Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Be Perfect

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’ New York City News and Policy

While the average portrait painter or guy that can draw a ‘really nice cowboy and his dog’, can easily make a decent living in America; competition in the art world is fierce for any "real" artist with vision.

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 Chicago-based gallery director).

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 America – it is also one of the most expensive and I am able to live here comfortably. I drive a "status" vehicle (Land Rover) and I own another home in Montana (only my favorite place in the entire world). There are a handful of select collectors (outside this town) that sporadically buy my work – but I still have to work very hard to garner gallery and museum exhibitions every year. I don’t sell as much as I would like and because my work doesn’t “fit-in” with the standard styles of other artists, I tend to get more solo shows than group shows. Now that last part sounds great, but there are not nearly as many solo show opportunities available as group displays – so it makes landing exhibitions a bit more difficult.

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


Anonymous said...

"Liberal censors include the civil libertarians who seek to ban the most popular club on campus because it includes prayer; the parent who wants to ban Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice' because it is 'anti-semitic'; the teacher who complains because a colleague has put the Star of David on a holiday bulletin board; the feminist who wants to 'redo' a popular short story using neutral pronouns and showing women in non-traditional roles; the black community leader who wants to cross out the word 'nigger' from all school copies of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' and the publisher who bows to these demands." National School Board Association report "Censorship: Managing the Controversy"

I guess all censors are not right wing christian either...Sigh!

danielnorth.com said...