The Laws of Nature

Friday, November 5, 2010

From Monet to Money, Part 3

The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)

Chapter 7: From Monet to Money, Part 3

The conclusion of this chapter brings to light what most artists face on a daily basis: the fact that most of us are neither famous nor rich from our artmaking. But, isn’t that true for professionals in almost any discipline? The superstars are few among us. Today, we have an increasing number of “celebritants” (celebrity/debutants) whose only claim to fame comes from publicists and stylists who market them for their looks, questionable personalities, and outrageous acts. An artist could achieve notoriety in the same way but does that make their work more meaningful and valuable? Think of Thomas Kinkade before answering that question.

But, should we artists even be concerned with pursuing fame? For many of us, financial necessity forces us to find ways to sell our work. I have yet to meet an artist who prefers marketing their work to making it. Nor have I met an artist who’d give up painting just to pursue the life of fame (I probably don’t know enough artists because I suspect there are some who would do just that!)

As Orland puts it, the very lack of attention from the outside world also brings a healthy realization that fame and fortune are fickle rewards, and that nourishment for our work must come from other parts of our life – from friends and family, and from the satisfaction that comes from the making the art itself. And so yes, of course artists today are universally under-recognized and underpaid. But then again, how much money would someone have to pay you in trade for your promise to never make art again?


Linda Roth said...

You always make me think and I don't know whether to thank you for that or not? Your topics are prickly. We all want recognition,albeit some degree of fame. I think that's why so many wannabes are making fools of themselves to get in the public eye. (Andy Warhol may have started it--then KISS and of course YouTube). But when I'm in my studio, I aim for work I'm proud of--it has to have craftsmenship. It has to have life. It's my opinion that counts. If others like it great, if not, great. Whether the recognition is favorable or not, the only way to achieve any degree of recognition, is to put yourself out there.

RH Carpenter said...

I'm just trying to make art that pleases me when I see it, finished, on my wall. When I get to a point where that happens more times than not, I think I'll worry about others' liking it and/or buying it. How much to stop making art? It would have to be at least 5 million dollars. Yep, I think that would do it!

Robin said...

I think there are something like 3 million visual artists living today trying to make it in the art world. I forget the exact percentage, maybe it's 3% that make it. I believe we make art because we have to in order to live life feeling more complete. The sad reality is how small a percentage actually don't need that day job to support the art job.I make art because it completes me. It's a bonus when I am able to show a body of work, and then even more of a bonus when I sell. But that is the problem, that is not enough of an annual income to be considered making a living. Orland's book (and your blog summary) is like a support group telling us to not give up, sigh... and we find a way to continue.

Casey Klahn said...

I wonder the same things about fame, and I look at the artists who did achieve it, especially in the 20th Century. Picasso, Pollock, deKooning.

I admit that deKooning's work came alive for me after I read his biography. I love his personality - what a character. I see the beauty of his ideas and of his brushstrokes - the rigor and the intention. Awesome. Ugly. Dramatic. Captivating.

I guess if fame makes a guy looked at more closely, then that is good. To be ignored, that is the opposite extreme, huh?

I am having fun watching Jacko become even bigger in death than possibly he was in life. We were born a week apart, but I don't think he ever heard of me. Was he as good as his press? Was he as bad?

I know, for myself, that fame wouldn't give me anything of lasting value. Another strange part of this question(I hope all of you artists present have experienced this) is the experience of being looked upon in an elevated manner by admirers. It is a strange experience - you first want to resist that because you know the "underside of your car" is a mess. If people only knew the crap I put out in my studio on an almost daily basis.

Still, OTOH, I often look at things I've painted and wonder who did that, and how.

Unknown said...

Hi L.W. - I like exploring the prickly topics because that's where the interest lies for me. Like you, I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the peaceful act of artmaking in the privacy of my studio. Putting my work "out there" is risky and requires me to come out of my shell, but also very important. Thanks for your comments!

Hi Rhonda- you made me chuckle - $5 million, eh?? Tempting, but ....

Hi Robin - alarming statistics!! I didn't know it was that bad. Well, I guess I'm lucky to make any sales at all if those are the odds. It's a tough way to make a living!

Hi Casey - I think that fame is a double-edged sword and something that would send me into a full retreat. Once, some small works of mine were being auctioned off to raise money for a non-profit and the prices soared into the thousands (e.g. $5,500 for one tiny watercolor painting, and so on). They all sold for unbelievable prices and then people started taking pictures of me and asking for my autograph. I was embarassed and completely unnerved. It made me realize that, althogh I like to paint and sell my work, I do not like that kind of attention. I really don't know how true celebreties do it day in and day out, year after year. No wonder they're all in therapy!

