Success = Focus

beach sky painting
Active Sky 9 x 12

Artists are obsessives. We talk about art, live art, breathe art. Plan, research, create. All the time. Even on vacation we’re snapping reference photos and stopping by galleries and museums.

However, having a razor-sharp obsession on art doesn’t always equal success. The art world is a very big place. It’s easy to get lost.

And listening to “experts” makes it worse. They command us with “101 Important Things You Need to Do to Be a Successful Artist.” It’s crazy. We’d need to hire 10 assistants to do everything. So, we try to explore different media, subject matter, and techniques. Sell online, through galleries, festivals, direct to customers, and shows. Social media, blog, network, P.R. It’s overwhelming.

And going in too many directions creates superficial art. We risk never reaching our potential because we’re too busy chasing everything.

Instead, I try to stay with the basics. Simplify. Focus. Create art every day. Market only to outlets where it makes sense. Don’t do everything. Spend quiet days in my studio and just paint. I work with just a few important galleries and have a simple online presence. And when my “must do” list gets too crazy, I brutally slash out the dead weight.

Makes life easier.

–Mary Hubley

Too Much Art

Most of my professional artist friends are overwhelmed by their growing amount of art. Even many of the highly successful artists who make a nice living and paint beautiful work suffer from an overabundance of old and unsold work. Artists hoard, stuff into closets, line hallways, 10-deep sitting against the walls in bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and living rooms. Old art, new art, multiple prints/giclees, good, and bad. A predicament.

The solution? Sell it. They try. But many artists’ finest paintings have already been shown and failed to sell.

The problem is the art market has changed. The current generation of art purchasers have grown up in the era of minimalism, Ikea, and Target. They don’t want grandma’s old Hummel collection or the china closet that held it. This is the era of living lightly, buying small homes, and owning less.

A couple of months ago, a local auctioneer told me she’s experiencing a “glut” of original art. She said that she’s getting $25 for the gorgeous paintings that had been in galleries for $4,000. I am not kidding. She said there are too many artists and too few buyers, and the result is too much art.

Is Art Dead?

Art is certainly not dead at the top of the market – the big New York auction houses are selling major pieces at unheard-of highs. And it’s still alive in the middle of the market, but now collectors want investment pieces that create a statement rather than clutter.

What Do Artists Do?

Contemporary Portraits (c) Mary Hubley
Yellow Swimsuit 8 x 10

Successful artists adapt to changing lifestyle trends and sell their best work. And they get creative with the leftovers.

Robert chooses to live in the clutter of his paintings; his estate will have to figure out how to dispose of his paintings after he dies. Emily sells old/bad pieces in garage sales for next to nothing, but wrestles with undercutting her galleries, putting bad pieces out in the market, and devaluing her art. Others donate, gift, and paint over old work.

My Personal Solution: I sell my best work through galleries or online. I keep a few. And then, gulp. I bonfire. Burn and release. Watch the smoke carry away the last sparks of one-time hopeful masterpieces. It’s a sad moment. Then I walk away. Back in the studio, clutter-free, I replace old dogs with new hopefuls.

–Mary Hubley

Trees in the Breeze

I’ve just created a lovely group of minis – small plein air landscape studies of trees in the wind. More impressionistic than abstract, these trees have a soft energy, blowing leaves and shimmying, dancing in the breeze of the day. It’s been quite a nice winter in St. Augustine, Florida and I’ve been out and about doing these quick landscapes more often.

These landscapes are small – 5 x 5 inch studies, and very affordable. They are for sale online at my daily paintworks page.

Fighting Online Art Theft

I have had my art stolen in many ways:

  • by galleries who “lost” my work
  • by gallery customers who pocketed my work in their handbags
  • by one particular gallery who recently went out of business without returning my paintings or sending me a check for sold work
  • Finally, by online art thieves

Heartbreak of Online Art Theft

"Beach Thistle" - This is the first painting I ever had stolen from a gallery.
“Beach Thistle” – This is the first painting I ever had stolen from a gallery.

One day, I happened upon a lot of my work on Amazon.com. I had not placed it there. My online art stores did not place it there. The new thieving “owners” of my art were companies based in China. They had found low-resolution, bad copies of my art on the internet, copied it, and were now reselling it on Amazon. Some of those copies were even watermarked.

So, I researched. I joined a couple of online groups of artists who were facing the same thing. Amazing what we have to put up with – all we want to do is create, only to have others steal steal steal.

Through my online groups, I found out how to send takedown notices to Amazon, and they removed the products from their website. For a while. Two weeks later, the works were back up under the name of new companies from China. I kept sending takedown notices, but they reappeared. Since then, I’ve found lots of my things on other websites. These Chinese thieves simply wear you down. For a while, I was all-consumed chasing thieves rather than painting.

While I’m painting again, I still send occasional takedown notices, although it does little good. I’m also watermarking photos where I can and post low-resolution images, but it doesn’t always protect my work.

So what can you do to help? If you purchase art or printed art on the internet, I urge you to be wary of things that just don’t look “right.” Better yet, purchase directly from the artist.

Also, you can read more – Here’s a wonderful recent article about another artist who went much further than me:

When E-commerce Sites Steal Your Art (and Your Profits): An interview with Michel Keck

And – here are photos of recently stolen paintings that a gallery “lost”:  Please let me know if you find them!

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