Persistence | How We Overcame the Odds and Critical Challenges to Build a Successful Art Business

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had several conversations with artists who were feeling despondent about their business prospects. Though each had a different set of specific challenges, the general sentiment could be summed up in this blog post comment:

It seems like there are a 1000 artists for every buyer and that you need to know the secret password or have a key to the clubhouse to reach the few collectors that there are. Would love gallery representation but they are few and far between especially when you live 120 miles from the nearest big city. I have read Jason’s book and I follow his posts but I still feel I need the secret formula to get on the inside. How does an artist keep from getting discouraged and continue to keep striving for that larger audience?

Phil

I suspect that with a little reflection and self-honesty we can all identify with Phil at some level. It often seems like things just won’t go our direction.

I can understand Phil’s sentiment on several levels. First, I work with many artists who are right in the thick of the struggle. They’re working extremely hard to create great art and to find buyers, but just aren’t generating the sales they need to in order to make their business profitable.

More importantly, though, I can empathize with Phil because I’ve been in the same position myself with my business. Without boring you with too many details, let me briefly share some of the struggles my wife Carrie and I have faced as we worked to turn Xanadu Gallery into a successful business.

Many of you already know the basic outlines of my story after having followed the blog or having read my book, but let me begin by hitting the highlights of our story.

I’ve been in the gallery business for over 20 years. I began by working in a large, western art gallery in Scottsdale while still a teenager. I literally started at the bottom of the business, working in the backroom of the gallery shipping and installing art, and running errands for the owner of the gallery. Over the years, I worked my way up to a sales position.

Carie and I just after opening the gallery. Young, hopeful, more than a bit naive, and with far less grey hair!
Carie and I just after opening the gallery. Young, hopeful, more than a bit naive, and with far less grey hair!

After I married Carrie, we decided that we wanted to have our own gallery. Part of this desire was that we had a great love for art and wanted to try our hand at showing work that was a little different from the other art being shown in Arizona.

We also thought that there was the potential to make a good income for our growing family. I started in the business in the mid 1990’s when there was a huge boom in the art market. The dot-com millionaires were buying a lot of art, as were the oil barons and business executives. It seemed like all one had to do was put up a sign, hang some art on the wall and start reaping the profits.

Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t great. We opened our gallery on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, and at literally the same moment, the world fell apart. Not only was that fateful day in the fall of 2001 the dawn of the war on terror, it roughly coincided with the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The easy money in the art business dried up, and the party was over. Just as we were opening, many galleries closed.

Starting any business is incredibly hard, but in the ten years after we opened, we also faced the advent of artists selling directly to customers on the internet, and the largest financial crisis of the last 70 years. Just thinking about it as I write this makes me feel weary!

It would be easy to say “but we survived – all you have to do is hang on!” but saying that would be glossing over the huge sacrifices we had to make and the struggles that we faced.

These struggles and sacrifices are far enough in the past now that I feel I can share a few of them without suffering a mental breakdown. I want to share the struggles, but also what I learned from them in the hopes that it might help you with whatever challenges you are currently facing.

Do Whatever it Takes to Make it Through

As we struggled to get Xanadu Gallery off the ground, we built great relationships with art buyers and collectors and had some great sales. Unfortunately, in the beginning, the sales were sporadic. For the first few years it seemed as if no matter how hard we worked and how many sales we generated, our expenses outpaced our revenue. We quickly burned through our meager savings, racked up credit card debt and took out home equity and bank loans. We borrowed money from family members across the continent.

We thought that if we just kept at it, eventually we would get over the break-even point and start to realize a profit. As the years went on, however, it seemed as if the hole was only getting deeper. We were in a slow spiral where debt was paying for debt.

At one point during those years, my truck’s transmission went out. There was simply no way to pay for the repairs. So, I rode the city bus to get to the gallery. I had hoped that this would be a temporary situation, and it was; I only rode the bus every day for three years! I would have to rent a U-Haul or borrow a vehicle to deliver art to clients.

