Not what you’d expect: When an artist sold everything he produced

I spoke with an artist in his sixties. He told me about a gallery owner who bought every piece of artwork he produced over a five-year span.

“I felt joyless. Like I was going through the motions. No matter what I did, he bought it and was able to sell it. It was like there was no challenge.”

Do we need our challenges? Are they what we measure our experience against? 

Or is it that we need some kind of rhythm to know we’re truly alive? 

Selling everything is a weird kind of limbo, because there are no highs and lows. It’s all a high — it’s static. 

We think we’d love to have everything we produce return gold to us always. Yet look at this artist, at a high point in his art career, when every single thing he produced was a guaranteed sale for years on end, the energy went out of it. Worse than that, he felt dead inside.

Tension is a good thing, creatively — the kind of tension that exists when the outcome is unpredictable.

When that five-year peak period came to an end, the artist told me he felt relief . . . he felt alive again in the unknowing.

Part of the What creators do series.

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