Artists, what are you selling?

Recently I found an article (on by Anne Rea asking artists who sell their art, what they are actually selling? I guess this might seem like a simple question, but I had a hard time thinking of something accurate and concise right on the spot. Why? It is probably because I would want them to know the meaning or “idea” behind an artwork, what went into it…etc. and not just say I am selling a painting, a drawing, a print…as that really make it that interesting right? Not to mention my art means very much to me. The hours involved, the excitement I get from creating, and the overall process.

The article begins with a fun illustrated cartoon from the New Yorker magazine by William Haefeli showing an artist with the line “Nobody asked me about my process” (hehe):

Illustration from the New  Yorker by William Haefeli

Rea argues that this emphasis that many artists have on talking about their creative “process” is not the way to go if you want to sell your art. However, like many artists who went to art school or sat in critiques, I was encouraged talk about the “process.” So it is a habit I feel many artists have a hard time to break.  Rea’s interesting take/solution is to not focus too much on the creative process (which could still be very interesting to buyers), but on how your art makes others feel. She says that collectors buy art because it

“makes them feel. You are selling feelings. Yes. That’s right. Not objects.”

I really like this idea of focusing on how art makes us feel. Take a moment and think about this. Why do you look forward to a certain album release? Why do people flock to see paintings by Monet? Degas? (Done that, loved it!) It is because we connect with the art emotionally. I can feel the openness, the variations of light, and movement in impressionistic paintings. There are musicians whose work is able to instantly change my mood to happy, sad, excited, calm, energetic, etc. A number of years ago, when I was a music student, I wondered what I could do with my amateur paintings that would have the same effect as music to your ears. You know when you turn on the radio and a certain song instantly brings you back to a cherished memory, or just evokes a familiar feeling? It’s pretty amazing. So as I am thinking about Rea’s words, I realize that my work has in a way been focused on selling feelings.

So her article ends with the following questions:
1. What am I selling? How do you express what you are selling?
2. What do your collectors say about why they are buying your art?

Below are my working answers (pertaining to the drawings I’ve been posting thus far).

1. What am I selling? How do you express what you are selling?
Mixed-media figurative drawings. These works are inspired by “the line,” the thoughts and memories this expression evokes in us and stories about overcoming everyday obstacles and challenges.
2. What do your collectors say about why they are buying your art?
Viewers and buyers often say they see a personal connection to the story being portrayed and that my drawings have a calming and quiet feel to them.

Yup, I think I need a better awareness of why others like to look at my art and/or own my art! If you work in the arts, what would be your answers?

4 thoughts on “Artists, what are you selling?

  1. magnoliamoonpie says:

    I’m not selling the doodles and drawings that I do…but you’ve certainly given me something to think about. I like that it’s about the feelings and emotions evoked by the art and not the process!!!

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