Puppet Strings

ariane smartist puppet strings

True story.

An artist with 20 years of experience, an international presence, an impressive list of collectors, and decades of gallery experience hit a career wall.

The artist’s galleries were closing. The work was changing dramatically and not appealing to the previous collectors. And even though this artist had created a significant social media presence with interactive fans throughout the world, sales had nearly stalled, no exhibitions were in sight, and new galleries remained elusive.

When I posed the question, Why are you not selling any art? I got the initial answer I expected.

“My galleries are closing, previous collectors aren’t responding to the new work…”

I interrupted the response and asked again, Why are you not selling any art?

Again the artist began to talk about the galleries, the collectors…

And again I interrupted and quietly repeated, Why are you not selling any art?

This time there was a thoughtful pause and I could almost hear the inner confusion as the artist’s brain scrambled for a foothold on why I kept repeating the question in spite of the “logical” response.

The Direction You Are Facing Makes All The Difference

No matter the thoughtful pause, the artist tried one more time to pin slow sales on external forces.

So this time, I drew out the critical word in the sentence so there could be no mistaking where I was headed: Why are yooooooou not selling any art?

The artist took a deep breath, thought for a long minute and said, “I don’t know why I am not selling.”

And then the real work began. The work of finding out what puppet strings were operating behind the scenes that kept this talented, smart, business savvy artist unaware of what was really going on.

It is so tempting and so automatic, when things are not going as we wish, to face outwardly, to try to get a handle on what’s happening in our external world that will give us the right information, the right clues to whack our way out of whatever jungle we find ourselves in.

It is so much more difficult to turn around and face our inner jungle, to find out where the inner puppet strings are being pulled, and which part of us is complicit in this act of internal sabotage.

The Truth Can Set You Free

…is not a cliché. It’s the real deal. <- now that’s a cliché!

In this story, the linchpin turned out to be a very old, historical trauma that had gone unresolved and created an unacknowledged anxiety every time the artist stepped into a gallery.

But, since this artist was smart, accomplished, and comfortable in most other areas of life, this low-level rumble of anxiety was ignored, treated as a non-event.

What the artist didn’t realize was that the nature of anxiety—one of its most salient characteristics—is to leak out and affect everyone around.

In most cases, the effect is subtle, subterranean, hard to trace back to the source.

Recognizing the exact reason for the anxiety was the first step, the second was to release the anxiety and the third step was to create new neurological wiring that would replace the anxiety with grounded confidence.

Within five days of “doing the work,” an old collector walked into the artist’s studio unannounced and bought $30,000 worth of the “new” art.

Within two weeks, seemingly out of the blue, two new galleries contacted the artist about representation.

Within five months, this artist had 4 new galleries and exhibitions lined up through 2015.

The puppet strings had been cut. For good.


My new Manifesto For Visual Fine Artists is all about making sure you have the tools you need to discover whatever puppet strings are operating behind the scenes in your art career that are keeping you from the full satisfaction of success.

The Entire Manifesto Is Ready For You

My plan is to use this Sunday Series of Blog Posts to tease out sections of the manifesto and illuminate, ruminate, and expand, but I can’t do this alone.

I need my intrepid artists, the ones who find a resonance with exploring how we can all step so fully into our own creative flow that the collective consciousness of humanity also wakes up and steps into its collective creative flow.

If you would like a copy of the entire Manifesto For Visual Fine Artists, click here.

I want to hear … no, I need to hear about the principles you believe will take you closer and closer to the visionary summit of the truth and power in your art.

So, please… Tell me….

The Next Step

I have been coaching visual artists on their career path to Visionary Affluence since 2004.

That’s the ten-year minimum it takes to master any skill—not to say I’ve actually mastered anything. Just letting you know I have logged the 10,000 hours it takes to run fast enough, flap your wings hard enough, and leap high enough to discover whether or not you can fly.

And what I can tell you is how remarkable the view is from 10,000 hours above the creative landscape.  I can spot enclaves of my artists as they sit ‘round mythical campfires at different levels of the Mt. Olympus climb to their dreams.

Leaning into the smell of a wood fire, these artists – intrepid visionaries every one – share their experiences with each other. A hawk cries out and circles overhead as the mountain range frames a bold streak of sunset sky deepening to blood red.

I invite you to join your fellow artists, and me, under the emerging stars of your own visions, where the expansive beauty of the horizon calls out, the fire is warm, and the truth of your heart is irresistible!

Your Truth – Your Power – Your Art

Click here to get your download.

And I’ll keep you posted on the exciting new events, webinars, trainings, books, and successful artist interviews I’m mapping out as we climb this dream summit together.

8 Responses to “Puppet Strings”

  1. I believe the reason I am not selling my art is because of self-sabotaging behaviors and a deep message — that I thought I had been working on for several years — that I cannot be successful. Or it could be some form of “fear of success.”

    It is interesting, when I try to research the concept of “fear of success” there is very little out there. It is all about “fear of failure.” Recently, I have been doing a lot of clearing – my office, my studio, more of my office, my computer – which is helping get down to the bones of this problem. All of this is helping to clear my head and is quite satisfying.

    I would really like to cut those puppet strings! As I watch my peers surpass me in sales and exhibitions, I now know I have no other ‘excuse.’

    • Brave comment, Carol, there’s not many of us willing to put it out so transparently. This alone could be a turning point for you.

      And, just curious, have you finished this sentence: When I succeed, xxx will happen.

      Then take that answer and keep going:
      – When I xxx, yyy will happen.
      – When I yyy, zzz will happen.

      See if you can drill down to the bottom of the swamp. See what swamp monsters are actually clogging up the flow.

  2. Kate Aubrey says:

    Great post, Ariane. One of our Bluestocking conversations about money made me look at my aversion to making more than “just enough money”. Turns out that’s a motherlode puppet string puller for me. Am still mining that particular vein with my therapist.

    Wish I could spend more time on the subject, but we’re in the throes of moving now. Have packed most of the easy stuff; will start on my studio/framing room tomorrow. Pray for me.

    Tennessee, here we come on June 19th.

  3. Tiffany Southall says:

    I think the thought process of “Stinking thinking” is what gets us to these places. Being artist we require a strong support system and positive alignment with self.

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