When I was filling out the customs form during my recent flight to Korea, there was a place to write down my occupation. For the first time in a long time, I found that I did not hesitate in writing down "artist." I didn't write "editor" or "author" or "publisher" or any of the other titles that I'm used to putting down. Titles that have always made me feel more "legitimate."
Actually, the only other word I regret not putting down is the word "working."
That's who I am. I make art and art is my work.
As a working artist, part of the cycle of what I do is to create art, and then market my art, and then if all goes well, sell my art. Creating is nirvana. Marketing is hell. Selling is the step back to nirvana.
Not too long ago, I was in Eric Silva's studio. He's one of my favorite jewelry artists who I discovered through my friend, Amy Hanna. We were there to take a lesson from Eric. During our time together, Eric shared a story about how he responded to a visitor years ago who asked him how he could stand all the dust in his studio from all the sawing, soldering, and sanding that is involved with his work. He told the visitor that he loved the dust because in the end, the dust is evidence of his process, which is ultimately what belongs to him ... and how the actual beautiful jewelry pieces that result from the dusty process go out into the universe, created by him, but ultimately, not belonging to him.
As I've gradually segued into my reality as a working artist over the years, I've noticed that there is a critical mass of people who ask working artists if their work is for sale ... and they do so in a quiet voice, with bodies tight and steps lightly taken, as though there are sleeping kittens nearby that they don't want to wake up. And I've also noticed that I've responded with a similar quiet voice, body tight, and steps lightly taken to quietly whisper "yes i do ... shhhh ... let's not wake the kittens ..."
There are many who say they "love love love" a painting but that "surely it can't be for sale" because I must love it too much to ever sell it.
Admittedly, there are paintings that I love more than others. But I've never felt a pang of regret in letting even the ones I adore (or even the ones that are extremely personal) out into the universe through a sale. With each piece that goes out, I feel a lift, a lightness, where I feel that others who understand my art are helping me carry my load, as I turn yet another corner to find new and beautiful urgency to create my next. This is where I understand with depth, what Eric was talking about. Working artists create and keep and hone their process and that process includes offering their art (that is always and never theirs) for sale.
A working artist who sells her art does so because that is her work. That she sells does not automatically make her a sell out. That happens when she decides to become a creator of the untrue, the hollow, the compromised, the after-thought.
I am a working artist. Managing the scenes I witness both in nirvana and hell through the sales of the things I sincerely create ... through a beautiful process riddled with dust, splatters, stains and all.