Life and death in the art factory

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Loretta West of Spokane, WA, asked, “Is art somehow diminished when the artist doesn’t actually do the work? These days, some artists have others doing their work for them. I’ve always believed that ‘Heart to Hand’ was important, but what if I was physically unable to paint again? Could I have a staff paint my ideas for me?”

Thanks, Loretta. To bring some perspective, I passed the question on to my friend Joe Blodgett. “Absolutely disgusting,” he blurted through his Scotch. “Art is one of the last things individuals can fully make with their hands, and they need to do it on their own. When artists pass their work onto others, it’s just like those plops that steers make all over Texas.”

“Fair enough,” I said, pouring him another shot, “But what about the disabled artist Angela de la Cruz who suffered a stroke at age 46? Unable to speak well or move her hands properly, she sends out daily instructional emails to her five employees. Her work won the Turner Prize last year.”

“She’s confusing the making of art with the making of money,” said Joe. “And so are those corruptible Turner-Prizers. It’s called ‘extended pocket-lining.’ She’s looking for fame and dealers, not art, and all the fools are on her bandwagon.”

061411_robert-genn

“Deepseed” 2007
pigment and gold leaf on paper
8 x 12 inches
by Alexander Gorlizki

“I suppose you don’t think much of the New York artist Alexander Gorlizki either,” I said. “His Indian-influenced work is made for him by seven inexpensive painters in Jaipur, India. Gorlizki prefers not to be involved in the actual painting. He claims it would take him twenty years to get as good as his chief painter Riyaz Uddin. To Gorlizki’s credit, he sometimes flies over to see how his work is going.”

“Inexcusably rotten,” said Joe.

Then some big names are also rotten,” I said. “Damien Hirst has assistants. Robert Motherwell had ’em. Andy Warhol had a ‘Factory.’ Jeff Koons currently employs hundreds. Koons’ works are labour intensive and he feels he doesn’t need to do the labour any more. The conceptualist-minimalist Sol LeWitt sketched a grandiose idea on his deathbed and had 16 artists produce it three years after he took off for the big studio in the sky.”

“Posthumous poseur,” said Joe.

“Even Michelangelo, Rubens and Rembrandt had studios full of helpers,” I said.

“Hamburger helpers,” said Joe. Joe is basically a nice guy. I have the feeling that if he could paint pictures, he’d do them all by himself.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “It liberates me not being encumbered by technical proficiency.” (Alexander Gorlizki)

Esoterica: Jeff Koons runs a vast studio in a businesslike way, demanding efficiency from his army of managers, deputy managers and workers. As in a beehive, there’s a division of labour. Some workers mix paint while others put it on. Electric hoists move things up and down while Koons watches every move, and, according to him, checks every stroke. “It’s about the production of the work,” he says. “I need my workers to stay focused.”



No play in the factory
by Carolyn Newberger, MA, USA


061711_carolyn-newberger

“Bouquet of Boys”
watercolour by Carolyn Newberger

How interesting, that the importance of play is followed by a discussion of the art factory. There is no play in the factory. Rather, the objective is at least in part the consistency of products. When your products are produced by other artists, neither the “thinker” nor the “technicians” have any room to play once the thought is conceived. As a watercolor artist, I am continually being surprised by the sometimes unpredictable interactions of paint, water and paper, and as a consequence am continually inventing in order to respond as I go on. The factory simply wouldn’t work. I count myself blessed!





There are 2 comments for No play in the factory by Carolyn Newberger

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Jun 17, 2011

That is wonderful, the painting and the title!!!

From: Liz Reday — Jun 21, 2011

I normally don’t like most watercolors (excepting John Marin) but this is superb! So fresh and direct, I love how you suggest movement within the group, hard to do, but you pulled it off. Well done.





Credit those who do the work
by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada


061711_bob-rennie

“Welsh farm”
oil painting by Bob Rennie

As well as being a professional artist I have spent much of my life as a research Mathematician at a local University. It was interesting to compare the way different professors used their names on papers they influenced or wrote. Throughout the University the professors would give PhD projects to their graduate students, who would do the work and the profs would get the major credit. As a result many profs would have a long list of publications in which they contributed only a small portion of the work — something like your essay says about some artists. From my limited exposure to the work of Mathematics profs this was not as common. This group of researchers has a fairly common understanding and that is that those who do the work get credit. As a result Mathematicians produce fewer papers, but they are generally their own work. I wonder how the sale of paintings would be affected if the public new the information you have so interestingly presented.



Placing product over process
by Margot Hattingh, South Africa


061711_margot-hattingh

“Nightwatch”
mixed media by Margot Hattingh

This is a question that also boggles my mind somewhat as it places product over process which to me feels wrong. However, when really thinking about it and trying to get to the absolute bottom line, art is art because of the unique vision of the artist, so in a way, getting someone else to do the actual spade work doesn’t mean it’s not art. An architect doesn’t build his buildings brick by brick himself — but that doesn’t mean that it’s not his building. Ah-ha — now I want an assistant to get on with all the labour-intensive stuff while I dream up more art…

There are 2 comments for Placing product over process by Margot Hattingh

From: Casey Craig — Jun 17, 2011

Very nice painting!

From: Sheila Minifie — Jun 17, 2011

I so adore your work. Inspiring. (and I’ve looked at your site to see, not just this lovely painting).





True art contains artist’s soul
by Norma Hoyle, Abbotsford, B.C. Canada


I couldn’t fail to notice, Robert, that you withheld your own perception of the question. It would seem to depend upon what one considers real art is — conception or application? — or both? We stand in awe of the “Old Masters,” but even they used helpers, so where does that take us? Clearly, Joe Blodgett considers that true art must contain something of the soul of the artist, else it is no more than a factory-produced product — attractive perhaps, but sterile. That would dictate that in order to legitimately put one’s name upon a canvas, the “help” could only be with the underpinnings, and one would have to, at the very least, complete the application with one’s own hand. As I write this, I’m reminded of the very great difference (to me, and perhaps to others) of receiving a hand-written letter in the mail, versus a typed one. I think there is something of a parallel. How can one really equate the difference? — yet there is one.



No simple answer
by Barry John Raybould, UK/USA/China/Italy


061711_barry-raybould

Untitled
oil painting by Barry John Raybould

I do not think there is a single answer to this question because it depends on the type of artwork being produced. As pointed out, in some artwork the idea and creativity is paramount, and the execution secondary. Since the execution is a skill that is either generally available or that can be taught relatively easily, the artwork is not affected by who actually does the work. Sculptural art often falls into this category. So can painting, when the method of painting is somewhat standardized, as in many workshops and studios during the Renaissance and other periods of history.

On the other hand, some of the most stunningly beautiful paintings use sophisticated color harmonies that simply cannot be created by another artist, because it relies on the ability to see complex color harmonies and to mix colors simultaneously. Another aspect of many great paintings is the brushwork. Truly beautiful and expressive brushwork is like handwriting and cannot be copied or duplicated by another person. Anyone who has tried to copy a painting that falls into this category soon finds out that it is impossible to capture the true quality of the original.

