- Making Your Short Film- Getting From The Page To The Screen
- Making Your Short Film- Real Life Lessons I Learned by Doing It
- Adapt, Improvise and Overcome
- 15 Questions Every Artist Should Ask Before Exposing
- What Does It Take To Be a Working Artist in the South of France-The Six Month Followup Part 1
Category Archives: The Business Of Art
One of the biggest challenges that face professional artists today is choosing what events to participate in to expose their work. Many of us have limited resources; namely money; and it behooves us to examine the potential benefit for us in expositions.
It’s very important to get your work exposed to as many people as possible. With that said, how does one go about selecting which events to invest in to be able to reap the biggest rewards in sales and in potential clients and also in networking?
Whether you have been invited to participate in an exhibition or you are submitting your work for an upcoming show, here are some helpful questions to pose to the organizers of the event so that you can make the best informed decision as to whether you should proceed or choose another event.
In the current financial market, one has to be very precise as to what works to your advantage and what can end up just costing you money and time without a measurable return.
Here are a few questions to pose along with your own relevant questions pertaining to you in particular.
- If the event requires you to submit a statement and work to be reviewed by a jury for inclusion, who are the people on the jury and what are their specific qualifications? What events have they juried and also what previous events have the organizers themselves put together? If there are artists you see who have participated in these shows, contact them thru their web sites or social media sites and ask them to give you a fair assessment as to their experience at these shows and working with the organizers.Find out how communication was between them and the organizers.
- What newspaper, magazines and media are you advertising in and how many weeks in advance?
- Who is the spokesperson doing interviews for radio, web and print? Do they need someone to speak about it in a language maybe you speak but they don’t have the resources to expose properly through media? An example would be if the event takes place in a city that has a large foreign community that isn’t being addressed. If you speak Russian or Chinese in a city like London or Berlin, that could be very helpful in exposing your work and the event. Offer to do it for them.
- What is the event website? Is it being currently updated on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule? Do they have a blog that introduces upcoming participants to guest blog?
- How SEO friendly is the site? Does in come up in Google, Yahoo and MSN searches on the first page results?
- Is their a vernissage (opening night) and who is confirmed to be attending such as press outlets, political and social VIP’s?
- Will you have access and permission to re-use any media and photos covering the event?
- How many free invitations can they provide for you to offer to potential clients who want to attend the show? Giving them all to friends isn’t the best strategy. Reserve some for people who may be potential buyers. Having friends stop by your stand is good as it creates energy and movement and will attract more people to you stand.
- How large is the invitation mail list being sent out?
- Are local business owners being marketed to and invited to attend?
- Are their discounts available for food and drink for participants? As these shows can be expensive for an artist to attend and expose, it is in the interest of the event to make arrangements for a couple cafes or bars to offer a discount meal to participants.
- Is proper lighting provided? Spots or flood lights? What is the wattage? (You want between 20 to 40 watts for best lighting conditions.)
- Are there special deals for vehicle rentals for transporting your work or renting a car while there?
- Is there advertising targeting hotels, airports, train stations, travel agencies, business office parks, real estate agencies, salons and high end furniture or home decor stores?
- Is their WiFi access at the event for participants and what is the charge? Is it discounted for participants?
These are just some of the questions that will help you better gauge whether an event is something you want to participate in.
What are your experiences as an artist exposing your work in shows? Have you found some questions that aren’t normally asked that end up becoming issues at your shows? I would love to hear from you about how you go about choosing events to expose in.
In February, my post entitled “WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A WORKING ARTIST” marked the beginning of my attempt to write about my experiences as an artist here in France.
I don’t know if there are any artists reading the blog but I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the past six months and add new thoughts to the topic.
These have been trying times for all. Financially and politically, we have witnessed extreme fluctuations worldwide. And I have myself at times questioned my path. It has been a long journey for me and there were times when I was so close to the end, I couldn’t see beyond my immediate future. So close it seemed, that I was floating by my teeth.
But the random acts of kindness have materialized at the times I needed it most. With my partner putting a huge amount of effort into seeing me succeed and getting the word out with my work and thinking in a clear concise way, it has helped me immensely. She has found my buyers for me and has always been by my side to participate and champion me to others. Other friends of hers brought people towards us who eventually bought my art. Or they spoke about me, us and the paintings. They have come out to support me and her at our little showings and have been generous in their willingness to help spread the word and to get more exposure for me as an artist.
