How To Stay Motivated When Your Art Isn’t Selling

We’ve all been there. That moment when you realize you love doing this, you love creating and watching the gorgeous effects the paint make when they react to one another. You love picking out new paint colors, experimenting with new techniques, trying new color palettes.

Unfortunately, it seems like the rest of the world doesn’t love it, because they aren’t buying it.

And with the absence of money coming in to feed your artistic pursuits, you start to rethink yourself, your artwork. You can’t take on those ambitious new projects with the same artistic fervor you felt in the beginning, because everything seems like it’s just adding to your overall financial losses.

No one is buying your work, and as a result, your motivation to do it, the happiness that you feel when you’re creating, is dwindling away.

Money is an essential part of our lives, and unless you just won that mega millions jackpot, you don’t have enough to be able to do whatever you want with it without considering things like rent, electricity, student loan payments, etc.

Making your hobby at least partially self sustaining, therefore, is key to being able to continue doing it for long periods of time, especially with something that can get as expensive as painting.

So how do you stay motivated when things aren’t working out financially?

You keep working.

You keep working and you work twice as hard as before. Tailor your efforts to producing smaller quantities of work, but spend more time on the individual pieces. Make sure they’re absolutely perfect.

Master your product photography, update your website, grow your email list, apply for more galleries, publications, contests, find a professional artist who can serve as your mentor, learn new skills to grow your artistic practice, etc etc etc.

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I haven’t sold a single painting in the last month. But I’ve still been working, I’ve been creating a new website and trying out new techniques and planning entire bodies of work to complete over the next year.

I hate waiting.

I hate having to depend on other people liking my work in order to be successful. But if I keep working, I’m not waiting around, I’m actively creating new opportunities for myself in the artistic community.

No one is ever going to hand you success, success is self made, self created. You have to fight for success, you have to keep working and you have to be so good that people cannot undermine you, cannot doubt your accomplishments.

Take some advice from Henry David Thoreau, who once said; “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it”.

6 thoughts on “How To Stay Motivated When Your Art Isn’t Selling”

  1. Such a great post!! I completely agree. Keep on keeping on! Do something every week… force yourself to keep creating, even if you don’t want to. It can be really hard, but I think it is key to succeeding as an artist. Thank you for this great post!!

  2. So happy to have read your message as I have been getting discouraged as I participated in two holiday bazaar events and barely covered the booth fees. I love the acrylic pouring and want to continue but have such a large inventory already that I am getting overwhelmed. Thank you again for your message to those of us who are just starting out.

  3. You are right on the money- pun intended! One thing to keep in mind is if your working toward selling, showing and making a living, part time or full time, you are not a hobbyist. That means you can write off your expenses. as long as you are making serous efforts toward that goal. My accountant ays it’s legal, even if you are in the negative. Good luck to all!

  4. I paint portraits and my mind just does not think in abstract but no matter how much I try it never looks like yours. I must be missing something so this would certainly help to put me on the right track. I found it relaxing from the intense situation of getting every line right in a portrait. Thank you

    My website is in the process of being rebuilt

    1. Marie,

      As someone who is currently attempting to try and develop realistic painting skills, I can empathize. If you’re working on painting more abstract work, here’s a tip: print out an image of your subject and cut it into strips, triangles, shapes, whatever. Re-arrange the cut-out bits into a completely new image, try and paint it. Apps like Glitché also have really interesting filters and processes to distort your image.

      Good luck!

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