Sep 182014
 
 What's art worth to you?

Abstract collage “What’s it Worth to You?” by BZTAT

In a minute, I am going to share with you an Art Improv event where I am going to invite you to participate with me in my creative process.

Bear with me – I think you will find the event fun, but I need to give some context first.

In business, companies tend to create products and services that meet some kind of need for a segment of the public. In art, we like to think that our “products” meet a need of some sort, but defining that need can sometimes be an esoteric exercise.

As an artist in the business of creating and selling art, I know that the whole concept of customer “need” can be slippery.

Artists tend to pride themselves on creating things from their own imaginations, and they shiver at the thought of meeting needs other than their own artistic purposes.

The discomfort with allowing customer need to enter into the creative process can lead to an uncomfortable relationship between the artist and his or her public.

Many will say that art and business don’t mix. That’s what my professors in art school told me back in the 1980’s, and I still hear artists clinging to that silly notion. If an artist wants to sell her work, though, she has to be in business. We have to embrace that, and we need to realize that we do not have to compromise artistic quality in order to be in business.

Still yet, being in business is not intuitive for many artists. I read a great deal of advice from art business coaches and marketing gurus, and yet, I still struggle.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and there are those who imply that you just aren’t working hard enough if you aren’t achieving the results they expect (and they call it Self Help- Ha! How is subtly berating you HELP?!).

I have, however, been following some business leaders recently, who offer guidance that taps into the artist mentality. Their guidance not only makes sense to me as an artist, it also reveals a new way of connecting with customers that is enriching for the artist and the art buyer.

The basic themes are these:

  1. Focus on finding customers who value your ideas and purposes as well as the works that you create.
  2. Get to know your customers and potential customers, and find out what is important and valuable to them. Ask, and don’t just tell.
  3. Develop a relationship built on trust and compatible values with your customers and potential customers.
  4. Demonstrate a sincere desire to meet their needs while you develop unique and innovative art products.
  5. Solve a problem for people.
  6. Reward people for supporting you, even if they do not buy.

In considering these themes, I have been asking a lot of questions on my Facebook page this week. And, whoa, by golly, have I received some fabulous feedback! Not only did I get some good ideas for creating art products, I also learned that I had made some assumptions that were completely incorrect:

  1. Assumption: Art is a luxury for most people, not a need. Truth: Art serves a valuable purpose to people in capturing memories and meaning, and to many is a need. Art is rarely just a decoration. As one friend told me, “(The things that decorate my home) are things attached to memories throughout my life.”
  2.  Assumption: Only rich people buy art. Truth: People from all walks of life buy art, and will make sacrifices to buy it, if it has enough intrinsic value to them.
  3. Assumption: My artistic ideals and pursuit of quality will be sacrificed if I seek to meet the needs of others with my work. Truth: My artwork grows in quality when I incorporate the needs, ideas and perspectives of others into the creation of my art.

I am learning that art and business are not necessarily incompatible. If you take a meta-perspective that encompasses more than your own self-limiting beliefs as an artist, you have the opportunity to grow artistically as well as prosper in the business of art. Yes, you run the risk of so-called selling out where you compromise quality to appease others, but a strong artist challenges herself not to do that.

Artists are known for being intrepid – why are we such weenies when it comes to matching that fearlessness in the business aspects of our work?

So back to the event I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

I have done this before, but this time I want to do it with a renewed interest in customer need and value in my work, and at the same time, challenge myself to create exceptional artistic quality.

In the past I have done what I called “Paint-a-thons” and “Create-a-thons” where I created a series of artworks in a 12-hr span of time, and then auctioned the artworks here on my website. This time, I want to, again, create a series of artworks in a short amount of time, and auction them. But I also want to openly solicit ideas and from my public to create things of value to them.

So here is the plan.

On Saturday, September 20, 2014. I will create in my studio from 9 am to 9 pm. In that 12 hours, I will do what I am calling an Art Improv, where I will actively request your ideas via Facebook and Twitter for creating artworks.  Share an idea with me on Facebook or send me a Tweet to give me ideas for creating an artwork that would be of value to you. Follow along all day long as I put your ideas into creative form!

Feel free to suggest ideas before and during the event. Please don’t suggest joke ideas or gags or things that are not fitting with my style (no guns or gargoyles, please). This isn’t a “Let’s see what we can get her to do,” kind of thing. This is a “How can we be part of the process of creating great art” kind of thing.

I will post pictures of the process on my Facebook page which will automatically feed into my Twitter. On Sunday, September 21, 2014, I will post all the artworks on this blog for auction. 

I am not going to lie. I hope to sell some artworks in this process. My hope is that I create something that fulfills a need for you, so that if you do buy, your purchase will bring you great joy for years to come. But you don’t have to buy to participate. Art is of value to all, even if you don’t end up owning it.

Sound like fun? I hope you will join in the process, even if you have no interest in buying.

So let’s get this thing started! The Idea Factory is now on line. Start sharing ideas in the comments below.

And thanks for being part of my Adventure!

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

 

 

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