There are 2 comments for No simple answer by Barry John Raybould

From: Stephanie — Jun 16, 2011

A beautiful painting, Barry.Bravo!

From: Anonymous — Jun 18, 2011

A delightful painting Barry… I could happily gaze at this a long time. :-) Thanks for sharing. Norma





Art from the heart and mind
by Louise Corke, Australia


061711_louise-corke

“Hippyastriums Bathed in morning light”
pastel painting by Louise Corke

Even though at first instance the idea of someone else actually putting paint to surface in lieu of our own trained hand is preposterous we need to consider Renoir. In his latter years even he had to have someone form his sculptures due to his crippling condition of rheumatoid arthritis. His mind had the concept, and at every instance he directed the amount and the shape of the clay as well as exactly where it was to be positioned. His nods and grunts came to be completely understood by his assistant who simply followed Renoir’s exact directions. If Renoir could have done it himself he would have. However his physical ailments did not cripple his mind and it is with the mind and heart that we create our artworks. His latter paintings were executed with a brush that was strapped to his hand which enabled him to make jabbing statements on the surface. When this became impossible to continue he turned to sculpture and the idea of an assistant. What a wonderful way to continue his creations!



Grand ideas need help
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA


061711_peter-brown

“Pick a card”
mixed media by Peter Brown

Some artists have such grand ideas and they must hire help. Their goal is far removed from my goal. Christo is a great example of an artist who needs acolytes and helpers doing his work, you name others.

There is a school of art that craves publicity, riches, and fame, and they may require paid servants. I also know that the vast majority of artists simply want to create their own images, their dreams and nightmares. I have had a long and rewarding relationship with my own paint box. I have great friends with whom I share this journey.

In today’s world, there are few things that a human being can claim as one’s own. I cannot make a transistor radio, but I can take a bunch of colors and shapes, and make something that speaks to another person. They may even buy that painting I make. They are buying something that I made, in times past. I am already making other paintings.

Art is not some product, nor a gimmick. Art, at best, is honest communication in a visual medium. Shapes and colors. Me to you, viewer. Do you see the play of light? The story told? And if art is not simply a form of communication, then it becomes autograph collecting, which it is, pretty much.



Factory approach needs declaration
by Marie Martin, Fountain Valley, CA, USA


061711_marie-martin

Untitled
original painting by Marie Martin

The real artistic gift, the real personalization and identification of a particular artist, is the nearly imperceptible twist of the wrist — that mysterious way an individual may apply a brushstroke with colors and nuances “just so.” How many of us are familiar with that moment where we look at a brushstroke we just made and say “Wow, where did THAT come from?? That’s beautiful! Did I do that???” Yes, you DID do that and it DID come from you, from within your mysterious personal mojo that has been forming and developing over the years. That’s the genius. That’s the personal artistic touch. Even if these factory artists really look at and/or supervises every stroke, it is impossible to infuse others with your own personal talents, vision, and skills via managing another’s “hand.” I’ve learned that much of painting a dynamic piece is learning which strokes to leave alone, vs. those that can be painted over. It would be physically impossible for an artist to run around and see, evaluate and determine the importance of every brushstroke. Can you imagine?? “Jeff! Over here! Come look at this. I just applied a brushstroke I think you should see and evaluate!” However, I see nothing particularly wrong with the factory approach. It’s another way to create. The only thing that makes the difference is that if you’re going to create in that way, you need to say so and declare it clearly. If I’m being told I’m buying a Jeff Koons ‘original’ that was painted by another hand, I’m being deceived. If I’m being sold an original painting that I’m told was “choreographed” or “orchestrated” or “managed” by Jeff Koons, then I know what I’m buying — a piece painted by an illustrator who was instructed by Jeff Koons — not a Jeff Koons original.

There are 3 comments for Factory approach needs declaration by Marie Martin

From: Debra LePage — Jun 17, 2011

This is so well said-I couldn’t agree more, Marie.

From: Gwen Fox — Jun 17, 2011

Beautifully written and expressive.

From: Liz Reday — Jun 21, 2011

The wealthy art collector/investors who buy Koons’ work are well aware of his methods. Many contemporary artists have dozens of assistants, I even read a piece in ArtForum praising a young artist who had assembled a team of assistants right out of art school before she completed her first major commission! I think the artists are missing out on the most rewarding part of artmaking, but to each his own.





Credit for the factory artists
by Nicole Best Rudderham, Prince Rupert, BC, Canada


061711_nicole-rudderham

“Cutting”
watercolour by Nicole Rudderham

Think of the artists creating that art for the “artist” …obviously they are qualified to execute the art, but not receiving credit for any stroke that they have created. They are just creating a product. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if these other artists were to be able to get ahead with their own talent and with this help, where they actually got credit for their talented work? That would make more sense to me. I have a friend who doesn’t perform his own work now himself. He did at one time, but became overwhelmed with orders. “He is very prolific,” people say  …and creates new designs each year, to the amazement of his followers, as well as family and friends, but then his artists/factory creates many, many more copies to produce the required amount of the work to sell all over the world. His art is what I call ‘factory made’ now. Not original art work. It is a very popular home decor art/sculpture plaque. Somehow this seems less important to defend than the integrity of an original painting. An original painting must be created by the artist.

There are 3 comments for Credit for the factory artists by Nicole Best Rudderham

From: Gwen Fox — Jun 17, 2011

Love your painting….you can feel the wonderment and frustration of where to put those fingers to make the scissors work.

From: JudyGosz — Jun 17, 2011

Wonderful painting, Nicole!! You did it! You captured the excitement and wonder of learning! Very powerful!!!

From: Jim Oberst — Jun 17, 2011

Great painting! (Good comments, too.)





Not all black and white
by John DeCuir, La Crescenta, CA, USA


Well, it always seems we tend to address these issues in absolutes. Kind of like only painting with black and white, which I suppose has some merit at some point in time and space. However, your letter on life and death in the art factory did a good job of expressing the black and white of it, but maybe not the grays in the middle.

I suppose that’s why we separate art from architecture. It seems hard to imagine Frank Loyd Wright digging his own foundations. I can see a point in art when its “tectonics” become so overwhelming that a small army of helpers is needed to get the damn thing done within a lifetime or two. But I suppose that’s the architect in me speaking.

I remember that not-so-wonderful story about Antonio Gaudi crossing the street in Barcelona to fine tune some small detail on his Sagrada Familia and getting hit by the street car – was that some kind of higher power punishment for not gluing all those mosaics on himself ala Simon Rodia in Watts. Are those Towers in Watts art? I think so, mind you done by one man (not an army) over 30 years. Is the Sagra Familia less art because it was done by a small army of helpers? And then there are those ‘obscure’ little Gothic cathedrals of the 12th century and no one seems to know who designed them.

And also, unless I am incorrect, as I recall it was Raphael who had the school of helpers and Michelangelo who was furious because he needed a little help to clean up a bit here and there.

