Imagine a little girl making a painting or putting together a macaroni collage. As she happily toils away on the kitchen floor, her Mom comes up behind her and says, “Oh how nice, Dear. You’re doing so well!” How do you think that girl knows if her Mom is telling the truth?
The little girl probably doesn’t care if her Mommy is just being nice or encouraging, she accepts it at face value. When you get older however, the problem becomes more serious. Specifically, how do you know your friends and family aren’t just being polite? How do you know that you’ve ‘made it’.
If you are trying to sell your art, and no one is really buying, you might get a sneaking suspicion that all the nice comments you receive are just so much smoke blowing you know where. Here are four ways to measure whether your art is good:
1) You gain a collector
Client’s and customers come and go, but collectors are there to stay. A collector appreciates you for your work and vision, they love what you do. A collector will buy everything you have to offer, and tell their discriminating friends about you.
Friends and mere customers pick and choose what they like, their taste and desire is all about them. Collectors on the other hand care about what you are doing, they want to be a part of the unique vision you’re creating.
Once you find a collector, you know that your work has purpose and a story.
2) Your work develops a unified theme
Too many artists try to do everything. Even if they stick to one medium or style of creation (acrylic, watercolor, poetry, ceramics, etc…) many times their work lacks a clear vision. Each piece looks like a stand alone.
The great artists never have this problem. If you see one Picasso from the blue period, you can probably identify another. If you know that a certain painting of haystacks is a Van Gogh, you’re more likely to see the same spirit and vision in Starry Night. Even glass artist Dale Chihuly has a distinct style that people can recognize.
These artists create pieces with a unified vision, a common soul that makes them unique and distinct from anything else. So, when a stranger sees your art, what do they say? Can they recognize it’s yours?
3) Each piece tells a story
Making unique art coming from a unique and unified theme isn’t quite enough. Many artists strive for and attain this only to be thrown into the depths of obscurity. What your work needs is to tell a compelling story as well.
A story has a central character, a conflict, and resolution. The main character wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it. That’s the simple part. Incorporating that into your art is much more difficult than just reading the definitions. What’s not difficult is to see that the great works of art, the ones people love, all have a deeper meaning for them, and that comes through telling a story that other people latch onto and begin to tell themselves.
Begin to think more consciously about your work. What story are you telling with each piece? What story will your collectors tell themselves? How does it fit into the unified theme that you have chosen?
Take Five minutes before your start a piece and simply mediate on those elements of story; character, conflict, resolution. Don’t be constrained by your assumptions, character can be anything, and the resolution can be implied. Let your unconscious work it all out for you.
4) You become less uncertain of yourself
Once you stop asking, “Have I made it?” and instead consistently focus and producing more and better work, that’s probably the point where you have made it.
When this happens you’ll notice a new and bolder quality to your work. Maybe the best word for it is mature, but others will simply say it’s wonderful. It becomes a virtuous cycle that begets some of your best pieces.
Partly, this feeling stems from rejecting the panic and fear that come naturally with any artistic endeavor. The moment you can get passed that, and start doing the work, your whole world will open up.
Isn’t art subjective? What’s good enough anyway?
Maybe this is what you tell yourself so that you can avoid the hard work of being great. I know many artists who don’t think they have talent, or don’t want to be ‘commercial’ (giving them license to be bizarre and counter culture), but I don’t know any artists that don’t want to be great at what they do.
Art is subjective to the beholder, but if you want to make a living at selling your art, you need to take your audience into consideration. Major collectors appreciate a unique vision, a piece that tells them a story, and a self assured nature. If you want to be good enough for them, then you would be wise to focus on these key areas.
Your collectors are waiting for you
Follow these signs and you will be sure to rid yourself of that pesky nagging feeling that maybe you just aren’t good enough. In fact, if you focus on collectors, develop a unique vision, tell stories with each work you produce, and rid yourself of self-doubt, you will be well on your way to being a great artist, loved and appreciated by many.