Create Despite Sales

Lately I have been thinking more about the aim of my art. If I am totally honest with myself my aim is to be able to contribute financially to my family. That’s being brutally honest. When I think back over the last 15 years, going back to when I was at university studying painting I am sure that this wasn’t my initial goal. In fact I’m not sure I even had a goal with painting, I just liked doing it. I loved the paint and loved practicing until I got better at a skill whether it was charcoal drawing or oil painting. I loved art shops and buying supplies and back then my aim was to have a studio space that I could create in and not have to pack away when I had to stop for other things.   Me at University in Perth in my studio back in 2004. I spent a year painting pictures of rocks!

Along the way we had our girls and painting was difficult when they were younger so I turned to polymer clay for about 5 years. It was easier to put it away at the end of the day and keep it out of the way of little fingers. However, I missed painting and always intended to go back to doing it. Slowly painting crept back in, I painted a huge mural for the Keswick Convention Centre in Perth when my eldest was in her pram. I painted 23 metres of jungle on a large roll of paper (about 1.2m high) for a kids holiday club at our church when my youngest was about two (below). In between I started playing around with watercolour and then acrylics and eventually oils. Then we moved states from WA to NSW.

Moving meant that we were in a house where I could have a small room for my art. I made sure there were places in there for the girls to have their own easels and let them paint too. Selling art started to become more important than making for the sake of it because art supplies cost money that could go towards bills.

I started entering shows and despite the fact that they cost from $7 to $40 to enter I manged to enter 9 one year which was a lot for me. I realised though that there was no return for the money and guilt started to set in. That money could have gone to something for the family. I think that is where the goal of contributing started to creep in.

Then, I actually sold my first painting to a non-family person, someone I have never met bought one of my paintings from my art society mid year show. I bought my daughter a loft bed with the money and it felt good. It wasn’t until that sale that I allowed myself to use the title ‘artist’.

In all this time I have won just one award, a second place ribbon at the Sydney Easter Show 2015 in the poultry art section. I am very proud of this achievement. Here I am with that award: I started listing artwork on RedBubble a few years ago and occasionally someone buys a product with my illustrations on them. More recently I started listing work on Bluethumb. This site allows me to sell originals and the price includes insurance, postage and their commission. I have sold two paintings on there and each time its felt like a nice achievement. If I’m honest, the money from those just covers the cost of materials from the last year or two but still, its nice to have a sale.

Four years ago I started running adult and kids art classes at church. This has been a really fantastic part of my week and I really do love it. Again, this is voluntary so it doesn’t contribute financially in any way (wouldn’t it be nice to be able to teach for a local art gallery or group as extra). At the end of each year we have an exhibition and everyone is amazed at how much work the two classes produce. I would actually like to take on a student one one one as a bit of extra income but despite asking around I haven’t attracted any as yet.

The most recent artistic contribution was in the form of painting backdrops for my daughters drama school for their end of year plays. That one did contribute financially in the end and I really enjoyed that (some seen below, there were 10 panels that were about 7feet high each)! So, over the last 15 years it seems that painting because I love it has morphed into painting with the hope that I can contribute to our family financially. I think deep down this happens to most artists who struggle to sell their work.

My hope is this, that every day I still want to paint, despite the pile of work that is sitting in my studio (which I now do have in a large room) waiting for a home. If my work was selling like hotcakes I would probably be driven to paint more but still, I do paint every week between family commitments and other voluntary commitments. Sales would be very nice and not having the guilt that I am not doing anything to contribute financially would be nice too. Being brave enough to approach a gallery would be nice but one step at a time. I will continue to paint, despite the lack of sales.