The Laws of Nature

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Community Discussion ... Day 4

We’ve reached day 4 of our experimental community discussion and I like where we're going! How about you?
We began yesterday's discussion by picking up on Dan’s topic about what spurs us toward expansion and growth of our art.
Here’s a summary of the responses:

I commented that since my process is concept-oriented, any advancement must come from intense introspection.

Elizabeth’s path began with learning a variety of media and techniques through instruction, but getting lost in technique at the expense of her “voice.” Finding it in the expression of the ridiculous and whimsical, she challenges herself to solve new and more challenging problems in artmaking.

Robin offers that every time we paint, we grow and learn something. Amen!! Her perspective is that we don’t always have to be pushing the envelope because art has a therapeutic and meditative quality that’s also important.

Celeste advances her work by taking two workshops per year, reading books, participating in blogs like this one, and also meeting with an art discussion group in her area on a weekly basis. She also goes to museums and watches artful programs on TV or DVD. Additionally she paints or draws every day. Sounds like a winning formula to me!

Susan returned to an earlier topic posed by Margaret about worthy vs. fluff work. She made a great (in my opinion) observation about the detrimental effects of doing quick work under time constraints which leads to work that lacks serious consideration. (Boy, I wish more folks would consider this point – it’s a good one!)

L.W. followed up on Susan’s comment by noting that quick sketching is a limbering exercise and not a serious drawing, which takes much longer. She applies this to the painting process as well, and is dicscouraged to find so many artists online that produce quickie small works for sale. The work is repetitious and boring.

Robin respectfully disagreed with L.W. since she repeats themes in order to further explore them, as did Monet with his lilies and haystacks.

L.W. responded that her intent isn’t to offend those who paint one particular subject, since she does it herself. It’s a matter of repetitious copying of previous work rather than exploring new ways to express the same subject.

This led Robin to ask a new question: Is it bad to want to paint htings that you know will be more salable?

I responded that my feelings are mixed. I wouldn’t deliberately produce work for the market, but at the same time I have sympathy for artists whose sole income is from the sale of their paintings. They have little choice but to find ways to support themselves, and that may include painting what’s popular. Hopefully, once they achieve financial independence they can produce authentic work instead.

Joyfulartist (do you have a name I may use?) posted a great quote from Bayles & Orland’s book “Art & Fear” – “The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is to simply teach you how to make the small fraction that soars.” (p. 5)

L.W. responded to the latter comment by Robin and indicated that she wants to sell her work, however she doesn’t have a large enough inventory to begin. (That’s a good topic for later!)

Mark offers that it isn’t bad to want to paint something saleable. After all, portrait paintings (e.g. George F. Watts) do this. He also asks if popular art is saleable art? And, is popular art good because it’s popular? By extension, if nobody likes a painting, is it bad? These are great questions to consider.


M said...

If nobody likes a painting is it bad? That's a pretty "heady" question to wake up to this morning.

I consider art making primarily as a form of communication that reflects the individual creating the work even if the individual doesn't produce work with the intent to communicate. I could never label any act of creation as bad because it is too connected to the individual - another voice so to speak and for that reason it should be honoured. I may not like the content, I may think that the elements and principles of design are not well executed, I may think the technique is not well mastered but I would never call any act of creation bad. Looking forward to what others say on this topic. something to think about at work today...

Susan Roux said...

The direction this conversation is going in is interesting. There's passion coming from both sides. Repetitive art, salable art, popular art, and whether sales determine if its good or bad art. Wow, we came a long way from serious versus fluff! Personally I'd like to think that those who produce the quick things, also take time to really explore a painting and the whole process of a work done over an extended period of time.

It even ties into the first question of how do you improve. The quick studies, whether for sales or improvement, tend to be closer to the fluff side while a developed work takes what one has learned and pulls it all together into one painting. This to me is a serious work. Drawing (no pun intended) from within all of your learned information/experiences and combining it together in one work of art. It would be my definition of a serious work.

There's a spontaneity in quick works. The challenge for me is to find a way to keep the look of spontaneity in a work I've developed over a length of time.

Most museums and serious galleries out there are showing works that were not done in an hour or two...

RH Carpenter said...

I really like what Margaret said about not saying a work is bad. We humans are so judgmental about everything - it's what keeps us from all going out and buying the same shoes! We use our judgment to decide what works for us and what doesn't work for us. But when it comes to judging another's creation, it's like judging their child. Very sensitive, indeed!
If nobody likes a painting, is it bad? I think history tells us that can't be true (too many artists who struggled and were outcasts in their lives but we seen as just ahead of their time after they died).
Art making as communication, as Margaret said. Looking at it like that gives me a different perspective on the work of others.

