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Artistic Productivity | Cornerstone of a Successful Art Career

by Jason Horejs on February 18, 2014 · 46 comments

Having spent over 20 years in the gallery business, I’ve noticed a key common trait of financially successful artists: they are constantly in the studio, hard at work. I would describe these artists as productive and prolific.

The realities of the art market today are such, that in order to generate regular sales and establish a strong collector base for your work, you have to have significant inventory. To a certain degree it’s a numbers game. You have to have enough work available so that you can show the work in a variety of venues and get the work in front of enough people to reach the buyers.

My research has shown that, on average, successful painters are creating nearly 80 pieces per year. Successful sculptors are sculpting 55 pieces per year. No matter what your media, you should be working to increase your productivity and boost the number of pieces you are creating.

 

Source: Xanadu Gallery's 2009 State of the Art Survey

Simple Suggestions to Become More Productive

Dedicate consistent time daily to your art

Even if you can only carve out an hour or two, set aside fixed time daily that will be devoted to creating.

Focus

Try and keep studio distractions to a minimum. Turn off your computer and phone while you are working. You will be far more effective and productive if you aren’t constantly being pulled away from your art by the constant stream of distractions that plague our lives.

Set Production Goals

By setting goals about how many works you are going to create, you will push yourself to work harder to reach those goals. I suggest setting a weekly production goal. It doesn’t matter what that goal is, (and it can vary widely depending on medium and style) you  will create more work when you have a production goal.

Quality

Of course, productivity isn’t the only factor – successful artists also create high-quality work. Creating a tremendous supply of poor-quality artwork will not lead to success. In today’s competitive art market, quality has become even more important.

An artist once asked me, “Which is more important, quantity, or quality?”

“Yes!” I replied.

For today’s artists, it’s not an “either, or” proposition. To be a financially successful artist today you must be both efficient and proficient in your craft.

Can You Wait for Inspiration?

Some artists would argue that trying to be more productive is futile, as inspiration doesn’t come on demand. I love artist Chuck Close’s response to this idea:

01f/34/arve/g2661/072“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Chuck Close

What Do You Think?

Has productivity played an important role in your art career? What are your greatest challenges when it comes to productivity? Do you have advice to share with artists who are struggling to create more? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Graph Source:  Xanadu Gallery’s 2009 State of the Art Survey

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About 

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Angeline-Marie February 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Ah! I totally agree that it is both quality and quantity of art work!

As an artist that has limited studio time, I recognize the value of getting to work once I have the opportunity to be in the studio.

Thank you for the statistics. This helps greatly in keeping my goals for this year (at minimum 52 completed paintings) and stretching them (now 80 completed paintings).

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Patricia Newton February 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Completely agree!!!

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Brian Billings February 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I have a full time job, a wife and a 2 year old, so for me, dedicating time for my art is a must. Family time is very important to me, so I paint from 9 pm. til 11, sometimes longer if I get caught up in my work. The nice thing about working this late is fewer distractions and I have some down time during the day to think about what I will be working on later that night. I have to keep my full time job until I start selling enough art to replace it. I don’t know of any artist that starts making $50k right away and I just can’t afford to not have a steady income. I know you and many others believe you must be a full time artist to be successful, but I will prove that theory wrong! Unfortunately it’s gallery’s that think this way, that make it a little harder for people like myself. So, I must work a little harder to get poeple to look past that.

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Laurie February 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Good for you Brian! I also think it’s possible to transition into a full time art career. It is more difficult, but with modern technology, more selling outlets are available to us besides galleries.

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Candace February 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

Get ‘em, Brian!
I’m in your boat. I’ve got a partner of 7 years and a son from a previous marriage, and he just turned 10. Family life is extremely important to me too. I also work during the day full time because I have to be responsible. We’ve got a mortgage, student loans, car payments. Often times, my art sits on the back burner and waits. Exhaustion arises, dishes took longer than I thought, there is suddenly company over or a double-date planned.

