Don’t Let Your Art Be Too Precious

Breathe life into your art and then release it.

I was talking to a fellow creator today about the risks of getting too close to your work. All creators form a bond with their creations. You have to feel something for your work in order to pull creativity from an authentic place, but there comes a time when you need to detach from your art. You need to cut ties and let it fly free. When the work is done, kick that art out the door and make room for a new creative cycle.

When you find yourself obsessing over every detail, reworking a single piece of art, or seeking countless outside opinions–your work is becoming too precious and it will be the creative death of you. That art is too needy and it will drive you insane if you fixate on what you could change.

You might be thinking, “But Kelly, shouldn’t I dedicate my love and energy to my work?!”

Yes–you should–but not all of it. A little love is good. Giving all your love and energy to a single creative project is irresponsible. Everything you create will allow space for improvement, evolution, and growth, but each individual project has finite growth potential.

If you spend your lifetime writing a single novel that you rewrote 50 times until you got it just right, then you will have wasted years of energy that could have brought 50 other novels to life.

You have to settle for “complete” and not “perfect”.

What are the risks of your work being to precious?

It’s harder to start new projects.

If you never finish the piece you’ve dedicated all of your energy to, you will never start anything new. If this doesn’t bother you, then by all means, keep that precious mentality. Though, if you want to carve out a path to a professional creative career, you need to produce. You need to grow and evolve. Each new project is an opportunity to improve upon the last work of art.

It’s harder to hear criticism.

If you create one piece of art, it’s easy to feel emotionally bonded to it. When you hear negative feedback, it’s like an attack on your sense of self. Someone is critiquing an extension of you. They aren’t actually, but when you’re work is too precious, it definitely feels like that.

All of you creative eggs are in that single art basket. Don’t let your art have that much power over you. It isn’t a part of you anymore. Yes, you created it, but you have to detach from it. Once you send it out into the world, it’s on its own. The more art you push out the door, the more you’ll detach.

It’s harder to abandon something that isn’t working.

Look, I get it. You’ve put all of your energy into a huge project, and you can’t even fathom the idea of it failing–but it might fail–and you have to be okay with that. You have to be willing to move on for the sake of your sanity. When your art is too precious, abandoning it seems like betrayal.

That’s how you know it’s time to walk away. Betray the art. Move on to something new.

Time’s a wastin’.

What should you do if you’re work has become too precious?

I’ve been here. There’s no shame in the overly precious art game. But now that you’re aware of it, you have an opportunity to change.

Walk away. Get distance.

Once I lose the flow in a work of art or writing, and suddenly my momentum screeches to a painfully critical halt, I toss that creation in my dud pile. I leave it for another day. A day where I might have a different perspective.

Some of those works get attention in the future, and some get scrapped entirely if time didn’t help. The important thing is that you have the ability to walk away.

Start something new.

Once you walk away from something that became too precious, immediately pour your energy into a new project. I split my time between writing and art. Writing requires more labor and I have a tendency of getting too close to that work, so I write a little and then walk away and start a batch of new paintings.

When I get stuck on one, I move to another. When writer’s block hits, I paint. When my hands get tired or paint needs to dry, I write.

Keep the momentum going and spread your creative energy around to multiple projects.

Focus on quantity over perfect quality.

Your work will never be perfect. It will be good enough. It will be complete. It will be ready for the world to see. But it will never be perfect. Ever.

Don’t get obsessed with a single piece of art. View your creative life as a whole. Fill the years with as many imperfect works of art that you can, because you will become a better artist as a result. You will create more opportunities, discover more about yourself, and increase your odds of success by being a prolific creator.

Now, abandon that precious, energy sucking, needy work of art that is torturing you. You can’t give it the perfection it demands. That will take all the heart out of it.

***

(Need more convincing? I highly suggest this helpful piece by The Oatmeal. Kill your darlings.)

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Professionally Present Your Art for Sale

Tips for Packaging, Branding, and Preparing Your Art (Plus a downloadable Certificate of Authenticity!)

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

If you’ve watched any cooking shows in your life, you are fully aware that presentation is a big deal. Something that tastes like absolute garbage can look appetizing if plated with intention. Conversely, something that tastes like a gift from the heavens can look downright disgusting if the presentation is off.

This translates very easily to your art.

Packaging and presentation can take ‘okay’ art to the next level. Disregard for such things can turn away customers or prevent you from raising your prices.

For example, when I first moved to California, I participated in an outdoor group show. Three artists displayed in a pop up tent on walls, and another artist brought a table to sell prints. This last artist was a perfect lesson on what not to do when selling your art.

