A good artist-friend of mine recently came to New York, and after picking him up at the airport we headed to the Montclair Art Museum to study the permanent collection of George Inness paintings. When I asked how things were going, he complained that he was doing so well selling paintings of the Grand Canyon that he didn’t have time to explore other subjects. “I used to travel and paint in Europe, returning home to develop large studio paintings of gardens, historic buildings, seascapes, and villages. I would love to paint thin veils of color like Inness, but I am under so much pressure to supply dealers with large, densely painted Western landscapes that I can’t do anything else,” he moaned. I stopped my car along the side of the road and told my friend I didn’t want to hear one more word of complaint. “You worked for 30 years to develop a solid market for those paintings,” I reminded him. “Don’t cry to me because you reached your goal.”
I was teasing my friend, of course, because I fully recognize that gifted artists need to constantly challenge themselves to explore new ideas and approaches. They never want to fall into a boring routine of painting the same subjects in a repetitive style. It’s important that they take time to pursue fresh material, even if they have to frustrate anxious collectors.
Nevertheless, the conversation reminded me that success comes at a price; and being grateful is a state of mind, not a reward for achieving one’s goals. What we all strive for—me included—is to be successful and grateful at each stage of our careers.