While I’m not waiting for clouds to part or inspiration to hit like lighting, I can’t always hole up in my studio. And, if I happen across 30 minutes where I could, sometimes I’m too tired or forgot about the laundry or unfortunately am grumpy due to a bad day at the office. And then what? Make art while I’m irritable and have it show in my work? Sigh. While I feel like my artwork is neglected and therefore my heart is a little bit too, I apparently am sometimes seen as selfish for wanting to MAKE time to go off and illustrate instead. And how do you work around *that*?? Send a little of your motivation on over this way. ;)

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Dawn Sutherland February 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Chuck Close’s comments. I am told I’m a prolific painter. I spend almost every day in the studio or painting plein air; sometimes it’s 90 minutes, sometimes it’s 8 hours. Although it’s rare that I don’t have an image tugging at me to be painted, there are days when it’s just not happening. I paint anyway. And it is often surprising what happens when I push through these mini-slumps. Just a few weeks ago, nothing was moving me, so I took a number of reference photos I had of sunset-lit mesas and worked them up into four little 6″x8″ paintings. I framed them, hung them in a gallery just for fun and they sold within three days to a couple from China. In the meantime, one of the images developed “energy” and I felt like working it up into a larger piece. That has turned out well and will hang in a gallery soon. That’s what grows out of a little perseverance. Last July, another dearth of inspiration, so I forced myself to corral some tubes of paint that I no longer used. I worked up two paintings using that collection of forgotten, forsaken paint. That shook me out of my comfort zone and once again resulted in two pieces that have a whole different look.

The greatest challenge to productivity is all the other “stuff” that waits in the wings needing to be done. I need an apprentice or an administrative assistant. I keep up my own website, which is actually fun for me. However, errands to the framer, photographer, ordering supplies, all of that must be done, too. It causes me to carefully organize my time, but there are still things I’d like to do like applying to shows, or artist-in-residences that simply don’t happen.

I’ve learned a lot from you, Jason, regarding streamlining chores, email, websites, working with galleries, staying in contact with collectors, and effective publicity. You do, indeed, make the artist’s life much easier!

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Rosanne Troncoso Corpus February 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

Thanks for recounting your working experience in paragraph 1, you have inspired me! Do agree with you about how other things (errands, ordering supplies, and all else that must be done) cut into art/image production. For me, some projects drag on for weeks before “the other” things get done.

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Norman Nelson February 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm

My 90 year old mentor has pushed me to be decisive, paint carelessly carefully, don’t fiddle, just do it. So I approach the work with that in mind and I agree with this story if you start working things happen. I plan four and five ahead of time but I often just get one going that arises from something I just saw or an old sketch I found. My problem I’m productive
but I have a large pile and the marketing end it is getting tough. I have hired a young marketing person to get me on that path better. I’ve been painting not selling and not marketing to the extent needed. Im in a small market in Idaho so
sales are there but slim for everyone. Sometimes I wonder where I am going to store all this stuff. Then I bag that idea and start painting something new and exciting. It s funny I often wonder, do I need counseling!!!???

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Gregory Reade February 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I agree that production is important but I do question your numbers in sculpture- I don’t know of any of my colleagues that are producing 55 sculpted figurative or animal cast bronze sculptures per year. That’s more than 1 a week. Perhaps you are including direct creation sculpture such as fired clay, welding or other direct techniques to reach that average number?

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Mark Chapman February 18, 2014 at 9:47 pm

I would agree with Gregory in that I would like to know what numbers were averaged to come up with 55 originals/year for sculptors. What medium and what size originals? Just saying “sculptors” is like saying “fruit”. You might be thinking of cherries while I am thinking of watermellons.

The message of get in to the studio and get busy is the right message. Creativity feeds on itself.

Chuck Close’s solioquy about inspiration is right on too. I have so many ideas I will never sculpt them all, even if I was capable of 55 originals /year. Each sculpture I make makes me want to do 10 more.

My Grandma put out a painting every 3 days all her adult life and taught art classes on top of that so the painters numbers look reasonable to me.

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Judy Dunn March 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

I don’t know about the painting numbers either, without qualification. It is one thing to paint a smallish painting, and quite another to paint large paintings. Most of my paintings are 36″ x 48″, and they will frequently take close to a month to complete. This past month I experimented with some smaller paintings (8×8, 8×16, and 16 x 16), and I finished 5. I am not in the studio everyday, because family health issues limit my time right now. But, give me a few open hours, and that is where I will be. I usually get at least one full day a week in the studio, and aim for at least two full days. Over the summer, it was 4 or 5, and that was glorious! But, for now, I will take what I can get. When I get to the studio, I give myself permission to do a lousy painting. As long as I show up and paint, it is good. And BTW, they seldom come out lousy, just because I gave myself that permission! It is just away to get over any resistance to starting.

