Monday, October 11, 2010

Disappointing Sales and Self Worth

This past weekend was open studios, a three day event that enables artists to sell and promote their work directly from their studios. Normally, for me, it is where I make most of my money for the year.  I have sold many pieces in the past and it always felt good to see and hear that people like my work. This year, all that has changed and I am finding it hard not to tie my self worth as an artist in with sales during these events.

In April of this year, I was "picked up" buy two galleries and an art consultant who now represent me. Because of this relationship, my prices for each painting has doubled, and in some sizes, more than doubled. It's what happens when one's career starts to move up and it's a good thing, I don't deny or begrudge that. But because of my price increase, I find that my sales during open studios has dropped DRASTICALLY. No longer am I selling a majority of my paintings and having people become upset that the painting they wanted has already sold. I am still getting lots of people telling me they love my work but no longer are they taking out their check books and writing me checks with such ease that they have in the past.

This past weekend I didn't sell one major piece. All of my new work was admired but will not be finding new homes anytime soon. I still made some money off of some tiny pieces and older work, but I would hardly call this weekend a success. From what I hear from other artists in my space, it was a disappointing weekend all around.

So now it is the day after a disappointing weekend and I am having a hard time not feeling depressed about how low my sales were. I KNOW that I do good work. I KNOW that people like my paintings. I KNOW that the galleries that show my work have gotten good responses. I KNOW that people are buying these paintings at their current prices. I KNOW that I am good at what I do. So why do I feel so horrible about this weekend? Why am I tying my self worth with my dismal sales from the past three days? It's hard to separate what I know to be true with what I feel, despite logic and reasoning from my brain.

I understand that the more successful I become, the higher my prices will be. It's something to strive for, not be upset about. It may be that I am no longer in the price range to do an open studios in the area that I am in and make the money that I used to make. I may be out of the price range of my previous clients but with that, hopefully I will acquire new clients in a different price range, who will appreciate my work as well. Ideally, it would be great to have ALL sales dealt through a gallery so that I can focus on what I do best, paint. In the mean time, I need to remind myself that one weekend's sales doesn't define me as a good or bad artist. It's a hard thing to understand emotionally though.


  1. I think that the low sales reflect the current economic state of our country. I am amazed at your success! If you were to make a timeline of your life as an artist over the last five years, you'd see a great increase in success and activity. You found confidence enough to have a career change amidst other great happenings in your life. Finding THE ONE is no small accomplishment. Perhaps the low you're feeling is linked more to having time on your hands after living such a whirlwind the last several months. Take some much needed Jhina time and you'll find yourself back in the saddle before you know it!

  2. Jhina, don't be discouraged! You may have been out priced of most people's ideas of what open studio work should cost. Think of it as a graduation of sorts? Plus, right now is not exactly the best time to be selling work. I'd say selling even one painting right now is success. And look at it this way, the higher your prices go the more you'll maker per piece, so fewer sales won't be as difficult to swallow.

  3. As always, Amber, your comments make me feel better. It's nice to have a fellow professional artist's insights and encouragement. I value your opinion greatly. Thanks!

    Mark, you're right. I think the economy sucks right now which is a big reason why most of us had a bad weekend. I am feeling a bit like it's the day after Christmas. I've had some many months of building up to the last month's events and now that these big events are over, I am at a loss as to what I should "prep" for next. It's probably a great time to submit to galleries and do some marketing, in addition to painting, and perhaps even some time to relax would be good. Thanks for the support!

  4. Well, I think you're in an unusual position. From an economics perspective, you might make a lot more money by lowering your prices and selling high volumes. Your labor cost is extremely low compared to other artists who need to spend weeks on a comparably priced painting.

  5. Howie- That's how I was making money in the past. Lower prices, more sales. But I can't lower my prices without alienating the galleries that represent me. I guess ultimately I have to decide which is more important: sales during open studio's twice a year's events or the representation of galleries and year round possible sales. I think in the long run, my career would benefit more from gallery representation. It's just tough to get used to low sales during open studios.