I write for several venues now. Fortunately, my humorous column at The Crafts Report rarely draws complaints. (Or maybe it does and Jones Publishing is just shielding me from them….??)

There’s another blog I write for every two weeks, usually about getting your art out there. And it seems like every time I write, someone complains I’m not writing about “art”, just about “selling art”. And the monstrous idea of making art “for filthy lucre” raises its ugly head once again.

The idea of “art for art’s sake” is a very common one among many modern artists. I don’t really disagree. I do hold my art passionately, and with integrity, in my heart. Anyone whose read my blog for the last eight years, or heard me talk, or teach, or met me in my booth, knows that. I will always make my art and I will always write, whether I’m paid to or not. (For example, I’m not paid to write this blog and I’ve been doing it for eight years now.)

We all already create our art with passion, with joy and with zest. I often write about my art processes here. At this other site, I figured a bunch of artists might be less interested in my prattling about MY art, and more interested in how to get to get people excited when they prattle about THEIRS.

And most of them appreciate that. I’ve gotten many thoughtful comments and words of thanks for giving people another point of view, for sharing an insight that helps us be more successful artists, or simply more compassionate people.

But art does NOT exist in a vacuum. If our work only sells “if it’s good enough”, and nothing else should matter, that would limit much of the stuff we normally call “art.” And oh, if only it were that easy….

Exhibiting, publishing, marketing, selling are simply venues for getting one’s work out into the world.

I don’t know why our modern times puts such a judgment on that process. When did getting paid to make art get such a bad rap??? Many of the great masters had wealthy patrons or commissions to do their work. The Sistine Chapel was painted on commission, after all. Picasso was not only a famous artist, he is famous BECAUSE he was a master at self-promotion and marketing. Remember the picture he drew to pay his tailor bill? Or the check he wrote and told the recipient if he waited, the signature would be worth more than the amount of the check? Marketing. (See more “myths about artists” here. (I don’t know why all fourteen don’t show up, but if you do a little digging while you go through these, you should be able to find them all.)

Yes, it would be nice if artists only had to sit and paint/carve/sculpt/write/sing all day, and not worry about anything else. I would be terrific if we could all have someone else to promote, market and sell our work. In fact, it would be wonderful! But it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, that’s what that website for artists I write for is for–to help artists exhibit, show, market AND SELL their work.

Saying we shouldn’t care about exhibiting or selling our art is easy. But most of us DO care, very very much. IMHO, many people who say they don’t care of the world sees their work are actually afraid of the world seeing their work. It is so precious to them, they fear and avoid rejection, ridicule, humiliation. Those fears (very human, and very common to us all) are so powerful, the person would rather embrace obscurity than risk it.

And even if we don’t fear these and truly believe our art is ONLY for ourselves, then we inadvertently disconnect art from its very purpose–to enrich the world emotionally and spiritually. The cave paintings of Lascaux weren’t hidden because they were personal. They were protected because they were so powerful. The welfare of the entire community was wrapped up in their creation. Maybe it was hard to get to see them, but they WERE seen. Evidence of torches, evidence of men, women and children (foot prints, hand prints), even doggy foot prints prove that.

A piece of art that is never exhibited, that is not shared, or sold, is a loss to the world, like a song that is never sung, a poem that is never read. Emily Dickinson is often given as an example of a powerful writer whose work was never published and someone who never sought recognition. But she desperately WANTED to be recognized, and she worked hard trying to get her work published. She wanted her art to be visible in the world. And though it didn’t happen til after her death, the world is richer for her words. Her work was certainly “good enough” to make her successful. But for different reasons, that didn’t happen in her lifetime.

My articles serve many purposes. Sometimes I just need to write about an issue to find my way through it. Sometimes I find a deeper truth than what I originally planned. Sometimes I find myself in a hard place; I’ve learned that being honest about that, and sharing that, will sometimes help someone else through the same rough spot.

I ALWAYS try to encourage everyone who makes art, or who wants to make art, to just do it. The world is full of despair and sadness and hardship. Art serves many purposes, but the one I celebrate is its role in healing some of that. Every work that comes from the joy of our creating is an act of love and healing on our part.

Art is a constant reminder that we are all alike, and that we are all very, very different. I like to believe each of us brings something to the world that can be–should be–celebrated.

Some people feel art has a much narrower role, and a sharper definition. They will not be happy with my writing. And being so open about my thoughts will leave me vulnerable to people who are very comfortable with their own rigid guidelines. So be it. I’d rather be open than limited.

Normally, too, I sit on my hands awhile before responding to people. Right now, I’m in between two major gigs–I just finished a nine-day outdoor show (yes, 9 days!!) and I’m packing to leave for a week-long artist-in-residency (7 days). The mind boggles. Perhaps I am not at my most resilient today.

So for the next few weeks, I am totally immersed in the process of showing/talking about/selling my work. The joy of creating has segued into the power of people connecting with and reacting to my work.

