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Quinn McDonald : Turning Art into Inventory

Your Art Grows Up
and Leaves You

Turning Your Art into Inventory

By Quinn McDonald

One of the toughest jobs any working artist has is to transform their art into inventory.

It isn't physically hard, but it can bruise your heart. Over and over again. But you do get better at it, and it does get easier.

Whether you sell your art to a gallery, sell it on your website, or attend art festivals, the art you sell is different from the art you make.

Art does its magic

Here's how I make the transformation from art to inventory. As long as the artwork is in the studio, unfinished, it's a holy thing. It's what gives me a reason to keep working. To quote one of my creativity coaching clients, making art puts oxygen in the world. My art is a part of me, a secret, sacred part of me that I don't often reveal. In my studio, with its piles of handmade papers, paints, brushes, glues, fasteners, ribbon, bookbinding materials, I make my own kind of magic. I take unrelated things and make meaning out of them. No one, artists least of all, find meaning in their lives. You MAKE meaning in your life.

And as an artist, each piece I make is meaningful. Once it is complete, it goes from being very private to being very public. This is my calling. I set a piece of art into the world to see if it speaks to someone else. At art festivals, it is a moment of huge private excitement when someone comes in, sees a piece, and says, "Yes! That's just right! It speaks to me!" For that second, I know that they are also making meaning in their lives. For a moment, we speak the same language of life.

I manage to do this by giving the piece of art a name. Once it has a name, it is separate from me. Sometimes the name is an inventory number, sometimes a title. Then I give it a price. At that moment, it undergoes a transformation. It is no longer my sacred meaning-making piece, it becomes inventory. The meaning I made is still there, no one takes that away. But the art is transformed.

Letting go

In that tiny instant, the moment in time as brief as when the water drop from the shower head drops, falls, and splats with a hollow thump on the shower stall, that I have to take a piece of art, a piece of meaning in my life, and recognize it not as my calling, put as a piece of inventory. At that moment, I have to let it go. If people say they hate it, or it doesn't match their couch, it won't hurt me. I will have gained detachment, distance. It's a moment in unmapped time that happens in every artist's heart. Without it, you cannot let your art go into the world. With it, you can enjoy it again as you sell it. •

© Quinn McDonald, 2007. All rights reserved.

Quinn McDonaldQuinn McDonald is a writer, artist and certified creativity coach. More »

3/23/07