Building an Art Business Is a Choice, Not a Sacrifice

Steven Sweeney said he couldn’t get the comments to work (hope that hasn’t happened to anyone else). He wanted to add this:

I decided last February, on the afternoon of a day in the office cubicle that started as any other, to choose an uncertain regret over a certain one. The latter would be to wish, late in life, that I’d taken advantage of both my keen interest in and intensive training in drawing and painting. The former “regret” includes walking away from the bi-weekly paycheck, the health and retirement benefits, the relative certainty of knowing what I would be “doing” each day for work. I moved all my living room furniture to the eastern 1/3 of the space and converted the other 2/3 to a painting studio–daylight lighting system, blackout drapes, easels, a year’s supply of paints, medium, canvas, boards, brushes and frames. I had given my corporate employer six months’ notice, so that I could properly train my replacement. In the 10 weeks now since “retirement,” I’ve spent 80% of my days dealing with other folks’ problems (serious, not trifling), but the word is getting out that there are times when I won’t pick up the phone or reply to your email, because I’m in my studio. It’s not a fun little pastime, it’s my new vocation, my job, my work. I will likely miff relatives and lose contact with some friends over this. So be it. Last night I designed and printed new business cards.

I’ve joined a group of like-minded folks (Outdoor Painters of Minnesota) and will join many of them near the Canadian-Minnesota border in late January to paint plein air winter scenes for a week. (About this, a gallery owner, a plein air painter himself, remarked just yesterday, “You’re crazy.”) But most importantly, I know that I need to spend a year building up an inventory of high-quality work, to evidence my abilities as well as my intentions. I see countless paintings every day that are “better” than what I currently produce, and yet they remain unsold. This doesn’t deter me. I’ve sold paintings in the past, and will do it again. I have to work smarter than I did before. Prints and note cards I’ve produced from my paintings remain very popular, but I need to source economical vendors of the materials. Yes, I’m feeling a financial pinch already, which simply means I have to move on changing my priorities. In short, I can’t do it all at once, but I can do something every day, and “something every day” is the difference between do or do not. Lastly, DVDs, books, workshops and classes provide information and inspiration, but until I’m pushing paint around on canvas or board with my own hands using my own materials and talents, I’m no artist. Whether I regret the changes I’ve made in the past 9 months is largely up to me. I can have the attitude about it that I choose. So far, so good.
– Steven Sweeney