My vote as whether or not to have multiple hands in a work of art is defined by the scale and scope of that work and the hours in a man or woman’s life available to do it. On one side of the scale we have the Michelangelos and Simon Rodias and on the other the Gaudis and Wrights, and that crazy bishop whose name is lost to us who created Chartes Cathedral.

Is there a canvas in the world that one man cannot paint in a lifetime, and is the painting worth his lifetime?



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World of Art Featured artist True Ryndes
 
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Ready

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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Frank Gordon of Giggleswick, England, who wrote, “It’s true that people like Rubens and others used assistants to fulfill their many commissions. However, the crucial difference between Rubens and the likes of Damien Hirst is that Rubens could do everything that his assistants could do — and do it a lot better.”

And also L. D. Bass of Santa Barbara, CA, USA, who wrote, “Fine artists don’t have other people reproducing their work. Once an artist becomes commercialized it seems they all move out of the circle of fine arts and into the milieu of applied art. Giant topiaries, balloon dogs, and erotica sculpture all made in an industrialized factory line may sell, but it’s hardly fine art.”

And also Joe Moorman of Decatur, GA, USA, who wrote, “I would probably feel greatly robbed of much, if not all of the joy of being an artist, if I couldn’t make my vision with my own hands in some way. They seem more like pimps or producers than artists.”

And also Mark Larson who wrote, “In my opinion, there’s no way the soul of an artist can be transmitted through someone else’s hands. That’s not art. That’s just manufacturing.”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Life and death in the art factory

   
From: Barbara Banthien — Jun 13, 2011

This blog really gave me a smile. But I really have a hard time with Jeff Koons no matter what.

From: Theresa Bayer — Jun 13, 2011

There are lots of artists who paint other people’s ideas. These artists are known as illustrators. There are some good ones out there. Having been an illustrator myself in the past, I see nothing wrong in this kind of work, provided the artist is paid properly. On the other hand, when it comes to fine art, I like to have it all to myself. At this point, I can do that, but if I couldn’t, I might feel differently about it. Who knows? And then there’s music. Songs many times are co-written, with the lyrics and music done by different composers. Nobody blinks an eye about that.

From: Jean Burman — Jun 13, 2011

I’m with Joe on this one. You can’t pretend you’re an artist when you’re outsourcing the talent that gets the work done. Gorlizki is right. It WILL take 20 years. He’d better get started (((chuckles)))

From: John Ferrie — Jun 13, 2011
From: Glenn Spicer — Jun 13, 2011

If someone does their own work, but has no talent is it art because he did it himself? If a person has great technique but no creativity, is the work produced art, or is it just a production? If a person is creative and makes an original work few would question that that is truly art. So if a person is creative but unable to do the work themselves and can communicate that creative originality of a piece to a technician to produce a work is that art? I do think so, for is not the true art in the originality of idea, the creation, the imagination. So many world renown artists have studios, helpers, foundries, apprentices, students that do the work or help with it. Think of Dale Chihuly, blind in one eye who has his studio workers do the manual work for him, or Picasso who has had steel fabrication plants execute large scale sculptures for him, or any number of famous Renaissance painters with there studios of helpers executing huge painting under their supervision, or Bill Reid and “The Jade Canoe” that because of his Parkinson’s disease would never have come into existence without his apprentices. So I say that the true art is in the idea, the creativity, and the ability to communicate what is needed for a work to be completed is more important than whether the artist has a hand in the process of of the material production. I do think that credit should be given to the technician, the studio, or the foundary, but the art IS in MY opinion in the mind of the artist. Otherwise you can write off some 70% or more of famous art works.

From: Barry John Raybould — Jun 13, 2011

I do not think there is a single answer to this question because it depends on the type of artwork being produced. As Glenn pointed out, in some artwork the idea and creativity is paramount, and the execution secondary. Since the execution is a skill that is either generally available or that can be taught relatively easily, the artwork is not affected by who actually does the work. Sculptural art often falls into this category. So can painting, when the method of painting is somewhat standardized, as in many workshops and studios during the Renaissance and other periods of history. On the other hand some of the most stunningly beautiful paintings use sophisticated color harmonies that simply cannot be created by another artist, because it relies on the ability to see complex color harmonies and to mix colors simultaneously. Another aspect to many great paintings is the brushwork. Truly beautiful and expressive brushwork is like handwriting and cannot be copied or duplicated by another person. Anyone who has tried to copy a painting that falls into this category soon finds out that it is impossible to capture the true quality of the original. So I think the answer to the question is it depends.

From: Balaji — Jun 14, 2011

I think it is deplorable. When such “artists” sign “their” work, they should add “Only the signature is mine, the artwork has been done by others.”

From: Daniela Andersen — Jun 14, 2011

I’m with your friend Joe on this one. Clever does not equate art. In art college I had the clever teachers who were sarcastic, caustic and superior minded but would not hesitate to pick your brain to ask how you did something or other….I got a distinction mark for painting…..but, if I had no hands, I would have to sing, or something. I believe using other people to big note yourself defeats the very purpose of enpowering an individual through his own art.

From: Janet Summers — Jun 14, 2011

When art is produced, not created, it is a product. Just that, and no more. As for the works of Gorlizski, and the others mentioned, they are not in my opinion worth the materials used to “produce” them.

From: Carol Brock — Jun 14, 2011

I work in the art glass field. What about Louis Tiffany? He had teams of craftsmen. And today, there’s Dale Chihuly. Ideas are born from him and he directs, but he cannot produce due to an eye injury. Is what they put their name on called art?

From: Louise Francke — Jun 14, 2011

What gets me is that galleries sell this “mass made art” and that people buy it. It seems that it is more the artist’s conception and should be sold as such because the artist didn’t actually use his own hands.

From: Alan Soffer — Jun 14, 2011

In some way the work done by a crew of aritst becomes CONCEPTUAL ART. That is fine with me. I love Rembrandt and Michaelangelo and Lichtenstein. Most of the bigtime successful artists have assistants and I would too if the demand was there. Jeff Koons is kind of like Tiffany in terms of the magnitude of the operation. His work is occasionally amazing, like the Puppy outside the Bilbao Guggenheim, and sometimes sexual, like the photos of him and his former wife having sex. He does what no man has done before and that has gotten him where he is.

From: Karen Phillips Curran — Jun 14, 2011

I agree that a painting should be one’s own creation start to finish. That being said, I am also a set painter and I make a reality, the sets conceived and designed by set designers who often have no ability to manifest their creations on the scale that theatre demands. Last year I did a 9 foot by 60 foot translucent back-drop. In these cases, my ‘art’ is my stage craft. My lifetime of watercolour and opaque painting on canvas and paper have brought me to a place where handling paint on this large scale is just part of what I do. BUT I am not a set designer…nor do I want to be. The act of painting is what thrills me. The act of creation is two stages, one in the mind, one on the surface, making it a reality. For me recreating someone else’s idea has been an amazing teaching experience, I get to see inside another artists brain, their motives, their intuition, their needs, their colours, shapes…..it has made my work more versatile and wide ranging. You can see a few of the sets I have painted at my site www.phillipscurran.ca

From: Shirley Quaid — Jun 14, 2011

Joe”s my kind of guy. Nuff said.