Dan Kent said...

First, thank you all so much for the considered responses to my question. I will be thinking about your answers for some time.

I read a scathing article once on Romero Britto - excoriating his factory-like production and his simple style. His art is wildly popular (at least in South Florida) and Britto is capitalizing upon it by turning his art into every kind of product (which I believe will cheapen it ultimately, but that's his error to make).

I believe he was attacked because of his popularity and financial success (jealousy?) and his simple non-painterly style. In other words, the converse of what Mark said - the article maintained that because his art is popular, it is bad.

But when I look at his art, I see uniqueness, creativity and a natural extension of the pop art tradition. And people enjoy it. I don't believe you can say it is bad art because it is popular.

Likewise, you cannot say it is good because of popularity (Kincaid, right Kathy?) Popularity or saleability is probably irrelevant. That would of course lead to the conclusion that there is very good art that will forever be undiscovered and unappreciated. Since art is an expression of the artist, and one could assume that by that expression there is an attempt to reach out to others, that is kind of sad.

Unknown said...

It seems like we're all saying the same thing - it really gets back to authenticity. The artist's intent is critical to assessing whether the work is "good" or "bad" (terms I wouldn't normally apply). It seems to me that if the artist's intent is genuine self-expression then that's a "good" thing. By contrast, an artist whose only interest lies in producing what sells for the purpose of making sales isn't really producing art. In order for something to be deemed a work of art is must have meaning. (I'm assuming here that "I just want to sell this crap" isn't an appropriate meaning). Great conversation, all!

Carolyn Abrams said...

i'm a little late in the game but i once thought Mr Kincaid's work to be very luminous and intriquing until 1. his work was found on everything imaginable including lunch boxes and 2. i saw a documentary about his production and saw stacks and stacks of canvases in a warehouse in a foreign country (i believe) being "dabbed" with original paint by factory workers. He was sitting at a large table signing them as they came in front of him. That totally turned me off as to the aunthenticity (voice) of this work.

I love this community disussion Kathy. I learn something from every post!

Linda Roth said...

Making art strictly for sale? By all means.

We used to be in the art business. We bought oil paintings in Europe and the Orient and sold them beautifully framed for very little. It was the kind of art you see on stage sets, movie sets, television--very fine art looking, impressive. Trained in fine art, I looked down on the artists who were making our product. I thought they had "sold out," until I met one of them on one of our buying trips. He didn't sign his real name on the art he made for commercial sales--only on the art he sold through the fine art gallery that represented him. The stuff he painted for us was excellent, but very different than his real work. The conversation changed my attitude. It made perfect sense to me that he would paint for both the commercial and the fine art markets and use a pseudonym. He was supporting his family with his talent--and he was very talented and energetic. He could whip off a number of full sized anythings during the day and paint for himself in the evenings. It was that afternoon that I concluded I had been a snob--and so had all the other artists I knew who had let that side of the business go overseas. I want to stress that this fellow was very, very good and very fast. I don't remember what genres--landscapes or flowers--but the piece I bought from him at his gallery show that evening was figurative and looked nothing like what our company had bought from him in the afternoon. I definitely think artists are entitled to make a living doing what they do best. I'm sad that there are folks out there who want to keep artists poor.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I'm quietly sitting in the back corner--listening.

Celeste Bergin said...

Some days I am weary of the paintings where someone is standing in front of a painting. Gawd. I have seen sooo many of those. Even though I am guilty, I am also tired of the Malcom Liepke rip offs know, the dark haired woman with a reddish nose who looks "sad" one does it better than Liepke himself..some subjects are trendy and sell better than other things. Is painting with the intent of selling a bad thing? hmmm. Well, I think if you paint a person standing in front of a painting with no other thought than to sell it...uh yeah. Bad thing. lol.

Robin said...

I don't see how art making on any level, no matter the motivation, is a bad thing. Not every artist is going to make a sale, or end up in a museum exhibit ... and why should it matter? I think there is terrible pressure (I am at fault of this) to feel like we have to be "good enough" and sometimes it can ruin the beauty of the art making process. I battle my inner critic daily; if I sell a painting that is not a bad thing, if it was small and happened to flow out quickly, that also is not a bad thing. Surviving in the art world, being judged, getting accepted or rejected from shows or galleries, is hard to ignore but I don't think the reason we make art should matter as long as we are making art, IMHO.

Dan Kent said...

Well Celeste, the acrylic I'm working on is a woman that looks sad (or thoughtful, wistful). At least I think she is going to be blonde. There was no thought of Liepke. I'll be sure that the nose isn't too red. lol. Don't want to be thought to be ripping anyone off - not selling it anyway. I don't think Liepke can have subjects like this all to himself.