We sold our house to pay for debts and rented a tiny house for our growing family.

At one point, I took a part-time job working from 5 am to 9:30 am, after which, I would rush to the gallery on the bus to work all day, and often into the evening. That part-time job was the only way I could put food on the table.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that much of what we did in our personal lives in those early years was done out of desperation. But we did what we had to do to survive, and we did survive.

You Have to Believe, Even if Believing Makes Absolutely No Sense

DSC_1671So why did we stick with it? You can believe me that there were many moments during those hard years that I stopped and asked myself if it was all worth it. Every time I asked that question, however, somewhere deep down inside the answer would come. “Yes.”

I believed to my core that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I love owning a gallery. I love working with art lovers and helping artists make their dreams come true. I was never able to imagine myself doing anything else, and so, in spite of the fact that it made absolutely no sense to do so, we kept at it.

Make a Plan

As we worked through the years to build our business, we were always trying to do something new. We always had a plan in the works. We mapped out marketing strategies, we created show schedules, outlines and benchmarks, and we came up with client interaction scripts. I can’t think of any phase of our business where I was just headed into the gallery to sit at my desk and wait for someone to come in the front door, and I still don’t. I have found it incredibly powerful to create a roadmap and then pursue the plan with every ounce of energy I have.

You Have to Work Beyond the Point of Exhaustion

I will sometimes chuckle when I hear a friend complain about an arduous week at the office that required hours of overtime. As a small business owner I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with myself if I were only working a 40 hour week. I have found myself in the gallery hanging a show at 2 0’clock in the morning, and I’ve worked 65 day stretches without taking a day off. In fact, even when I’m not in the gallery, I’m almost always working.

I suspect you feel the same way as an artist, but, tell the truth, can you imagine doing anything else?

Remember, no Matter how Bad it is, it Can Always Get Worse . . .

There were many times along the way that I thought to myself, “this is it, it can’t possibly get any worse than this.” And then it would. I guess that through many of the trials, my belief kept me going, but after a while I simply became numb to the tribulations that seemed to keep piling on.

And there was something deeply liberating about knowing that however bad it got, and even as it went from bad to worse, we could keep going. At some point misfortune no longer holds any power over you.

You also realize:

However Bad it is, It’s not as Bad as You Think it is, And it Will Get Better

DSC_1665At one point, just after the stock market crashed, I looked over our financial situation and realized that things had reached a critical stage. We were behind on our gallery and home rent and bills. Sales had dropped off a cliff with all the news of banks collapsing and impending fiscal crisis. We now had four children ages 8, 5, 2, and 1. I admit it, I flinched, and I realized I better look at the alternatives.

I sat down with a bankruptcy attorney and gave him all the gory details of our financial situation. As I finished explaining, I sat back and expected the attorney to shake his head and tell me what an amazingly awful situation I was in, and how I should be ashamed of myself for making such a mess of things.

Instead, I remember him looking down at my balance sheet and asking, “Has anyone sued you?”

“Well, no,” I said.

“Is your landlord threatening to evict you?”

“No, not yet.”

“Well,” he said, “if I were you I would keep doing what you’re doing. Keep in touch with all of your creditors to let them know what’s happening, and just keep at it!”

This was not the conversation I had been expecting. I’m not sure if he looked across the table and saw something in my eyes that told him I would succeed, or if he looked over my balance sheet and realized there was no money for attorney’s fees, but I would rather believe the former.

I did exactly what he advised, and was able to renegotiate our lease and obtain forbearance from our other creditors.

Walking up to the door of that attorney’s office has to be one of the low points of my life, and yet, within a few short years of that encounter, everything had turned around. Sales picked back up, and we were finally in a position to make a real profit. Things have only improved since then, and, I believe, having passed through all of these difficulties made us both smarter and wiser.

