This Is What Happened When People Wanted My Art

Everyone is different, be yourself

Someone is standing in front of my charcoal drawing.

It’s unframed, just hanging from metal clips, with its torn edges showing.

Raw. Exposed.

Like me.

“Enveloped” charcoal & ink. © Jessica Peterson Art

“See those two people over there?” my classmate said pointing. “They want your pieces.”

“But they’re not for sale,” I replied, confused. Don’t they see NFS on the price tags?

NFS” — Three simple letters that mean the world to me right now. They’re supposed to protect against anyone wanting the artwork.

“Well, they want them,” she replied, with widened eyes.

Okay, fine, but they’ll have to pry them out of my hands first!

My mom whispers to me, “I saw that lady point to two of your drawings. Enveloped, and the one of you by the tree.”

My heart starts pounding faster.

For Pete’s sake, this is my first time showing my drawings in public. I’m not ready for this!

Unsure what to do, I walk over to my drawing teacher, who is chatting with another instructor.

“That woman over there is interested in my drawings,” I whisper to them.

“Document it and sell it to them!” they both said, almost in unison. I could tell they were excited.

But that’s not what I wanted to hear right then. I think I wanted someone to ask me, “Do you want to sell your pieces?”

I walk away, without voicing how I feel. After all, shouldn’t I want to sell my art?

My brain is bombarded with thoughts.

What’s the matter with you? 
Why can’t you sell your art? 
You sure could use the money. 
Isn’t that what every artist wants?

But when I imagine handing my drawings over, a strange sadness comes over me, like I’m losing a part of myself.

I know what people might think: Jess, lighten up, it’s just charcoal on paper.

But there’s more that goes into the paper than mere dust.

Suddenly I feel a tap on my shoulder.

I turn around, and it’s the man who is interested in my art.


“Hi Jessica, I’m Mark…” he’s shaking my hand and I feel like I’m in a dream.

As we talk about my piece, I explain, “I have ten pieces now and ten more to finish.”

“I want to see a whole body of work,” he says, handing me his email address written on paper.

After talking to him, I have this startling thought, What if he wants to buy even more?

On the drive home, I finally exhale.

I can’t believe someone is actually interested in my art. I’m humbled. I think I could understand it better if the subject matter were different. They’re pictures of me. Who would want that? And this was only a school assignment. Or at least that’s what I thought.

A few months later, I meet Lori, Mark’s wife, at the Student Gallery, where most of my pieces are hanging.

She looks around for a couple minutes and then tells me she’s disappointed I didn’t price my pieces.

Once again, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. Like I need to apologize.

I don’t like letting people down, and now I’ve done it again.

Will I ever be ready to sell my art?

Time to let go?

Ever since my first art shows, I’ve been learning so much about the kind of artist I am.

If you’re anything like me, don’t be surprised if you get emotionally attached to any of your pieces.

One day I had gotten my drawing, Enveloped, professionally photographed, so I’d always have the image.

I thought that would help me be more comfortable selling it.

But I was wrong. When I came home in tears, I knew I still couldn’t let it go.

It’s not wrong for us to feel attached to our art.

It means we put a part of ourselves into the piece.

“Sometimes we just want to share our soul with the world, and not necessarily have to sell it.” -Michelle Monet

Some artists sell

There are many artists who don’t feel attached in this way. For them, it’s more about the process. Once they finish a piece, they’re ready to let it go.

But some of us seem to have a relationship with what we create.

My art teachers always encouraged us to sell, they never knew the struggle I felt inside. The one which made me feel odd.

I cringed one day when one of my teachers was talking about a piece of my art and he said, “Get rid of it!”

I’m realizing his words weren’t meant to be harsh. The thing is, we are created to create art, and so that’s what we’re to do. Once we’re done, we’re to move on. Next.

Maybe the more art we make, the more we’ll learn to loosen our grip?

We will be ready to sell, when the time is right.

I eventually sold a handful of original pieces. No one had to pry them out of my hands either. I actually got excited about each sale.

No. I didn’t sell them immediately after I made them. It took time.

But I also have been learning, sometimes, delay can mean the customer may lose interest. If I’m still not ready, I tell myself it’s okay, it wasn’t the right person.

One time, when I finally quoted a potential customer my prices, he was no longer in a position to buy.

Can I be honest? Part of me felt relieved. Obviously it wasn’t the right time, or the right person.

But even when you decide you will sell a piece. Sometimes there are creations that don’t let go of you. They keep calling your name.

After one of my art shows, a friend of mine looked surprised as she pointed to the price tag on one of my pieces. It said SOLD.

“Oh! You sold that painting!”

I chuckled, “Actually I didn’t, I wrote that. I changed my mind about selling it.”

There was no judgment from her, a fellow artist herself, just an understanding smile.

My colorful paintings at one of my last art shows.
My painting that “Sold” (not really). Acrylic. © Jessica Peterson Art

We have to think about what we want.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and many people are very happy to voice what that is. But we need to be careful. We need to think about what it is we want. Because we are the person we see when we look into the mirror.

And if we just do what others want or expect, we may be ignoring what our heart wants.

“To be a true artist, you have to play the way you feel, not the way others think you should feel.” -Don Ellis

If you’re ever unsure, people can tell and they’ll start giving you advice you never asked for.

“So, when are you gonna sell me your painting?” a relative asked me over the phone.

“That one isn’t for sale,” I said, without apology.

Maybe it will be someday.

What About You?

Have you ever felt attached to your art?
Have you struggled with letting go of certain pieces?
Did you sell a piece you wish you had kept?
I’d love to hear from you.

If you like my art…

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“Followed” before and after.

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