Arts, Farts & Applecarts - by John Leben

Arts, Farts & Applecarts - by John Leben

Yeah... I just started publishing a blog on my website. It's called Arts, Farts & Applecarts. It's about being an artist and it is designed to drive traffic to my website as well as a place for me to vent. This is my first blog entry. I thought I'd share the blog here on Art Fair Insiders as well. This first entry is called:

"Professional artist?:

I’m a “professional” artist. All that means (to me) is that I make my living by selling my art. When most people think about “professional” artists, they picture the elite, New York Gallery artists who sell paintings for many thousands of dollars. I’m not one of those. Most professional artists aren’t either. We work hard to, not just make the art, but to promote it and sell it as well. We make and sell the art because we have to… to make a living. 

How do I sell my art? Lots of ways. I have my gallery in downtown Douglas, Michigan… the LebenArt Gallery. I sell some art at the gallery, but not as much as I sell at art fairs. And I sell my art at other art galleries around Michigan as well. Then, there is the Internet. I sell art online, but not as much as I would like. I’ve come to realize that most people like to see the art first hand before buying it. Most of my online sales come from people who have already bought my art, or from people who have seen my work at other places… either at other galleries or at an art fair. I sell my art to pay the mortgage, to buy groceries, and, (HA!) to buy more art supplies. Most “professional” artists that I know fall into this category. Making and selling art is a challenge and a necessity. It’s our job. But… it’s a job that we love.

Now… you should realize that I’m using a very narrow definition of “artist” in this blog. Of course there are a lot of different ways to be a professional artist. Commercial artist, for example. Lots of different kind of ways to make a very good living as a commercial artist. I was one, myself, for a long time. I sold my “artistic” talents to my clients, creating logos, brochures, designing sets for TV productions, creating animated sequences for educational programs, producing programing for corporate clients… all very profitable and satisfying endeavors. But, in all these commercial endeavors, I was creating someone else’s vision… the vision of my client. So now, as a “professional” artist, I am creating my own vision. I’m making art and putting it out there for the world to see. No client. Only myself to interpret the vision. If there are enough people in the world who appreciate my vision… appreciate it enough to actually spend their money to buy it, then I am successful. I’m a professional artist. It’s the best kind of freedom.

I’ve noticed that there is a pivotal point in every artist’s career when, for the first time, a stranger actually buys a piece of their work. Not a relative… not a friend… not even an acquaintance of a friend… but a bonafide “stranger.” A stranger who buys the piece because it means something personal to them. That is a moment worth celebrating. That is the moment when the artist sees his or her potential to actually create a vision that others can share and appreciate.

If you would like to follow my blogs on my website, here is the link:


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  • Just went over and read your entries.  I am in a different league (type of work/shows) but I appreciate your writing and stories.  Very relatable.  I subbed for your blog while there.

  • Good for you, John. Turning over every stone seems to help. In general, I don't refer to people as "artist" instead I always preferred Painter jeweler photographer, etc. We are indeed lucky in this business to be able to walk that line between creativity and creating work that other people like also. I do remember when we were at our first art fair and some strangers bought three of Norm's photographs. I don't think he ever forget that either. There's still no better way for people to see your art and just show up at an art fair, lots and lots of people there who could just as easily have gone to the beach or a ball game or something, instead they chose art fair. Some thing happening there.



    You are welcome to post your blogs here, and we will share them. I'm going to put this one on our Facebook page it up for Insiders now and you can share it from there. Great to hear from you again. Are you off to Florida soon?

  • Oh yes, that first sale!

    I started the business going to Germany and having my cuckoo clock designs made. It was a whole different ball game when I made the decision to become my own source of supply and after four years of learning and developing my first deisgns someone bought one. It's the same feeling as when the sweet doe told Rudoplh he was cute and flew off joyously, "I'm cute, I'm cute, she says I'm CUTE!"

  • Great blog John, could not said it any better, when I grow up, I want to be as good as you.

    Oops! I am older than you. But you are Gooder.

    You have real talent.

    Enough of the allocades.

    We both know the satisfaction we get when a "stranger" buys one of our images.  It is a real rush.  And when it comes at a show like Main Street Fort Worth, it is a tremendous rush to our bank accounts.

    Good luck in the year ahead, I look forward to connecting with you in Douglas or over at Ida Reds. Give Marsha a hellos too. 

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