Friday, October 30, 2009

Dunedin Art Harvest

The challenge and ultimate satisfaction of an artist is the willingness to simply let things happen. Give up control for awhile. Let go of preconceived ideas. Get out of the way and just paint.

For the upcoming Art Harvest show, I allowed myself to paint on black masonite squares. I dared myself to use water based oil paint, and wondered what would happen if the surface was sprayed with glue.

The wonderful Japanese sculptor, Jun Kaneko, said his art comes from intuitive ideas based on a lifetime of experiences. Perhaps the experience provides a comfort zone that prevents us from falling off the edge into chaos. Within that shelter the artist is free to try something new, to be bold.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fu Lions And 15 Minute Art

Over the years, I’ve collected snippets of conversation overheard at outdoor art shows. The open nature and family entertainment atmosphere of this type of show encourage sidewalk critics emboldened by cups of brew and funnel cake.

A book I’ve always wanted to write would be full of these funny and sarcastic comments that have little to do with art appreciation. Several remarks were repeated enough to make me wonder why I work a certain way. In this respect, even cynical asides can be of some use.

1. How long did it take you to paint this, 15 minutes?
To most people, something is worthy of value only if it took a long time to create. There is no room in this way of thinking for gesture and spontaneity born from a lifetime of experience. Neither do people think much about process. They only see that an artwork had a beginning and after a lot of work was finished. They fail to appreciate the many stops and starts, self doubts and anxieties along the way until an artist felt sufficient confidence to exhibit a 15 minute piece of art.

2. My grand-daughter can paint better than this.
I have seen children’s art that is quite remarkable, fun pieces full of color, energy, and joy. But when asked to repeat their effort, the children often struggle, becoming restless and distracted. They are eager to move on to the next thing that catches their eye. An experienced artist arrives at a mature style after many years work. Such an artist intends to repeat their efforts. They eagerly make one painting and another and another because they must. They cannot not do it. No six year old grand-daughter would put up with that.

3. Why don’t you paint pretty pictures?
The easy answer would be that I can not improve on the beauty of Nature. Nature is perfect just as it is and my art is not. That does not, however, stop artists from trying over and over to transcend Nature’s beauty. For my own art, I am often reminded of the fierceness of Fu Lions. Great snarling stone sculptures were often placed in front of Indian and Chinese temples for protection. A cute bunny or beautiful maiden would be of no use when faced with evil spirits intent on mischief. No one messes with an ugly guardian creature that can bite your face off. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t paint pretty pictures because they don’t give me enough protection.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pay Per View Art

The humidity just dropped ten percentage points in Central Florida, which means Fall must be on its way. It is still 90 degrees outside but people are reappearing on the streets, eager to shake off four months of air conditioned hibernation. Businesses here in Tampa Bay hold "come on in" sales and art galleries advertise their roster of fall exhibitions.

I recognize some of the well known artists but notice a number of newcomers to the local art scene, all eager to make a name for themselves and perhaps a few sales. If they stick around long enought, it is possible they might make a name and even sell some art. Making a living from their art will prove much more difficult.

Artist's expenses continue to rise and the cost for a substantial one person show can run to thousands of dollars. In spite of a slew of advance publicity, great galleries, and exciting art, the promise of art sales might never materialize. Most call-for-entry art exhibitions now charge a hefty entry fee, which is non-refundable. For those accepted, up front expenses must then be regained before any profit can be earned. People wonder why artists look so glum at outdoor shows. An artist can not survive for long when the trickle-down of cash flow never reaches them.

Part of the answer could be pay per view art. Art galleries and outdoor art shows would charge an entry fee to view the art. This is not a new idea. Most museums already charge entry fees as do some high-end galleries and cash-strapped outdoor shows. It could be pay at the door or in a contribution box, but the main difference would be that the artist has a share in the proceeds.

This kind of arrangement would guarantee better quality art works and more visitors willing to spend a few dollars to see great art. Art galleries have become expensive consignment shops and outdoor shows promise all kinds of entertainment for the family. None of that is promising for the artist. Pay per view art could make a difference.