Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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05/20/2004: "Do a painting get a pellet-dangers of selling your work"

Starting a new thread on the whole "galleries Good or Evil" debate, I think that it can be a kind of trap when you start selling work either way...that it would be impossible to not sort of take note as to what was selling, and then make more of that the next time around. I think that since galleries make money only when you sell work that there would be some pressure from them to continue to create work that will sell. I'm sure that's something all artists have to fight, whether they have gallery representation or not.

For example, awhile back I had a show at the city museum and noticed that all of the paintings a certain size sold out, regardless of how they were priced. My next show I *only* did paintings that size...and hardly any sold. (By the way, this time I felt guilty because the gallery I had my show at got very little in the way of commission from my work, I was afraid they'd never give me another show and even considered giving my friends money to buy a few more pieces with so I wouldn't look so lame-not my finest hour).

I also have a friend who had a painting of X that was extremely popular to the point of people fighting over for her next show she ended up painting 6 or 7 paintings of X.

It's almost a Pavlovian behaviorist response. You do a painting and you get a pellet afterward; it makes you (consciously or subconsciously) want to get that affirmation again, so you do another similar painting to get another pellet. (Think of Beverly Doolittle)

This causes us to maybe quit experimenting, trying new things, taking as many chances, because we don't want the pellets to go away.

Anyway, I guess that I have a big fear of this happening but at the same time, I craves da pellets! Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way?

Replies: 12 Comments

on Thursday, May 20th, Stacy said

Hee hee, makes me think of Thomas Kincade. He also craves da pellets!
Which brings up that tradeoff again of doing what you want or what the people want...

What painting are you talking about ("x") that your friend reproduced?

Okay Elise, it is about time I actually start doing some work of my own, than sitting on the computer all day reading your blog!! :P

on Thursday, May 20th, Stacy said

Hmmm... I guess the characters made a winking smiley after the "x". Didn't mean for it to do that...

on Thursday, May 20th,">Elise said

Hopefully you're in the throes of creative ecstasy and won't read this until much later, but I'll respond now while I'm thinking about it.

I don't want to mention what it was because that would give away who it was and she may stumble on this blog and I would hate for her to think that I was being critical of her... because for all I know it's the one thing she loves to paint more than anything else and in that case, it wouldn't be a reaction to pellet lust, but true creative drive. If you're dying to know I'll email it to you.

I'm not sure why you got the winking similes...I used to be strongly anti-emoticon but they are useful for conveying things like irony and other verbal subtleties not easily translated in the written word.

on Friday, May 21st,">Stacy said

I talked to Heidi Reifenstein the other day and I'm not sure if you heard this or not, but she is looking for artists to donate a piece of art for the June exhibit for a silent auction to raise money for Miah Lager (business partner) who had her apartment burn down in Chicago. Let me know if you want to get in touch with her or more info. I gave her your name...

on Friday, May 21st,">Elise said

I think Miah was one of the girls who originally came to the little art group that I started a couple years ago (now defunct). That's terrible about her apartment. I would be interested in donating a piece, have Heidi contact me about what they're looking for. I can maybe paint something specifically for the auction, something that would have a better chance of selling. When would she need it by?

on Friday, May 21st, John said

Well, I made my very first sale today! The school bought the piece for which I won the award. They couldn't offer what I wanted, but the purchase price + the award is actually more than the asking price for the painting and it's part of the school's perm. collection to be on display for the rest of time, with a plaque with my name on it...I know I'll be making more like it, I would've whether it sold or not. However I understand the pellet thing. Last week I hung some work in a local microbrewery, one of the owners said she liked my work, and was even considering buying some, however what they liked was what I was doing 6 weeks ago, which is different from what I'm doing now, so I set out to create more work like that even tho I wanted to make more work like I'm doing right now, jsut so I could get my name out there and maybe make a few sales. I even completed a painting in this earlier style (tho some elements of my current work crept into it) this week to hang there. Last night after celebrating the semester's end at said bar, one friend was discussing doing a painting specifically for the bar with an owner or manager, not sure which who said "as long as it's not like the shit hanging by the restrooms, that's not art". It was my shit. I wasn't too happy with the placement they chose, consoling myself to the fact that everyone would walk to the bathroom and thus see it, so I let that slide. This was too much to bear. After verbally tearing this man a new one, I simply took my work down. I can take critiscism, and I would be ok if they had asked for it to come down, or had simply not accepted it to hang in the first place. Oh well, I'm not going to hang stuff there again, and I'm unsure if I want to spend more money there, really a shame for me and them, since I was in three times last week, and twice this week. (So I was acting as an enraged customer as well as artist). So, for the moment I'd say screw doing what you think will sell, just do what you want, which is what I should've done in the first place.

