The Two Aspects of Being an Artist - Creating and Selling / by Jeannine Cook

This week is one of those times when being an artist in creative mode runs headlong into the other dimensions of art-making- namely, exhibiting to sell art.

Saturday next, 4th December, will be the sixteenth year that I hold my Art-Tasting, an open studio-cum-wine-tasting, at our home on Cedar Creek, above the golden marshes of McIntosh. It is a big party which means greeting a large number of friends, many of whom I have known for many years and who are faithful attendees of this event. Each year, too, the circle of attendees widens, something which I thoroughly enjoy, as people ask to bring friends. It is also, being an open studio, one of the main opportunities I have each year to have potential buyers view my art on display. The Art-Tasting is the culmination of a week of setting up the house to act as a gallery, hanging the art, preparing price lists and ensuring that everything else is in place, from wine to food, to lights, signs, wonderful friends to help me during the party.... A thousand details. This all comes after a couple of weeks of hard work previously, during which I mat and frame my work, and another time preparing the personal invitations I mail out. The image above, September Canna, was on this year's invitation.
It is sometimes hard to change gears from being a solitary artist, trying to create work that is viable and meaningful, to an outgoing, social hostess and "gallerist". It means having to be ready to expose your inner self, which - almost in spite of yourself - you have revealed in your artwork, and have innumerable people assess what you have done, for good or for bad. Each person, of course, brings their own experience and optic to bear on what they see in the artwork, but they soon decide if they like or dislike what they are seeing. You are asked many times to explain and elaborate on what you have implicitly "said" in a piece of art. This means that you need to be lucid, concise and accessible in what you say about it... usually against a hubbub of talk and in a crush of people. There is too the awareness that what you say can tip the balance for or against a sale of work.
Selling is in part a gift, but also, I believe, an opportunity to reach out to people and share with them the joys and perils of creation. Honesty never goes amiss, I believe, and heavens knows, being an artist is a constant reminder of humbling endeavours... Nonetheless, there are so many moments of sheer delight that one experiences when, for instance, one is working plein air and the natural world is full of beauty and fascination. People can relate to such accounts, and I think it helps to amplify the understanding of a piece of art when you, the artist, share such experiences.
Meeting potential collectors personally, in my own home, has been a marvellous enrichment to life over the years. Most of our friends are muddled up, in some way, with my art. I used to have gallery representation, but I have realised that despite the effort it requires to try to represent myself and sell my art, the benefits of meeting kindred spirits far outweighs any inconveniences. It does not preclude showing in galleries elsewhere, but locally, I love meeting collector friends and friends who become collectors.
Nonetheless, after a couple of weeks of having my "selling" hat on as an artist, I have to admit that I revert to my quieter, creative mode with delight and some relief. I do recognise, however, that being able to reconcile the two Janus aspects of being an artist so pleasantly is a great privilege.