Faith

Finally, I’ve learned that it’s incredibly helpful to feel that, at some level, your success is out of your own hands. I’m never one to mix business and religion, and I don’t care if you believe in an almighty creator, in fate, chaos, or karma, but there are going to be times when you flat out need a miracle or two.

Conclusion

GallerySquareAnd so, going back to the question Phil asked in the beginning of this post, is there a secret formula or magic word that brings success? If there is, I’ve never been lucky enough to find it! There’s nothing easy about the business, and there aren’t any shortcuts.

Of course, in a post like this I can really only scratch the surface of what the last fifteen years have taught me. But I hope this gives you a glimpse of what I’ve found it takes to make it.

Can I promise if you do everything I did that you will succeed? Absolutely not. Failure is not only possible, but even likely whenever you set out to pursue a dream. At no point was our success guaranteed, and for that matter, it still isn’t. I can only hope that 50 years from now I’ll be in a position to write another post like this – and I suspect I’ve only begun to learn the lessons that are still ahead – but what an awesome journey!

Acknowledgements

I would be ungrateful if, after writing a post like this, I didn’t acknowledge the amazing support I have received from everyone in my life.

First, I can’t express enough gratitude for my wife Carrie through all of these years. She has made incredible sacrifices, beyond what a mere mortal could withstand, and has remained a faithful and loving partner.

I would also like to thank my parents, and especially my mother, who stepped in as my gallery director during the financial crisis and worked without pay for a year, and then stayed on and has become an incredible asset to the business. If you’ve had the fortune to meet her, you’ve undoubtedly gotten a sense of her dedication and enthusiasm.

I also thank Carrie’s parents, who have not only been a source of financial help, but also incredible moral support.

I also have to thank the amazing collectors who’ve caught Xanadu’s vision, and the artists who have crafted amazing art that captures the imagination and the heart.

What do you Think?

If you are an artist who has found success through persistence, what advice would you give an artist who is struggling? What have you done that has helped you weather the storms and build a successful career?

If you are an artist who is struggling, what helps you get through the daily struggle?

Tell your story, or share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

Learn more and order today.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

43 Comments

  1. Having met you and visited your gallery I am not surprised at your success. Your gallery is beautiful with a great collection of art. One of the best in Scottsdale. It is a tribute to your dedication and hard work. Sounds a little sappy but it is true. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  2. I work to please myself, just as I did when I was a child. Gaining praise from my parents was as far as working for external gain went. Making art is my own self-development tool. Making art to lay something on for some fickle public or demanding curator is pure madness so far as i can see. I seek to share it with others later, as that’s a logical development, but I have to do that in my own way. If at the end of the day my unfortunate family have a pile of junk in front of them to throw into a skip then that’s how it has to be. At least I’ll have died happy.

  3. Yes, the struggle ebbs and flows, but i keep moving forward, whether it’s changing pieces i gave hanging in various venues ( to make me feel better); doing little shows, or upping my presence on social media. my dad always said to keep going. Sometimes it means reusing canvases, and sometimes it means getting products on sale…but the bottom line is keeping the faith and developing my art, to eventually attract more and more collectors. Overall so far so good! (still married, hahaha!)

  4. For me, constantly learning has been the key. And resilience. And for the most part multiple streams of income. Self published prints promoted originals and originals promoted prints. When I had a haemorrhage in one eye five years ago and couldn’t paint for a while I started an online art instruction blog. And taught workshops. Then experimented with looser and quicker styles of painting. My customer base embraced both styles and I enjoy both. I’ve also found that though no attempts at marketing seem to work, everything works at some level. It all adds up. 41 years of making a living as an artist have to count for something!

    1. Thank you for sharing Adeline Halvorson, I’m just starting out and looking for ideas to create multiple streams of income with my artwork. I am an art instructor, have been teaching since 2006 and really love it. I like the idea of an online art instruction blog. I’m also thinking about writing inspirational books where I could use my art images and text. With technological advances, the world market is more accessible now. Recently I was introduced to e-commerce. There seems to be a lot of opportunities to use artwork for mass merchandising in jewelry, accessories, and clothing. (Checkout Fine Art of America). Your looser and quicker styles of painting would be great for this market. Just a thought, Blessings!