All he had was a table, and a stack of loose prints that he spread across the surface. His prints were displayed haphazardly. He used no protective plastic coverings and no backing boards. A slight breeze sent some pieces flying to the ground, which then resulted in him using rocks or other random objects to weigh them down. His art was exposed to the elements and to finger tips from potential customers. His art actually looked great, but no matter how good the art itself looked, he couldn’t get more than $5 to $10 for a print because he neglected to consider presentation. Plus, odds of the prints getting damaged at his display and when the customer walked away with the print were very high. Don’t be that guy.

When you are preparing to sell your art, you need to balance aesthetics and protection. You’ll want to make sure your art remains safe, while also making it look attractive to a customer. I know that funding is often tight when you start out, so don’t feel pressured to do everything on this list, but keep these ideas in the back of your mind as your art business grows:

How to prepare your art for sale

Presenting Canvases

Clean up the edges- Either paint the edges a solid color, extend your painting over the edges, or use painter’s tape to block off the edges before painting to keep them clean.

Clean up the back of the canvas-if you are a messy painter, consider using Kraft paper and painters tape to protect the back of your canvas from drips and spills while working.

Varnish- Always seal your finished paintings. This will protect your work from fingerprints, and smudges. Some varnishes also include a UV coating to protect colors from fading. (My favorite varnish is Liquitex High Gloss Varnish from Amazon or Blick)

Resin- Resin is a huge trend these days. Both as a medium to create art, and as a protective finish for your canvas or wood panels. I personally haven’t tried it, as I prefer my usual gloss varnish, but resin can really take a simple piece to another level.

Hanging materials– If you want to give your customers the option to immediately hang their art, read this post for tips.

Presenting Paper/Flat pieces

Protective plastic- when you are selling online or in person, a protective plastic bag is a great idea. Shipments can encounter moisture in transit, and customers walking around an art fair are likely going to stop for snacks and beverages as they walk around.

When I need a couple of items, I order my plastic bags from Amazon (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″). When I need to resupply my entire stock of bags, I order from Clearbags. (I will not make a commission off sales from Clearbags, but you can use code MESSY10 at checkout for 10% off your order until 12/31/2020)

Backing board-I highly recommend backing board as an extra layer of protection for your finished art within the plastic sleeves. The added rigidity protects your work while stored, shipped, and carried around events. I use Clearbags backing board most often, but Amazon is great if you need an item quickly (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″)

Frames and Matboard- Adding a frame and matboard to your work can take even a rough sketch to gallery level of presentation. If you work with standard sized paper, you can find plenty of precut mat and ready-made frames to fit your work. Like this matboard on Amazon with a simple frame. (More tips in this post.)

Branded Details

Sign Your Work

A lot of artists believe your art is only finished once signed. Some artists stick with their full name in cursive. Some use initials. Some create a little symbol. Some use a logo. Some don’t sign their work on the front surface. Some don’t sign at all. Some include a date.

Whatever you decide to do, make it your own. Do what feels authentic to you.

Name Your Work

Naming is the last thing I think about with my work, but it can add more context to your art, and it shows the world that you’ve put more care into what you created. It holds more meaning when it has a name.

Add a Story/Meaning

Knowing what inspired a work of art or what the piece means to the artist can help a viewer feel even more connected to the art. With pieces of higher value, consider writing a few lines about the piece. You can use this in online inventory descriptions, or include the story near title cards at shows.

Include a Certificate of Authenticity

In my opinion, certificates of authenticity are a little hoity toity, but I do love the care that is taken to document details of a piece. I created my own certificate using Canva, but tweaked it for a little humor and call it a “Certificate of Messiness,” to match my brand. You can do whatever you want with a certificate. It doesn’t need to adhere to any art world standard, in my opinion.

If you want to include a Certificate of Authenticity, I recommend tracking details like title, size, date created, materials used, your contact information, social handles, and anything else you deem relevant for your art.

If you are lazy and just want a ready made cert to print, then feel free to download this PDF that I made using Canva. I usually print four to a page on cardstock, cut with a guillotine cutter, fill it out by hand, and then put into an A2 envelope.

Downloadable Certificate of Authenticity
Other details to consider using:
  • Include a Thank You card with purchases.
  • Use stamps with a logo or signature on the back of art or on shipping materials.
  • Use stickers (Branded logos, thank yous, etc.)
  • Use tissue paper/colorful wrapping in packages or when wrapping items at events. (Secure with twine, ribbon, or stickers.)

***

Alright, that was a lot. Clearly you can see, the more care you put into your work, the more valuable it appears and becomes. This list can be added to, and not all artists will do everything on the list. If you can at least start by considering how you will protect your work while selling it, then you can slowly evolve all of the fun branded elements of your presentation over time.

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why Artists Depend On Others to Guide Their Art

(And why they shouldn’t.)

