The Lows

Since I’ve already written about the highs of being an artist, I thought it only fair that I should write about the lows as well.  Recently a couple of incidents brought me down to a new low.

First off, I finished all the calculations for my tax return. Yes, I do realize that if I was on top of my income and expenses on a monthly basis, the final tally would not be a shock. However, that would require a personality operation to remove the procrastination gene, a nice idea but highly unlikely.
For the seventh consecutive year, my gross sales of artwork have risen (hooray!), but at the same time, my expenses have been steadily rising as well. Studio rental, photography, website management, promotion, gallery commissions and raw material costs were all higher this year. The final calculation showed that I was still making a profit, but if you divide that profit by the hours I spend in the studio…let’s just say that sweatshop workers might turn their nose up at my hourly wage. So that was a painful realization that had me feeling discouraged.

Then the second blow. I received an email from one of my galleries telling me that due to the economy, they would be returning all my paintings and severing the relationship.  This took me completely by surprise since in the past ten months they had sold five paintings, which I thought was pretty good.  But I have no idea what gallery standards are.  
This dismissal felt to me a lot like when someone breaks up with you. Immediately I felt stunned and upset, that punched-in-the-gut feeling.  After the initial shock, the self-doubt takes over. I started thinking about all the ways I should have managed the relationship better, with more frequent contact and communication.  And ironically, I had just ordered new panels, since I was planning to create some new artworks and offer to exchange them for the old ones that my galleries had in inventory.  When I went to pick up the order I felt depressed instead of the anticipation I usually feel when I get fresh new panels. Here I was spending so much money on panels and what would I do with them?

This depressed state has lasted for a while. The worst part is that it limits my creativity. When I’m low, I can't do the normal things that inspire me. Seeing art shows or even chatting with artist friends makes me feel jealousy at the successes of other artists, which in turn makes me feel petty.  Usually painting is a great solace for me, but when I'm down I begin to second-guess myself in the studio, wondering about my worth as a painter.  Then creating satisfying new work becomes difficult. It’s a horrible circle of negativity.

Okay, it's not depressing art, but since I usually do happy, that's all  I've got.

My only answer to the lows is to keep going to the studio. I worry about creating new work in a negative frame of mind, so that limits me. What I can do is to keep putting in the time and working. Some months ago, I had gotten feedback from another gallery that a client did not like the sides of my painting. Resin dripping is pretty unavoidable, and I feel it shows the process of the work in an interesting way. But apparently not everyone agrees, so spent several days sanding and refinishing the sides of some finished paintings. Other days were spent cleaning the studio, organizing my paper supplies and trashing unused materials.
Eventually, I know that feeling sad and doing mindless work will clear the way for some brave new art.