In a roaring heat-wave, I’m walking down Queen St. in Toronto, Canada. It’s a run down, low-rent area full of decaying storefronts, pizza joints, print shops, art stores, alfalfa bars. Every few doors there’s an art gallery. “Alternate,” artist-run, as well as pricey satellites from up-town. I’m people-watching. The smart and the not-so-smart. Panhandlers. Street meat. Smoothies. A woman in low-rider shorts, bare midriff, lip and brow rings, pedals slowly by. She’s balancing a huge virgin canvas as she rides. A sleepy guy in torn pajamas is trying to get one more canvas into the trunk of his Volvo.
Monthly Archives: May, 2018
Last week, a successful actor who collects original art launched a new venture. Having studied art in college and being a lifelong art lover, Portia de Rossi started a business she believes will help artists make a better living. Based on improving the giclée with a new, trademarked 3D printing process, her online retailer “General Public” aims to sell art to the masses. With “all the texture and articulation that’s in an original painting” says de Rossi, a “synograph,” will make it nearly impossible to tell the difference between a reproduction and an actual work of art.
These days, high-powered creativity coaches are offering themselves to the world of business. Companies improve their bottom lines with the latest techniques in creative thinking. Much of what they’re saying has been known to artists for some time.
Today’s top mantras include keeping new ideas private until the time comes for a full birth in the presence of the right crowd. Another is accepting the idea that creativity pops up in unusual places in its own sweet time. The bathtub, the car and the fishing boat are often mentioned.
Artist Damien Hirst, describing his spot paintings made by offsite assistants at undisclosed locations, said, “They’re all a mechanical way to avoid the actual guy in a room, myself, with a blank canvas.” For Hirst, it was a way of avoiding the possibility of his own mediocrity.
Weekly, an email comes in describing similar avoidance. They usually have an elaborate end-goal in mind, but struggle, for years sometimes, to get into the activity that the goal requires. What’s the matter? The matter is fear, and fear breeds avoidance.
The activities of most plants and animals are timed to the cycle of day and night. These natural rhythms are called circadian rhythms. The most obvious example is the sleep cycle. As well, many plants and animals are sensitive to other time cycles. “Phototropic” sunflowers, for example, turn their faces to follow the sun’s path. Others make their moves in guaranteed light. Some sea animals time their activities to changing tides. These creatures seem to know such times even when away from their home waters. Yep, if you put clams into your kitchen sink, they will try to feed when the tide is rising down there in the bay.
My picture framer of the past 25 years, once my dad’s, turned off his air nail gun for a chinwag: “What do you think of this barn?” he asked, gesturing toward an oil in for framing, a bucolic scene painted all over with a very small brush. I squinted past a tight foreground of scotch broom and looked around at other paintings in the shop, stealth in their charm or worldly importance and leaning in the shadows amongst their waiting moldings. I asked him how many paintings he’d thought he’d framed over the years and suggested that he’d probably seen more stuff than almost anyone.
An artist who wishes anonymity asks, “What of artists who get hooked on external validation? What do you think of artists who constantly seek some sort of approval from their peers, in clubs, even online?”
At the risk of being one of those who divide the world into two main kinds of people, there are two main types of artists: Those who have a need to listen to the opinions of others, and those who do not.
When Swiss philosopher Jean Piaget was marking intelligence tests at a school for boys in Paris, he noticed that younger children consistently gave wrong answers to all the same questions. Piaget concluded that children of a certain age were simply not yet ready for these particular questions, having not yet developed cognitive abilities in these areas. It was 1921 and Piaget returned to Switzerland to propose a global theory of cognitive developmental stages — laying out age periods and their patterns — basically showing how knowledge is built.
Joseph Campbell was one of those thinkers who constantly asked himself, “What is the meaning of this?” In books, lectures and interviews, he made frequent skirmishes into the field of art. And like a lot of those who never took brush to hand, his thoughts were idealized and sometimes muddled. Campbell had attitudes about what was “proper” art and what was not. He thought the personal was dangerous in art. “When an artist’s images are purely personal this finally is slop and you know it when you see it,” he stated. He didn’t often say what “slop” was.