If you have ever dreamed of making art, selling your art, or even if you have already successfully sold art, the question “What should I make?” will pop into your head. All creative people experience a loss or lack of direction at some point. Even after four years of making art full-time, I still have those moments. It’s part of the creative process, but trying to solve your lack of direction by asking others for guidance can be detrimental to your creative development.

It is far too easy to lose yourself when you open the door to any and all guidance, advice, critiques, etc.. Believe me, everyone has opinions, but not everyone has your artistic intentions and interests in mind when they share them.

Like today, my adorable six year old niece was watching me draw. I asked her “What do you think?” and she stood there with an unenthused look on her face and replied “Why do you only know how to draw swirls?” (Reasonable question, as my work has been swirly AF lately.)

“I can draw other things, but this is what I like drawing right now,” I said. She still wore a critical expression, and posed a slightly crushing followup question.

“When will you stop drawing swirls?” I couldn’t help but laugh, while pretending I wasn’t crying a little on the inside 😉

Clearly, my niece isn’t impressed, but that’s okay. Now imagine that conversation with an adult. I’ve had many conversations like this, and even though it’s not explicit verbal rejection, questions can be loaded, and all non-verbal cues can point to disapproval of your current direction. We’ve probably all been there in some way. Someone asks an innocent sounding question and suddenly your mind is filled with “OMG, you hate it! I suck! Why am I doing this?! Nobody is going to like this!”

I mean–no–I’ve never gone down that thought spiral before… *definite sarcasm*

We artists can be sensitive creatures. Any whiff of negative feedback can make us question everything we are doing, and accept guidance from outsiders. This guidance can sometimes result in losing touch with our own creative vision, and that’s where I have a problem.

Why do artists depend on outside opinions?

In order to prevent being swayed, or pushed away from your own creative authenticity, it’s important to look at why this happens in the first place.

1. You lack confidence in your art or abilities.

We all have to start somewhere, and in the beginning of creative explorations, few of us have built-in confidence that we know what we are doing. We ask our friends, families, and partners “Do you think this is good?” And we crave their validation as fuel to move us forward. This isn’t necessarily bad if you are talking to someone who knows how to provide the right feedback to keep you moving forward, but asking the wrong person can trigger the negative thought spiral above.

Over time, you will build internal confidence. (I wrote a blog post years ago on this matter.) Until then, be careful where you seek feedback on your art.

2. You are focused on selling art more than creating art.

I get it, you want to make a sale. This makes it tempting to look at artists around you who are selling a certain kind of art and think you should follow the same aesthetic. And it makes the suggestions from friends and family to paint what they saw on Pinterest or at a craft fair sound like a good idea–but you need to check in with yourself and determine what kind of art you actually want to make.

If you find yourself accepting guidance from others on what they think will sell, then you need to revisit why you are creating in the first place.

3. You haven’t found your style or direction yet.

Maybe you’re confident in your abilities, but you still don’t really know what kind of art you should focus on. Asking people around you what they want to see is okay if it encourages you to try new things and naturally find a style, but be careful that those ideas don’t override your own desires.

Whose opinions should you trust?

I want to be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t listen to anyone when it comes to your art. External feedback is really important when you are exploring your creativity. Instead of trusting everyone has valid input about your art, I just encourage you to select people who can understand how your mind works.

If you are looking to others to help assess your work, I suggest making them read this post about how to critique art. Critiquing doesn’t come naturally to people, but this post will help get artists and non-artists into the right mindset.

If you want to create art for others, then having someone tell you exactly what kind of art they want is welcomed. Let’s say you are doing contracting work, commissions, illustrations, or anything that involves bringing a client’s vision to life, then accepting guidance and giving up a good amount of control of the end product is expected.

When you just want to create, or find your own creative voice, then outside opinions will likely just distract you from your goal.

So–

What should you Make?

Make the art that you want to make. Other people cannot tell you what art is hiding inside of you. They don’t know, and sometimes even you don’t know, but that’s a journey you’ll have to take on your own. Finding your direction requires playfulness, time, and patience. Before you ask others for guidance, get your art supplies and try new things. See where that takes you. You don’t need anyone’s approval but your own.

Only you know what kind of art you should make. If you don’t have the answers now, you will find them over time.

If I internalized my little niece’s displeasure at my repetitive swirls, I’d probably be drawing rainbow unicorns and dancing donuts with sprinkles on them right now to make her happy. As fun as that would be, it’s a bit of a departure from what I love doing. (Though, outside of my work day, I will rainbow unicorn the sh*t out of my art. Maybe even add some glitter!)

Next time someone tells you to draw a barn near a wheat field instead of naked lady with a body full of tattoos, or a poured abstract acrylic piece–ask yourself if they are trying to help you find your authentic creative voice, or if they want you to make art that conforms to their personal ideals.

Trust the guidance of those who want to nurture the creativity that’s already within you.

***

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this was helpful. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. And, if you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: