I’m frequently asked whether it’s best to go back to school or back to work. I’ve been on the board of directors of a prominent art college, and I’ve also been an advocate of do-it-yourself for life — so I’m coming from both sides of the fence. Fact is, even if you attend what you think is the best art school in the world (like I did — Art Center) it doesn’t make you into an artist. You’re the one who has to do that.
An art photographer friend recently revealed she was emerging from a six-month fog. “Clients put my personal work on hiatus. I was in such a creative block I just dove into helping others and forgot about myself,” she said. “I got stuck in fear.” I asked her if she were to put her fears into words, what would be her Top 3? “Me?” she asked. “Okay, here goes:
“Fear of no one caring, or my work being worthless.
The following is part of a letter from an artist to an architect friend: “I asked him for some of the money I need to continue my work. He told me to come around on Monday. I went on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and there was no money. On Friday someone else came to the door and threw me out. I’m discouraged about getting paid for this job.”
Sound familiar? The date on the letter is May 2, 1506. The artist was Michelangelo and the patron was Pope Julius II.
When Guillermo del Toro was growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico in the early 1970s, he started fooling around with his dad’s Super 8 camera, making horrors using his Planet of the Apes action toys and other objects he found around the house. Borrowing from the Magic Realism of his strict Catholic upbringing, Guillermo’s fascination with allegory and fairytales grew into a full-fledged obsession with the power and potential of monsters to tell the forgotten stories of the dispossessed.
For those who might wonder why music plays such a great role in human life and culture, Daniel J. Levitin has written This is Your Brain on Music. The book contains remarkable insights and new information on music, song and dance. Some researchers think music may actually predate speech. Others see it as a wayward deviation that only ends in harmless play. Curiously open-ended and open-minded, there’s something on every page of Levitin’s book that has me asking similar questions about the brain and painting.
Having recently set up a new studio in a new locale, my friends are calling with the same question: “Are you feeling creative in your new space?” Pregnant with myth and mystery, a new room can ignite all the original dreams and fears of even the most seasoned studio-hopper. Without sounding too superstitious, the question can feel a bit blasphemous. While we all may swim in the mystery of creativity’s delicate alignment, and tremble at the juju of a new space, it’s the occupant that determines a studio’s potency. Studio vibes — ineffable, designed, cultivated or summoned — are, in the end, artist vibes. They’re germinated by sweat.
A subscriber wrote, “I was wondering just who buys all the art. I came up with a few possible demographics. Then it occurred to me that I should ask my favourite guru — you.”
Thanks for the elevation… These days there are five main types of art buyer. Some are a combination of more than one type. While it’s not something that you must make a study of, it’s often useful to recognize these birds when you see them in the field.
An artist who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, “I recently moved into a new house that came fully decorated. In addition to selling most of the furnishings to make room for my own, I found myself with other people’s paintings. After searching online for the artists and coming up empty-handed, I’m wondering what to do. While I respect the creative effort, I want to hang my own stuff. Any ideas?”
A subscriber wrote, “Recently I’ve been asked for a painting as a wedding present, as a birthday present, and as a keepsake. Of course all these requests, while flattering, take time or cost money. What does one say? I recently asked my brother-in-law to pose for me while we chatted over a beer. He was disappointed when I told him I needed the sketches. Am I obligated to give him one? My colleague asked me to paint her portrait. Thinking she meant commission, I said I’d love to but she thought it would be my gift for her birthday. What does one do?”
When Amy Sherald was growing up in Columbus, Georgia in the 1970s, her dentist father encouraged her to go into medicine. “There was this attitude of, ‘The civil rights movement was not about you being an artist,’ ” she remembered. But as an introvert, Amy enjoyed painting and running and, unsure of what else she was good at, she felt drawn to a life in art. “I don’t feel like I chose to do it,” she said. Near the end of her MFA, during a medical check-up, Amy’s doctors told her that she had a barely-functioning heart and that she would eventually need a transplant. She was 30 years old.