Fight Complacency

Esteemed curator John Elderfield tells us that Willem de Kooning assigned himself challenges throughout his life so that he wouldn’t become complacent in his work.

  • De Kooning drew with his left hand from time to time. (He was right-handed.)
  • He’d start to make a mark on the canvas and then, at the last second, forced his brush to jog to the right or left.
  • He felt the bite of many critics when he returned to the figure after receiving critical acclaim for his painting, Excavation.

De Kooning was trying something different – anything to throw himself out of his comfort zone in order to advance his art.

Jaime Howard, June 13 (from The Sunrise Project). Oil on panel.

©2012 Jaime Howard, June 13 (from The Sunrise Project).
Oil on panel, 5 x 7 inches. Used with permission.

Jaime Howard recently posted on Facebook that “in the interest of combating a raging case of perfectionism,” she painted the work pictured here with her “wrong” hand.

What do you do to challenge yourself with your art? What kinds of problems do you set up to solve?

Are you doing the same to challenge yourself in your marketing?

Marketing Challenges

Have you become complacent with your marketing? Do you find yourself doing the same things over and over again to promote your art with few results?

When is the last time you promoted your art without relying solely on email and social media?

Apply a similar mindset to your marketing that you use in the studio when you’re trying to work through a problem. Try something new. Anything!

You could promote a summer exhibit using a hand-delivered invitation along with a wildflower or sprig of mint from your garden.

You might schedule an artist talk even though it scares the pants off of you to imagine talking to a group of people.

Or, you could give your art away like David Castle did. Read about it here.

Fight complacency in the studio and in your business office. You’re creative!

In what ways are you as courageous with your marketing as you are with your art?

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

21 thoughts on “Fight Complacency”

  1. great post! i am pretty good about pushing myself artistically- giving a talk, teaching a class, trying new techniques. when i am stuck i’ll take a class, even if it’s something i won’t use regularly, just to get ideas and pop out of a rut. i recently decided that maybe i would like to learn to draw, rather than relying on gridding things out or tracing. challenges are good & keep creativity moving. i have not been good, however, about being creative with my marketing. i’ve gotten lazy. love the link to david’s art give away. i’ve given art away, but not in such a way that it helped generate sales- at least not that directly. thanks for giving me something to chew on!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Marianne: Kudos for being bold with your art and learning to draw. I look forward to hearing what you come up with for your marketing.

  2. Perfect timing Alyson! I’ve been dreaming about playing with looser, bolder(?) landscapes but hesitant to try something different because:
    a) it’s not consistent with my “style”
    b) it’s “new” and part if me wants to stick with what I think I know
    c) and the dreaded “what if I suck at this!”
    Since plein air is sort of daunting in the prep alone, I’ve decided to take a baby step toward boldness (if you can imagine that oxymoron) by trying my hand, and eye, at landscapes in the studio with photos from recent travels.
    Thanks for the gentle push!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Dorothy: “Baby Steps Toward Boldness” sounds like a book title! Maybe just start with a blog post. 😉

  3. When I’m feeling complacent or bored I like to challenge myself with a new process. Right now I’m teaching myself salt printing, which has a very different set of requirements than I’m used to. Couple that with the fact that it’s not uncommon that my materials either get discontinued or get reformulated, and I’m always on my toes in the darkroom. And thankfully I learned the lesson about putting myself in uncomfortable situations to grow more than a decade ago. Despite being an introvert I talk to large groups and teach pretty successfully thanks to volunteering in a program that taught me how to do those things. My bigger problem is trying to reach out to people who are quite possibly interested in me or my work (read gallery owners). I have set myself the goal this year of building a fresh body of work, beginning to approach galleries, and making more substantial art-world as my career “stretch.”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Jackie: Yes! It’s important not to get too tied to one’s materials. You never know when they’ll be discontinued. I heard that in an art:21 video from another artist. She was enjoying the chemicals while she had them, but knew they wouldn’t be around forever.

  4. Yes I am fighting complacency. Working on a new style of work and really enjoying it. Time to start approaching new places to show this work. Scary but important to do this.

  5. This past year I decided to really devote myself to a different medium and have been focusing heavily on my photography. I then decided to take another plunge by launching my first solo show this July which will be a one night photography show featuring my street photography of New York City. I’m calling it Visions of New York. I’m nervous but very excited!

  6. Whenever I begin a new pigment research project it’s a huge challenge. Not only am I unfamiliar with a particular culture, say, Ancient Egypt or Southwest Native Americans, I have no knowledge of the pigments available to them during the period I am researching. The result is always a dual project, one covering the culture/myths and one covering the pigment/art. I find this hugely rewarding nonetheless and come out the other end so grateful that I know a little bit more about the history of ancient cultures. As always, Alyson, you have initiated more thought provoking ideas. Thanks for the nudge.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Margaret: You don’t need the nudge. It’s been fun watching you explore these cultures. You are definitely a researcher at heart.

  7. I am pushing myself to go beyond my animal portraits this year into more wildlife/nature drawings. The drawing I am currently working on is extremely challenging and my critic has been with me the whole way…but it’s all good!
    I will have to think of new marketing strategies tho…i am stuck in the same rut there.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Kathryn: Way to go. I’ve been worried about wildlife artists for some time. Are you seeing a market for wildlife art? Or is that not an issue right now?

  8. In terms of trying new things in art, browsing art supplies stores always does the trick for me. I cannot help but get inspired by all the cool new “toys”, so I pick up a new brush or a canvass I’ve never used before and force myself to learn to use it when I get home. Try it, works like a charm!
    As for marketing your pieces, my new approach is to think like a buyer – I constantly search for new art sale websites and galleries that are hot & trendy right now.

  9. As a new art teacher I’ve done a few scary things this year by overcoming my fear of teaching high school and elementary school students by volunteering or giving paid workhops. I even gave my first artist talk to a group of grade six students — it felt great. I considered these students among my greatest critics! Now, I feel like I’ve paved the way for even bigger challenges in this area! Glad not to have stayed in my “safe” zone.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      That’s wonderful, Michelle. I look forward to seeing how it affects your artwork.

  10. I keep sketchbooks from years back all in several bins. When I find myself in a rut. I go through the sketchbooks and just enjoy them and before I know it a new series has been started. I also try to draw everyday. Just the act ofdrawing brings things to mind that I am not even aware of. Especially if ‘m watching TV with my wife, I draw.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms