Something happened to a friend last week that I've been wanting to write about. It's a big deal. I mean a BIG FREAKIN DEAL!
My dear friend Tina (the artist I wrote about previously) sold her first painting. Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but I think it is.
Your friends and family can tell you a bazillion times how great you're doing. You can love the work yourself, and feel good about it. But then....someone wants to BUY it. It isn't about the money (even though money is mighty nice).
It's a whole new level of affirmation for anyone who works at something subjective. It's a little like the difference between your friend telling you that your new 'do looks great, and having a perfect stranger ask you for the name and number of your hair stylist. Do you ever really know if your friends are protecting your feelings, or if they really like the new look?
Take that times about a million, and you have the feeling of someone thinking enough of your art (whatever form of art you do) to pay for it.
There's another side to it that I think maybe applies most specifically to artists who work on decorative art. Not so much for musicians and writers because the people who commit to purchasing their work don't necessarily show that off. But if you buy a painting, you hang it up in your house for other people to see. You are supporting that artist in a public kind of way. If you love polkas and buy the latest CD by Hans Frickenschmacker and the Lederhosen, you probably listen to it alone, and shove the cd cover behind your collection of Hoobastank and Twisted Sister. Hang a painting on your wall and you tell the world, "Look! I love this! Share it with me!"
All kinds of art touch each of us in some way. My friend found a way to capture something on canvas that touches people. You look at her work and you see the light of the African savannah. Look into the eyes of the mountain lion she brought to life....a deep, primal chord is struck. What do you feel? A mesmerizing intrigue, tinged with an ancient, buried fear? What else does that, except art? It reaches into your atavistic self and shows you all that you are. If you look.
I think when you buy someone's work of art, you are telling them in a profound way that you looked. And you saw.