My uncle, Eldridge Bagley, has made a living as a professional artist since the 1970s. His oil paintings emphasize mid-20th century life in rural Virginia and often depict our family members. Through hard work and perseverance, he discovered his audience and secured representation from prestigious art galleries, as well as appearing at engagements in such museums as The Corcoran in Washington, D.C. He still exhibits his work at museums and public gatherings to appreciative crowds. Many people purchase his works.
Eldridge paints scenes of places, people, and situations he knows and loves. His fans enjoy his work and are loyal to him. Still, over the years, he has adjusted to the marketplace to please his growing audience. For example, for some exhibits, he might paint fewer large pictures, so he can focus on medium-sized works. When he saw a large demand for still-life works, he painted more of those. In other words, while he enjoys painting, he is mindful and adaptable to market changes. This is a necessity for any artist, including writers who want to earn money for their work.
On the other hand, Eldridge has left space for joyous creativity that thrives without market considerations. For him, part of that space is in writing songs. Sometimes his wife, Beth, performs his songs in public. The songs are lovely, with verses speaking of rural Virginia, and often Christmas. I would call this part of his creativity a place for his soul.
Eldridge says, “We do need to learn and know our market and take steps to reach that market. As we know, it doesn’t take long to perceive who your audience is and what appeals to them. I know full well that some of my works are more likely to sell than others because I have learned, to a degree, the buying patterns of my customers. Yet, for the sake of growth and being true to my inner self, I have persisted in expanding the borders of creativity by occasionally departing from the expected, both in subject matter and style. Thankfully, most of those departure pieces have sold. I like to think that my audience saw something in those works that spoke to them, or they were willing to ‘take the journey’ with me to unexplored territory!”
What territory will you explore today?
I am really very keen,
to not let cancer my soul stifle,
so I’ll make an AR-15
into a muzzleloading rifle.
Yes, it takes a bit of thought
to take Gene Stoner’s art,
and turn it into something not
intended from the start,
but it seems like something cool
that few other might posses,
though I will get some ridicule
for turning what was more, to less,
but criticism is expected
when forms of madness are perfected.
I am so encouraged and affirmed by your uncle’s example and words as I presently explore new creative territory in a new place and season. I read your post two days after an online chat about finding one’s unique selling point in Creative to Thrive, an online artists mentoring group. Your post is perfectly timed. Thank you!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Tamela, what a wonderful gift your uncle has. Thank you for sharing his pictures, which are stunning. I am exploring the world of the rewrite these days, as I work on revising an article for a scholarly magazine while also revising my first novel. Exciting times! Thanks again for posting the pictures.
Love this, Tamela. I found an inspiring article about him in Style Weekly. Sounds like your uncle was a wonderful man. Not sure I can use a link, but I’ll try in the next comment.
Article in Style Weekly: https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/man-of-the-land/Content?oid=1906836
Tamela Hancock Murray
Thank you for sharing this link! Eldridge has a show with an opening reception on July 10 in Chase City. https://www.maccallummore.org/home
Lisa Larsen Hill
Thank you Tamela for an encouraging post about your uncle, his approach to his calling, and balancing his voice with listening to people’s needs. His paintings invite you into a world of peace and a sense of place.
I’ve just spent time with my seven-year-old granddaughter who reintroduced me to the world of total imagination playing unicorn, inspiring me of all the wonderful possibilities as I continue on my writing journey. Sometimes it’s just the little things.
I love how you expressed your uncle’s talent and his ways of shifting his works to fit the market and related it to writers and their writing journeys. Thank you for sharing this insight.
Thank you, Tamela.
Your post gave me food for thought about my reticence to follow market changes.
I feared losing my “voice” when an editing friend warned me,”You can’t say that any more. They won’t publish it.”
Thank you, Tamela. I literally had my paintbrush in one hand and smartphone in the other when I came across this. A perfect example of market awareness. Whether it’s writing or visual arts, sometimes I create for me, sometimes the public, and usually somewhere between the two. And it’s always enlightening journey. Blessings, Don
Refreshing insights into your painter Uncle Eldridge’s blend of art and commerce, Tamela! Thank you for the introduction to his work. Gratitude also to Deborah for the link to the Style magazine review.