Carolyn Abrams said...

I agree with Robin that my art completes me. Whether anyone likes it or not. But as many of you have said it is nice when you find that someone has made a connection to your art and would like to buy it. As for Pollock and some of the others i'd hate to live my life as frenetic and extreme as they did in order to achieve "success"! i'll take anonymous and happy any day!

Anonymous said...

I think if I really wanted to make money, I probably could. I look at some successful, (as defined by lots of sales and big following), artists around here and think that they're no smarter than I am. What they do is paint for a particular mass audience that seems to like photo realism (again, locally).
Something in my head will not allow me to do what they do. I assume for them it's their authentic way to work. It would not be for me. I've been asked twice this week to do pet portraits of dogs for money. I turned both offers down. My marketing brain says "are you nuts". My art brain says I can not take the commissions and do honest work.

It's sort of the way it is for least today! Things may change tomorrow.

And, I agree with you, Kathy, fame can be a double edged sword. Look at the famous people who couldn't handle fame and self destructed.

But...a few sales would be nice :)

Unknown said...

Hi Carolyn - I'm all for level-headed tranquility, too!

Hi Peggy - your work is fantastic! Of course it would sell! You made a wise decision in turning down the pet portraits. Good for you!

Celeste Bergin said...

I haven't had much sincere interest in other things aside from visual art my whole life...(though I think I was capable of other things). It is just hard to imagine a life without having done exactly what I've done in the order I've done it. Sure, I could have used more $$$--but who would I have been without this trip? I can't imagine it. I think, like old actors love the smell of "greasepaint" --once you go down this road...there is no turning back.

Linda Roth said...

I can't agree with you more Peggy. The more I look at fine art as a business, the more I do not want to do that. But another artist told me what one of her instructors told her: if your work stays in your studio, it's a hobby; if you take it to market, it's art, (I'm paraphrasing). That confused me for a minute, before I realized that's bull. I don't market my work, but I am an artist with a bit of talent whether I sell it or not. However,my studio is getting cramped. The only reason I'd like to find an easy way to market my work, is quite frankly to make space for the new work.
And I won't do commissions either.

Unknown said...

Hi Celeste - I competely agree! Thank you.

Hi L.W. - I think the real distinction is between "artist" and what the IRS recognizes as a "professional artist." And artist makes art, period. A professional artist (by IRS standards) must attempt to produce an income from art and can only take a loss for five years before losing that status.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little uncomfortable with my own statement ("But...a few sales would be nice"). That's my impatience showing through.

This world of art is challenging. I do believe my time will come. And, it will come after I've paid my dues with paint and brush. I look at your art and the fine pieces by our contemporaries and I know it takes work.

You asked how much would it take to get us/me to never paint again? I have to do something with my hands and brain, otherwise I'm not happy. And, I've already paid a price to get here. I had another career in my younger days so I could paint now. I am about 20 years behind my contemporaries, I figure. But I have a modest income so I can paint what I want.

Thank you Kathy!

Dan Kent said...

I am so behind. I've looked at your blog daily, and haven't had even a moment to comment. My excuse: I am "caretaker of children, spouse, and parent", not to mention full-time employee in a rather demanding job of late. But still I feel compelled to make art - just wish I could do it on the scale I imagine.

Re this post, the timing is interesting, because I just finished a biography of Andy Warhol. He was very creative - an original - and I don't think it can be denied that he sought fame aggressively. At one point, in his pointed search for recognition he abandoned art based upon cartoons when he found out it was already being done by Lichtenstein. He wanted his own mark on the art world.

I cannot therefore conclude that seeking fame is a crime. Rather it is the sacrifice of creativity for banality that is the crime. And that is where the almighty buck could lead.

Unknown said...

Hi Peggy - your work is mature and appealing! But, you're wise to consider the physical and emotional wear and tear on an artist before entering the market place. It's tough!

Hi Dan - nice to hear from you again! No excuses necessary :-) Your final statement is so true: "I cannot therefore conclude that seeking fame is a crime. Rather it is the sacrifice of creativity for banality that is the crime. And that is where the almighty buck could lead." Thank you!

Linda Roth said...

Dan you struck a chord. Banality for the buck is a big fear. If people are consistently buying just your little boats or flowers and nothing else, would you resort to painting more little boats and flowers for the bucks? To be honest,I think I might. And then I would start hating painting the damn pictures and me for prostituting myself. That's why I think you don't give up your day job.

Mark Sheeky said...

Dan, I know plenty of people who become boring for free.

It's impossible to give up art. If you're creative then even the way you arrange your desk is an artform. I best most people would turn down money if it had to involve permanently rearranging the furniture.