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Art Is For Sharing … Should We?

Art Is For Sharing … Should We?

Fall foliage and campfire chairs

Do I have to share? A familiar plea – imagined being heard from younger kids.  Surely we remember our own selves in that frame of mind years ago. Or was it just hours ago?  Did we even slightly accelerate too quickly this morning for that grey SUV to pull over in front of our car when their lane came to an end?  That wasn’t sharing! Did someone just snatch all last three bags of walnuts on sale?  Not too generous of spirit, eh?

Now you are seriously contemplating the obligations that you have to share your art… The most common complaint I’ve heard from grown men and women is, “If I put it out there, mighten somebody steal it?”

Hmm. Can there be a sadder mind-set?

No, that’s about as thin and silly as it gets. After all, given the bloated state of free imagery online these days, nothing one person uploads is going to change the world. Think you’ve painted the next Gustav Klimpt?-  He’s already there, and anybody who wants that is going to download his before they download yours. The argument is fairly obvious that, in fact, anybody who wants to download your art for free, to copy, print and pirate, would never, ever be a purchaser if you could stop them anyway. (They’ll go steal somebody elses).  So why gear your art availability to the minority of those that would steal it, when the cost is so high that you have to deny everybody the chance to see it?

I know one portrait artist who does beautiful study sketches, yet will not even allow her students to photograph them. They are her protected property. Of course I don’t know what she’s missing by not sharing them online, but chances are, neither does she.

So, what do you GAIN by sharing online?

  • We are all very caught up in Google-verse. Almost without breathing, those of us who practice online commerce will genuflect to Google dictates like “more good content is king.” (labeled correctly, images and videos are good content.) For starters, when you share your images, you get better search engine juice.
  • What about your aura and karma and grace? Yep- There’s that too. Generosity of art is generosity of spirit. You’ve made a reality of beauty. Please share it and enhance the world. (Add a little copyright note – valued collectors will pay attention.)

Street Exposure?? Jury is out on that one.

Artists are hit up probably more than any other group to “come bring your art and we’ll give you exposure.”  Really! You are asking me to come to your event, bring my hard-earned, entertaining-value original artwork… which isn’t called artplay, by the way… to share to entertain your public. And I do this at my own expense so they can freely smell and taste and enjoy my handiwork. Hey!  Whatever happened to ‘Why buy the cow when the milk is free?!!

You would never dare ask the baker to share his sweet-rolls for free so your breakfast guests can savor his artistry in advance and maybe what – buy bread from him another day?   And what dress maker dresses the customer for the dance BEFORE asking them to buy? None.  They say come to the dressmaker’s shop – see the merchandise and decide here if it looks like something you’d want to wear to the ball.  A studio or gallery situation is the reasonably logical place to share a preview of your art.

There are, of course, exceptions.

oil impressionism lady in red shoes

Easel Sale at Plein Air Easton. Ann Bailey “Red Shoes at the Fountain” 12×12 Oil.

Yes there are those exceptions, events where we sell even wet paintings right off the easel. I experienced one of the best possible such scenarios a few years ago. The successful land venture group in the north Georgia mountains, Anderson Creek Retreat, hosted a Jazz barbeque and invited a handful of plein air artists to come, paint, mingle.  Instead of asking us to BE the ambiance, we were asked to come to enjoy the ambiance. It was wonderful.  Other guests saw and bought paintings and we DID have “get exposure” moments that led to future commissions, a testament to the conscientious, intelligent way the hosts set it up!

We’ve all had a time or two (or many) when we were deliriously happy we showed up to “show.” And we’ve all had some of those other moments of being the free entertainment while the caterer got paid. There’s a big commitment made when you go share art in person though, so those situations should be monitored carefully.  You don’t have to say Yes and lug your paints and crates of inventory every time someone announces they’re having an “opportunity” for artists to exhibit. Be selective with your self. Treat your art person time with great respect, and be sure you’re benefiting as an artist whenever you exert yourself as an artist. That said, doesn’t it seem like a no-brainer to get as much stuff as possible hanging out in the (almost) free shop-front window of the internet?

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