Some say that when you’re an artist, it’s your job to break the rules. In some cases, it might not be such a great idea. Not in this case…
I’ve always lived by a few strict rules. Policies, I’ve called them. I have put in these policies after a lifetime of learning lessons, making certain types of mistakes, sacrificing a fair amount of integrity, and suffering a lot of financial difficulties.
It’s always come down to making balanced decisions. How much integrity did I want to sacrifice over financial suffering? Usually, it was zero. Honestly, it’s always been zero, or close to it. I never skimp on good art supplies, for instance. I won’t take commissions that I’m not 100% confident about or just don’t want to do. I won’t let someone else dictate what I paint. I won’t sell under my bottom line—that sort of thing.
But I’ve also made it a policy never to go into debt or borrow money, at least very rarely. If I had to borrow, I always knew when and where I could cover it, or else I just wouldn’t do it. Plain and simple. I never wanted to be a charity case, a burden, or some schlub who became known for not paying their debts.
Anyway, not going into debt has always been a key component of living my life. Not having a car payment, a mortgage, big credit card payments, or kids, etc. Otherwise, how would I be able to get by as an artist and live that sort of life?
But preparing for a solo show can be fucking expensive. My last “big” solo show was probably in 2015 with Shulamit Gallery when they were in Venice. Believe it or not, I spent somewhere between $12K and $13K on it. It wasn’t hard either. And, apparently, the gallery spent more than twice that. Not that I asked them to, and I don’t feel they should have told me what they paid, but that’s another story.
For me, most of that money wasn’t out of my pocket. I did a big Kickstarter, and I received a couple of grants too. For my upcoming show, it’s costing less than half that. But I’ve been stupidly putting it on credit cards. This is wholly against my policy. It’s kinda like walking into a casino and counting on winning. Actually, it’s worse than that. There’s no guarantee that I will break even, which is honestly all I care about.
Since the gallery takes half, I have to sell twice the amount I need to break even. I’ve put myself into a conundrum of sorts because I never go into any show expecting to sell one iota of anything. You just can’t have any expectations, ever.
But I’ve made my bed, and now I have to lie in it. It’s a mistake I have to learn from. Woe is me. It’s not that I hadn’t planned on spending some money on the show. Of course, I did. I’d budgeted for a little less than half of what I spent. But after all the framing, the third extra trip I’m making to LA, how I went way over budget on those VIP promo boxes, and the elements I needed for the drawing installation, it all began to add up. Quickly. I don’t know what I was thinking—getting away with spending only a couple of thousand bucks. Duh.
Well, as the kids say, it is what it is. Or, who knows? Maybe I’ll sell a couple of paintings and feel a sense of relief. You never know. It’s a total crapshoot. But isn’t that the life of an artist? Yup. It is.