  5. I have been a co owner of an art studio in which we went through many of those same struggles. This, however, is my first time to endeavor to market solely my own work. I am frightened and exhilarated at the same time. Now that my children are grown and have families of their own I don’t have that pressure, at least.
    Thank you so much for these most valuable posts!

  6. I’ve re-dedicated my life to my artistry for the past five years now. Amazing things have happened. I have been scared and wondered if things would work out, but it does. My business keeps growing and amazing things occur. I too, feel I am doing what I was put on earth to do. I will keep at and enjoy the ride. I really enjoy these articles and learn a lot from them.

  7. Years ago, when I quit working for an abusive boss and decided to set up my own consulting company, I spoke to a very well-off consultant to ask him if he thought I could get enough business to live on. He told me something that I still hold onto as I try to sell my paintings and other art. “You have to believe in yourself more than you believe the sun will rise in the morning.”
    I’m still believing, even on cloudy days!

  8. I’ve been a professional, selling artist since 1991, so I know the roller coaster ride you’ve been on! I’ve been on that ride! My husband and I tried to open a gallery in September of 2008, right before the crash! It has been really hard to keep going after I started in the 90s when art sales were GREAT! It seems like I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to get back to that place. Though our gallery closed in 2010, we switched our focus to renting studios to bands and musicians, we figured it out and our business is still going strong. As for my art career, it feels like it’s on the upswing, after changing my art style in the early 2000’s. Persistence is the key, everything you said is right on! I can’t imagine doing anything else, I’m an artist deep down in my heart and soul! Thanks for this post, I really needed the reminder to keep at it!

  9. As an Artist I can relate to your struggles Jason! It has been so difficult for me but less difficult than trying to survive not being an Artist! I am an Artist & I will continue to struggle for as long as it takes because I just can’t function doing anything else…

  10. Jason, thank you for this a very moving, personal blog…I think your sincerity and generosity combined with your persistence make you successful on more than a business level

  11. Hi Jason, thank you for your honesty. My dad built his business from home while I grew up. We experienced similar situations to the ones you describe in the article. For the most part you need to be stubborn to survive and keep at it till you see light at the end of the tunnel. Now I’m there as an artist myself – persevering and feeling encouraged after having read your article. Kind regards, Lana

  12. It has been an absolutely horrible couple of months. One of the places I sell online basically screwed me over because someone else used my account to fraudulently by stuff. So I disputed it. When I did the company locked me out of my seller account with items that still need to be shipped and no way to access them. So one of my dependable streams of income is currently shut off while I dispute it. Add to that a book contract I signed for a fiction novel I had in the works well before I started doing art full time. I’ve had to completely rewrite the novel and have hated every minute of it. I wish I’d never signed the contract but I have to finish what I started. I know eventually these dark clouds will pass but it seems like they are going to last forever. I have never ever felt this discouraged before and have considered walking away from art. The thing is, I know I won’t be able to turn off the creativity. I am trying to sell art in a small town. It is so hard but I have been learning from your posts. You are a mentor to me. I am working here in town w/ a new start up coop gallery which is starting their second year. I am helping with their publicity which is crucial for our success. I’ve questioned if it is worth the involvement. Art is my passion and my heart beat. Your article is just what I needed to read in order to dig in and keep going.

  13. Jason,

    what an incredible candid story. I can imagine what hearing from artists sometimes must feel like – like we are not in it for the long run. And I suspect that is true for most entrepreneurs of every kind.

    Just as we were driving to a show opening yesterday, in our s**tty car in scorching heat with no air conditioning, I realized “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

    That´s a liberating though when you chew on it.