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kat corrigan February 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm

When my son was born in 2009 I knew I needed to get serious if I really wanted to call myself an artist, so I scheduled my time for painting. I was also lucky enough to meet and be inspired by a couple other women artists, Clare Hartmann in NC who had just completed her “100 Dogs in 100 Days” series when I met her, and Carol Marine who has a Daily Paint Works site and inspires people all over the world to paint one small painting every day. What has really helped me get moving is to commit to a daily painting project that I then post to my blog so I know a wider audience is watching me. I am just getting started on my “30 Cats in 30 Days” March 2014 project, seeking photos of cats to paint every day. The crazy wonderful thing is that now that I am painting so often, I have my “paint muscles” fully exercised and ready to go, so painting larger paintings feels fantastic!
Oh and I am an art teacher and the wager earner for my family, and selling my art has made us very happy this past year!

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Rosanne Troncoso Corpus February 21, 2014 at 11:28 am

More great inspiration! Thanks for sharing. Good luck to you!

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Claudia L Brookes February 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I saw some your work, Kat, on Daily PaintWorks–very nice. I did a very similar project last year–starting 10/1/13 and ending 1/8/14–my “100 Paintings in 100 Days.” I got a really nice following by posting on Daily PaintWorks every day, and also on my Facebook pages. Announcing to my world in advance that I was going to do the project also helped keep me on track. The best part was, as you say, your “paint muscles” get exercised and you build a daily painting habit. Mine were all 6×6′s–a few took almost 3 hours, but if i only had 40 minutes that day, I somehow got a quality painting done. I set myself techniques to master and even evolved some new ones I have never seen described. The long project gave me the luxury of working in “mini-series,” so I could keep working on what I didn’t know how to do. More than half of the paintings have sold, so it was a lucrative experiment, as well.

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Joyce Wynes February 18, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I don’t really ever wait for a great idea. I feed off of each canvas I paint. That is where I get my ideas. I just start to paint and what comes up, comes up. When it is finished I find that I have some ideas of what I want to try in the next painting but they aren’t set in concrete. That is how I feel the most creative. Little planning (other than most of the color scheme) and then just going with the flow. It works for me.

When I was creating professional illustrations, I used to have to do sketches for the client but I have to tell you they were very simple because my best work comes in the process of the actual painting. Now that I am painting as a fine artist, I find that I don’t even do a simple sketch. For many years, with a growing family, I sketched in my head while I was grocery shopping or doing other chores. And maybe I still do that but it has become such a habit that I am not aware of it. It works for me and my creative abilities.

I have to agree with Chuck Close. Every time I just sit and try to come up with an idea it just doesn’t work for me-it goes nowhere. And I am much more productive when I use the process that is most comfortable for me. I make a goal of 1 painting every week or 1-1/2 weeks so that I can count on approximately 50 paintings/year. This year I am going to try to have several paintings going at a time and see how that increases my production. And I found that it takes me almost as much time to do a small painting as a large one so I have gone large now that the economy is mending. For me it is a process and I learn and grow as I go along.

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Lori Woodward February 18, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I totally agree with Chuck’s conclusions. Ideas form while in the midst of work. One of my mentors said that it’s hard to steer a car if your foot isn’t on the gas petal,

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Damon Pla February 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm

I, too, struggle with time in the studio as my wife and I have two kids (ages 4 & 9)…but I can’t give it up. Painting is something I know in my heart that I was put on this planet to do. Finding time to get in the studio while kids scream and run around outside my door is tough. It sometimes plays on my patience…but, what connects me to the experience is thinking of this life from their perspective. Having a dad that is an artist with a studio and co-owns a gallery must be fantastic in their eyes. I think of the way they perceive our life when we have a reception at the gallery or when my studio door is open and they magnetically find themselves in the studio getting in to something creative. They are truly happy with this art world I have created around them.

So, as I try to better myself everyday in the business of being an artist, I can’t help but think that I am still “living the dream.”

Thanks Jason for another great post.

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Roxanne Steed February 18, 2014 at 10:55 pm

He’s absolutely right! My best ideas come in the middle of my current painting…so I’m always ready & anxious to start the “next great idea”. And when I’m not painting..my brain is thinking of getting back to my easel and how I’ll approach that very next thing. The more prolific you are, the more the ideas will flow. Don’t be afraid of the ‘unsuccessful’ paintings….they are the springboard for the successful ones (which come more frequently the more you paint).

