A wise man once called me too honest. He was one of the most brilliant painters that I was ever friends with. Our art discussions would last through pots of coffee and into hours much later than they should have. We attended opening receptions together, had a painting class together, and would meet after class to comment on each other’s work. And, using all of that newly learned vocabulary from class, we coached one another.
We each became romantically involved with other people, and drifted apart, though we crossed paths in the art building on occasion. Since I worked full-time, and supported a sister, my time became a premium commodity. As he was preparing for his senior year exhibit, he asked me to look at the work. Expecting what I knew of his paintings and drawings I was surprised to see that what he was going to show were collages. They were well-executed, perfectly framed, and I hated them. They were cold. They didn’t lack his intellectual and conceptual acuity, but they lacked the depth his paintings always had.
I was asked what I thought, and I told him. And, my art-related vocabulary had matured. I said numerous times, “They are good, but…” He let me finish. He acknowledged all that I said, and agreed. But, he also shook his head, smiling and said, “But, sometimes I think you’re too honest.”
I’ll wear the “too honest” badge proudly.
I will address what I said about “hacks” in the last post on this subject. “Hacks” are not producing honest art. “Hacks” are also lazy. Two traits in some people that I find disagreeable. One criticism I received was for labeling. I don’t like labels, either. It’s just easier I guess, than saying lazy liar.
Criticism, given constructively, can provide the best “aha” moment an artist can get.
Most of us work alone, and have to trust our own judgments/instincts regarding the “everything” about our current work. Last year, a very respected colleague expressed to me that she would love to see my oils look more like my watercolors. She felt that the fluidity in my watercolors didn’t exist in my oils.
Lightbulb!! x 1000000000.
I would have never considered pouring paint thinner on a canvas lying flat, had that never been said to me. I do it all of the time now.
Academic critique is not anything close to what we can do in an hour and a half with 15 people present. The last academic critique I went through lasted 4 hours and there were about 25 grad students involved.
And, I never envisioned anything like that last night as I was writing. The first one I attended, I sailed through with my three Graduate Committee Profs. But, there was the crazy woman with the animal diptychs that wanted to remove my head and arms, so I might never paint again!! (She had gone before me so I had no chance to reciprocate.) I took a break to smoke a cigarette after the beating, and my mentor followed me out into the hall to make sure I was OK.
The next MA critique, even though Don begged me not to, the crazy zoo animal lady was not so lucky. But, I did keep it short.
So, again, what is good art?
Had Theo not had art dealer connections, what would have happened to Vincent?
Who makes the determination that a piece is good?
I think it up to the artist to deliver their best, in all of the technical, more easily defined qualities. Is it honesty and hard work? That might be a start.
As I have already stated, one of the artist/colleagues I most admired respected my opinion to the utmost, and I know what should be there, but can I always be subjective about my own work? I doubt any of us can be 100%, and that’s where I think these Artshare meetings need to bring a bit more to the table than just being a “show and tell”.
So, my goal is to be as good as I can be. To know as much as I can know, and hopefully be able to impart that knowledge to those with less experience. And, hope to have more “aha” moments.
As I was waiting to get out of Tire Warehouse’s parking lot, I scribbled a few notes to myself to add to this conversation.
First of all, I think a big consideration in how work is discussed begins with why it was created in the first place. If the intent is just to allow the maker a mode of expression for whatever reason, I don’t think a question of quality, relevance, etc. really need to even be part of the program. I applaud anyone who makes anything just for the sheer joy, peace, cathartic release, etc. that art-making most certainly gives the creator.
Most of the people I am referring to in these groups are not solely creating to create. Bigger statements are being made that usually include a planned price tag, a venue or hopes for one, and all the professional/business stuff that goes into this, as well. I solidly fall into this group-solidly-even though I make pieces that are really personal, too. Those stay at home when I am sharing work with groups.
And, we all make stuff for sale and that is strictly its purpose. I am going to cross a somewhat debatable line and call this merchandise, not art. If the purpose for a piece is solely to be a money-maker, I feel that compromises have been made, and the emotion that goes into the creation was probably not there. Been there, too.
I know people also who have developed saleable formulas, and create work that fits in that formula, sometimes repeating a palette over numerous pieces. This formulaic, no thought, no emotion production is what I call “hack”.
