Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Your Inspiration First - or Your Market's?

How does one decide between what you really want to paint – and painting what you think the market is likely to buy?

Do you just keep creating what you love -- and hope for the happy, but accidental intersection of market demand and artist supply? Do you ever set out to choose new work with the elusive buyer in mind, only to end up uninspired and frustrated?

It can be helpful to ponder these questions by keeping the idea of experience in mind, because it’s so different for each party.

An artist, just like any creative person, paints for any number of reasons. Because inspiration strikes. For the innate pleasure of creating. Because results can still surprise and delight. Because it feels good to stretch yourself. To lose yourself in the creative process.

A buyer, on the other hand, will purchase a painting based on criteria that has nothing to do with the artist’s experience. 

They’re looking for art that evokes an intangible, positive emotion. The frisson of discovering true mastery and beauty. Reliving a happy memory. A vision of a time or place that may never come, but where the dream itself is good enough. 

A painting will serve as a visual touchstone for hundreds, or even thousands of moments to come... Buyers may also just be happy that "it fits the space above the couch"!

It’s okay for your art to serve many different functions. 

You can lose yourself in a haze of creative joy; try something new (and fear failure), hone skills that you know need polishing, or just hope to finally sell your work by painting a seemingly popular topic.

While you need an authentic experience of creation for your art to “gel,” it’s helpful to know that different types (enjoying, experimenting, polishing, customizing) may not always result in a painting that the market will buy. Just remember, this isn’t necessarily personal, because the internal “spark” a buyer gets when they fall in love with a new painting is incredibly personal for them.

Savor the experience of creating, keep your eye loosely on the market, but most importantly, keep painting! 

The world needs what you alone can see – and so do you.
© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Jennifer Newcomb Marine is an author and blogging and marketing coach. She's the new Marketing and Community Manager of Daily Paintworks.

Photo credit: "stones 1" by topfer


  1. Thank you, Jennifer! Much needed thoughts.

  2. Well put and so true Jennifer! Staying true to your own creative voice is what makes an artist unique. Thanks!

  3. Thank you, Linda and Debbie! It can be a tough path to navigate, no matter the medium. Hopefully the journey itself is reward enough! :-)

  4. Huzzah! And well said Jennifer! I for one can not paint to please others (I suck at commissions) nor for what I *hope* is popular. So I am truly humbled when a buyer finds the emotion (or something else entirely that resonates with them) that I was seeking to portray in my art and wants to own it.

    Sales make me feel good, of course. But nothing feels as good as painting what I feel compelled to paint.

  5. Timely advise Jennifer! Thanks, look forward to you future thoughts.

  6. I enjoyed reading this and will look forward to more.

    I relate to what you wrote as I have been stimulated by the way I have chance to explore whatever I want to on my blog... whereas my gallery wants the tried and true.
    I feel I have the best both worlds.

  7. Thanks, Ladies, I appreciate the feedback. :-)

    I think we're really in uncharted territory now with the advent on the internets - and while there's more "competition, we're also freer than ever to chart our own course. Look forward to seeing your work on DPW!

  8. Great article, Jennifer and I think you really hit the nail on the head! Interesting and inspiring writing-can't wait to hear more from you!