Why Do You Make Art?

Why do you make art?I know. Asking why do you make art is a kind of a loaded question.

You may not have an answer as pithy English mountaineer, George Mallory for when he was asked, “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” His reply was, “Because it’s there”. Willie Sutton, the infamous, prolific bank robber gave this answer to why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Replying to “Why do you make art?” is hard to do in a few words.

I believe for most artists, the answer is complex, and no single answer will apply across the board.

I think you make art because it is part of who you are. It’s almost like art chose you as much as you chose it. You might have a burning desire to scratch a creative itch, or can’t resist because you have the gift of being able to observe the world along with an ability to express what you see, visually.

Making a living from making art is a pretty cool thing. So is making art people want to buy.

Some of you make art because you’ve gotten pretty darn good at it. You’ve also found it’s a great way to make a living as opposed to climbing the corporate ladder, or punching a time clock. You might do it because it’s fun, or just because you love the thrill of seeing the result of your creative output. I get that last one.

For years, I was a super serious fine woodworking hobbyist.

I had the tools, knowledge, skills and creativity to make a fine woodworking career. Two things dissuaded me from doing it. The first was I was not willing to take the pay cut to turn my hobby into a business. The second was a growing sensitivity to wood dust. The idea of wearing a mask at all times in the shop is a bummer.

I mentioned the S.W.A.G. Factor (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) in last week’s post. I’ll use it hear to guess most of this blog’s readers make art because they want to make money from it —at least in part. You have a profit motive. That’s a good thing!

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Whether you work full-time or part-time, or as a serious hobbyist, you need to make work that sells.

If the reason why you make art is not profit driven to some degree, then you have a pleasant hobby. You know what? If that’s what you like and want, it’s okay. It’s more than okay — it’s great. You have a pastime you love.

I love to strum the guitar and sing, but I know no one would pay me to entertain them. It’s something I got okay at doing up to a point; then I could not get  better. When my progress hit an insurmountable wall, the pleasure from playing diminished.

It sucks to suck at things you would like to do well.

I just did not have the skills to cut it as a professional musician, or even a competent part-timer. That never stopped me from pursuing playing for many years. It was a letdown to come to the realization that I could not get to the level of playing that I imagined when I started, but that’s life. As Rolling Stones lyric says, “You can’t always get what you want.”

I can say the same thing about playing golf. What’s wrong with a game where you walk a few miles on grass, commune with nature, and swing a club at a little ball to move it along your path?

Nothing, unless you want to keep score and progress in the game. Then it gets serious, and the fun leaves fast when you are shooting double over par every round. Instead of being enjoyable, it becomes an exercise in futility. I’m sure the similarities between why I put down playing guitar and gave up golf exist. I had reached my zenith, could not get where I wanted to go with either, and moved on to something else.

ENFPs are fiercely independent, and much more than stability and security, they crave creativity and freedom.

Being an ENFP personality type just added fuel to get me to the next quest. As mentioned before, I got became dedicated and quite good at fine woodworking, but in time gave that up, too. It was a fun ride while it lasted, and I have some treasures around that remind me of it. Like art, some of the things I’ve made will still be here long after my living years.

Your art will outlive you. It is a gift to the future.

Sam Maloof rocking chairOne of the coolest things about making art or fine crafts is it will outlive you. Besides Norm Abram and the New Yankee Workshop, what motivated my interest in woodworking was seeing an exquisite rocking chair made by Sam Maloof. That piece is now part of the Smithsonian Collection.

It was the first time I became aware on a higher level of the longevity or art. It’s as obvious as the nose on a face, but until one grasps what it means to make something that might live on for centuries, it’s not clear. At least it was not for me.

Seeing that piece of furniture gave me a new perspective.

I cannot explain what it was about the chair. I’d seen thousands of pieces of art and fine art crafts in my life. Nevertheless, something about it hit home with me. I could not resist the urge to take on woodworking and see how far I could take it.

For the first time in my life, I understood what Hippocrates meant when he wrote, “Ars longa, vita brevis.” The aphorism is part of a poem he wrote in of a medical text some 2,500 year ago, which is incredible in itself. Translated, it reads like this:

“Life is short,
[the] art long,
opportunity fleeting,
experiment dangerous,
judgment difficult.”

