One of the challenges all artists face is what to do with unsold work. While there are always pieces that are special, adding to one’s own private collection is not typically the goal of most artists who sell their work professionally. If you teach, as I do, you can multiply the collection of small studies an demos that accumulate rather quickly.
I’ve found the best way to manage is to paint fewer paintings and to do more work in sketchbooks. Switching to watercolor as my primary medium for sketching has made this very easy to do. I simply carry a watercolor kit–Winsor Newton Field Box, Moleskine Watercolor Notebook, pencil and small bottle of water–with me wherever I go. I keep it in a small backpack in my car. Whenever I see something that interests me, I pull over and paint for a half hour or so. I also take it with me whenever I am in the city and can squeeze in an hour or so of sketching on my way to appointments, workshops, etc.
Since beginning this process of sketching on site in watercolor in April of 2013, I’ve already filled three and a half Moleskine notebooks! Each one is a small diary of images that bring back very clearly the other things going on at the time–it becomes a very personal process.
I’ve had several people ask me if I would ever sell my sketchbooks or produce ones specifically for sale. My answer is no–the whole point of doing them is to get away from doing work that is primarily for sale. The sketchbooks I carry with me are filled with memories that belong only to me, while they are not disclosed on the pages, I look at them and have immediate access to past thoughts and experiences. As for creating ones specifically for sale, that defeats the purpose of practicing–everything we do does not have to be for sale! These days, I reserve my paintings in oil for a few select exhibits at galleries and the Salmagundi Club, or for commissions (which I rarely accept). I prefer to derive the majority of my income from my teaching, I believe that taking this approach keeps me on track to becoming a better artist, which means more to me than commercial success or public recognition.