on Friday, May 21st, John said

What I really meant to say at the end there, sorry for the long ramble was:

The goal for me is to create what I want to and make enough money to continue to be able to make what I want to. If I just go after money then I'm in no better a position than someone who punches a clock at a factory.

on Friday, May 21st,">Elise said

Congratulations on selling your first painting, it is a wonderful feeling, no?

That is a hilarious (and tragic) story. Did your friend who told you about the comment know that the work was yours?

Maybe you over reacted a bit? I mean, one of the owners said they liked it and wanted to buy some...just because some Troglodyte couldn't appreciate your work didn't mean you should punish those others who did like it.

I don't know, hearing stuff like that really sucks. It's one of the reasons I don't like to go to my own openings. A lot of the people don't know you're the artist so they make all kinds of loud and sometimes unflattering remarks.

That's one of the reasons I think I'll paint my face and where some kind of a costume to my next opening... LOOK AT ME! I'M THE ARTIST! DON'T SLAM MY WORK IN FRONT OF ME! I DON'T WANT TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE RESTROOMS!

on Friday, May 21st, John said

I was standing within earshot while the idiot denigrated my work. So I wasn't hearing it secondhand. I was part of the conversation trying to figure out what they wanted to see, he just made the comment, and I exploded. I may have overreacted, I don't know, they did put my work by the restrooms which is a very poorly lit area down a side corridor from the main tap/dining room, so I am not sure if they were just being nice when they took my work. The owner I had previously dealt with has my number and email, and if she did like it, I'm sure she's gonna wonder what happened to it (which should be great fun for that guy to explain) the next time she works. The two professors I related the story to agreed that taking the work down was a good idea, one saying they didn't deserve to have my work hanging there. If they call me wanting me to hang work there again I'll consider it, but I'm not expecting it. They're not really 'art people' over there I guess so I won't let it burn me up. One prof thinks she wants to help me get a show at a coffee place downtown owned by someone with 'taste'. But even that I'm unsure of since this owner burned a friend, commissioned him to do a painting, then didn't give any input on what she wanted after she approved his sketches, then refused to hang it, refused to pay the 2/3 payment she owed him, and refused to pay materials, all of which was stipulated in advance by both parties, it got worked out and he's getting his money, I just don't want to: offend him, or support someone who would do that. So it'll take some thought.

on Friday, May 21st, John said

Why do I always hit send and think, crap, I forgot something?

I went to a friend's opening, she asked me not to wear the clothes I work in (they're covered in paint). So I chose some clothing that was less covered in paint. She was ok with that, but asked? Would you wear your paint drenched clothes to your own opening? I replied, "Yes." And The one closing reception and one opening reception I've been to for my own work I did wear my paint soaked clothing to, as a way of saying: YES, indeed I am an artist.
I guess it helps if the concept of dressing up is foreign to you.

on Friday, May 21st,">Elise said

Ouch, having them say it right in front of you must have been awful, embarassing too in front of your friends...well, screw them right? I just think appreciation of art is such an individual thing, there's no accounting for taste.

I got royally burned on a commission once, I'll tell you about it sometime when I have more time, I'm on my way out the door to go sailing.

My advice, you could have a show there, just don't do any commissioned work for them, and if they get a comission on work that sales, get an agreement IN WRITING!

on Friday, May 21st, John said

Yeah, we all learned that "in writing" thing once my friend got burned. Of course, having read the book for the senior seminar (which the guy took last semester) I knew already, strangely enough the person who brokered the deal for my friend, teaches the senior seminar, but she is friends with the person who commisioned the work and so thought a verbal agreement would be all that was neccesary, and in NY at least, it is legally binding. But writing is so much easier to prove.