From: Ron Unruh — Jun 14, 2011

Some of your comments above are far more philosophical than I care to be about this topic. A person who signs an art piece produced by others should be called an editor rather than an artist, i.e. edited by. Perhaps that title is even too generous.

From: Darla — Jun 14, 2011

When an artist has someone else paint their paintings, it’s either a collaboration, in which case they should all be named as co-creators; or commercial art with a production line. At that point, what’s the difference between “fine art” and the production line sofa paintings you can get at weekend hotel sales? Mainly the price.

From: marygrace bianco perkins — Jun 14, 2011

Once the artist is hands off. . .they then become the client (or boss) and their “teams” become the real creators. Sure, an idea and a process can be unique, but the act of using your own hands and mind in combination with these ideas is the real art. Otherwise please call it “commercial art.” In the case of sculptors, when the work gets big, there is a need for a crew, but get in there, roll your sleeves up and start welding! : )

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Jun 14, 2011

I’ve seen 3′ stacks of un-stretched identical-image canvases for sale on the sidewalks of Hong Kong. Along with trained apprentices, Rubens produced a lot of top-quality commissioned work. Let the consumer assess its value, and pay accordingly. Next time you 2 get together, I’ll bring the Macallan.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 14, 2011

There is a percentage of the artist’s hand in a piece, whether it is the idea or actual input that makes it his or hers, but I have no idea what that would be. There is also medium and size. Sculptors who want their works in bronze must employ a foundry. A muralist doing the side of a building or a large public space needs a team. Diego Rivera comes to mind. If you get the chance walk through the Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas and see the magnificent modern tapestries that hang throughout the lobbies … I wish I could remember the artist’s name who did them but they will stop you in your tracks. They’re also huge, and she readily recognized and praised her team of weavers. That said, painters doing conventionally sized canvases do not need assistants (or maybe shouldn’t), even if their work is in high demand. Thomas Kincade is your poster child here … We have great artists, popular artists, artisans, technicians, some dude who just needs a day job, and then hobbyists … I also wonder how many of these assistants observe, absorb, and at some point embark on their own. What better “workshop” than to be employed by a well regarded artist? Somewhere in among all that we have to have our own vision for our art.

From: Edna Park Waller — Jun 14, 2011

Well, Joe might be a nice guy, and he is probably full of scotch, but I also believe he is right on point here.

From: Marie Martin — Jun 14, 2011

The real artistic gift, the real personalization and identification of a particular artist, is the nearly imperceptible twist of the wrist — that mysterious way an individual may apply a brushstroke with colors and nuances “just so”. How many of us are familiar with that moment where we look at a brushstroke we just made and say “wow, where did THAT come from?? That’s beautiful! Did I do that???” Yes, you DID do that and it DID come from you, from within your mysterious personal mojo that has been forming and developing over the years. That’s the genius. That’s the personal artistic touch. Even if these factory artists really look at and/or supervises every stroke, it is impossible to infuse others with your own personal talents, vision, and skills via managing another’s “hand”. I’ve learned that much of painting a dynamic piece is learning which strokes to leave alone, vs those that can be painted over. It would be physically impossible to for an artist to run around and see, evaluate and determine the importance of every brushstroke. Can you imagine?? “Jeff! Over here! Come look at this. I just applield a brushstroke I think you should see and evaluate!” However, I see nothing particularly wrong with the factory approach. It’s another way to create. The only thing that makes the difference is that if you’re going to create in that way, you need to say so and declare it clearly. If I’m being told I’m buying a Jeff Koons ‘original’ that was painted by another hand, I’m being deceived. If I’m being sold an original painting that I’m told was “choreographed” or “orchestrated” or “managed” by Jeff Koons, then I know what I’m buying — a piece painted by an illustrator who was instructed by Jeff Koons — not a Jeff Koons original.

From: Darlene Natalia Konduc — Jun 14, 2011

I teach art to severely handicapped folks. Some are severely visually impared, all in wheelchairs with a variety of disabilities. With some I have to tie the brush in their hand or come up with inovative ways for them to paint, like a sponge or other means. One elderly woman whose vision and dexterity was very poor, produced a most beautiful immpressiionistic piece of work. I said to her ” your spirit shines in this paintin” She replied, “my spirit is alive even though the rest of me is dying. Last week we show cased all of the residents work framed and for saleat a prestigious Sawridge Hotel. The pride they had in their achievements was unbelievable. Everyone loved it and the sales were great. The residents donated 50% back into the community.The spirit in ones soul is very strong whether one can or cannot physically paint.The secret is to find a way to draw it out of oneself or another. Darlene Natalia

From: Sally Haig — Jun 14, 2011
From: Susan Shaw — Jun 14, 2011

I agree with Joe. Michelangelo may have had people working in his studio who did some of the work for him, under his supervision, but who then was really making the art, and who was just taking credit?

From: Tatjana — Jun 14, 2011

I think it’s all about the demand and supply. There seems to be far more demand for high priced art than there is in the supply. I read somewhere that there are long waiting lists for art of some of the artists mentioned here. If there were no sales, those artists would not be able to sustain their outsourced production. I think that all of the high profile artists disclose their methods so the buyers know what they are paying for. On the other hand, there will always be cheaters in anything. I hear that you can send an image to a factory overseas and pay to get a “body of similar work” produced for you for a low price. The art world is diverse enough and we can pick and choose where we want to play. My thing is that I just want to be in my studio and paint (create and produce), although I don’t mind outsourcing everything else that I don’t like doing. It could be an interesting topic to get ideas how to organize the most efficient “operations” in a small art studio – the annoying logistics as getting and storing materials, doing marketing, shipping, accounting etc.

From: Dwight — Jun 14, 2011

I don’t know if Joe is real or part of Robert’s “imaginary family.” Whatever, Scotch and all he’s right ON!

From: Jennifer Horsley — Jun 14, 2011

Maybe I’m old fashioned but isn’t the guy who slaps the paint on the canvas the artist? “It liberates me not being encumbered by technical proficiency.” That statement is laughable. I haven’t seen his work (if it really is his work) but it would seem to me that if he were technically proficient, he wouldn’t need others to paint for him. I agree whole-heartedly with your friend, Joe. It’s the process I love and that’s what makes me an artist even it no one else likes the finished product.

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Jun 14, 2011

Pour me a shot too! Wow! Who knew of this type of mass production, aha secrets of the trade? Oops the art?

From: Harriet Howell — Jun 14, 2011
From: Norman Ridenour — Jun 14, 2011

The solo artist, doing it himself is an outgrowth of tube paints, i.e. 19th century. Rubens spent his time marketing and doing the faces. Painters before the 1800s were guild masters with a full staff of paint grinders, primers, background artists and so on. Late Rembrandt, after his bankruptcy, had to do it all, it slowed him down.