    Steven Pressfield, the famous American novelist, wrote: “The Marines didn´t make into a blood thirsty machine. Instead, they did something much more valuable to me, something I came to appreciate when I stopped dodging my destiny and became a writer later in my life. They taught me how to be miserable. As an artist you are going to dine on a steady diet of rejection, ridicule and failure.”

    Pressfield then goes on to detail how the Marines pride themselves in being miserable and having crappier equipment than other military. This book, “WAR OF ART”, and its sequel “GOING PRO” is like a Bible and highly recommended for every entrepreneur and artist.

    When you approach it as a war, when you know giving up means death and oblivion, then you know the true name of the game you are in.

    We drove the same car today in the same scorching heat to meet a client to deliver a commission. It turns out people like our client, who chose business over art when growing up, are not, at the same age, facing doubts about their decision. They muse they might have been happier in a life of misery driving a car with no air conditioning in 40*C.

    Me and my art partner we were both famous and middle class rich in the past, before we signed up for this mission. We went though the process of selling every personal item in the house that had value to it, and then the house itself. Petr Jedinak at one point had his camera and gear stolen and had to put out an auction among friends to raise money for a new camera, so that he could continue to work.

    Turns out the thief felt so bad about what they have done, they secretly returned the camera. We found it a year later, stashed in the studio, and sold it. It was a tidy sum and it helped to sustain us for some time. There is an element of FAITH to it all, something that I can attest to, as we have seen more than a few such miracles in our art life.

    “They say only believe what you see – it´s the other way round. First, believe and then you will see.”

  14. What a beautiful story of Belief, Perseverence, Sacrifice, Deducation and Support from those that have come your way. These stories are what keep me believing that a miracle or two can happen to make ones dreams come true – especially those that deep down you keep hearing a “YES” to. Let us keep our eyes and ears open doing the best we can to keep going.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story, Jason. You already had my respect, but it has deepened, after reading about your struggles to get to this point. At one low point in my life when my children were very young, I called my dad and asked him, “Dad, if you were in the middle of the ocean and you saw a storm coming, what would you do?” He answered, “I’d turn my ship towards the storm, batten down the hatches, put my head between my knees and cry like a baby.” He added the last part with a laugh, not knowing the struggle with which I was confronted (career change and finances). I took what he said to heart and realized that the best way to deal with any problem or sorrow is to go right through the middle of it, facing it. His words were wise, and were the last advice he gave me, before he passed away. Those words have bouyed me through many storms.

  16. I have only been at it full time for 2 years now. I did my research and have fully prepared myself for rejection and failure so it’ is included in my equation. I certainly have had some of that by now but because I expect it it doesn’t have an impact on my productivity or motivation really. I know this is a hard gig so I figure just work it into my plan. So far so good.

  17. Thank you for your heart felt story of your struggles to survive, you are very inspiring to me, and many that come here. Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest about what makes you unique in the art world, and what kept you going. TRULY, BELIEF in ourselves and what we LOVE to do opens all kinds of doors. I love hearing you tell your story of your adamant WILL to SUCCEED. Your gallery is so beautiful, and your DEDICATION to making it work is deeply inspiring. Your integrity, sincerity and honesty really shines underneath all your sincere efforts to create and sustain the work you LOVE to do. Yes, it takes determination, drive, visualizations and perseverance to succeed in what you love. Very inspiring for us. Thank you so much for sharing all of your challenges here. Your kindness really comes across.

    I have been an artist and an art teacher since grade school. Yes, I taught fellow students how to draw when still a child. I LOVED seeing others learn to create things they NEVER believed they could do!! ANYONE can create the art of their dreams, you DON’T need talent! You just need to KNOW what you LOVE! If I have learned anything in life, it is this….the greatest GIFT an artist or art teacher can give to another, is the GIFT of encouraging ORIGINALITY in your art, what you LOVE the MOST, and HOW to manifest it (how to in next paragraph) Many of the very successful artists in history took a lot of time to find out WHO they were in their depths. What are the things that mean the most to you? What do you hold as THE dearest and closest thing to your heart? How is this DIFFERENT from other artists? Can you go deeper and deeper inside yourself? It can be scary, because you don’t know what is going to come out on the paper or canvas! It isn’t something in the real world you are copying, like a pear, However, jewels will be found here, that are UNIQUE to YOU ALONE. Are we copying styles from famous artists with our own twist on it? Or are we digging DEEPER inside ourselves to find out what DRIVES our CORE? What are we really most PASSIONATE about? I had a very challenging childhood, so it has taken me a long time to find and answer these questions myself, as I had so many energetic blocks.

    I have also taken classes from teachers who have the courage to delve DEEPER into those mysterious and hidden things within us that WANT to COME out and be SEEN. Most of this material is buried, and it takes time to cultivate it. It is our INTUITION. Imagine putting deeper, unknown intuition in our artwork! All of us have material within us that is DYING to come out and be seen. There is a huge vast underground river of incredible, deep inspiration in EACH ONE OF US, like GOLD, waiting to come to the SURFACE and be EXPRESSED. What are the things we have the MOST BELIEF IN? What deep unconscious energies are moving in our souls that want to find the light of day on our canvas, clay or other material that is OURS ALONE? The DEEPER we DIG within to FIND the things that we LOVE MORE than anything else, the more UNIQUE our art will be. I worked with several teachers that teach this, and I created an entirely new style of art that expresses who I really am INSIDE. I already had highly developed art skills, and now I was able to ACCESS my intuition, and to merge the two. I am at long last, building the portfolio of my dreams. Here is the scary part, you DON’T know what is going to come out! That is what intuitive painting is all about, the HIDDEN, MYSTERIOUS YOU. You don’t even have to know how to draw or paint! The images come out by themselves, then you work with them to create something can only come from YOU. The uniqueness comes naturally from this process. I earn no income from passing this information on, just love to SHARE anything that will help fellow artists find their own STRONG, ORIGINAL VOICE. If interested, google Shiloh Sophia: Intentional Creativity, and take a look at some of the fascinating classes she and other art teachers she has on her site that offer the KEY to finding the DEEPER YOU. Keep in mind when you look at some of the art created in these classes, that most of the students do not know how to draw or paint!

    I have DREAMED for years of building a UNIQUE portfolio of art, but had so many blocks, and did not know HOW to manifest it. I finally FOUND a book that gives the technique of manifesting that all the billionaires USE, almost word for word. The technique the billionaires use to manifest what they want is EXACTLY the same technique in this book.

    The important thing I have learned from this book, is WHAT we are THINKING is what we are CREATING in our outer lives. NO ONE understands how this works! All the really successful people in the world either learned this, or were naturally positive thinkers (this is rare, as we learn it from our parents) I studied this in a small group of people lead by a billionaire for three years. The main important information he shared with us is this: he said that ALL the people who became wealthy, acquired it by learning how to do POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS with much intensity and frequency, and visualizing what they wanted, until they manifested it. It is that simple! However, you have to really WORK IT. The technique he gave us is so simple, you can find it online, in a small inexpensive book. He said there are almost no books on the subject, because the very wealthy do not want competition! It takes some practice, but ANYONE can do it. ANYONE can be prosperous and successful, if they really work the prosperity affirmations in this book and visualize what they want by drawing it, or cutting out pictures from magazines and putting it all down on a piece of paper. Billionaires call this their “Visualization board” The technique for this is in a small book called “Scientific Healing Affirmations” by Paramahansa Yogananda. There is a prosperity affirmation in the back of the book with other affirmations for different needs. This little book costs $6.50. I have used it for years, and even when I was ill and couldn’t work, I always have been able to manifest a regular income, no matter what I was going through. The instructions in the first chapters are so powerful. This technique, is THE technique the billionaires ALL USE. They don’t want us to know about it! I heard this from this particular billionaire. He was an ordinary person, just like you and I. the only difference, is he HAD the technique to manifest, and he was DEVOTED to doing it night and day until he manifested whatever it was he wanted, as did all of his billionaire friends. He said that most people out in the world DON’T want to put a lot of EFFORT into doing this, they give up after awhile, for all kinds of reasons, so they don’t manifest the life they really want. ANYONE can do it. They ALL used this same technique, and it is in this book. We can do this too, no matter what our financial situation is. I am also using the affirmations to CREATE my new portfolio. Love to you all, and hope there is at least ONE person here, that is curious enough to try some of the suggestions here for themselves. Doing affirmations, is a SCIENCE, the more you do it, the FASTER and BETTER IT WORKS!! ENJOY!!