I had awareness of the saying for years before its true meaning hit home.

What’s interesting is I’d seen the phrase many times. I saw it every time I went to the magnificent the St. Louis Art Museum. It is prominent on the building. That museum is a place I often visited in my childhood with my mother and siblings. It is one of the great museums in the country, and still free to the public. What a treat.

Yet, to finally understand what something means on its deepest level, to have the veil lifted and add to my life in a meaningful way. That was unique. It is what art can do. Knowing that sort of thing is possible has to answer why many artists make art.

Books are art, too. The lessons in them are enlightening.

Art of all sorts can do that for you. Whether fine crafts, visual art or even non-fiction. Gary Wills superb book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America is one I recommend for anyone. He won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for this book. It had a profound effect on me, the way that great art should. Like many kids in grade school, I had memorized the Gettysburg Address, but was clueless to its meaning or the real history surrounding it.

Rote memory and true understanding are not the same.

The thing is, I never understood what it meant — at all. Despite all the history classes I took, none ever helped me realize how monumental and eloquent Lincoln’s words were. Our  country then was not yet 90 years old. It was deeply divided.

The horrific battle of Gettysburg fought over the divide. Lincoln offered up an oratory – spoken and written words – equal to any art for any age. I finally got the importance of the outcome of the Civil War. It was about freedom for slaves, but it was just as much about whether the nation would endure.

That Lincoln was able to stir emotions and sum up the meaning of the battle and the Civil War in just 175 words makes is remarkable beyond belief. Read the book whether you are a history buff or not. Have your kids read it, too. You will come to understand something about our country that you did not know.

Your art will be remembered!

Maybe your art will not make the Smithsonian, or remembered hundreds or thousands of years from now. That won’t stop it from giving pleasure and meaning to its owners for decades to come. To me, that’s a pretty laudable way to think about why you make art.

It really helps when you make art to know how to market your art.

I’m a realist. I know that if you want to make art on a steady basis, you have to find buyers for it or rent a storage bin. The latter besides being expensive and unwieldy is just not practical. So, what I believe you need to do to make this work out is to make art that you know has a good chance of going home with a buyer.

That’s where I come in. Having an ENFP personality, it took me a long time into adulthood to figure out something I love to do. And, that was also something where I could help others and get paid for what I do. If I just wanted money, I could be doing day trading, flipping houses, or being a stockbroker or a financial planner.

As we noted above, life’s short. So do something that gives you pleasure.

I found out I was pretty good at writing, that I knew quite a lot about marketing in general, and art marketing in specific. I’ve also learned I’m like my mother with a  teacher personality. Thirty years of commission sales will teach you about marketing. The result is I’m doing something I love now and finding ways to give back, too.

This blog is about art marketing.

I am about art marketing. I have devoted a good part of almost 30 years helping artists get their work to market. At the heart of art marketing, or any marketing for that matter, is one thing. That is to stir interest and attention to such a degree that it creates desire resulting in a sale.

Marketing is about raising awareness for your art. When done right, you use techniques to find your best prospects and then focus your communication to them. As always, we make the assumption your art sells well when seen by enough qualified buyers.

This is something you need to know and be sure of. If your art is not selling when your marketing is doing its job, then your problem isn’t marketing, it is in making work that has commercial appeal. If you are stuck by the art you are making, you have to determine how to change what you are doing so selling your work becomes easier, or possible.

Having balance and a healthy perspective makes you happier and sells more art.

I know to some artists, the mere thought of commercial appeal when speaking about their art is a big turnoff. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about that. You’re free to make whatever you want. But, you also have to accept that what you’re making needs to find a place in the market if your intent is to profit from making it.

You have to be okay with making money from your art, or your career is going nowhere fast.

The idea of an artist selling out is bunk!

Somehow, visual artists got stuck with the idiotic notion that they could sell out. Really? What the heck does that mean? If you make art that is too commercial that your artistic soul will burn in art hell? Does it mean you passed on the chance to punch your ticket for a show at MOMA?

Don’t take critics, curators and other gatekeepers too seriously.