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Stephen Hall February 19, 2014 at 12:15 am

I don’t wait for inspiration to begin painting. Generally, inspiration comes to me when I’m deeply involved in some other project. I stop and take a moment to sketch it — usually less than 12 strokes — with minimal notation. When I work, I keep a stack of letterhead paper folded in half for this purpose. It gives me the option of a vertical or horizontal composition. Plus, it gives me four surfaces to alter the idea as new thoughts occur. The sketch/inspiration then goes into my 30″ x 40″ flat file cabinet for the future. When I’m ready to paint, I go to the cabinet and pick one. As of today I have 316 inspired sketches, each of which could be a significant work of art for me.

My work always begins with an inspired idea from my sketch file. I don’t agree with Chuck Close that “all the best ideas come out of the process.” I do agree with him that the idea can be changed and improved by the process, or that it can even “push you [the idea] in another direction.” Inspiration and productivity go hand in hand for great art. You don’t have to wait for inspiration to begin painting, you collect it.

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Patricia J Finley February 19, 2014 at 5:44 am

I agree with Chuck Close and those who commented that we cannot just wait for the muse to strike. We must get into the studio and I do that. Pretty much. Usually.
Sometimes life gets away from me, though. I have elderly parents who live in the midwest, it may be my turn to fix dinner, someone has to get art supplies, someone has to deliver my art and chat up the client and then there is the inevitable daily marketing.
But generally, creating first thing in the morning works for me.
Thanks, Jason, for yet another reminder (with statistics, no less!) that we MUST work at our Art!

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Jillian Barber February 19, 2014 at 6:58 am

Years ago while walking my borzoi along the cliffs of Jamestown, I had a chance encounter with a man from town. He asked how my work was coming and I grumbled that I was stuck and uninspired. What he said next has always stayed with me. He said “Just let your hands do the work…go back into the studio. Your hands know what to do.”
And so I did.

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Jane Wilcoxson February 19, 2014 at 7:17 am

Yes, productivity and inspiration come out of the process. There are times when I have about six or seven paintings on the go, they will be at different stages and sit around my studio waiting their turn to be worked on. My art is created using oil pastel which needs time for the layers to cure and harden which forces me to have multiple pieces going. This process can’t be rushed. Each new layer is skimmed across the surface so that the colors from previous layers show through which means long hours working in the studio and lots of patience. I’ve been trying to figure out how I can change my style to speed things up without destroying the integrity of my work. I envy folks who work in mediums that are quicker. But thats they way it is with us artist.

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Jeni Gray February 19, 2014 at 7:38 am

Well until yesterday I thought I was a “waiting on inspiration” artist, but I made myself get into the studio and just do “something” . I found myself cleaning and then it hit me – an idea that moved me forward on two pieces I had been working on.
So perhaps for those of us who do struggle with inspiration, maybe all we need to do is just get in the studio first.

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Michele Chapin February 19, 2014 at 7:53 am

It was well put to be by some good friends who were successful …..One emailed me a time card and told me to fill it out for a month and see how much time I actually spent in the studio creating……I created 5 pieces in the mode of rebellion to the concept…but I made me aware of how important that was…..setting goals to get things done during each session is huge for me…..also working in blocks of time when the natural light is best increased my productivity simply because it is enhanced by being able to see…..the other friend challenged me to the concept of doubling my inventory…..so I roughed out 30 pieces…….he also encouraged me to change up the sizes and colors to make them easier to ship and display in peoples homes….unfortunately making smaller stone sculptures can often be more time consuming because they require detail carving that doesn’t translate into dollars for the size….But in the end ….Chasing Beauty is Paramont

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Roxanne Steed February 19, 2014 at 8:52 am

This blog post really stayed with me – it’s funny how our ideas unfold; here’s a follow-up in my blog this morning- on productivity & creativity, cross-country skiing, snow ice-cream…and um…..growing antlers! http://roxannesteed.blogspot.com/2014/02/where-do-your-creative-ideas-come-from.html

Thanks for the continued inspiration Jason!

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Lawrence Baker February 19, 2014 at 9:54 am

I recently had a book printed. The title of the book is Middle Passage: The Artistic Life of Lawrence Baker. The author is Louis B. Burroughs. My objective is to get the book on the reading list for Fine Arts Students in every university throughout the United States. I think the book would be very pertinent for Afro-American Universities. I am Afro-American. I also believe the book would be an asset for the museum book stores throughout the United States. Maybe some of universities and local museums might be interested in solo exhibitions and an art book talk. At this point, my emphasis in landscape drawing. My current medium is graphite.
Thank you,
Lawrence Baker M.F.A.

