A Sellout or Marketing Genius?

As I’ve pursued the idea of selling artwork for the last year, I’ve done a lot of research online. I’ve looked into selling my paintings, and/or selling reproduction prints of said paintings, and how to go about doing it. There are so many varying opinions of how to market your artwork out there, that it turns into a frustrating dizzy spell. Do I care about being featured in the big-time galleries for shows? Not really. Should I be? Not sure.

Lately, I have been looking into new mediums to express my creativity. One of these outlets is to create a design to market in various ways, such as T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, etc. This brings up the question from the Title of this rambling: Would that make me a sellout or more of a marketing genius? So many people have argued both sides of that question for years, and I can understand both of their viewpoints.

Team A: “You’re a Sellout!”

Yes, it would seem that by creating something for the pure sake of mass-marketing it to the public, based on something that you may have researched as generally well-liked, is sort of selling out your artistic talents and abilities to “the man”. You, as an artist, a “creator”, should be true to yourself and create what you imagine and feel and not care about everyone else’s tastes or opinions, right? I’m sure this was the sentiment behind creating the yellow smiley-face logos used everywhere…

Team B: “I need to, and should be, paid for everything I make, even if I don’t like it.”

If I create a picture of a dog sitting on a chair with his head tilted to the side, watching TV, it might not be something I’m really fond of doing. But, who is to say that it might not make me some decent cash by marketing it to greeting card companies, printing it on a T-shirt or coffee mug? A dude’s got to pay some bills somehow, especially in today’s crazy economy. Being creative, even if it is for a job instead of art’s sake, is still being creative right?

The Difference?

Maybe, just maybe, the difference between these two opinions is what defines a “starving artist”. I once had a friend critique some of my artwork. He said that it was good and all, but he didn’t think it would sell. He said “You need to get into making pop-art. My dad does that and makes a killing!” Well, first off, it might have been a little biased. Secondly, I’m not fond of pop-art. But, I did appreciate the advice, none-the-less. I do know some marketing people, and I know that it takes more than just one niche product to “make a killing” anymore. That might be, at the risk of being called a “sellout”, why I am looking into mass marketing a design or three. That probably won’t get me into the “Schnobby-bob Gallery of Finer-est Art”, but, oh well. I’d love to see some debate here. Thanks for your time!

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