Monday, March 17, 2014

The Measure of the Artist

The question of artistic success is one that has plagued artists for centuries, and often weighs heavily on me as an artist.  I wonder whether what I'm doing makes a difference in the world, or whether the simple creation of a piece of art is valuable absent a monetary amount that someone is willing to pay for it.  Of course, pricing one's work is a whole other animal that is similarly problematic, and I recently faced this when I created a commissioned piece for a fellow Albany-dweller. 

We had spoken of the piece and I produced a rough sketch along with a discussion of the work's meaning, as well as a ballpark price.  Once I had completed the work, I realized it did not take me as long as I had projected, and, having used an hourly rate as a basis for pricing my work for a number of years now, I quoted a lower price.  My commissioner (and artistic supporter) immediately let me know how foolish this was, and told me to leave the hourly rate for my "survival job," stating that as far as the artistic work goes, if I can do it, I can, whether it takes me 15 minutes or 15 years.  Quite encouraging, I'd have to say. 

So back on to success -- certainly, having had a piece of art commissioned and sold, I felt momentarily more successful as an artist.  But does this mean that if several months pass from this point without another commission or original piece sold, that I will feel less successful?  Possibly.  Or will I feel successful as long as I am creating work?

In 2012 I completed two pieces.  For this, there were a number of factors.  In 2013, I created 12, one of which spanned three large canvas panels.  I figured that as long as I am creating one piece a month, with a full-time job that is unrelated to my artwork, I'm doing pretty well.   It is now March of the next year, and I have created three pieces, one of which I am not completely sure is finished.  This is my first experience of having to put a piece away in hopes to come back to it later with fresh and clearer perspective.  Does this mean I have reached the depths of what it is to be an artist?  Or does it mean I am working at too surface a level?  I don't know.  But I do know that in 2009, when I was not working full time, I created 20 pieces of art, and none were as sophisticated as the work I am doing now.

And I guess the biggest measure of personal success is really only individual feeling, anyway.  I just keep reminding myself: art is slow. 

And I do feel successful.

"The Time Is Almost", 4"x4", cut paper on wood panel 

"Song Springs Devotion", 6"x6", cut paper on wood panel