A type of art that I don’t see as fitting “hack” are images/themes that seem to be repeated by many artists. The same subject obviously is moving more than just one person-that doesn’t dilute the importance of a piece. This can be misunderstood by some as only done to produce a sale. Let’s face it, many people really love florals as their subject, for example, and that does not make them a “hack”.
So, once determining the purpose of the work, where do we draw the line on how precisely those of us who have the academic jargon and knowledge go in our critique? How fair would that be? And, how do I know what will even make sense to someone without formal training?
I personally think these kinds of meetings should help those participating grow artistically. I might be jaded, but I am seeing little in really useful observations in those that I belong to, at present. Granted, we all work in this vacuum that sometimes includes whirlwinds of self-doubting thoughts, and it is nice to hear accolades. Those of us who have not seen a classroom as a student for eons may actually revel in constructive criticism and suggestions, too, rather than being told that our “colors sing”.
But, all of this aside, what makes a good piece of art, when it is made as art? Who determines that? When do you know as an artist that you have a solid concept, that you have executed it in a way that visually demonstrated it, and the application of you medium is appropriate to all of the above ? Shouldn’t this also be part of these group discussions? Or am I getting too academic?
I have a large solo going up next week that includes work that came down on the 11th. It got wrapped and stacked in my studio/living room until Feb 1, when it gets delivered to the Gafney Library.
I am trying to get ready for the call for Gallery at 100 Market in Portsmouth, and I also have created a large number of watercolor/mixed media pieces on paper within the last few weeks.
As I was trying to cut foamcore and mats I realized that I have basically no room until this work goes north.
This defines dedication for an artist, I think. This is my living room. No real complaints (aside from I have run out of room), but I want to show the rest of the world that a lot of us don’t go to these gloriously naturally lit huge empty spaces to work. Many of us have spaces in our homes. In my case, my entire apartment is my studio-and that’s not the exception to the rule either!!
So, as I cut mats, stretch canvas, etc., I might also be moving furniture. Cutting down a full sheet of mat board on the floor might be a challenge tonight.
This is a tough piece for me since this is really out of my comfort zone. I rarely set out to portray anything unless it is in fairly exacting detail. So, there is a side that wants to obliterate the facial features and make this strictly an abstract. Or, commit to all of the available detail-except in this case, there is none.
There is also a new oil, and I have no idea where this one might go yet.
But, I see a head-and that’s how the one above started. This canvas I treated with a surface, which might make it a greater challenge-or might make it easier to make it “mine”.
So, please feel free to follow the progress of these two works. I will try to make updates as I work on them.
Blackbird Studio and Gallery is closed for the season. I have been trying to get there since Tuesday to pick up my work since the temperatures have been very frigid and tonight promises to break records. About half of the work is gone now, and I got sort of a melancholy feeling as I locked the door.
It was a good first season. We learned a lot in the process, and I am sure next year will be even better.
I am not hibernating though. I have a mega-solo scheduled for next month in Sanbornville at the Gafney Library, so having all of this work from Sole City and Blackbird home now is only a temporary phenomenon.
Can’t wait ’til Blackbird reopens and spring is here. It’s already been a weird cold, icy winter.
Just a bit more of a peak…
Bob is a mainstay with the Berwick Art Association and I don’t believe has ever missed an event. Maybe a meeting or two, but never an opportunity to show. When we were doing our pop-ups, he was the person who arranged those.
Bob thrives on the unpredictable. Mostly on the found, and the experimental. Sometimes on the spontaneous. It’s not always easy to say because his other piece in the show called “Pick a Color”, a colored pencil and felt-tip pen piece, is as controlled as they get. So, who knows, it seems HE is always unpredictable.
“Process Artists engage the primacy of organic systems, using perishable, insubstantial, and transitory materials such as dead rabbits, steam, fat, ice, cereal, sawdust, and grass. The materials are often left exposed to natural forces: gravity, time, weather, temperature, etc”, and Bob usually, though not always, fits into this description.
The Sole City show is awesome. I put up the tags today, and I am a proud curator. Please check it out.
All is not lost when I have an additional few hours to make things work!
Since I have joined the piece-a-day challenge, I actually feel an obligation to fulfill that. And, I am.