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Patrice February 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

I find that my only issue in getting a great deal of paintings out of myself is not inspiration or ideas but getting the quality I must have in my painting come forward quicker than it does. Painting ideas come through while I am painting a painting, and sometimes two or three painting ideas surface in my minds eye. I just need each painting to bring forth the desired perfection that I intended originally. I must admit though, while I am painting the painting, the thought comes to me to get the viewer to feel a particular part of the painting that I have discovered in my process, which could take longer. There is my daily issue!

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Kellee February 19, 2014 at 10:32 am

This is one of my absolute favorite artist’s quotes. For so long I would wait for inspiration to strike and be left with nothing…then I read this and ever since then, have always just rolled up my sleeves a gotten to work. Eventually something happens, but not if I wait for it! Thanks for sharing this and reminding me again!

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Will L. Eskridge February 19, 2014 at 11:31 am

I have just recently come to this realization and this post and Close’s quote are serendipitous for me. Thank you for reaffirming what has been banging around in my head this year. I have a never-before-set, yet reasonable goal of 52 paintings this year. Of course I plan on pushing myself double this amount. :)

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John February 19, 2014 at 5:57 pm

How can I motivate the artists in my gallery to produce more of their quality work and give their display space a fresh look. Some only change out 2-3 tims a year…old stuff people havealready seen is a turn off.

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Phyllis Terrell February 20, 2014 at 9:46 am

Thank you, Jason, for getting me motivated again. A lot of good things have been happening with my art lately, but I needed that motivation again to set goals for this year and maybe just let my website go unfinished and paint. Thanks for your blog.
Phyllis Terrell

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Pamela Wamala February 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Thank you Jason –
this is wonderfully helpful information!

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Nicole Royer February 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I am in a position where I want to keep creating but have run out of space. I can’t seem to sell faster than I work. My paintings are selling more and more each year but I need some advice how to get more work into buyers hands and out of my studio/gallery. Any ideas? I had a Clear the Studio sale and it was a success. The “problem” is only making sales to people I know and feeling guilty. Should I try it again? Any other ideas?

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Mary Iselin February 22, 2014 at 9:09 am

To paraphrase the artist Ian Roberts, from his book “Creative Authenticity,” inspiration is a gift, an act of grace. But it is our job as artists to be standing there in front of an easel with a loaded paintbrush in our hand when that gift of grace comes through! In other words, just paint. It won’t all be great, but at least you’ll be there when it is!

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Carole Belliveau February 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

John, let them know that there are hundreds of us just behind them waiting for the opportunity they already have….I suspect they will produce

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julie ford oliver February 27, 2014 at 6:43 am

Great quote I agree. As an illustrator for many years I had to produce what the art director fed me. When I turned to fine art , those years of discipline easily translated into a daily work habit of being in the studio. Being creative and establishing my own voice in my art has been the hardest part. The High Quality I visualize is something I cannot always achieve. Elusive – even with daily painting work ethic. Never boring for sure.

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Dale Morris February 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

The quote from Chuck Close hits it on the nail for me. Ya gotta make those happy accidents occur on a regular basis.

Thanks for the post! Now it’s off to work I go.

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Tina Folks March 3, 2014 at 7:38 pm

It’s interesting, the set number of pieces produced annually by 3 different kinds of artists.. I will use this advice b/c when you know you have the inventory (b/c you’re actively working) you feel ready to pursue more opportunities as they present themselves! This cycle feeds itself. Also I really appreciated Chuck Close’s insight that often times as you’re working through an idea, even though you may hate the piece you’re trying to finish, accidental things come out of it that lead you somewhere. This has happened to me many times. I make totemic figures in clay. When I say to myself, “Tina you have nothing to loose, just finish this piece even though you hate it”. I’ll work to finish it and because I “don’t care” I’m less hung up and I take thoughtless chances! It gets me out of my own way of over thinking about the design. I can come in the next morning sometimes and actually say “wow this is really not so bad, I like the new way I made these arms. ” for example. And b/c I had the discipline to finish it I feel like I can move forward having learned something. Chuck Close is right. Inspiration doesn’t always come on its own, a lot of times you get it out of the process of making work.

