But there is one element of your art career that is seldom discussed in these Art Business 101 manuals and workshops. I would argue that it is the most essential element, an element that will determine if your art career will be an enduring success or a dismal failure. Wanna know the secret? It is plain and simple... Belief. Belief in yourself and the worth of the art you create. Belief that your slumping sales do not indicate that your art is crap and you should abandon it for a job at Walmart (this latter one is particularly sensitive one for me, as I haven't sold any art in 4 months! And trust me, I arise each morning lately, muttering that it's time to dust off my resume and hoof it on over to Walmart).
My ultimate goal is to make a living creating art. Maybe that's your goal, too. But lagging sales can be mighty discouraging. And I could be sorely tempted to attribute the lack of sales with the worth of my art. You might feel the same exact way. But don't do it! One has nothing to do with the other. No, really.
Ever have a work of art that you created some years ago---so long ago that you think you'll retire it to your home, far from the rejecting eye of the public? That the public, for some reason, isn't interested in it? The masterpiece you produced with your heart and soul isn't, after all, anyone's cup of tea. I've had a few just like that. Created them roughly 5 years ago. Just when I was determined to pull them from the gallery in which they were exhibited--I was so sick of looking at them--- don't you know, they sold...within the same week, in fact! You never know.
And it is the same with your art career. What if you gave up now? When things were a little dicey? When you're not exactly setting the world on fire? You would never know that the the very next month you would be accepted into the most prestigious art museum exhibit in your area. You would never know that the a magazine reporter from the local Arts & Culture column had seen your work some years ago---and had heard great things about you through the grapevine-- and wants to write a full length feature article on your current work. You would never know that a really nice woman recently moved here from out of state, just purchased a sizable condo with scads of blank wall space (which she can't stand!) and discovered your work and wants to purchase as much as she can to cover her new walls. O.K, O.K., the last one might be a little far fetched, but stranger things have happened. The point is, your current situation is not your future situation.
We all have slumps, times when we aren't sure if an art career is right for us. (Wouldn't it be easier to be a greeter at Walmart?) Times when a painting we've spent hours and hours on just isn't coming out right. Times when we have been rejected for a couple shows in a row. Times when our checkbook is growing thin from lack of sales. Times when criticism hurts us more than it should. Times when the gallery in which our art has always sold consistently well suddenly---without warning--- goes bankrupt. If you find yourself doubting your ability and your art's marketability, just take a breath, maybe take a day or two to rest... and most of all, Believe.
I know it's easy to Believe when everything is going well with your art career. In fact, that's the time when belief seldom is required or even thought of. It's in your darker moments...that's when Belief is most essential and the hardest to summon.
If belief in your art is difficult at any given time, just think of this: you were born with a talent. You might have had to cultivate it to get it to blossom, but it is still talent. Not everyone was fortunate enough to have been given such talent. Some would do anything to have it, but do not. That's a sign--- if ever there was one--- that you must continue making art. It is what you were born to do.
And imagine---as often I have---what it would mean to give up your art career? Would you ever find a more fulfilling career? Would you be relinquishing your reason for being? The thing that makes you most happy?
Sometimes Belief will require some practice. It might not come as easily as you would like, especially when a few downturns have you in a negative frame of mind. Just remember your successes. Focus on them whenever you think you will abandon your art. The positive will always overcome the negative every time. See yourself succeeding and imagine the joy that you will experience with each accomplishment. The joy of finishing a work of art that you know is your very best work. The joy when collectors have several of your works in their collection and come back for more.
And if you need a little extra encouragement to banish the dark clouds of doubt, it always helps to have a sign to remind you...that you must believe. The one I have featured above is a sign I prominently display in my studio, lest I ever forget the one thing that truly matters in my art career, the one thing that will ensure my career's success like none other...to Believe.