I like these 3 little collages. Again, I am reworking mediums “from old” into some new work. Not museum quality, but gettin’ there!
So, the frustrations of framing today at least manifested itself in some pleasantly fun collage work. And, I do feel mildly accomplished for the day.
I also started by creating texture, a larger canvas (18″ x 24″), but I will not have a chance to start adding paint to it til later in the week.
Four inches of snow plus a quarter inch of ice, and now snow fog have made it a great day to spend catching up on art-related reading, as well as painting-I am waiting for pieces to dry, as well.
Last month saw a very heated debate online about vanity galleries, or the “pay for play” guys. I engaged with a number of artists also about this, most of whom were very negative about the idea.
My problem with this whole concept has always been this: if I, as the artist, foot the bill, where is the incentive to make a show successful for the gallery? Case in point, and this was a traditional gallery: I had an interview years ago at a well-known gallery in Boston. They wanted 60% for my first show, and I would pay for the show cards and part of the advertising. Really? Not likely!
As far as I can see it, any retailer needs to be wise in their selection of merchandise-galleries are no different. As a consignment-style operation, they still need to think that way. Not make money from the artist, first, and worry about sales after.
Bob Keyes wrote a balanced article on what is happening in Maine on December 7th, that I finally read today: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/12/07/new-gallery-draws-competitors-ire-by-charging-artists-for-exposure/ This shows the underlying problem: money.
It is hard enough to be an artist. This concept completely strips away the concept of the gallery-artist relationship, as well. This nurtures saleability, not quality. Gallery directors taught me a great deal, as a student. Part of it was about art, and part of it was about business. I asked a lot of questions back then. I can’t see this happening here.
But, on the flip-side, there are more and more alternative spaces cropping up where an artist can represent his/herself. I have become a huge proponent of these spaces, because they, in so many ways, level the playing field. I am showing, or will be showing, in a variety of “types” of spaces. I also happen to be on the curatorial staff of a very new concept in a museum.
It’s all very different from the days of slide submissions, hand-delivered. Not that there aren’t still traditional galleries. And, good ones. Just not enough of them. And, those of us out here making work need to complain less, and figure out the next batch of walls our art needs to hang on. If not traditional…go to your local library.
This whole corridor of southeastern Maine and New Hampshire, including the Berwicks, York and Kittery in Maine, and Dover, Somersworth, Rollinsford, and Rochester in New Hampshire have literally come alive since I moved back to the area in 2005. I have become very involved in two of the art associations, and the I am Show Coordinator for one, as well as on the curatorial board of the Rochester Museum of Fine Art.
The area has not kept up with gallery creation, and the economy still doesn’t support that kind of a venture without a “safety net”, but there are many great supportive venues like the libraries in the area.
I have shown five times at the Rochester Library in the new wing, where Peggy Trout arranges monthly shows with local artists and art groups. The old wing, or the Carnegie wing, displays some of the permanent collection of the Rochester Museum of Fine Art on the main floor. The Carnegie Gallery on the 2nd floor, is where the rotating and borrowed exhibits are hung.
Beth Wittenberg is on display on the main floor. Beth is a very active member of the Berwick Art Association and also a member of Blackbird Studio and Gallery, so we have shared lots of walls together. Beth and I also share a very special connection with art-making, where it seems neither of us have to rely on a muse, inspiration or even a good cup of coffee to need to make art.
What I love about Beth’s work is there is always more than meets the eye. In these pieces from 2013 and 2014, she works very splattered and loose watercolor abstracts into pen-ink fantasy characters, that have color. As an abstract painter, I get lost in looking at the paint below the ink, and then float back to the finished work, appreciating it on multiple levels.
Upstairs, in the Carnegie Gallery are a collection of Dawn Boyer’s oils. Until I brush on my critiquing skills, I will respond as I have to Beth’s-as it relates to my work. Though she is responding to florals, I am looking beyond that again at paint and color. The brush work is solid and experienced. There isn’t hesitation. Nor, is there any immaturity in the palette-it is also self-assured.
Both of these shows will be up through the end of the month.
And, I will probably need to expand the corridor as I described it because I have been invited to show at the Gafney Library in Sanbornville, New Hampshire next month. Another 20 miles north of here.