I started my Etsy shop for the sole purpose of having an outlet to sell my work--something to throw on a business card, and to expand upon further once I'd figured out how to sell locally (which I still haven't really explored). But once that stupid thing was set up, the stress began. I found myself constantly questioning why my work wasn't selling, pouring over Etsy's marketing/how-to articles in every spare minute of my time, and having thoughts like "Ok, beaches, people love beaches. This seller is producing tons of beaches, and he's selling them at such a high price that it must really be working for him, so I should probably paint a beach." So...I painted a beach. I didn't feel super connected to it, and it wasn't as special to me as my Italy paintings, but I painted a damn beach.
Has my beach painting sold? No. It has not. Did it make me feel any better trying to paint and sell something "trendy?" No. It did not. Instead, I felt even more frustration. But Belinda has experienced this too, and she totally gets it. She writes,
"What evidence do I have that staying safe will actually help me? None, actually. What evidence do I have that taking a risk will benefit me? Surprisingly, there is some; the paintings that people respond to the most, are the ones that I have painted from my heart, rather than my head. They are the ones that piss me off, make me angry, and the ones that I dislike the most. But they are also the ones that people respond to, and the ones that people want to buy. I guess it makes sense; if I’m feeling something as I paint, you’ll feel something when you look." - Belinda Fireman, Painting for Me
One of my favorite pieces is a perfect example of this idea. This one (below) was done after driving home from Tim's parents' house in New Hampshire. There were some really great colors in the sky while the sun was setting, and I just felt so relaxed and at peace with everything that I felt like painting them. People love this one, even though it's a little more abstract than some of my other work--and no one really gives a crap that it isn't a beach, or a fox, or an owl. It's just something that came from my head, something that I felt, and that's why it's successful.
|Oil on canvas board, Joa Stenning 2011.|
So artists, writers, crafts-people, musicians, whatevers: if you're feeling frustrated, and feeling like your inspiration is at a low, you might be trying to produce work for someone else instead of for yourself. Take a minute to write/paint/draw/sing/play something that makes you feel good, even if it looks/sounds like total crap. Just throw something out there, and come back to it later if there's something in it worth saving. This feels like a better New Year's resolution than "sell more work," so I think I'll stick with this.