Everything that has come to us has come through meeting people personally and establish a rapport with them. Allowing them to see you as a person and not just a face. Sharing my passion for what I do with them and seeing them react to the paintings in a positive way. Seeing how happy they are when they buy one and put it in their home or office. All these things come from being available and open to people.
I don’t know of many artists who sell directly from their website without first meeting their clients. If someone does buy, it is usually after having seen the painting in person at their atelier and having met the artist personally. Also, I’ve noted that people need to get a sense of who you are as a person as your work always reflects ones energy. They want to bring positive energy into their home, not negative.
But art is a personal thing and I guess I need to understand that it takes time to accumulate exposure and an awareness to your product. I have at times been frustrated because of what I thought to be too slow of a process of getting some exposure. I have repeatedly reached out to various print media only to be ignored. I don’t know what their agenda comprises of for exposing artists here. It seems at times that for a country like France that is known for their inclusion of culture and arts in everyday life, here in the south the focus is only on tourism revenue. It can break you down and make you feel like no one cares. But you keep on keeping on. Like the monologue in Rocky Balboa, “it’s not about how hard you can hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Because if your willing to go thru all the battling you gotta get through to get to where you wanna get, who’s got the right to stop you? If you know what your worth, then bloody get what your worth!”
If you are an artist going thru the same thing, what has been your experience so far? Who have been the angels that have helped you out? How have you been resourceful with limited resources? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Last week, I spoke of a Ponzi scheme in the high art world. Maybe that was harsh but I wanted to get your attention.Because the public has been told by the art media, experts and art trend commentators that this conceptual art movement and the art from it is not only a real value because of it’s significance in the context of modern and post war art, but that these artists are themselves as significant as Monet, Picasso, Pollack, Warhol and de Kooning.
I think the investors bought these ‘assets’ with the idea of flipping them in the course of a few years but did they really believe these works were as important as the works of the previous stated artists? With so many new millionaire and billionaires being minted weekly, it seemed there was no end in sight to people knocking at the door of elitism asking for entree and willing to spend crazy money just to look they belonged, had culture and were significant themselves.
They ended up investing in the art worlds version of the financial derivative. It seemed that each one that came along was the sucker, paying the sucker price and finding other suckers to offload onto after they made a profit. Everyone was making money. The critics, the galleries, the media, the investors that museums got to put up funds for huge, exquisite parties and exhibitions.
Even the reputable auctions houses got into it for a taste. ( I use ‘reputable’ loosely based upon known issues of provenance of various works auctioned off in the past twenty years.)
And let’s not even get into how most of these new millionaires made their money. The fact remains that the same instrument that crashed the world economy seems to have enjoyed a parallel life in the art world.
So whats going to happen? No one knows. Will it be propped up or left to deflate? Your answer is as good as mine. But I know this. People who really enjoy traditional art are having a field day. They have the best of both worlds now. Young, hungry artists who want a chance to sell and showcase their work and reasonable prices for emerging artist’s work that doesn’t break your bank. It would appear that now is the time for the rebirth of art in it’s more traditional forms: painting, sculpture, photography, sketching, drawing, even graffiti.
In the end, the real work that is sweated out by the artisans themselves always ends up being discovered by real people. And that is where the true value lies; in it’s discovery.
We’ve seen ourselves rise to the occasion time and time again with the earthquakes in China, Afghanistan and Haiti and the last tsunami that rocked Indonesia in 2004.We want to help.We want to comfort people. We want to ease that pain we know could happen to us. The dichotomy of what we do for each other and to each other is a subject for another time and place.
My uncle sent me a link to an interesting op/ed piece regarding an artist’s attempt helping the victims of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis over in Japan.
You can read it here. I won’t repeat what was already written because I agree with the writer.
And I would venture to say this. It is a noble idea from James White with a great design concept. As we know many of the great artists have used their faculties as artists to convey their thoughts, emotions and stories of the greatest conflicts and atrocities in human history. Clavé and Picasso did many pieces regarding the Spanish Civil War. It enables us to cope and try to understand and heal from huge personal losses and the scarred psyches of past events. It helps us process to it differently and find some peace.
There are soldiers who are returning from years of deployment dealing with the toll that war has taken on them and their friends and families and all the while producing some inspiring and downright moving cinema, drawings, paintings and writings. It helps to heal our broken minds.
But I believe there is a difference between events triggered by the emotional (or coldblooded) responses by governments in relation to their respective political and economic agendas and a simple geological event.
Both kinds of these events affect us globally on many levels. One is not more or less than the other. And what has happened here has reopened a very delicate issue regarding the type of energy we rely on now as a society and it’s potential for horrific implications in times of earthquakes and tsunami. As we realize that our dependence on fossil fuels has had an enormous negative consequence on this planet and it’s inhabitants, and we are looking for the next form of renewable and safe energy, we are reminded that we have to deal with our non qualified meddling in atomic energy sources and what can happen when it’s not running perfect. A car runs out of fuel or oil to keep it cool, it seizes. A reactor cracks and can’t retain the water used to keep the core cool, a little more than a seized engine occurs.
Where this artist and his piece falls short is in the mass production of a product that while poetic, is a reminder of something awful. He is doing this in order to raise funds. I get it. He’s a phenomenal artist. But I think it would be better served making a stand alone piece only. Just one piece. By raising interest in that one piece, I believe you still can get people to donate to the help organizations there in the relief effort without using the resources such as ink and paper in the production, delivery, postage and subsequent (possibly) disposal of the posters.
I agree with the writer that I would not be inclined so much as to put the poster up and each time be reminded of the event (or maybe how close we came to another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl)(**and we are still not out of the woods**) but to destroy it safe in the assumption I made a difference with my donation.
While I’m sure some artists have made work about tsunami or earthquakes or hurricanes, I’ve never seen them and I don’t believe people want to be reminded of these events which have always occurred on this planet. They just happen and we happen to be in the way. I’ve never seen art depicting dinosaurs running away from a meteor shower embraced as a way to commemorate the ice age.
In the end, I think the piece is brilliant, beautiful, graceful and tragic. And, like the event, there should only be one.
Last week I wrote about the potential collapse in the high art markets of London and New York. The art world’s obsession over the conceptual art movement and in turn the works of designers like Koons and Hirst and the subsequent failure of their work to earn a decent return in the second hand trade auctions have led some to quietly look the other way and ponder ‘what just happened ?’.
Though some who observe the market may declare the market for these artist’s work and conceptual art itself is experiencing a revamping, there still is the question of whether high concept art has hit the peak and if it was truly valued realistically. If so, why are high end buyers rejecting the new works and looking elsewhere to invest in what is undoubtedly a turnabout from the conceptual art superstars?
Artists like Gerhard Richter, Adriana Varejao, Almed Alsoudani and Chinese portrait artist Yan Pei-Ming are enjoying splendid if not somewhat more terrestrial auction prices and their work is definitely in the direction of abstraction and expressionism. But abstract painting was declared dead years ago, so why the sudden movement of money and interest in these artists?
I believe the ‘art of the banal’; as it’s sometimes been referred to; and the perverted egoistic personalities that came with it, has overstayed it’s own welcome. And in the desperate attempt to be the ‘brand’ or the ‘product’, these designers and the ‘work’ got shelved. Much like the consumer who gets bored of the device that; once gleaming and smooth; is now faded and scratched,the inevitable thought occurs in the mind: ‘Did I throw money away at a passing fancy, or is it truly a value to me?’
And so it is with conceptual art of the last years. I believe that in the end there is something much more tactile and real about these new artist’s works. They represent the strain and toil of reaching within oneself in order to find the next level in themselves and the reflection of their human experiences in the world around them. They reflect the soul that is able to create organically instead of the mind that can just analyze. They prove the idea does not take precedence over the material and that the aesthetic elements are as important. In fact, all elements are of equal value.
While one could argue that this direction was inevitable, what about all the huge profits made by those whose responsibility was to make sure hype and over inflated works didn’t flood the market?
What happened to all the investors who got left with a bag of swag it now seems no one wants? And what is the impact on the new emerging artists producing fine art but having to wait for the markets to unload their own stock before they take on new talents?
While the investment trend seems to be returning to the classic medium of paintings, some have withdrawn from the market entirely because of the stink that is now emanating from the last movement. Can you smell a Ponzi scheme here?
I recently sat down and watched the documentary entitled “Exit Through The Gift Shop” after a friend made a positive comment about it. I was aware of the film and especially after my name has two of the most recently known names in European art circles (Ben the french artist who writes phrases in French on a canvas and Banksy the ‘secret’ street artist who has never been identified or supposedly even photographed), my curiosity grew after I had read some reviews calling into question whether the film was a work of fiction or an actual documentary. Suffice to say I won’t wade into the pool of whether it was or wasn’t genuine. I enjoyed the film and found it entertaining and surprising.
Entertaining because the characters appear to take themselves lightly but you can tell underneath the facade they take themselves very seriously. Despite this, all are easy to spend time with, except two people (the promoter hired by Banksy to assist in Thierry’s L.A. show and some surgically over-enhanced middle aged woman bragging how she has a Warhol work somewhere packed away in a box but a Banksy piece right up in a prominent wall in her home.)
Surprising, as the film raised some relevant questions about the business practices used by promoters, galeries and the upper class auction houses that have gotten involved in the high-price/ high-brow world of pop art. It begs to ask how one artist can ‘create’ their art by using copyrighted images from other media and advertising; images that were photographed and/or created by another earlier artist or advertising team; run around spray painting their stenciled images on public and private property but in the end turn around and give the arched eyebrow and a condescending comment about Thierry because he does the same thing they do but with a massive labor intensive effort and a compressed time frame of weeks. One artist mentions that Thierry missed out on the ‘perfecting of his craft’ and that his art looks like everyone else’s. He’s right. In fact, this is all the art I see in the shops and galeries from St. Tropez to Monte Carlo. And yes, it all looks the same. The sad thing is, in the film, never once do you hear someone say ‘It’s beautiful’ or get lost looking at whatever work is being displayed. They see it, shrug or nod and then move on to the next piece exactly as if they had just consumed a sandwich. Hmmmm, food for thought.
And all this happens after Thierry’s show brings in a reported 1 million dollars. It seems that he has won the jackpot. However, there is no mention of how much money Thierry may have spent on working and getting the show together (a remortgage loan by putting up his home and business gives him capital) and whether, after additional costs and paying his staff of 20, he even makes a profit.
Keeping in mind that Banksy is credited with directing the film or at least taking what footage he felt was important, molding it into a strong story arc and obviously retaining editing control before the film was released, it serves to remind you that you are watching what he wants to show you and your attention is directed where he wants it to go.
The film states that it’s about Banksy turning the camera back onto someone who was trying to get Banksy on camera.Well yes and no. Originally, the film had nothing to do with Banksy per say. Thierry eventually wandered into that direction after months of taping graffiti artists and they in turn raving about how great Banksy was at not getting caught.(Indeed extraordinary given the UK’s reputation for CCTV camera’s being everywhere). He became the only one that Thierry didn’t have access to. And Thierry thrived on access.
One thing that is glaring is the fact that these artists all have huge cavernous work spaces in cities with the highest real estate prices in the world. Even renting these out of the way warehouses is expensive and I think tells us that these artists are kids from moneyed families; that Mom and Dad has been financing their ‘artistic’ craft. With the amount of material, labor and transportation costs entailed, I think it’s safe to say this is a case of culture disguising itself as counter culture. I think anyone can agree that culture has always bred counter culture and made it it’s golden goose for making money in the end.
The film I think brings to fore the artist’s (Banksy and others) uncomfortableness with their own success whether it be financial or in pop culture acceptance . They in essence have achieved what they based their whole image and work on; being the outsider, the counter-culture, the have-nots, their identity as working class and the continued fight against mass pop culture and the ‘brand’. They are in essence the brand now. And some; especially Banksy; have been rewarded very well financially. But they struggle, I suspect, with the realization that they have crossed into this other realm and they are now the ‘brand’ or at least a target that some other upcoming ‘counter culture’ artist in the coming years will either make the subject of their disdain or just simply make them the butt of a joke about the commercialization of modern pop art.
In the beginning the film tips the viewer with this little nugget; that Thierry could take a 50 dollar bag full of discarded, forgotten about and no longer hip clothing and turn around and sell it for 5,000 dollars simply by stating that the irregular stitching on an article of clothing was ‘designer’. All he had to do was hype it.
I think in the end, these artists must feel like that bag of clothes. And the one question an artist always has nagging in the back of his mind is “Am I really doing something original or …something thats already been done before? Am I really good? Or am I just hype?”
In the end ,it just may be a question of “Who’s fooling whom?”
Last night in Los Angeles, the Oscar for best documentary feature was awarded to the film INSIDE JOB, a chilling tale of the most recent market meltdown orchestrated by the world’s biggest financial institutions. After all the hype of whether Exit Through The Gift Shop would win or not, I began to see a pattern emerging.
While the financial collapse in the last three years has left an unbelievable wake of misery, ruin, and distrust of the ‘engine’ that drives the Western economies, I believe it parallels another disturbing trend, that the art world and the market buyers has been bamboozled, hoodwinked, lied to, cheated and tossed aside like a toy that no longer entertains a child.
It’s a complex issue with many elements and one that I will try to address and explain in the next few posts. But I will say this; the high art market is extremely toxic and may be about to collapse.
MUTT & JEFF
The definition of conceptual art is that the idea takes precedence over the material or the aesthetics of the art itself. It has even been claimed that conceptual art is supposed to question the very nature of art.
Here’s a question. Ever heard of the great white shark in formaldehyde? That would be the work of UK artist Damien Hirst, one of the poster childs of the movement. Heard about the huge stainless steel shiny balloon animals? That is the work of American artist Jeff Koons. Both of these men have been adopted and promoted as being the new geniuses behind conceptual art thru the last 20 years.
That may or may not be true. It’s a matter of speculation from people much more educated than I about modern art history. But there has been a growing wave of discontent and mistrust in the high art market, not only over the supposed importance of the previous mentioned artists (and others) contribution to modern art but also over the astronomical prices their works have been commanding in recent auctions in London and New York and the inability for art investors to get their money back. There is a growing doubt as to the true financial and artistic merit attached to these works.
Koons and Hirst may have allowed themselves to become the art world’s equivalent of Mutt and Jeff, the comic strip where the characters are always mixed up in a get rich quick scheme. They have become bloated, pasty versions of themselves while they seclude themselves in their multi million dollar estates, trying harder than ever to appear hip and relevant to a younger demographic through their publicity machine. One has started dressing much like a noted Irish rock star singer with the sunglasses and jewelry while the other has adopted a more conservative look much like the late TV personality Mr. Rogers.
But sadly, it’s much more than that. One kick in the arse is that these guys don’t even do the art themselves any more (if they ever did). They now have “assistants” doing the majority of the production of their work. So the question begs, are they artists or are they really art designers? How are they different from a fashion label’s head designer? Why do they go about their business treating the work like a corporate brand as opposed to doing business using the atelier/workshop/couture ethic of the great artists of yesteryear? And who really is dictating the values in the art market and why they may be setting up a bigger financial catastrophe then the one Bernie Madoff triggered?
The answer may be much more appalling than you imagine.
In my last post I talked about the film Exit Through The Gift Shop featuring Banksy. The film is up for an Oscar and the buzz is whether Banksy will attend, reveal himself, sit in the audience hidden, prank the Academy, etc, etc.
It seems he and the story elicits a diverse amount of responses from people. Here are some I found this morning:
—Ten years ago bansky’s art was cool, now the pop world gobbled him up.. a million sheep started to say how great he is. Now this @#$%? give me a break
—-I am so disappointed that we, the public and the Acadamy folks, cater to types like this. Just tell the guy to not to show and watch him beg his way back.There used to a wonderful action to those “people” that are sub culture…..ignore them…completely silent. Just kills them.
—I much rather see Banksy’s street art when I am out in public rather than all of the advertisements and billboards plastering every available surface telling me to do this and buy that. At least his work adds to the aesthetic appeal rather than taking away from it. I don’t really care whether he has permission or not. The pointless advertisements covering buildings and buses and everything else are corporate sponsored vandalism at best.
—Actually the thing I remember Banksy for is the amazing “Simpsons” couch gag he story-boarded. A true classic, but very, very dark, as well!!
—There’s something to be truly said for an artist who constantly turns down the temptation to coup such a profit from merely revealing his identity. The interviews, the private/public commissions, the merchandising, the marketing, all of it is just a honey pot full and waiting for Banksy to show his face. But he doesn’t. He lets the art stand on its own feet and have its own identity that is completely separate from him. Banksy doesn’t feel like the art is an extension of him. I believe that Banksy feels the art is a separate entity altogether and he’s just the messenger. Could any of us have that willpower? I doubt it.
—This guy is not an artist, he is a criminal and should be punished for his crimes. Vandalism is a crime no matter what you think of it. And to those who think it’s petty, think again. How much does it cost to replace the billboard, how much does it cost to paint over the damage? I one city I know of, they have spent well over 150,000.00 to combat this stupid ugly damage.
—banksy sucks hard. for that matter, so do all “street-artists”. and if a movie about graffiti and hipsters beats restrepo, I’m going to punch a midget.
—-It’s unfortunate that so many that don’t have a clue about this mans art (and yes people, it is art) or even who he is are so negative. Try educating yourselves.
—Personally, I would love to see the red carpet overwhelmed with the traditional stars all wearing “I am BANKSY” shirts, sashes and the like. If his team is smart, they would be sending them out now. I can think of more than a few of the stars that would probably wear them. It plays on so many levels. It would be the perfect Oscar moment.
—God, the way some people are talking about this ‘criminal’ you’d think he was a murderer, or a rapist or something equally awful. Yes what he does is illegal. BUT it is still art. And it is often fabulous: how many of you could do that with a paint can, in the middle of the night, without getting caught?
—the POINT of it all is to rile people up. A lot of his work is very political — just look at the child with the machine gun full of crayons. That’s a very loaded image (if you’ll pardon the pun). And I tell you, illegal or not, if I’d have driven past that billboard with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on my way to work? I’d have paid attention. It would’ve made me smile. For one thing, I’d call that more than any LEGAL billboard could do, and also it’s GOOD for the company. I might actually have looked at what they were advertising beneath the graffiti. In my mind, if it makes people smile it really can’t be all that bad.
I like that last sentence. Maybe we all need to take a breath and just smile. I’m sure Banksy is right now.
Then he looked at the portfolio where I have large format pictures of the work I had done early in my start of my painting. He remarked “hmmm hmmm…that looks exactly like a Jackson Pollock painting”. I laughed and said if he wanted to pay me the money one of his paintings go for, he could write the check now and I’d wait 10 days to cash it.
But I also got the sense he was saying it as a denunciation of the work as if he thought that I was copying someone else and thus not being original.
I mentioned that he wasn’t the first to make the Pollock reference and in fact my early stuff indeed had a particular affectation to the style Pollock is most known for. After, we said goodbye and I continued doing my work.
It got me thinking and I came to a realization. Yes, he was in fact one of many who had made the same “very Pollock” statement. And he said it in a way that most people had said it; as if I was stealing his ‘style’. That’s when I realized that in the mind of some people, Jackson Pollock ‘owns’ the drip style he used in his most famous works of art, and that no one really can use it and call themselves original.
If you don’t know who Jackson Pollock is, don’t worry. Thanks to the film ‘Pollock”, directed by the actor Ed Harris in 2000, most people who weren’t aware of him at the time now had this film as their first exposure to the man. It was a nuanced portrayal of a complicated individual struggling with his demons in his effort to create his art, his space in the universe if you will, and finding the next level of his art. It was critically well received and nominated for several awards and ended up winning an Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden in her portrayal of Lee Krasner, Pollock’s partner. So if you haven’t seen it, rent it. You won’t regret it.
In the film, there is one scene that takes place in the converted barn turned studio on the Long Island property where he and Krasner have moved to from the city. It’s winter, he’s cold and achy. He gets up, has his coffee and cigarette and goes out to the studio. He’s going to work and you can tell he’s in a rut. He arrives and starts his work. There is a moment when Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris) is contemplating the huge blank canvas laid out on the floor and some paint drips from the brush down onto it. It catches his attention, he is enamored with the resulting effect, and slowly starts to repeat the same action all over the canvas. Thus, the process he used to create his most famous paintings was born.
I don’t know if the film took dramatic license to recreate that moment with Pollock and the canvas. I hadn’t read any books on him at that point.(Still haven’t) But he later expressed that his style and the materials he used came organically from a need. It was a necessity for him.
Pollock is associated with the New York School, the group of artists in New York in the 50’s, who would eventually become known as the kings of the American Post War movement in modern art. Or New York abstract expressionists. Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and even Robert De Niro’s father were some of the people in this group.
At this time, many of the artists were using physical action as part of the their process in putting their work on canvas. It was something that few had seen until certain journalist’s and the art circle in New York started following these budding personalities.Pollack at the time was deep into the drip technique and the rest is history.
The interesting thing is many do not know he abruptly abandoned this style in his later years. Why? Maybe for him it was no longer a means in which to express himself.