Yes, there are critics and curators who look down their noses at artists who make work with the notion it will sell well. The reality is none of them are offering to pay your bills or send your kids to college, right?

Do yourself a favor and quit kowtowing to a bunch of people you most likely don’t know, and who don’t have your best interest at heart. You probably would not want these high brows as friends either.

Make your best art and be proud of it!

Here’s the thing. If you are making art that you are proud of making – something that comes out of your creative ability, then good on you. Are you a sell out if you choose a color palette that matches modern decor? What about creating around a subject matter that matches current trends, such as you make poker art because poker is  the rage? Are you really gonna worry that MOMA won’t call? Were they gonna anyway?

You can never make all the people happy all the time.

If you do try to make everyone happy, you are not doing much. So choose to make yourself happy with whatever that means to you. You want to be a satisfied Sunday painter, go for it. You want to crack six figures selling your art, go for it. The only thing stopping you is you.

Agreed, you may have life conditions that constrain your ambition. That is unfortunate but real. Like we all do, you learn to accept those things you can’t change and work hard on the ones you can.

The best thing is to set achievable goals for yourself. Base your goals on your realistic evaluation of your resources and situation. Then do your best to stretch beyond those goals – or, you can always take up woodworking.

This blog is about helping you.

It’s about giving you ideas, information and inspiration to help you succeed in the business of art. I’ve written five books on art marketing. They all have the same mission. Help artists figure out new, practical and best ways to sell more art.

Since 2005, I’ve published around 750,000 words on this blog. My 300-page How to Profit from the Art Print Market book is 90,000 words. That means I’ve written what equals about nine more 300-page books for this blog. That’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of words in the four other books I’ve written.

If I did not get satisfaction from making such an effort, I’d be crazy. I assure you, I’m not. I am passionate about helping artists succeed, and I like the idea I can make an income from providing free and paid services to artists and photographers.

There are 8 steps to Art Marketing Mastery.

ART Marketing Mastery WorkshopRecently, I launched the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. It is an online training course. One where I distilled my best ideas for how artists can take control and create lasting success under their power.

It’s a work in progress for you, and for me. I will keep adding new content as long as you keep finding clever ways to use the ideas I give you.

It’s a course to last your entire career with lifetime access to it.

I took all the best ideas from my blog posts, books and other webinars and put it all in the workshop materials. I believe if you follow what I teach you that you can create a successful marketing system that will last as long as you want to make and sell art.

The workshop is being revised and improved with more new content added.

It began with five 90-minute recorded webinars, totalling about nine hours of recorded information. Now, I’ve decided there is a better way for you to learn. So, I’m revamping the nine hours of recordings and re-recording the videos making them into smaller, more digestible modules.

You will have learning modules with 4 or 5 sections, each running from 10-20 minutes each. I’m also adding more content as I go along. I see this continual addition as an unending project.

I am committed to your success.

Whatever it takes to give you as much detail as I can that will help you learn how to blog. For example, it will provide technical information on popular programs like Blogger, WordPress, and Typepad. I couldn’t get that granular in a 90-minute webinar. I will do the same for email marketing, websites, social media and more.

Since this is going to be labor intensive to recreate, and will take many, many hours to produces, which will result in you getting much more information, the price is going up on May 1.

A new, easier-to-use, more functional platform is coming soon.

The whole program is moving to a new platform. You will have a single login. Everything you need will be available in one place. All the original webinars and material will still be available, but the new, smaller modules will also be there, too. The smaller modules will make creating supporting documents easier to provide you.

Want to listen to a free 99-minute webinar on the 8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery? CLICK HERE to register to watch the recorded webinar.

Ready to Get Started? Act Now & Save $100!

If you are ready and want to start working with me to help you grow your art career now, then let’s sign you up. CLICK HERE to register. I’m eager to help you make 2015 the year your career took off.

With all the improvements, new added content and more on the way, the program is going up in price by $100. By taking action now, you will save the $100 and be grandfathered into the program with lifetime access. No price increases, no monthly membership fees, nothing, nada, zip, zero, except your initial payment.

Commit to your career! Join my 8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery program today.

What 3 Little Known Secrets Do Successful Artists Use?

