good year due to picking up some new galleries, but all of my galleries are complaining that things are slow, and I'm really having to work on my quality to get things sold (I've had to start using nicer frames, etc. just to be competitive). I'm enjoying having some downtime right now to really work on improving my work and doing some larger paintings for shows.

We're in the same boat as you guys with running two businesses, and Nate's in the homebuilding business which is pretty much in the toilet right now. Luckily he's got a few custom homes lined up to build this winter - otherwise we figured he'd be driving the ski resort shuttle and we'd be eating top ramen!!

Tracy said...

Michelle, yes having at least a few different places to show is good, can be hectic sometimes but is mostly totally worth it. And I don't know if there is any such thing as a steady income in art, the first year my income swung wildly from one month to the next. I learned pretty quickly not to spend everything each month because it was likely there would be zero the next month.

Ok, Jelaine, I promise not to make you shovel any:) Anyway, my husband does most of that, I am way too prissy....

Stacey, I was thinking that this economy lately must be tough on your husband's business. You sound like you are doing the right things to be competitive though, nice job. And down time can be important as we all know.

leigh said...

You are right Tracey...this was my worst September since 9/11. I am concerned that I am not completely booked yet for holiday commission work. This is usually the busiest time of the year for me.

Melody said...

There could be nothing more that I could say that hasn't already been said. I agree with everyone else.

Lisa said...

HI Tracy, I've been reading your blog for a while, and I love your work. I hope you will keep painting (and enjoying it). People will start buying again... (sooner or later), and in the mean time, you have a chance to take your work in all sorts of directions. You never know where that could take you! Good luck with it all.

Hylla Evans said...

Tracy,
You said the magic word. I'm glad you're ready to try encaustics. I can't find your direct email so write me hylla@comcast.net and we'll figure out what will get you started. Yeay!

Tracy said...

Hi Leigh, Sorry to hear how slow it is for you. Maybe things will pick after the election when everyone will (hopefully) fell more optimism.

Thanks, Melody and thanks for the encouragement Lisa. I am trying hard to stay productive!

Thanks Hylla, I will email you. Not sure if I am ready for encaustics right now but we'll talk.