From: Jane Burnham — Jun 14, 2011

Where does that leave the true painter who has spent years to accomplish being able to express from the heart with the knowledge they have worked for? No doubt the technical abilities done by others is excellent, but where is the soul?

From: Nancy Wostrel — Jun 14, 2011

Gosh! How awful! Guess I just don’t like or appreciate the type of work being done on an assembly line by these either unknown, famous or infamous artists but ICK! Artists should do their own work and not have a hive of worker- bees bearing the load. I don’t even understand why everyone (or almost everyone) has to be connected 24/7 to their phones, texting constantly, twittering or facebooking. If I spent all that time on such strange pursuits I’d never have time to draw or paint….oops! guess I could have my bee hive do that for me!!!

From: Christopher Marion Thomas — Jun 14, 2011

This is a most wonderful post. I love Joe, you should have him add in his thinking more often. It is nice to hear from people who have a passionate opinion. It was fun reading this one and here’s to all of us out here trying to produce with passion and our own hands.

From: Patti Borden — Jun 14, 2011

I think it all boils down to who gets the credit. Movies give credit to an amazing number of people who help in their production. I think the same should be done with any art where more than one person is involved.

From: Ortrud K. Tyler — Jun 14, 2011

Well again one of those open ended problems from the art world. Lets face it, the world as a whole has become very big, impersonal, personal responsibility is becoming an endangered species like integrity and a lot of other moral concepts. As an artist you can decide to either swim against the stream day in day out and rise to any small or large challenge OR do your thing with integrity, love, dedication etc. It is quite alright to voice your stand at every opportunity when mass produced, copied or other shlock is admired and point out the difference between that and individual knowledge , expression, expertise and know how. But don’t waste your time on useless controversy. Who is an artist and what is art and for that matter what is the difference between and artist and an art maker… you can spend your life debating that. A well loved artist I worked with years ago used to say “ paint…happily paint””. I chose to do that. It is hard enough to evaluate my paintings toward the end and decide what needs to be done, should anything be done, is it good, does it say what I wanted it to say. As art education is falling behind in many countries and the mass produced products are touted as just as good it is better to take every opportunity to politely and without an attitude point out the difference. I am not going to waste my time fighting useless battles , when I can spend that time doing my thing. At least it will make me happy. Everything changes and evolves. You can’t stem the tide, but you can stand up for your opinion. In the meantime, “ Paint, happily paint”.

From: Janet Austin — Jun 14, 2011

It’s so timely that this newsletter appeared in my mailbox. The “Tapestry List,” a group of tapestry weavers who discuss our work online, had just engaged in this same conversation. We all got a huge laugh from the Alexander Gorlizki quotation: “It liberates me not being encumbered by technical proficiency.” It takes many years to achieve proficiency in tapestry, and I now realize that I am unbearably burdened by my technical proficiency. Although I’m flattered that my fellow tapestry weavers consider my case terminal, I’m wondering if there might be a way to get rid of it? Is there an exterminator for this kind of problem, or should I call Ghostbusters? Proficiencybusters? Perhaps if we all got rid of our burdensome proficiency, someone would invent a machine to fill in for us….oh wait, they’ve already done that, but somehow it’s not the same. I wonder why?

From: Rich Mason — Jun 14, 2011

“It liberates me not being encumbered by technical proficiency.” (Alexander Gorlizki)…. Great, each piece should be stamped not an original work, created by my clones… Wonder if that is where the Chinese who have a reputation for copying work got the idea. If the so called “great artists” see nothing wrong with their practices they should be labeled accordingly… If illness or accident interferes so be it….

From: Stephanie J. Witte — Jun 14, 2011

I agree with Joe. I have artist friends who have unpaid interns… who are paid by local universities for credit.. who are their grunts. The artists work is generic, unimaginative, and common…it lacks the personal heart factor. The majority of these “artists” are not exceptionally creative and seem smug to those of us who produce our pieces one at a time and one of a kind. There is probably nothing inherently wrong with production work, but I feel it gives us a bad name. I also feel calling themselves artists is wrong and arrogant…like Jeff Koons. It seems he’s also more interested in the cash. I personally think his work is sterile and clinical. So what if millions can buy the same piece. That certainly doesn’t make his work valuable or more artistic than someone else. Can you tell this subject makes me crazy!!! I’ve had this discussion with my friends lots of times and the production people can’t see why the rest of us get upset. Perhaps we’ll never agree.

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Jun 14, 2011

Painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling required helpers….but the vision was Michelangelo’s. How do we draw the line between creativity and the ability to finish the work?

From: Randy Davis — Jun 14, 2011

My take on the making of art is a very personal one also. I feel making my own art is the ONLY place I can express who I am without consulting a single other person for permission, judgement or evaluation (unless I’m specifically wanting that), or acceptance!! It is my experience and mine alone, and in a world that is so scrutinized by so many people, that is a space I’m not willing to sacrifice!

From: Rick Rotante — Jun 14, 2011

I said early on ” art is dead”. If truth be known art is still being done by those in the trenches who will probably see little money or notoriety in their lifetime or ever. When you are starving or working a day job to make art, you can’t afford a “staff”. When you become famous you can’t keep up with the demand so you parcel it out ala Jeff Koons. Interesting isn’t it, that every artist you mentioned is producing “contemporary or abstract art”??? As for the Big Three: Rem, Rub and Mick, it was a different time and we can never be sure who did what. I will lay a bet most work was the masters hand.

From: oliver — Jun 14, 2011

Hey wait a second, an artist or artist(s) in all these cases did the work. The only real question to me is/are the correct person(s) getting the credit? Where is the line between patronage and an artist who has an assistant or is a chief artist of a team of artists in a project? At the end of the day art is what it is and shouldn’t rely too much on the artist statement, on who made it, or how it was made. It should stand on its own and have a life of its own. That said in some of the cases below, I think perhaps the wrong person is getting the credit and the work has moved more into the involved patron as opposed being the artist. You know the involved patron – they want to have an artist do a portrait, but then want to choose the clothes, the pose, the background, the hairstyle, the lighting and tweak and ask for changes all the time. Who is the the artist – the patron or the person handling the media.

From: Monique Verdier — Jun 14, 2011

I’d love to meet your friend Joe Blodgett — can he be an Alter Ego needing little fuel to deliver his esthetics….? Enjoyed his analogy (Texas Pie) and your ‘Heath Head & Hand (or any part of your body than can hold a brush & manifest ONE’S Energy”. Have you forgotten Dali who had a “team” in his studio. One of my artist friends, ThaTh, a surrealist painter in his own right, was part of Dali’s dynamic for a while.

From: Fannie Griffin — Jun 14, 2011

“Blurting through your scotch” is a good description of most of the art referenced! It may be called “art” but it might as well be called “spilled paint” or “wall paper”. Shock and awe seem to have replaced skill in many paint boxes and “different” is frequently the only adjective I can apply. Just as in media ( Lady Gaga) it takes more outrageous productions to get attention…read prizes. I don’t think skill or heart can be farmed out.