3 secrets professional artists useStudy the lives of successful artists. You will find the Rule of Three applies in many ways.

In my 12-part series on Successful Art Careers, I blogged about Using the Rule of Three.

Today, I want to talk about three things that successful artists and businesses of all sizes use to fuel their growth. If after reading this you recognize you are not doing these things, don’t feel down. It’s a common problem with too many businesses that are struggling or failing for lack of attention to these things. The good thing is it’s fixable.

Getting ready for art career growth.

These three principles can help catapult your career to quick success (even after you have had years of slow growth). They are essential for any business that desires to grow and prosper.

You make think of your art business as one that is casual. You can work on whatever strikes your fancy. This is fine if you are an amateur and want to remain one. Don’t get me wrong, there is no shame in not wanting to turn your pleasant hobby into a career. Creating art as a profession is not for everyone.

Making art based on your career needs is like the difference between married and single.

In a happy marriage, you learn to make concessions and not just do what you want to do all the time. There are myriad benefits to making concessions in your career and your marriage. We’ll save digging into those benefits for another day.

1The first secret is to concede to stop “flying by the seat of your pants.”

You must embrace a systematic, organized approach to making your art and to marketing your art. If you don’t, you will never get enough done to come close to reaching your potential or your ambitions.

Do you have written goals? Do you have a formalized marketing plan? Do you have a project management schedule driven by your goals, your resources, and your marketing plan? Do you make appointed times to visit your plans and adjust them as needed?

We remember old sayings they cause are laden with the truth. These pithy truisms apply here.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Plan your work and work your plan.

2The second secret is kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese term for constant improvement. Creating an attitude for continuous improvement is crucial to ramping up your career trajectory. You can’t have the success you want if you are working on a slow growth curve. You will run out of time and never get there. You cannot expect to grow without improving what you’re doing.

Here is a simple fact, by not improving, you are not just maintaining status quo, you are getting worse by comparison to your competition that is getting better. You can bet your competition is not sitting still, and those who aren’t don’t matter because they will fail.  Even when the product is the same, everything else can get better.

How do you kaizen M&Ms?

m&msTake M&Ms candy for a perfect example. Although the formula for its core product has never changed, the color of the shells change, the packaging, the distribution and marketing get better. The company creates spin off splinter products as a way of kaizen.

Kaizen starts with understanding the processes that comprise your business activity.

How many repetitive tasks do you do in a day? How many could you do better by rearranging the order in which you do them? How many could you stop doing altogether with no loss of production? Do you review your advertising and marketing plans on a regular basis?

When you stop improving, you start losing.

You can never grow complacent when working on your art or your marketing. You never want to think, “Hooray, we’re done improving on those things!” Accept and embrace that there is room for improvement in all things. Don’t confuse perfectionism with kaizen.

Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. It usually masks other problems such as a lack of confidence, fear of success, or not admitting you are working to meet someone else’s expectations.

3The third secret is measurement.

What gets watched gets done? You need to track what you are doing. How are sales going? What is selling? What is the cost of your customer acquisition? Which of your marketing efforts is paying off or not?

If you don’t know have a handle on what you are doing and what is working and what is not, then you are guessing.

Using the the S.W.A.G. Factor doesn’t work.

Sure, you have experience and instincts that help you make decisions. Yet, without solid information, you are using the S.W.A.G. (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) Factor.

You just can’t leave essential conclusions about how to operate your business to guessing. Those who are making wise, information-based decisions will leave you behind.

Accurate reports and business knowledge give you an edge.

When you set up systems that create reports about your business, you give yourself the ability to predict the future. Start with knowing month over month and month over the same month last year as ways to chart your growth. Build on that knowledge by capturing even more granular information about your business operations.

Dig deeper into analyzing where and how new customers and prospects are coming into your business. Track how many and what type of messages you send to a customer before they buy.

Stop leaking money!

Examine everything. Where are you leaking money? If you make a 10% net profit on your sales, you need to earn an extra $10 in gross sales for every dollar you spend unnecessarily. Learn to negotiate for better prices on nearly everything. Don’t be cheap with the quality of your products, just make sure you get the best price. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need. I could go on, but it’s the subject of a future post.