It is a different energy, but part and parcel of the entire process.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

14 thoughts on “TIME TO SIT ON MY HANDS AGAIN”

  1. Luann,

    As your editor, I feel I have the absolute right to tell you that your articles at FineArtViews are not only appreciated – they’re anticipated (strong emphasis here).

    You are right…it would be lovely if you only had to create art. But when reality crashed it’s ugly self through the front door, it’d not be so pretty.

    Perhaps one day, money will not be as necessary as it is now – but until that day, I say market the hell outta yourself.

    We collectors appreciate it.


  2. Dear Luann,

    Keep right on writing…I love your energy, integrity and insight, and wouldn’t want you to filter or alter your point of view for the sake of trying to please everyone. One, you’re never going to be able to do so, and two, if those who disagree with your point of view, which is fine as long as it’s done respectfully, have something they feel is pertinent, let them take the time to create a blog, or venue, to support their stance. Your well thought out columns always provide valid issues.

    Thanks so much for your always thought provoking columns.

    Dawn Edwards


  3. You strike such a lovely balance though! I can’t imagine where the criticism comes in.
    I read much about making art and much about selling art– but those articles are more about just selling your work vs. actually selling art. Make what sells is common advice.
    Your articles are about your life as an artist– not as a salesperson– and how you successfully offer your art to the world– which involves selling it. It’s a rare balance and a valuable one.


  4. The opinion that “Art Should Not Be Sold” has kept most artists under earners and poor for hundreds of years. It is high time that this stupid myth be put to rest NOW!

    Luann – I would like to thank you for all of the wonderful information and help your writing has given me thru the years in my art business. Your blog was the “bible” for me when I first decided to sell my paintings. You helped me to learn the business side of being an artist – instead of me having to stumble thru in trial and error. You have no idea how much you have helped me.

    And then I in turn pass everything I have learned onto my artist friends. We are all in this together, we need to help one another, not criticize.

    Please don’t ever stop writing for all of your different avenues!


  5. Luann, you are so completely right on with this one! I’ve never really believed anyone who claims they don’t care what people think of their work — they’re human, right? That’s part of what it is to be human — seeking connections with each other. And that’s what art is, a way to connect. I just wanted you to know that I love the way you think (at least what comes across in your writing, since it’s the only way I know you) because you express so well some of the things I’m thinking about. Thank you!


  6. I see 3 aspects to the tension between art and commerce:

    – in a not-very-religious age “Art” has been pressed into the role once occupied by religion. Artists are expected to be visionaries or prophets. This sets the bar high for “real Art” – and is particularly daunting for young artists and those in the “decorative” arts.

    – the mechanical age has devalued manual skill. It is now displaced by design. People value “authentic” handmade work for other reasons than pure skill, and demand more of the craftsperson than craft competence. Mass production calls forth a demand that the artist be “different”. This can exhaust many creative people.

    – many young people go to art school (and many people call themselves “artists”) to escape the bonds of normal life. They are attracted by the idea that they are/can be visionaries. When the economic realities of being an art-school grad hit these people, they use their capital-A “Artist” status as a psychological shield against doubt, risk, and failure.


  7. Your blog post has really got me thinking.

    Why don’t other creative endeavors get subjected to this whole “selling out” vibe? No one ever criticizes a musician, a dancer, a singer, a writer etc about wanting to make a living from their God given talent. Only the artist. Why do we let this view continue to survive?

    If this person wants to only read about being an artist – there are hundreds of other blogs on line that just do that, he can surely visit them.

    As you said this particular blog is more for the artist looking for help and discussions on the professional side of being an artist.


  8. Great article, Luann. Seems there will always be trolls who will tell you that you’re doing it wrong. I understand when people react against bad marketing and sales techniques that end up just being forms of manipulation. But the alternative to bad marketing techniques is not NO marketing, it’s good and ethical marketing. Really, what you’re saying is no different than just developing good interpersonal listening skills – which is something we all can use more of.

    And for what it’s worth, we’re certainly not “shielding” you from complaints. (And I double-checked with The Crafts Report editor, Jessica before posting this comment just to make sure.) 🙂


  9. Hi, Luann! Again, a thoughtful and excellent essay. I always love reading anything you write — and the essay on the puppies was really special.

    Talking of the Puppies article, I’m going to ask a silly question, though: what exactly is a torch wipe? I’ve found other references to torch wipes, but none that make clear what it is (obviously it’s the kind of thing that is well-known to that particular audience, so no one has any need to explain it).

    Sorry about that, but I was curious as to how it made clear about the child and the dog…


  10. I agree with you. Thank you for this really good post.

    I am a full-time artist because that’s all I want to do. But I also have to earn a living. I don’t make art to suit the market; I make what I love and put it out there with the hope that others will love it too and want to buy it, which is by way of saying that I’m passionate about my work and stay true to myself.

    Keep doing what you’re doing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s