From: Mary Moquin — Jun 14, 2011

Very timely. I’m assuming you read the recent spread in the Wall Street Journal, Friday, June 3, 2011. The article was titled “The Art Assembly Line” and touched on all the points you covered, along with the celebs out there using assistants. The concept of art is always evolving, I cease to pass judgement anymore, I only know the part I have witnessed. As I said a long time ago in an earlier response, we are like the blind men trying to explain what an elephant looks like. The part I have felt, requires artists to do all the work. But, I haven’t felt the whole elephant, and to someone in a different place, like having suffered a stroke and no longer physically able to execute the work, perhaps it is still Art, the question just becomes who’s and ultimately does it really matter? Art is truly to large to fully grasp and pass judgement on.

From: Gail Shepley — Jun 14, 2011

I was attending university in the 80’s and I remember there were a few famous sculptors we were studying who absolutely did not build their own gigantic designs!

From: Rick McClung — Jun 14, 2011

I agree with Joe.If you can no longer do quality work it is time to quit and focus on some other form of expression. I have painted for 40 yrs. The last 30 or so. After loosing my left hand and right eye. So far my work has continued to progress. The day I can no longer do it. I’ll stop. I pray painting will never have a TV show such as “American Idol” or the dance show equivalent. The artist’s with staff such as you listed responding to Joe is his best argument, producing a product for cash. That is their legacy just as the fine artists body of work is his. Take my word for it Rubens had assistants and students he taught the mechanics of painting on his works. They were used selectively to assist on work on the highest level. Pop artists can not be compared to master artists just as Chopin can’t be compared to punk rock or pop music.

From: Barbara — Jun 14, 2011

Another way to look at your question: what or who is an artist? I think one needs to look at the work. If it is a creation that is one of a kind and would be considered a work of art then I believe who ever made it, one or a group, is an artist. I recently painted a watercolor that I like very much and I used photoshop to change my photograph’s colors and then used that image as a resource for my painting. I still consider it a work of art and consider myself an artist. I didn’t stand there and paint directly from the source. I sometimes paint from my photographs. Am I less of an artist if I use a camera, other people or mechanical means to make a work of art. Does it matter how it is done if the outcome is one of a kind and involves human thought? A conductor of an orchestra leads many musicians to play a piece written by an often dead composer. Is this not a work of art? I consider each person involved in this process to be an artist.

From: Sharon Voyles Belcher — Jun 14, 2011

I’m with Joe. It’s rather like having someone lose weight for you. I guess I could take the credit for my husband having lost 90 lbs. — but people would laugh at me knowing he’s the one who put in the hours at the gym and diet. Art, to me, is a very individual thing and very necessary for the well-being of my soul. I couldn’t fathom putting it on the assembly line.

From: Caroline Simmill — Jun 14, 2011

I believe the late artist Rothko had assistant artists who laid on layers of paint under his direction onto the massive canvases he created. The old masters certainly had many artists who worked areas of the painting for them and came in at the last moment and laid in a bit of paint. I think your friend Joe is right, to create a work of art you need to do the work yourself. After reading your letter about this subject I arrived at the conclusion that the artists who manufacture an end product without doing the work themselves are simply designers who stand in the wings and direct the process. They are no more than that. Sure, designers have an important say in the world of art and are very valued but I would not call them artists in the true sense of the word. I did read about the Turner prize in a newspaper last year and the article had me believe that traditional ways of creating art such as drawing and painting were going to be introduced back into this prize. Somehow I find that hard to believe, it is surely a circus act where the idea is to simply shock and surprise it’s audience each year with a creation that is quite bizarre!

From: Daniela Ionescu — Jun 14, 2011

Ha, ha, I am like your Joe more or less . And what do you think about that young “artist” of 5 years old that sell his paintings at 9000 € or something like that ? I would like to sell two or three of my paintings at that price to pay my rent debts but I am not 5 years old.

From: Beverly Claridge — Jun 14, 2011

I think it may say a lot about postmodern sensibilities to think that art is best made in solitude. As Robert said, many of your great classical artists had helpers in an atelier type setting. I’m attempting to establish a similar sensibility in my studio. It will take time, but I’m enjoying so much the camaraderie and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. I don’t have anyone painting my paintings yet, but I hope to start a communal painting at some point soon.

From: Joseph Jahn — Jun 14, 2011

The plus of assistants and a factory is: The Work Is The Message. In this day of the artist’s bio being more important than the work of art, anything that corrodes that trend is welcome. Late Picasso’s are near junk, and yet because they are Picasso they still demand museum shows. Anything that returns the focus to the actual Work is refreshing. Thanks for all the inspiring letters, the topic of this one was a surprising thought provoker.

From: Susan G Holland — Jun 14, 2011
From: Shirley Hasenyager — Jun 14, 2011

Boy, am I ever on Joe’s side, without having my glass refilled. Koons is no better than the Chinese copiers lined up in a row. — A bunch of worthless junk.

From: Elizabeth Anne Middleton — Jun 14, 2011

I couldn’t imagine having someone else write my music for me.

From: Dale — Jun 14, 2011

Who is Joe ? Why should I care what he says about art ? Nothing in your letter even hints at qualifying him as an art critic. He doesn’t even paint ! From what I can gather he sits on a stool and drinks scotch . If that is all that qualifies him to stand in judgment of artist’s work then Joe is a common boor. He fits the description,” A critic is a legless man who teaches running”.

From: Jackie Knott — Jun 14, 2011

Just for fun … would you, Robert Genn, sign your name to a canvas you hadn’t painted in totality? You’re successful enough you could employ assistants. Have you considered doing so? If so, why yes and why not? Would your galleries wonder at your sudden prolific output? And would your admirers pause if they knew the painting they were considering buying wasn’t really painted by you? If you chose to do so would you hide that fact or dismiss it? I think those answers would be interesting.

From: Lorrene Baum-Davis — Jun 15, 2011

Hey yup, it is ‘about the money’. Many big name jewelery designers make a sketch and have an army of artisans do the work. Blegh…. But, the designs are awesome… oh Carp… me thinks I am green with envy. I could sketch designs all day. But I do like to get my hands dirty…

From: Bill Doying — Jun 15, 2011

Some reactions to your latest: Seems to me that the artwork is what it is, great or trivial, no matter who its creator may be. That is, the art should not be judged for its author but for itself, and in that light the question of collaboration or not ought not diminish the regard for the work. But of course this is naive, and we know that regard for the art is often assessed the lazy way, according to the supposed creator’s reputation, which introduces the question of sham — or, not to put too fine a point on it, fraud. On the other side, as to credit due the (titular) artist for particular work, it should obviously be diminished by his/her playing only a partial role. And the idea that the actual task of creation is a burden that may be haughtily dismissed and foisted off can be characterized as either extreme egotism or despicable mockery of those artists who take all the responsibility (and, deservedly, the credit) for their work. In the case of an artist who has previously been a complete creator but has become physically unable to continue, and obtains the services of a collaborator to carry out his/her intentions, disrepute would only be deserved if credit were denied to the collaborator.

