I just found out I can republish my own article that I write for Fine Art Views–yay! Here’s today’s article:

The Very Bad Saddle
by Luann Udell on 9/30/2010

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

If your art career is giving you a hard time, maybe it’s trying to tell you something.

My art life and my “normal” life spill over into each other a lot. Things that occur in my “normal life” often provide surprising insights into my artist life. In fact, it happened just this week.

I’ve been taking riding lessons (horse, not motorcycle!) for awhile now, my reward to myself for getting through an excruciating period in my life.

I’m at the point where, like making art, I simply need to do it more in order to get better. So this month I upped my commitment. I’ve been riding more than the standard weekly lesson, sometimes two or three or even four times a week.

But instead of getting easier, things got harder.

I’ve been riding this new horse on the trails. To put it mildly, he didn’t agree with anything I propose during our rides together. He was getting so antsy, willful and unruly, I began to fear for my safety on him.

I complained to my instructor, who finally took him out herself. And she couldn’t find anything wrong with him.

“So,” I asked gingerly, “Does this mean I really suck at riding?”
“No”, she replied. “You have a really crappy saddle.”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d bought the saddle just a few months ago online, under guidance from someone I believed to be an expert on such things. We’d spent a delightful afternoon shopping for saddles on Ebay, drinking wine and talking about the trail rides we’d take. She helped me find a great deal on what she said was a great saddle.

But apparently, it doesn’t fit the horse at all. It was pinching the horse in all the wrong places. He was doing his best to let me know it. But I couldn’t read his message.

My expert friend was mistaken. Or hey, maybe it was the wine. But my saddle is a cheap, poorly designed saddle from a country famous for cheap, poorly designed saddles.

In a way, I was relieved. Better to blame my woes on a bad saddle that didn’t cost me much in the first place. (And at least that might also mean my riding doesn’t totally suck.) But it got me thinking….

What “bad saddle” am I using when it comes to getting my art out into the world?

Right now, we are in a transitional period on how art and fine craft are marketed and sold. The old ways—getting into great galleries, getting juried into great shows, advertising, finding a patron or agent–are not sure-fire strategies for success anymore.

Yet it’s not clear what we should be doing. And when we don’t know what we should do, we often cling to the old ways. At least they’re familiar.

“My friend says I should do this show. It’s the best in the country! It’s expensive, and shows overall aren’t doing well. But maybe this one will work for me!”

“I’m going to keep applying to juried exhibits. I’ve never sold my work from one before. But maybe this time it will be different!”

“I’ve been doing this prestigious show for years. It used to be my best show! But they seem to be letting a lot of people who aren’t up to snuff, and sales are way, way down. But maybe this year will be different…”

“Nothing’s working for me right now. My work must be bad!”

“Nothing’s working for me right now. It couldn’t possibly be my work! It’s always sold well before…”

I knew an artist whose goal was to exhibit in juried gallery shows in every 50 states in the U.S. Now, there are good reasons to do a juried gallery show. But when I asked her why on earth she thought that would be a selling point for her work, she realized it was a goal she’d outgrown.

I know a prestigious fine crafts show that now juries in people whose work is just not up to snuff. Their spaces are filled, but the quality of the show suffers. That’s a professional credential I can do without.

After rescuing my work from three failed galleries in the past few years, I’m not as eager as I used to be to get into that “perfect gallery”.

Sometimes we just have to take a good, hard look, and listen deep to our heart to see what the next step is. And move on from what isn’t working anymore.

Maybe our work needs a fresh eye. Maybe it’s time to give up that prestigious show. Maybe it’s time to explore selling online. Maybe we need to rethink what potential customers really want to know about us and our work (as opposed to what academics and art schools say we should tell them.)

I thought about some of the events and venues I’ve committed to over the next six months. Some will be worthwhile to keep. Others aren’t paying their way, are not furthering my greatest vision for my art, and take up too much time to boot. I want to clear out some clutter in my life, both literal and figurative. I want to look carefully at all the goals I’ve assumed would move me forward, that are actually holding me back.