  18. I agree. It takes a lot of time and effort to see results in this business. I can’t count the number of gallery/store/show owners who have told me about artists who are unprofessional, don’t show on time, don’t fill out forms right, don’t show up to show openings, etc. Just doing what a gallery asks and even doing more than they ask – really sets an artist apart from the rest. Unprofessional artists don’t get called back and aren’t pursued by galleries and stores – as they make the gallery/store look bad from many standpoints. By being as professional as possible, going out of our way to make their efforts to represent our art easier – we get more exposure over time. Sometimes I feel like it’s the “last person standing” that will rise above the noise if the art is good. It just requires us to be patient, work our hardest and opportunities will open.

  19. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HEARTFELT MESSAGE JASON UPLIFTING AND STRENGTH-GIVING I DEEPLY APPRECIATE IT WILL GREATLY BENEFIT ALL WHO ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO READ IT (:

  20. What, you didn’t set up a “Go-Fund-Me” panhandling page whining about how hard life is, your children won’t be able to get the latest iPhone and you need everybody else to give you money to bail you out of your pickle because you deserve to have your dream come true?

    Instead you actually took care of your family and your life’s purpose calling by, uh, actually being a real man who steps up to make the sacrifices, humbles themselves, keeps seeking solutions for Plans A, then B, and C, stays sober and doesn’t blame everyone else for their tough circumstances?

    Wow! You (and your wife) have my attention and my respect sir!!

    Thank you! Thank you for sharing a bold testimony that will touch more artists than you know.

  21. I used to joke that I wanted to be the last one standing in my local. I’m pretty nearly there but in reality there is always someone competing in business. When we had the economic crash, I briefly thought I must be doing something wrong. I had to give that up and realize just as you did that it’s often out of our hands and that the best I could do was to keep on keeping on until someone else was going to stop me.

    I’m not sure if being the last one standing is all that good at this juncture but I’m going to keep on anyway.

    I own a custom frame shop/gallery, the day job. When everything got really hard, about 2008 I decided it was time to do things differently. I started painting on a french easel out in front of my shop when it was slow. I started divesting my inventory of others art because I was selling more of my own work than the work of others without seriously self promoting . I now have created my own personal gallery. I have grown my sales slowly but steadily since. It’s erratic but I keep selling and building it up slow and steady.

    One thing from my parents, I knew growing up , both were artists, an artist has to make it a lifetime commitment. That’s just what it takes. I’ve been at it since the late 60’s working my own business and for others when I could not scrape the funds together for my own business. There have been many recessions since then none as bad as the last but often enough to make me have to change jobs. All aspects of the arts business are a little like the canary in the coal mine. You feel economic change very quickly.

  22. Thanks again for being real and honest, Jason. I, too, sometimes just hold tight to the belief that this is what I was created to do. If I didn’t have my faith and the knowledge that being an artist is my absolute calling, I think I would have quit sometime ago. This is a great reminder to persevere and keep the faith!

  23. Jason,
    Thanks for the extraordinary story and inspiration. I hope, (I’m sure), things will keep getting better for you and your family. Great legacy for your children if they so desire.

  24. Very inspiring. I feel like just as I’m closing in on finishing a presentable portfolio everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown in my path BUT for every obstacle I have to get around i am also being given little miracles to keep me going.

