The day I got art – and a few thoughts about your moral and ethical duty to sell yours

by Martin Stellar

 CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!

It’s 10PM, I’m 12 years old and I’m in bed. In the studio below my room, my mother is using a staple gun to tack a canvas on a huge, 4 by 6 meter frame. Clack, clack, clack.

It’s going to be another one of those grim and dramatic Norse fjords that everybody is so taken by, but which I can’t make sense of.

Who understands that stuff?

Strokes and streaks, blotches and smears… it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t even look like anything. It’s just… I don’t know… drama.

In a few weeks we’ll be on vacation and once again, half the time will be spent with her – enraptured – dragging me (kicking and screaming) through one museum after another.

How I loathed those holidays.

But, that was long ago.

Over the years I grew to accept art as something with meaning and importance.

However, I never learned to appreciate art.

Even though I learned quite a bit about art history in school, about things like pointillism and expressionism and what have you; even though I had a girlfriend who was a painter, I just never got art.

Even though in my previous work as a fancy travelling tailor I would be surrounded by stunning works when visiting clients, I just didn’t get it.

Maybe it was because of that one exposition in Amsterdam, where I had once again been dragged along.

One of the artists was a fat and greasy punk-rock dude, purple mohawk and all.

He didn’t have any paintings, so I wandered into his booth.

There on display was his art, neatly framed and glassed: Empty cardboard fast-food packaging, the mayonnaise and ketchup still on.

That was art? Seriously?

Looking back, I can see how that moment broke my willingness to ever appreciate art. Who knows.

All of that changed yesterday though.

 I fell in love with art – head over heels

I’m in Kilkenny, Ireland. I’m spending a week with an Irish painter named Jimmy Kelly, because in recent months I’ve been helping more and more artists come to terms with the business and marketing side of being an artist.

And Jimmy’s one of those artists who should be seen and sold but like so many others, he’s never been able to come out of his closet and actually get himself in front of people.

Becket Broquy So I said ok, I’ll come over and show you how it’s done.

Jimmy’s shown me his work, he’s introduced me to influential people in the art world, he’s painted my portrait, and he’s talked to me at great length about the meaning within.

And yesterday, he took me up to Dublin, into a number of galleries.

That’s when I saw the painting of Samuel Beckett you see here, and I was stunned, gobsmacked – as enraptured as can be.

After all those years, and after months of dealing with artists, I suddenly, really, deeply, GOT it.

Starting yesterday, art is a part of me, and I’ll never be the same.

I’m in love.

Now that I have gone beyond understanding and I’ve finally experienced the power and impact of art, my life has become so much richer.

I guess I needed the years to get to this point. I’m so grateful it’s happened.

So that’s what I wanted to tell you, quoting Jimmy: Art changes you, whether you want it or not

I’ve lived that experience, and that’s why now I can say: People need you, and your art.

Because with what you make, you effect change.

Change for the better, for beauty, for enrichment of the inner world.

I know it’s difficult to sell, but you can learn it.

I know marketing has a bum rap, but that’s only because car salesmen talk so fast – in itself there’s nothing wrong with marketing.

And if you don’t sell, and don’t market, and don’t promote your work, then guess what:

You’ll be falling short of what I consider your duty.

Because if you change people’s lives, I believe that it’s your moral and ethical duty to show up and make that happen

Hiding behind a shy attitude, a pseudo-ethical marketing-is-dirty stance, then you’re not actually living the artist’s life as it should be lived.

So please, try to come to terms with it, and learn how it’s done.

You with your work, have the power to turn people, like I was turned.

I’ve become happier and more fulfilled.

Don’t withhold that from the next person.

Get out there, show up, be visible.

Sell your art and become good at it.

There are people who truly need you.

 

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