If an artwork doesn’t sell, it could mean any number of reasons.
1. It’s not any good, but good is a relative term. Fauve was a pejorative term applied to the bright colors and bold forms of Matisse and Rouault, among others.
2. It’s actually bad. Here bad means unskilled. Of course, naive painters like Grandma Moses can always break through with intuitive color and design sense. It’s the artists who aspire to realism or abstraction, but go through the motions by rote and never put enough practice into their art to rise beyond the mundane who fall into this category.
3. The artist’s vision is beyond this world. Van Gogh sold only a few paintings in his lifetime, but museums and collectors vie for his works today.
4. It could be overpriced. Sometimes we artists value our years of training, struggle, and history with our art product more than the art market values it. Either learn to let go and move on to greater art, and sell these for what you can, or paint over them, melt them down, or learn to love paying storage fees.
5. Forget pricing your work at a “living wage.” Art is what gives you life. Most artists either have another job or have someone supporting them. Or they are privileged to have personal wealth. The average wage of all artists (including musicians, dancers, actors, photographers, and writers) is around $36,100 for art school grads and $30,000 for non grads.
6. Nearly 50% of artists will sell under $5,000 of art yearly. Only 1% will sell $500,000 or more yearly. That’s the bottom and top. Most of us will be in the bottom. We may be the next Van Gogh.
7. When I look at these sales numbers, I realize the costs of studio, materials, and commissions haven’t been deducted. The net result for the artist is less, maybe at a third for their profit.
8. Should you get a degree in computer programming instead? Nursing? Only if your heart is truly there. If you have the artist’s soul, you’ll never be happy just making a living. You will need an outlet for the deep feelings of your heart and the thoughts percolating up from the deep places of the mind.
Keep working, my friend. So what if the road seems long? The journey is always better than the destination.