Recently I started reading a new book, The Angel's Game, by Luis Ruiz Zafon. The very first paragraph caught me totally off guard. It cuts right to the core struggle of making art for a living. Selling paintings is a blessing, but sometimes it's a mixed blessing. As an artist I don't want commerce muddying my motivation. Here are those first few sentences from the book:
"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that will surely outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price."
It's pretty much impossible to be a purist in making art. I would have to create in a vacuum if I want to avoid getting wrapped up in other people's expectations. A friend will offer an opinion, or a client may offer to buy one painting over another. It's hard, but I try to keep those voices out of my head when I paint. I wouldn't give up my life selling paintings and "working" on my art every day, but it can be challenging keeping art and commerce separate in my head. I try to paint only what's most interesting to me. I try to work from the heart.
Making art for a living is a messy business, but the one thing I do take advantage of is the motivation to get in the studio and paint. Whether I feel motivated or not, I do some painting. As Chuck Close says, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." It's a nice feeling to go into the studio inspired, but there are plenty of days when I find inspiration where it's not expected. The most important thing I can do is just show up and paint. Painting for a living pushes me to paint on my least inspired days, so money's influence isn't all bad.
It's a balancing act, but if I keep my eye on what's important I feel like I can stay on the right side of the line.