Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Standing Up for Myself

One of two pieces that I am currently working on
 Often times it's hard for me to stand up for myself. I can stand up for other people and have gotten myself into some hairy situations because of it, but stand up for myself? Not so easy. It's not that I don't believe I deserve to be treated well or fairly. I do. I just hate confrontation and the possibility of backlash from the person I am standing up to. My stomach gets all anxious and sick feeling just thinking about what I need to do or say. I lose sleep at night because I am playing out what I am going to say and possible reactions by the other person. Trust me, it's not easy for me, but it's what I need to do sometimes and I am finding that in art, I have had to stand up for myself a lot. 

Sometimes it's as simple as asking for a contract from a gallery. You want all expectations for both sides laid out in writing. That's simple enough to ask for, usually, since most galleries provide that in order to protect themselves. If they don't automatically provide one, the average gallery is happy to provide one if asked.

Painting number two in the works. The underpainting
is done on this one.
As you start to have more galleries that represent you, sometimes you realize that certain ones no longer work for you. Either you have outgrown the gallery, they haven't made a sale in long while, or if you're unlucky, the gallery is doing something shady and you need to get out. There are a number of reasons why an artist would need to "break-up" with a gallery, and I say break-up because sometimes it does feel like that. You have to make the dreaded  "it's not you, it's me call" (or if you are me and REALLY hate phones, you email them) and explain why the arrangement is no longer working for you. It sucks. I have had to do it 4 times in the last year. I really don't like doing it but I hate being taken advantage of and won't stay in a gallery that isn't right for me.

Occassionally a gallery will ask you to do something you may not want to do. Perhaps they want you to use a certain color that sells better, or paint a certain subject. Maybe they want you to use a certain size panel or canvas. Some of these requests are easy enough to do. I have painted certain sizes for specific shows and have even been requested to do more "beach" paintings because people seem to like those better. This has never bothered me because I still get to choose the subject matter and composition. I still make the major decisions about what I paint. But every once in awhile you may be asked to do something that makes you feel like you are no longer an artist with a vision, but instead a painting factory. Do you do what the gallery wants and risk upsetting your artistic integrity? Or do you stand up for yourself with the knowledge that this could possibly end your relationship with a gallery?

Recently one of my galleries made such a request. I won't go into which gallery or what they wanted me to do, but I will say that I agonized over my response to this request. Was I willing to give up this gallery in order to stay true to myself? How important was artistic integrity to me? Does it really matter what I paint as long as it sells? I will admit that I did try painting what the gallery wanted. I painted them two pieces this way and it didn't feel good, in addition the the fact that the paintings have yet to sell. It just didn't seem worth it to me to paint in a way that I wasn't happy with. I need to feel good about my work, even if my pieces never sell. After much agonizing, I told the gallery that I didn't feel comfortable with their request and that I was going to paint what felt good to me. I said that I would understand if this meant I would no longer be represented by them. Fortunately for me the gallery was great about this. They said they understood and was happy that I let them know how I felt. Everything worked out. I am still represented by them and all is well.

So even though it may be hard to stand up for myself, it's important to not let anyone, including galleries, push you around and "make" you do things that you don't feel right about. Life would be so much easier if things always worked out they way we want them too, but unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. When less than stellar events happen, it's better to just man up (or in my case, woman up) and do something about it. Speak up for yourself, cause if you don't, no one else will.

No comments:

Post a Comment