My Failed Art Exhibition and a Rant about Art

Today, I went to collect my paintings from my exhibition in Usuki. I had about 15 paintings and 9 postcards.

I sold just 1 postcard and that was to a friend! The postcard sold for 5 dollars and the owner took twenty-five percent. It cost 10 dollars in gasoline just to travel there.

Certain feelings go through you when you fail and you look to blame someone but really there is only one person, myself. And to be honest I shouldn’t even blame myself because I had ventured out of my comfort zone.

You have to step out of the nest and yes you will fail.

But what surprised me was when I entered the shop and saw my paintings. I was myself enchanted by the beauty of them and I realized there was nothing wrong with these creations. In fact, I realized that I had priced them too cheaply: just 300 dollars.

Not only was this original work it was beautiful. My work is better than a lot of work I see in big galleries. The whole industry is a joke in which marketing and who you know is far more important than what you do. I’ve known this for a while.

Only last year I sold two paintings for 500 dollars each and something inside decided the price is going up. Of course, the price is always going up. And if my old work doesn’t sell then it goes in the bin because as you get better you only want to be identified with your best work.

It was interesting how the two people at the shop showed no enthusiasm for the work; for them it was totally valueless.

I am living my dream and I believe that I will find those who are enchanted by my work as much as I am and see the value of it; for these people 500 dollars is not an obstacle after all it costs 1000 dollars just to replace the bumper on your car which is unbelievably expensive.

There are maybe three kinds of artists, those who make nothing, those who don’t make enough and those who make an abundance; I think it is clear which group to be in. Have bargains, reduce your prices, give your work away and the value of it becomes zero.

We live in a world where a lot of people want cheap; it doesn’t matter if it’s also crap, just look at the food industry, sometimes they even try to improve the food and so the price goes up a little and their customers complain – insane.


This article was originally written in April of 2014. I am editing it in 2021 and I thought it important to add to this rather dark tale a bit of a golden lining. So the painting above, which is of a famous traditional street in Usuki, and which I showed in my exhibition, was not long after this event bought by a French man who lives in America. This man is quite a character and it is a pleasure to know him. He is a blackbelt in karate and a talented mosaic artist.

That’s all for now.

Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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