Jody Noelle Coughlin Art Blog
I cannot recall just how many times I felt like I was being somewhat irresponsible, especially as a mother, during the times when I took the last twenty dollars I had in my wallet and used it to buy a canvas and a few tubes of paint. However, despite the guilt or concern, I did just that all the time over the years. I still do it. I make it a priority to nurture myself as a painter even though, if you looked at the whole enterprise of being an artist in terms of investment and return, it might seem utterly crazy to put money into it. Sometimes I spend much more than I earn and sometimes I earn much more than I spend. In other words, sometimes I experience an upshift in sales of my work and sometimes I simply don't. I remember one time when I was so broke I couldn't even afford a canvas. It was then that I went dumpster diving until I found a piece of cardboard sturdy enough to paint on. I took it home and lovingly transformed it from a piece of garbage to a portrait of Al Pacino. Why not?
I find making a living as an artist can be precarious at the best of times. Currently, it seems economies around the globe are not at their best and unfortunately that reflects on the sales of art. How could it not? How can the average family or individual invest in a painting or sculpture or vase when paying the bills is a struggle? The unfortunate thing in all of this for an artist is that all these uncertainties put a strain on what, if you are like me, is already an unsteady point of view on this issue in the first place. In essence, sometimes I feel utterly frivolous investing in art supplies when I know my money could (and maybe should) go to a million other places. Spending that last twenty bucks may translate into a canvas that sits in the back of the closet for all eternity or it may result in a sale. There is no guarantee and there is no hard and fast formula to generate sales when it comes to being an artist. All I know is that it is important for me to keep going even in the face of financial adversity.
A while ago my sister said something to me that really hit home. She said that a painting was a huge investment not only financially but also spatially. She is absolutely right about that. Wall space is at a premium at her house and her house, as it happens, is overrun by my artwork. I have given her painting after painting over the years and after a while all those paintings add up to an awful lot of square footage. To compound her particular problem, she is afraid to take any of the paintings down in case she hurts my feelings. Recently, I assured her that if she took one or even all of them down to refresh her space with something else then I would be okay with that. I am. I get it. I understand.
My point here is that artistry is a unique industry in and of itself. Art is a necessity to me because I am an artist. Without it, I would be miserable. However, from the standpoint of the buyer, what is the true value of art under strained financial circumstances? Art doesn't get top priority. It's not on the grocery list. It is usually considered a want and not a need. Sometimes you want it, sometimes you don't and sometimes it doesn't matter if you want it or not you're too broke to buy it anyway.
What about folks with an average sized home? How much artwork can they collect? My sister, as I mentioned, has reached her particular limit. There is simply no more room on her walls for more artwork unless she takes down and stores what she already has. I am sure other collectors have also reached that point.
The stark reality here is that all artists are operating under a world of pretenses and limitations on one level or another. There may be artists who are experiencing success left and right no matter what. I am sure it happens. For the rest of us however, it is an up and down experience most of the time.
What I am learning as I go along is that pursuing your passion requires a thick skin, fortitude and fearlessness. Oh, and a little bit of faith to take a fresh step each and every day to better yourself as an artist even if you haven't sold anything in weeks or even months. In the end, it cannot always be about the sales. If it was, we would have all quit years ago. Art is not necessarily a pursuit that always makes sense when it comes to checks and balances. What it is is an expression of your heart and soul, a window to your unique perspective, a window into your world. One thing I know for certain is that the world needs art and its artist counterparts who create it even if it doesn't always make it on the bread and butter lists.