“Of your current five works: two should be commercial, one a showstopper, one experimental and one you really want to do.”
That was amongst advice for artists that I heard recently from a gallery owner. Do I agree?
To some extent, yes. We need to earn from our art, so commercial awareness is certainly valuable. Showstoppers get our work noticed and experimental work enables us to learn and progress. How sad it is to see an artist content with repeating their only style of work over and over, just because that is what sells. As for a work that we really want to do, hopefully that fits in to one of the previous categories.
On the other hand, most of the big names in wildlife art give the same advice, “Don’t paint for the market.” They have found that producing work that reflects your own voice, your own way of seeing, has a freshness that viewers respond to. Too much commercial awareness leaves us in danger of forgetting our own individuality.
Showstoppers too can be problematic. I can’t speak for other artists but, from my own experience, can say that when I’ve set out to produce a showstopper that isn’t always what results. Heading Home was a showstopper but was originally only supposed to be a pot-boiler to fill up a space in an exhibition. I can’t always tell in advance how a painting will evolve – but I like the journey.
So perhaps the original comment was over-simplifying the issues, but I agree with the gist. Come to think of it, the phrase applies to my current projects as much as to my paintings.
What do you think?