A composer who teaches on the faculty of the Juilliard School observed in a television documentary marking its centennial celebration that an average graduate of law school or medical school can still have a decent career. But it is not possible, he said, for a successful artist to be only average. – taken from the ‘Gotham Gazette’
While the average portrait painter or guy that can draw a ‘really nice cowboy and his dog’, can easily make a decent living in
Let’s look at some of the expected contradictory criteria for a “great” artist:
1. Must be completely dedicated to the work of making art, without concern for having supplemental employment or income. Must use only the best archival materials without regard for price.
2. Must be a graduate of one of only the select few BEST art schools. Must not be concerned with paying back over $100k in student loans.
3. Must never compromise vision for sales. Must always produce work to fit the following criteria: Over the Bed, Over the Buffet, and Over the Couch (I was told this exact word-for-word ‘top 3’ list by more than one
4. Never think of your artwork in terms of monetary value. Always have prepared a specific retail/wholesale price list for the work in your portfolio for dealers/galleries.
5. Be completely unique in your vision and direct all efforts to creating a truly original art style and direction. Make sure you fit in with others so your work will be a “good fit” with other artists in the galleries’ “representation stable”.
6. Last but not least – perfect technical skill. Unless of course you are a conceptual artist… (I know there are many conceptual artists with exceptional technical talent, such as Judy Chicago; but at the same time I also recognize that there are a lot of hucksters roaming around under the banner of ‘conceptual artist’ as well.)
There are a couple thousand more criteria, depending on geographic location; but just the above generalized list is a lot to live-up to. So what makes an artist great? Success? Success in what?
What scale is an accurate measure of the success?
Here is my personal application for “success” (if we had to apply):
I live in what is considered one of the greatest art towns in
So the bottom line of my measure of success is:
I have absolute freedom to make any kind of art I want, and pursue any theme or subject that I find intriguing, but at the same time, I have a tremendous back-stock of paintings waiting to sell or be exhibited.
It reminds me of my favorite quote from the movie, “Off the Map”, I’ve mentioned it before in previous posts to this blog, but here it is again:
“You know, I really admire you, Mr. Grodin. More than any man I've ever met. You don't have a penny in the bank, no life insurance, no credit. But your house is all paid for, you got four years worth of food stored away, three years worth of firewood, stockpiles of clothes, beautiful wife, great kid. Your life is yours. I think you're a genius.”
Therefore, I refuse to measure success in financial terms. If I had unlimited funds, I’d still paint scrolls steeped in themes of philosophy, religion and literature – so I already have what I basically need to survive in life. Do you? - DN