    A word from a friend or a stranger, a quote, an unexpected check in the mail and this account of how you truly went through so much to make your dream happen.

    Thank you very much, Jason.

  25. Thank you for your straightforward honesty of the obstacles you faced. I certainly can identify with the struggles and have gone through many myself including family medical issues. Just like you said, when you think it can’t get worse, it does. My faith is what has kept me going and gives me strength. Each month there is something that gets better. I count it as a blessing, and put it on the plus side. My art was pushed aside for a while, but I’m beginning to produce again and exhibit work. It is good to read the comments from everyone as it makes me feel like I’m not the only one that has had struggles. Having other small jobs helps! When I look around me and see that so many people have it much worse, I feel blessed with a glass half full rather than half empty.

  26. Jason, thank you for the inspiration to believe in myself and my art. I am finding little by little that while I need to paint my vision in my way, it is even more enjoyable and eventually profitable to paint from a place of love and sharing and serving a community that values my art. And faith in a power higher than myself has everything to do with it. Every temporary rejection is anorher stick on the fire under me to deepen my understanding and lift my art to a higher level. So even if no one ever buys or acknowledges my work, I will know I have done my best.

  27. It is soooo hard…but that’s usually my gauge of what’s worth it. If it came too easily I’d be suspicious! It’s good to have support because it’s tough to keep plugging on when you’re alone in it. Even when you’re having success – it’s hard to push yourself on. This blog helps tremendously! Thanks for it.

  28. It’s comforting to know someone (who is not an artist themselves) understands the passion. Good work. I’ve been thinking about ordering your book. This post did it. Thank you for your effort.

  29. The only “galleries” I can afford to approach are free, on-line, no-jury websites. Of those, the only site that’s given men ANY return is eBay. Not only am I doing well to find a home for one in ten paintings there, but of those that do sell, after seller/transaction fees, ignoring the cost of paint, and given what a buyer’s willing to pay, I’m lucky if they earn me $3 an hour–before taxes.

  30. I don’t quite know what I am feeling right now. When I read your story, Jason, I can say you and your family are very Blessed. To follow what our purpose is on this Earth is not always easy, it has taken me reading many books, prayers, and creating my art from the lack of faith to the point of giving up the creative process. Then just when I want to quit, something happens, I get the answers I need to pursue painting from deep within my soul. It is so enlighting when I get there. Thank you very much, I appreciate your book and your very deep personal experience.

  31. Really enjoyed this article and your candor. I lived in Phoenix for 20 years and now in the Prescott area. I was actually famous in Phoenix…many years ago…Well known Astrologer..newspaper, TV, radio, entertainer etc. I am on your online gallery..and of course would love to be in a real gallery. I paint everyday and am on Fine Art America and selling digital art…Not doing badly. Anyway thanks for sharing your tribulations and desire to keep plugging ahead.

    Thanks,

    Carol Stanley

  32. Jason, we are all blessed to have you in our lives. I love your sharing heart, compassion, your valuable guidance and advice, and the great love you have for the art world. You help give us all hope and faith that we need to keep going.

  33. Just got to keep going. I’m reading your book now and almost through. I’ve started to re-vamp several things including upgrading the paints I use. When they get here it’s back to work I go.

  34. Thank you so much for sharing this story!

    Too many times, we hear artist “success” stories that go something like this:

    “I never thought much about being a professional artist, but then one day my neighbor/friend/relative convinced me to post one of my sketches on Ebay for ninety-nine cents. Within hours, the piece had been bid up to well over $100. I was so encouraged that I took the plunge, quit my day job, and have been paying for my luxury lifestyle with sales of my art ever since. All it took was a little faith, encouragement, and a belief in myself.”

    It’s refreshing (and incredibly encouraging) to hear the truth of the struggle to sustain a life in the arts in the face of adversity…and it makes me feel less alone and less like a failure in the tough choices I’ve had to make with my own art career in order to do what’s best for my family.

    Thank you again!

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