Austin based intuitive (not formally trained) artist Sam Sanford gave a lecture last session on his life and relationship with art. Not corresponding to my conception of many artists who exercise their talent after their day job, Sanford’s works have actually been shown and sold in a number of galleries! For the longest time, he showed all of the pieces he had in his repertoire, which is also unlike most artists in the field today, who select only the works they wish to show in the institutional setting.
What I really took away from his lecture was his following line of advice: “don’t sell paintings you don’t like, because you’ll regret it forever”. Being brutally honest (harkening back to Chad Dawkins), Sanford told us advice based on his own personal experiences. At times, his art was very therapeutic and maybe even soul-cleansing for him. He could explore himself and better his mental health through his works. On the less-than-rosy flip side, however, Sanford said he felt he had focused in the past too much on technique at the price of missing out on subject matter, exploring intellectual ideas, and meaning in his works. The idea of technique over meaning coupled with rushing works to meet gallery deadlines led him to his point about only selling works he likes.
Another interesting aspect of Sanford’s lecture is a controversial circumstance in which many artists find themselves: At the beginning of his art career, Sanford set out to sell his paintings and earn money from them. After achieving this, however, the feeling of earning money for his artwork is different than he had expected. He now feels that doing a painting for the purpose of selling it cheapens the idea, meaning and intellect behind it. This crossroads between making art for selling and selling art for further art making is problematic for many artists. Does this cheapen the authenticity of their works? My question as one who has never had an exhibition, is: is it impossible to focus on the art work and furthering of self and ideas and worry about selling later?