From: Ben Novak — Jun 15, 2011

Re your thoughts on artists with “helpers”, I would support this practice in a very limited way: 1. Artist has to be present at all times 2. There can be no compromise on graphic style. An “original has to exist, painted by the artist, so that all other works are “copies” supervised and approved by the artist. 3. In the case of sculptures a good example is the French sculptor Rodin, who had an “atelier” of helpers but always produced an original (often scaled down) and supervised all work 4. In the case where parts of older works are used to create new compositions, I see no issues if the other principles above are followed. 5. When complex mechanical or electronic processes are in involved, the artist will need assistance. (Ex.; prints).

From: Debbie Sierchio — Jun 15, 2011
From: Yvonne Lunde-Andreassen — Jun 15, 2011

Seems to me that Gorlizki – Koons et al are a bunch of very sad, very busy pychos.

From: Sandra Mosley — Jun 15, 2011
From: Ed Hoiles — Jun 15, 2011

I regularly get mailings from the mouth and foot artists society and often buy their cards. I wish I could paint half as well as some of those “handicapped” artists!! Apparently, they have little use of assistants.

From: Lynne Elkins — Jun 15, 2011

If your paintbrush does not paint the paint you cannot claim it as yours. It is very simple. Even if it is your ideal, you must be the painter. It was not my idea to make a tiger, but, I paint the tiger and it is my painting because I touched the canvas with my brush.

From: Bill Doying — Jun 15, 2011

Seems to me that the artwork is what it is, great or trivial, no matter who its creator may be. That is, the art should not be judged for its author but for itself, and in that light the question of collaboration or not ought not diminish the regard for the work. But of course this is naive, and we know that regard for the art is often assessed the lazy way, according to the supposed creator’s reputation, which introduces the question of sham — or, not to put too fine a point on it, fraud. On the other side, as to credit due the (titular) artist for particular work, it should obviously be diminished by his/her playing only a partial role. And the idea that the actual task of creation is a burden that may be haughtily dismissed and foisted off can be characterized as either extreme egotism or despicable mockery of those artists who take all the responsibility (and, deservedly, the credit) for their work. In the case of an artist who has previously been a complete creator but has become physically unable to continue, and obtains the services of a collaborator to carry out his/her intentions, disrepute would only be deserved if credit were denied to the collaborator.

From: Kend Linderholm — Jun 15, 2011

In glass blowing take a look at “Chihuly in the Hotshop” to see how an artist does not have to be ‘hands on’. Ketchum had some of his photographs copied into silk tapestries in China; impressive! Personally my work with Peter London would not have happened if I did not weld steel or advise him how glass fusing could add light never seen on paper or canvas.

From: H Margret — Jun 15, 2011
From: Ken Paul — Jun 15, 2011
From: Paula Manning-Lewis — Jun 15, 2011

Personally, I think for a work to be called ART it should be executed by the person claiming the work as their own. There are certain situations where “help” is needed, but to me help means, mixing paints, stretching canvas, readying supplies, etc. If the artist is not touching the piece of work other than to sign it, than it isn’t art! Assistants are one thing, but “factories” of artists creating someone’s ideas are nothing more than manufacturing plants. Just my two cents worth.

From: BJ Bjork — Jun 15, 2011

First, if you and your friend Joe are ever in the New England area I’d like to buy you a scotch, or two. But, here’s to Joe. He has the energy, feeling, and voice to be a true artist, even if he never picks-up a brush. This energy and inner voice can only be seen if the artist does the the work themselves. A piece of art can only resonate to the viewer, by the doer and NOT the talker. This article reminds me of your letter, ‘My state of confusion’ back in August 3, 2010. In this piece, which I responded to, mentions all the ‘bad’ art that is out there and some idiot gives it an award, or much worse publicity, so some other idiot will buy it. OK, so some of the greatest artists had help. You don’t have to do all the grunt work yourself. With paint already made in tubes or jars, canvas that’s already primed and stretched, managers, agents, computers, and all the other ‘little’ helpers , you mean there are some visual artists out there that just point and direct? Where the hell is their soul, or at best integrity? Henry Ford, who started the ‘production line’ way of producing cars had a good thing going that made him quite wealthy. He even went as far as to advertise that you can order your car in ANY color, as long as it is BLACK! Yeah, he was a colourful man, but after a while people just woke-up and said, “we’re tired of black!” Henry Ford couldn’t fool All the people! I sign my paintings myself, ’cause I KNOW I did them myself! Bob, if you and Joe are reading this letter,’have one on me’. You guys are the best!

From: Shawn Vinson — Jun 15, 2011

RE: Life and death in the art factory… Your friend Joe is right! Damien Hirst is shite (to quote my English wife). At least Koons is honest when he says “it’s all about the production”. If you have to hire a crew to do it, it’s not really art, it’s a product. Ask Chuck Close if he thinks disability is an excuse for not doing it yourself.

From: Elizabeth Jean Billups — Jun 15, 2011

There are basically two goals in the art field: 1. to express oneself, one’s soul…and sharing that with the world 2. to make money. 3. it is a blessing when BOTH of these can be experienced by the artist! I guess it all depends which is most important to you…which one becomes a priority. If money is the most important, than I guess having these types of “studios” is fine…just like mass production of any commodity. But the SOUL of a work, cannot be achieved in this manner! In the “old days”…of studios having “helpers”…frescoes, commissioned portraits, well, I can’t “go there”…cause one needs a lot of historical knowledge to make an intelligent comment…as to the “good, bad, etc” of such practices… Artists today, doing the same as they did in the big studios of the past, what is their reasoning? Merely to pump out more art, to get more money? It all comes down to personal “hype”…as for myself…even in my home, there is not one thing, that is NOT mine: even ‘stray books” get returned to the owner! And I carry that same energy, that same “love” into my art. Altho, thru out my home, I have maybe 25 of my own works hanging, I also have about 30 of other artists that I have collected over the years, from Don Putt Putman, to Jean Legassic, to Dan McCaw…all originals. For to me, there is a spirit that is created in a painting, that only comes from the discovery and searching that takes place, in looking for the answers. If an artist is having others do their work, then it appears that they are merely COPYING their style, not discovering NEW thoughts, energies, ideas and expressions, that ONLY COMES from one’s own adventure! AND what is the underlying reason? Merely to make more money? How many of these artists are creating MASSIVE pieces, like the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel? I seriously doubt there are many! AND if that is the case, of course, an artist needs “assistance”. There were many more CREATIVE artists in history, that “did their own thing”, with out this situation, of having other’s doing the “work”…for Creativity does not come from “doing”…but from “discovering”…and discovering does not come about, by going down the same paths, already explored!

