Art is Personal

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The first time I sold an artwork, I had nothing to do with it (with the sale of it, that is). I was 20 years old and the idea of actually selling my art had never entered my thoughts.

I was taking an oil painting class at a local community college. Our instructor had told us all to bring in a black and white photograph that we would reproduce as an oil painting, but in color. I had forgotten all about the project and I arrived late to class empty handed. My instructor was miffed. He handed me a magazine and said,  'Just find something in here'. I quickly thumbed through it, not finding anything in black and white except this one tiny photo of a guy stacking what looked like trash next to a large van while a woman in a winter coat in the foreground looked on. I had to use it since class had already started. 

This instructor of mine painted in very vivid colors. In fact, all the colors he used looked like primary colors. Some artists do this, and many people like it. For me, however, I love to mix colors, and mix and mix and mix. And I generally prefer muted colors, which is what you tend to get when doing a lot of mixing. So, naturally, I did that with this class assignment. I don’t know what my instructor thought. I imagine he was trying to get us to create with a lot of color, maybe even primary colors, but the painting I ended up with still kind of looked black and white, or gray, really. He must’ve been disappointed except that, apparently, a week or so later, a group of people from the art department came through looking for art for a show they were doing in the library and they chose mine (among others).

When I was informed of this, I could hardly believe it. That dumb painting? I wonder if my instructor was surprised as well. Anyway, the show went on for a few weeks. I went to have a look after they had it all set up. Not far from my artwork, was one of my instructor's artworks- something in red, blue and yellow. His favorite colors. The contrast in our works was stark. Art is personal. I’m not saying I knew that then. I can’t remember what I really thought except that I know I didn’t like those primary colors in his work.

During the time that our little art show was up, I came to class one day and my instructor informed me that a woman saw my piece in the library and wanted to buy it.  Whoa!  I was sure he was mistaken. But it was true. Someone I didn’t even know loved my funny street scene assignment and wanted to buy it. A few days later, she came into class, I asked 50 bucks for the thing and she bought it. It wasn't all that  bad a painting. Trying to remember what she said to me … I think she liked the muted colors and she said something about my having talent. Perhaps she thought I would one day become famous.

Making money selling art is rarely that easy. That was a fluke. But it did tell me that, yes, people do buy art. I also realized that art is personal. Even if an artist thinks, ‘no one is going to like that dumb painting’, there is very probably someone out there who will. 

First Sale pic

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