Here’s one last secret.

Take heart in knowing there are many big companies that struggle with how to get these things done. They are laden with legacy systems and 20th Century corporate culture. Some are just lost because management focuses on the wrong things.

Don’t get despondent and beat yourself up over how things are today. That is a waste of energy. Commit to getting started moving forward on making headway in just one of these three areas as a means to improve.

There is much more to running a successful art career than these three things, of course. But, these things are big rocks. As Stephen Covey would say, always put the big rocks in first. By that he means to do first things first. That is work first on those things are both urgent and important. Don’t let the urgent, non-important tasks bog you down.

Being committed and taking action, even on just one of the three things listed here will get you moving towards greater art career success.

never puzzle again art marketing workshop

CLICK HERE to watch a free 90-minute art marketing webinar.

Join my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop – Save $100

There is still time to join me and dozens of other artists and fine art photographers in my 8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. The price is going up $100 soon.

There is good reason for the price increase. The value of the program and the amount of information is increasing dramatically. Right now, you will get nearly 9 full hours of recorded webinars. The information is intensive and dense in the recordings. To make it easier to learn and absorb, I am re-recording everything and putting it in to bite-size 15-20 minute episodes.

The shorter length will make it easy for you to focus on the topic you need to learn at the moment. It allows me to focus and give even more information on a topic. For instance, instead of spending 20 -25 minutes out of a 90-minute webinar to talk about blogging, I can go deep and make four or five 15-20 minute videos on the topic. Plus, I can update the content more easily.

As an early adopter, you are grandfathered into the program for lifetime. Watch the free 90-webinar to get great detail on the 8-Steps to Art Marketing Master. Decide for yourself how you will benefit from the workshop. It’s my intention to help you create a lasting, profitable career by learning to target the right buyers and use your available marketing resources wisely.

CLICK HERE to register to watch the 90-minute free webinar at a time convenient to you.

55 Easy Ways How to Grow Your Art Career

Grow your art career

There are many ways to grow your art career. Here are some useful tips for making yours bloom all year long. If you have other quick tips and links for how to grow your art career, please add them in the comments. Do you fellow artist friends and me … [Continue reading]

What Is the Magic in Selling More Lifetime Art?


Selling more art is a learned skill, not a magic trick. You are not alone if you’ve felt at times like some artists have discovered magical ways for selling more art. Just like magic, when you look behind what’s going on with the trick, or how art … [Continue reading]

How to Improve Your Writing and Your Career

better writing better career7

Writing Is a Learned Skill — Making Improvements Is Easier Than You Imagine. Artists who communicate well with words generally do better in their careers. Successful visual arts understand that communicating in writing is necessary. How well you … [Continue reading]

Personal Branding: It’s One of Your Most Valuable Assets


Use Personal Branding to promote you, your art, and your business.As a solo entrepreneur, which describes nearly all artists today, you, your art and your business are intertwined, inseparable factors. Art buyers, galleries and those who would help … [Continue reading]

How to Sell More Art at Shows | Part Two

The Zen of Selling Art e-book

Top tips for selling more art at shows. Part One covered these topics:Booth Appearance. Inventory Management. Cohesiveness and Clarity. White Space. Your Appearance. Your Attitude.Don’t Give Yourself a Pay Cut for Your Show … [Continue reading]

Create New Opportunities to Sell More Art


Are you open to opportunities to sell more art?If you want to create the success you desire and your art deserves, you have to be on the lookout for new opportunities to sell more art. It comes with the territory.Are You Struggling with Finding … [Continue reading]

Discover How Framed Art Will Make You More Money

Picture Perfect Frames - black gallery float frame

Framed art enhances most art.You will sell more art to direct buying collectors with framed art.If you are selling direct to collectors, you should offer framed art for many reasons.  (See my book Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 … [Continue reading]

Marketing Art on Facebook Replay | Open Letter to Art Marketing Mastery Grads

8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery Preview Webinar

Marketing Art on Facebook Replay.In case you missed the live broadcast with Jason Horejs and me where we discussed the merits and how-tos of marketing art on Facebook, you can view by clicking this link: Art 2 Market Sessions. Art … [Continue reading]