From: Susan Warner — Jun 15, 2011

I’m with your pal Joe Blodgett !! And I see others are calling Thomas Kincaid the “Poster Child of Factory Art”. AMEN! Let’s retain some dignity of an original piece of art made with YOUR hands alone.

From: Bonnie White — Jun 15, 2011

I sure wouldn’t buy the vases painted down the street by unknown laborers who are paid minimum wage to reap the “artist” $100+ a shot, but then I wouldn’t buy art at Wal Mart either. But, let’s face it, most of the public doesn’t have the confidence to use their own judgment to select a piece of “art.” They let someone working for Wal Mart make that decision for them. If it isn’t a mass produced product it couldn’t be art. Right?

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jun 16, 2011

As usual, I have a different opinion. First and formost, what I AM is the energy of the Universe incarnate in a mind/body that has talent (I have no idea where exactly the talent comes from) AND highly developed skills and abilities that ‘I’ developed in this lifetime, yet I’m sure I got here with them all already intact! So what. Tis I that’s doing the work. I’m an Artist. I create original work unlike anyone else’s and so far I do all the actual labor myself. But I’m using hundreds and hundreds of textiles designed by an almost uncountable number of other designers who designed the fabrics. But there’s no way any of them made the fabric, which is commercially produced. And I don’t credit them. But I’m also a Designer who invents complex interlocking tessilations that have never existed before, and I’m the pattern-maker making the patterns that I then use to cut out the textiles designed by designers but made by factories. However, I’m also a Craftsman, and my skills at cutting perfectly and sewing perfectly and hand-stitching perfectly (imperfectly) are very higly refined, but I work in a medium that’s impossible to make perfect, because it stretches, even more so because I’m cutting a whole lot of it off grain! Which I love. I’m signing 6 to 10 pieces a year if I’m lucky. But I’ve got a couple a dozen pieces machine-constructed but not hand-finished that in the design phase of my process, I laid out. And I’ve got so many other things in motion at all times that really, I could use a couple of assistants, and then I’d be able to finish maybe 20/30 pieces a year. Which would be great. By the time I’m dead there’d be a bit more work done. This way- by myself- who knows. But since I don’t make enough money to pay myself a decent wage, I can’t possiblely pay someone else too. A while back I did 10 years of work which I painted on but am not doing so now. So for you elitist painters painting your own paintings, it’s only one art form. There are many mediums that are not created in the same way a painting is. It doesn’t make them any less of a piece of art. Now one other thing… mainly women quilters always got together to ‘quilt’ the damn quilt because it was too much work for most of them to do alone. And that way they got to sit there and work and gossip/chatter together. Which would drive me nuts. I do all of mine by myself primarily alone. And I’ve thought about who’d even care to work with me in my high-energy electronica musical environment who’d have to be as much of a perfectionist as I am, or we’d never get along. But I’d love to have a webperson and a studio assistant- both of which Robert has.

From: Sheila Minifie — Jun 17, 2011

Janet Echelman’s work I think is fabulous. Thanks John (Ferrie). As many people have commented, there are all kinds of creative work and only the best will stand the test of time (and even then, will be biased according to the prevailing perspective of the age).

From: Jim Oberst — Jun 17, 2011

Having others paint your paintings is very much like having a printer print a giclee for you. Would you sell that without disclosing that it’s a copy?… I think not. I believe there’s nothing wrong with having a factory, as long as you let people know what they’re buying.

From: Sandra Larimore — Jun 17, 2011

At first, I agreed with Joe; but as I read more and more comments, I realized that there is NO right answer to this question. I am a mixed media artist who employs the use of spray paint (rattle cans). Each painting is created by me alone. However, I have used techniques and ideas from You Tube teachers. It is still my creation. On the other hand, I design fine jewelry. The details-the gemstones, the colors, etc. are my creations, but I sometimes hire folks to construct my creations.Does that make it any less my own? Where do you “draw the line” (pun intended)? Small painting projects must be done by the original artists, and large scale productions, buildings, bridges, war memorials, may employ assistants, because of the size and scope of their work? If fine art can only be executed by the true hand of the artist, only the elite could enjoy ownership of a Maxwell Parrish, or a Remington sculpture. This is an argument that will never be settled. I guess the answer is, “true beauty IS in the eye of the beholder”, not the hands that did the work. My elderly aunt, loves Thomas Kinkade’s art. She told me how disappointed she was that the porcelain cottages were not painted by his hand! Wouldn’t we all be delighted to own a Matisse, or Rembrandt painted by their own hands? I doubt that I will ever be wealthy enough, so I will have to own a fine print of their work, which delights me almost as much!

From: Jesse Caltropian — Jun 17, 2011

Tracey Emin won the Turner, I believe. She’s exhibited dishevelled beds and pup tents with lovers names scribbled on them. What if she hadn’t done them? Would there be a difference in the actual work if she’d instructed them from a couch or wheel chair or bed? Jeff Koons is a designer. His minions produce his designs for a high end “art” market. If he hadn’t made his metal sculptured balloon dog so large, it might have been mass produced in China for a national toy chain. Then we wouldn’t know who Koons is. I think I’m over the make- something-huge-and-it-becomes-art phase. I don’t ever think I was into the make-something-intensely-seedy-but-personal-and-call-it-art thing.

From: Marie Pinschmidt — Jun 17, 2011

I would not allow someone else to apply paint to my “original” canvases any more than I would use another author’s words in my books without giving them credit. Authenticity is our most important asset and we must guard it carefully. This has been a most interesting debate, and I’ll end with “To thine own self be true.”

From: Holly — Jun 18, 2011
From: Holly — Jun 18, 2011

OK, I see Sally and Mary already mentioned it. Funny how this illustrates that just plain ripping off someone else is NOT the same as an artist dictating the work to a craftsperson.

From: Holly White-Gehrt — Jun 18, 2011

Interesting what constitutes a work of art. If I do a “master copy” of Rembrandt, its NOT my art. Tho its not a “real” Rembrandt, he is clearly still the architect of the artwork I copied. Same as when you create a dialog based on another’s work, like Stan Sesser’s WSJ article June 3. Is it anymore your artpeice than the person who could have typed his article? Art and craft are two distinct from one another. The overlap is interesting to explore. I really think we should consider this overlap of Robert’s dialog. He has crafted something (done well, me thinks) based on the art of Stan Sesser. Clever Robert has given us more to chew on that we first thought! Tell me now, is the “twist of the wrist” really what gives authorship to a work of art?!

From: Diana Rutherford — Jun 19, 2011

I’m with Joe. The planet is already filled with enough junk to choke a whale. Let art be the original “thing”.

From: Dick Burrige — Jun 19, 2011

Joe really calls a spade a spade.

From: Jacqui Date jackleby@gmail.com — Jun 20, 2011

Hi, I wanna be one of those painters who get employed by artists to paint for them. Where do I sign up!!!

From: Sandy Essex — Jun 20, 2011

I wonder what artists such as Yoyo Ma and Itzak Perelman would think of such “artists” who have others do their work?

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Jul 01, 2011
   
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