What value my art (bit of a whinge I think)

Did Vincent Van Gogh make a living from his art? I can quite categorically say ‘no, he did not’. He lived on handouts from his loving brother, but poor Vincent did not sell a single painting in his lifetime. He was the epitome of the poor, starving artist.

Did Cezanne make a living from his art? I’m not sure but I read somewhere that his wife was so frustrated with their poverty that, at one stage, when a customer wanted a painting of just an apple, she took to one of his canvases with a pair of scissors and cut one out to sell it!

Can you imagine taking a pair of scissors to a Cezanne?

Of course they lived in different times and there was no mass media to bring them to instant fame. But would they be revered today if they lived in modern times? And now, can you live from your art?

I ask these questions whizzing around in my head because I think in my case the answer is no. I don’t liken myself to Van Gogh or Cezanne by any means. I know I do not have brilliance, but this I do know! I have unique insight, I’m quite good at certain things, and I do not believe I was meant to do anything else. I believe strongly that I am supposed to be creating something.

As for living off my art, unfortunately those things I do create only have a limited market. A very limited market.

Speaking of markets, I held a small stall at the local market today – and thus the soul searching. After five hours lugging boxes, setting up a table and sitting in the sun (without sunscreen, doh!) I managed to sell three framed or mounted pictures and a dozen postcards. Because they are old stock, it was a bit of a clearance so I took about $50 in total. My takings were far, far below the original cost of the pictures.

It meant a great deal to me that people liked these things enough to part with their money. I am appreciative of this. One sale, I’m sure, was about encouraging me rather than truly liking the image, however, I am also grateful for the gesture.

But where to next?

As mentioned earlier, the mass media has made art achievable by anyone who wishes to try their hand. With the huge availability and range of art to anyone who has a computer to purchase it, art has become more accessible to the world and far less achievable in terms of making an income.

I frequently wander around in my mind searching for the answer to the question “what is it that people want?” and the subsequent question “if I can figure this out, would it fit in with my own needs as an artist?”

I always come out of these ponderings feeling somewhat bewildered and despondent.

My closest friends provide me with encouragement and compliment about my work, the way I think, and some of the things I achieve. My best friend admires the workings of my brain, how it never stops, always thinking of ideas and approaches, always coming up with strange projects, seeing potential in places like Bunnings and The Reject Shop, looking at life around me in a detailed way and so forth. It is a curse. I can’t switch my brain off. It is always wandering around and talking even though I may be sitting in a corner, silently. It means I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate on day-to-day things and makes me feel somewhat useless in reality.

However, my brain and its ‘amazing meanderings’ along with the resulting ‘product’ must be relegated to hobby. This fills me with sadness. I don’t believe this is how I am meant to be. But the world does not value people like me. I am not executive material or a doctor or teacher, truck driver or cashier. I don’t “work” in the mainstream and therefore I am of limited value socially.

I started out to write this as an exploration of society’s values towards art. It seems to be a bit of self pity which is not really my intention at all. Perhaps an afternoon nap is next on my list – if I can switch off.

Journal Comments

  • Tom Godfrey
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  • Adriana Glackin
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  • Danny
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  • fleece
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  • Anne van Alkemade