Is It Hard To Part With Your Art?

Posted by: Lyra Pappin

For an artist, handing over their artwork to a total stranger can be a traumatic experience.

Imagine the following scene:

"Hey!  This person wants to buy your painting, isn’t that great?"


"It’s not really just a painting.  It’s pencil with watercolour."


"Okay, but still. My friend really hates her husband’s sports collection, so she said she wants to like, add art and stuff to their place."


Imagined internal dialogue: Oh my god. Don’t panic. Please. It’s okay.  Just because this person doesn’t know the first thing about art doesn’t mean she is entirely undeserving of it.  It’s okay. You can let it go. Breathe. Sigh. No, wait! Don’t sigh.  Just tell the lovely drawing-painting hybrid that everything will be alright and let it go.


It might be hard for non-artists to understand, but think of it this way:  could you just give away your favourite sweater?  Your favourite album?  It’s hard to find something appropriate to compare it to but for artists their work can grow to be an extension of themselves.  After all, it is something that has come out of their mind, through their hands, and painstakingly and lovingly created.  After nurturing something from its inception to realization, how could one not feel attached?


Painter Francis Bacon put it this way: “The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love”.


So with such intense connection to their art, how can artists let it go? The business of art is so different than the creative process that it can put a negative spin on the whole experience.  It’s a fine line to balance because artists rely on their audience to make a living.  Post-impressionalist artist Paul Cezanne reconciled this difference by revealing that even though he worked to make a living, “…the man must remain obscure. The pleasure must be found in the work”.  He doesn't want his artistic process to be about himself or even the finished product.  For Cezanne, the process of creating is the important part.

Although Andy Warhol was never guilty of avoiding the spotlight, he took another approach to separating himself from his art by downplaying the tendency to view artists as special beings.  He looked at being an artist as having any other job saying, “
I do the same thing everyday. I go to work and paint. I try to turn out as many pictures as I can”.  Perhaps looking at art as a business worked for him, but it doesn’t work for everyone.


It can also be a shock for any artist to meet their audience.  It might be hard not to take it personally if someone doesn’t love your work the same way that you do, but it’s part of the game.  Art collector Mary Boone states that “There are not only more people collecting, there are more people collecting for the wrong reasons, basically as the latest get rich quick scheme. They buy art like lottery tickets.”  Unfortunately, this is something artists and collectors alike must get used to.  Unless you create just for yourself, the dirty side of the art world is that it is a business, and just like any other business the point is to make money.  As Boone later puts it, “I had reservations about making art a business, but I got over it”.


While you might not have the perfect buying-selling relationship with your clients, it’s also helpful to recall that you have a lot of art left in you.  It will never be the last sweater you will knit, the last quilt woven, or the last paint to hit the canvas.  Keep looking ahead to the future and it won’t be difficult to wave goodbye to the past.



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Lyra Pappin
Toronto, ON, Canada

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