Your Art Is Not For Everyone

Dan Schultz

Your art is not for everyone. And that’s ok.
Many times as I’m working in my studio / gallery, I leave the front door standing open to welcome visitors. People passing by don’t always know that I can hear them talking. Many don’t hesitate to voice their opinions about my artwork displayed in the front window.

Thankfully, the majority say encouraging things like, “These are beautiful paintings!” Or, “This artist is so good at capturing the light.” But I also hear comments that are….less encouraging.

One recent example.

A passing lady stopped and pointed at one of my smaller paintings. She blurted out to her friends, “This drives me crazy! I could paint that in five minutes! I can’t believe he charges $500!”

I came very close to popping out the door and inviting her to my easel for 5 minutes.

When I posted the experience on Facebook, comments from artist friends came flooding in. It seemed to strike a nerve — many artists have had similar experiences as people viewed their work.

Why is this? Why doesn’t everyone like our art? If we keep working really hard can we get everyone to like what we do?

Let’s imagine that from my gallery walls I took down all of my own artwork and replaced it with original paintings by Rembrandt. Or Velazquez. Or Sargent. Or Picasso. Or _____ (insert your favorite artist’s name). So my gallery walls are now filled with that artist’s work. Perhaps this particular artist is/was the most technically skilled the world has ever seen. Would every visitor to the gallery like the work? Assuming the price was affordable, would everyone buy one? I think the answer to both of those questions is no.

You might be thinking that all of this is obvious. It’s common knowledge that art is subjective. But I think we can sometimes behave as if everyone should like our work. Many artists fail to realize the fact that no matter how good you are, your art is not for everyone. Not everyone is going to like it. 

I don’t say this to be discouraging. I say it because I believe that once you make this realization, it can give you freedom to ignore that voice that wants you to try to please everyone. It can keep you from feeling hurt when that prestigious show didn’t accept your entry. It can stop feelings of jealousy when so-and-so’s work is selling like fidget spinners (I have little boys at home) and yours is overlooked. It can keep you focused on making the art that YOU want to make.

The amazing thing — and I regularly thank God for this — is that there ARE people out there who will like my work. And there are people who will like yours. Let’s keep our focus on continuing to improve our individual artistic skills, while educating those around us on all the work that goes into creating the art we create.

Then it won’t matter if someone claims they can paint your painting in five minutes. You’ll be free to keep on creating as you always do, knowing that a new collector of your work could show up at any moment.

Apply Your New Knowledge