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Andrew March 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I agree that inventory is important. I have two shows going at a time with 12 to 15 pieces each. When I get into that inevitable slump/plateau where nothing looks good, I go outdoors and live a little. I paint en plein air. Often they aren’t any good as a painting, but it helps (I’m a landscape painter). And in the studio I paint small. 8×10, 8×8, whatever. I just paint. Most of it goes into the garbage, but eventually, between the plein air stuff, being outdoors and living, and painting even when I know it’s just junk something comes out of it that becomes a painting idea. And then I paint it. And if I screw up I paint it again. That seems to be the way my good paintings come to life. Doing this, I’ve had several really good shows in the last 6 months that basically made my year. I’ve also had some months where I feel like getting a job. No sales. But I keep reminding myself that this is what I do. I’m an artist. And it’s worth it.

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Margaret Munz-losch April 7, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I can’t imagine doing that many works in a year. I am working in my studio 6to 10 hours a day 6 days a week.
Quality is everything although the nature of my work won’t permit quantity.
I am envious of those who can pump it out.Chuck Close is absolutely correct about inspiration. However it comes at other times as well while doing mindless tasks. Good to always keep a notepad at hand.

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Christopher Irwin May 16, 2014 at 9:03 am

I’m now familiar with your work. The insane detail and use of colored pencil would explain the long hours you speak of.
Your inspirations are the curious part. A girl made of maggots? It’s all so terribly interesting and perplexing.
Bravo

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LaMerle Deca April 19, 2014 at 4:15 pm

This is a wonderful piece of advice. I am going to put this in my studio for all to see.

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JUAN CARLOS RUEDA April 25, 2014 at 12:20 pm

It’s eye opening to read all the different opinions of many artists to realize that your process is not unique and every artist at some point faces all the same challenges and doubts. Mine are The lack of time for having two other “regular ” jobs to be able to work on my art and sitting and waiting for the next it idea or inspiration . Reading and analyzing all the comments of other artists in my same situation has clarified a lot. I want to be a successful SELLING artist. Period. Thanks a lot for this venue.

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Corey Habbas June 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm

This was a very helpful article for me because of the statistics. It is helpful to have a number to aim for now. Since I am primarily a painter, and to now have that approximately 80 paintings that I can aim for will help me focus and also find ways and methods to produce but to maintain quality at the same time. Thank you for another great article!

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Roopa Dudley July 25, 2014 at 10:35 pm

“My research has shown that, on average, successful painters are creating nearly 80 pieces per year.” Yes, to produce low quality work perhaps or doing work that we call “Minimalist” or “Abstract Drip Painting” kind of stuff. Sure, there is a market for such works and yes it can be done. Damien Hirst is the prime living example of such art and is the riches living artist the world has ever seen.

I disagree with that “80 pieces per year” statement you made. That means that most successful artists according to your estimation make over 5000 pieces in 40 to 50 year life span as artists. I think NOT.

According to Google “Picasso was exceptionally prolific throughout his long lifetime. The total number of artworks he produced has been estimated at 50,000, comprising 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.” And that was Picasso and he holds a world record for being the most prolific artist over 75 year span. Much of his work is poor in quality and plain horrific (In my opinion of course).

Also according to Google, Salvador Dali on the other hand is said to have produced approx. 1500 paintings. Vincent Van Gogh painted 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches in his lifetime. Georgia O’Keeffe painted 2,029 in her lifetime. These are the dedicated Computer free, TV free, Marketing free and Children free artists (Picasso hardly spent much family time and we all know that) here who had nothing but time to paint and pursue their passion.

Quality paintings take time to create. The larger the size, more detailed and meticulous the style, the longer it takes to finish it. At least that is so in my case. I am of course not counting the drawings I create before even embarking on a painting project — most go straight to the trash can till I get the composition and design just right. I am surprised if one of my paintings is completed in a week. I average about two a month and I don’t have inspiration issues either.

Bottom Line: Every artist has his/her own time frame to produce the best quality art that they can averaging out to 10 to 35 pieces a year. I have seen the works of few artists who may only produce five paintings in a year but those works are simply remarkable and are sold in $$$$ galleries. You do get what you pay for. It is more than quantity issue to be truly successful — quality, context, content, awards, name recognition and being published in magazines etc. all count and that makes an impact in an artist’s career.

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