I can let go of some of these things I used to think would mean I’d “made it”, and articulate ways my art could “work” more powerfully for me. Get rid of the strategies, venues and goals that don’t work for me anymore, and find a better “fit”. Maybe instead of just getting my work into a great gallery, it could actually serve a great cause.

I’ve learned my lesson—don’t let a bad saddle keep you from having a good ride on a great horse.

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.

9 thoughts on “THE VERY BAD SADDLE”

  1. I love the way you think Luann. This is the perfect thing to hear. I will be passing your site on to my artist group so that we can have a discussion about this. Thank you for sharing!
    Enjoy the day!


  2. “Right now, we are in a transitional period on how art and fine craft are marketed and sold. The old ways—getting into great galleries, getting juried into great shows, advertising, finding a patron or agent–are not sure-fire strategies for success anymore.”

    Someone has dared to say it!


  3. You are brilliant! You brought up not only the difficulty of selling in this new age of marketing, but also something else.
    We sometimes take our art in a new direction, for numerous reasons…suggestions by friends, customers, or other art influences. And sometimes it takes a long time to see that it really isnt working, because it isnt a good fit. I for one, need to be more open to the clues out there, telling me that my work is not a good fit for ME!


  4. Hi Luann,

    I first read this post yesterday on FineArtViews Newsletter. Absolutely loved it. So very timely.

    It feels like we have entered a new era and can no longer count on the ways we used to sell our works. You’ve made many excellent points here. We have to find new approaches and become more innovative.

    Thanks Luann, I’m sharing this with as many of my fellow artists as I can.


  5. Luann,

    Thank you so much for saying JUST what I needed to hear today. It spoke loudly to me because I’m riding a very bad saddle too and didn’t even know it. My life has drastically changed over the past 14 months (personal tragedy) which, in the end, will be the best thing that ever happened to me. I just feel it.

    MY transition is mostly uphill right now & my art is has really suffered. My passion is there, but the direction is changing and I’m not sure where it’s going yet. Feels like I’ve hit a wall, but maybe I just got thrown off my horse!

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Sure helps me know what’s going on with ME. I just need a new saddle! Happy trails! 🙂


  6. Another great post, Luann! You’ve put into words (quite eloquently, too) what I’ve been feeling and experiencing over this past year. After yet another awful 4 days at a juried festival which had been a good show for me in years past, I finally got the messages: a)formerly good or great shows don’t always stay that way, b)if my work isn’t being presented to my ideal customer, it isn’t going to sell, and c)as a commenter on my own blog said: ‘you just have sell where they are buying’–to me, this means I have to change my strategies. Thanks for the kick in the you-know-where!


  7. Luann,
    Your posts are inspiring, thought provoking, and I ALWAYS enjoy them. This particular post really applies to my artistic life right now. In giving a long look at some of my selling venues, I’ve noticed that some trails I’m following don’t have much if any cheese at the end anymore. Time to look up and sniff out other ways to make a living.

    Thank you for the nudge.



  8. This post has a lot of meat to chew on, on so many levels– thanks! I get a daily shot of inspiration from Simon Sinek’s website– Start with Why– and one of them talked about taking opportunities that come up– you don’t have to take every one just because it’s offered, you should take it because it’s right for where you want to go. I recently joined an artists’ website because I was flattered to be asked and although I respected the individuals, I had major issues with the site’s presentation and direction. Finally I knew it was wrong for me and withdrew my information– definitely a “bad saddle”.


  9. This is an excellent post, and I’m definitely going to share it on my Facebook fan page! This is something a lot of people need to hear right now, even though we may not like the sound of it.

    I spent this past year doing many different shows. I know exactly what I’m going to do differently next year. Will it improve things for me? I don’t know, but what I DO know is that I won’t be banging my head against the same brick wall.

    Cheers, and thanks for having such a wonderful blog!

    Jennifer Moore
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC


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