The result, I think , is that people get the impression that a style most associated with an artist is ‘theirs’.
Not so. Da Vinci was a master of the portrait style. Just look at the Mona Lisa. Millions know of it and have seen it either in print or in person. But that doesn’t mean no one else can paint a portrait and not be original in their own right. Monet was a master of flowers and gardens paintings. That doesn’t mean no one else can paint the same and not call themselves original.
That’s the great thing about art. It springs to life because of the interpretation by the artist of what he sees, feels and what he’s trying to convey on the surface of his choice.
For me, when I started painting, it was out of necessity that I used the drip approach. I had no formal training, a small space in my apartment to work and the need to express myself on to the canvas. I didn’t even have brushes. Just some paint and some canvas. I used a plastic spoon to apply my paint. I was busting at the seams to do something creative. If I hadn’t,I have no doubt I would have lost my mind.
The resulting works were very interesting from a visual standpoint. I was beginning see what colors worked together, which ones didn’t, which shades were appealing and which ones were muddy. I saw shapes and depth. I saw ‘things’ in the paintings that were probably subconscious revelations.I began to develop my art.
All in all, I began to learn what painting was for me. And like Pollock, I moved away from it when I wanted to try something new that my growing confidence now allowed.
I could have stayed doing it. I could have just stuck with that and tried to be content with it. But I had to evolve. And I think I have.
There’s a part two to this coming soon but I want to say “thank you Jackson Pollock”. And thanks to all the other artists who toiled in the 50‘s and maybe didn’t get as famous as he did. You paved the way for the rest of us.
And it showed me three things: that the collective unconscious exists and all art stems from this pool, that having someone draw a comparison or mention to a prior artist like him is always a compliment, and the thing that an artist truly owns is his desire to get what he needs to get out of him and onto the canvas in what ever method he sees fit.
The image is very romantic. The artist rises late in the morning, pours himself a cafe, grabs a croissant and walks to the balcony of some villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and he waves “Bonjour” to the people on the sailboat below. He sips his espresso and breaks off a bit of his croissant, nibbling as he contemplates how he will paint today.
He finishes his petit déjeuner (breakfast) and walks to his studio where he puts his favorite Edith Piaf record on the antique player. The room swells with music as he slowly turns around, eyeing the large canvas in front of him. His eyes narrow and he cocks his head to the side as if he is about to commence a duel with the canvas. He mutters to himself, shaking his head as he fiddles with the small table of paints and brushes. The music is building in the background as he picks up a brush he has chosen as his tool. ‘The Little Sparrow’s’ voice spills out of the windows into the air of the Cote d’Azur as he approaches the easel.
He’s chosen his color and prepares to work. He approaches the canvas like a former lover with the hope of seducing her once again. With his brush dabbed with paint, he reaches out to her , gesturing for the dance between artist and canvas to begin.
And so it was, maybe, at one time for Picasso the way he started his mornings. But for the rest of us it is just that; a dream. To be a working artist now in this day and age of ‘get it now, get it cheap and be done with it’ is probably harder than ever. And to try and do this in the shadow of some of the greatest painters who have come here is equally daunting.
Why the south of France? I met the love of my life here. And I decided that this is what I wanted to do. After 18 years in California, I wanted to see if I could really do something that I always dreamed of doing. Living from my art. Being an artist is one thing but being able to live from it is another . And it is also the single most difficult thing to do; to make a living as a painter (next to being a working actor in L.A. of course!)
What does it take? It takes a lot of love and trust. Friends who are willing to help you. Random acts of kindness in the way of time, energy, thoughts and opinions. People who not only love your work but want to see you succeed. It takes holding on to what you think you were meant to do. It takes belief that if you don’t try then you will never know. It takes confidence. It takes showing up at the canvas so the muse can do her work.
And it takes even more. I will attempt to share with you what it’s like. The trials and victories. The fear, the dread and despondence. The influences of past artists and thoughts of the new trends in the art world. Or just a new cafe I happened to eat in. Some new wine bar. A funny story related at a dinner with friends. Or my struggles with the language and customs here. Essentially, my life as an artist in the south of France.
So, what do you think it takes to be a working artist in France? Is all what it’s cracked up to be? Are you in the same situation; an expat artist living here in France? I’d like for you to share your thoughts and experiences.