Your art is not for everyone. And that’s ok.
Many times as I’m working in my studio / gallery, I leave the front door standing open to welcome visitors. People passing by don’t always know that I can hear them talking. Many don’t hesitate to voice their opinions about my artwork displayed in the front window.
Thankfully, the majority say encouraging things like, “These are beautiful paintings!” Or, “This artist is so good at capturing the light.” But I also hear comments that are….less encouraging.
One recent example. A passing lady stopped and pointed at one of my smaller paintings. She blurted out to her friends, “This drives me crazy! I could paint that in five minutes! I can’t believe he charges $500!”
I came very close to popping out the door and inviting her to my easel for 5 minutes.
When I posted the experience on Facebook, comments from artist friends came flooding in. It seemed to strike a nerve — many artists have had similar experiences as people viewed their work.
Why is this? Why doesn’t everyone like our art? If we keep working really hard can we get everyone to like what we do?
Let’s imagine that from my gallery walls I took down all of my own artwork and replaced it with original paintings by Rembrandt. Or Velazquez. Or Sargent. Or Picasso. Or _____ (insert your favorite artist’s name). So my gallery walls are now filled with that artist’s work. Perhaps this particular artist is/was the most technically skilled the world has ever seen. Would every visitor to the gallery like the work? Assuming the price was affordable, would everyone buy one? I think the answer to both of those questions is no.
You might be thinking that all of this is obvious. It’s common knowledge that art is subjective. But I think we can sometimes behave as if everyone should like our work. Many artists fail to realize the fact that no matter how good you are, your art is not for everyone. Not everyone is going to like it.
I don’t say this to be discouraging. I say it because I believe that once you make this realization, it can give you freedom to ignore that voice that wants you to try to please everyone. It can keep you from feeling hurt when that prestigious show didn’t accept your entry. It can stop feelings of jealousy when so-and-so’s work is selling like fidget spinners (I have little boys at home) and yours is overlooked. It can keep you focused on making the art that YOU want to make.
The amazing thing — and I regularly thank God for this — is that there ARE people out there who will like my work. And there are people who will like yours. Let’s keep our focus on continuing to improve our individual artistic skills, while educating those around us on all the work that goes into creating the art we create.
Then it won’t matter if someone claims they can paint your painting in five minutes. You’ll be free to keep on creating as you always do, knowing that a new collector of your work could show up at any moment.
Thanks for the post Dan! I agree!!!
Well said, Dan. Your words are sensible and soothing to the soul. We don’t fall in love with or even like everyone we meet, and it’s exactly the same with art.
Seems like a parable for whatever the Lord calls us to–the point is not to please everyone but to please the One. Marge
Thanks, Dan. I needed to hear these words as I am finishing up works for a big feature show in Charleston. All I can think as I look at the room full of paintings and all the hours and hours invested in it is ” I hope someone likes it…” it is that voice of doubt and usually it is worded “I hope this @!*!! stuff sells.” I imagined a similar scenario at plein air competitions that if one were to take the little 6 x 8 Sorolla oil studies off his museum wall in Madrid, they would not be accepted into most competitions. It is good to believe in your work and, thank God, to have some others believe in it too.
Great post Dan! I was just thinking about this topic right before I opened my email. It’s encouraging to see that other Artist’s have the same thoughts and experiences. I’d guess that most mean spirited critics have never let a complete stranger judge anything they’ve created. By the way, I think your paintings are beautiful.
So true and so well said Dan. There is such a freedom in accepting this. We can only express what we see and feel, not what others do.
John P. Weiss
Just for the record, that woman wouldn’t be able to recreate your artwork in five days, let alone five minutes. Keep painting the way you do, the work is beautiful.
Very astute observation, Dan! It also applies to the artists who judge a juried show wouldn’t you say? Before I enter a show, I like to go on the judge’s website and see what his or her paintings are like. I’m doing that now and thinking, mine aren’s as classical or realistic as the judge’s and the subject matter is very different in at least half. I’ll enter anyway, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with my more impressionist/expressionistic style of work.
Thanks for the nice comments, everyone! I’m glad this post is encouraging and relevant. We’re all experiencing many of the same struggles and joys as artists.
Ah yes! I hear a lot of things in my gallery as well. -A elderly fellow giving an artists dissertation to his mother ” ok this artist almost has IT___!” And I drew the line with one kermugion that told his grandson some disparaging remarks regarding art. Art is for everyone , you don’t need to be a famous professional to create images of connection and joy. A child should be taught to express themself with out criticism !
I agree whole heatedly.