Remember those sad children’s faces with big, misty eyes? If you don’t, you weren’t around in the late fifties when they were hung on a lot of livingroom walls. Nowadays, this sort of painting has been sent to the rumpus room or the dustbin. Remember those juicy, over-the-mantle Parisian street scenes? What about those black velvets? Debuted in high-end galleries in the early sixties, black velvets made their exit marked down to $29.95 in humiliating supermarket parking lots.
Fashions come and fashions go. One generation doesn’t always want what the former generation coveted. It’s an action-reaction syndrome and, considering human nature, it’s inevitable.
Music is an example. Statistics show that kids tend to go for any music that’s different than what their folks like. My son Dave is a rocker. One day I asked him what he thought was the essential quality of Teen Rock. “Anything that parents can hate,” said Dave, only he used more colourful terms.
The situation is compounded by each generation’s renewed need to appear smart and not to be like the fogey-generation behind. Dad may drive a dinosaur gas-guzzler, but junior needs to look good in a light-footprint sipper. Who knows, the next generation might feel smart in bulletproof pickups. Some already do.
The “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign failed because it was still an Oldsmobile.
The secondary art market is loaded with, “What goes around comes around.” The “What’s next?” crowd tries to figure out what might be a smart investment. Woodblock prints, for example, can suddenly come out of the fifty dollar range into the fifty thousand dollar range. The transformation often takes two generations. Recently, at an auctioneer’s viewing day, I saw a couple of sad, misty-eyed kids staring out at me. The next day at the auction some discriminating connoisseur was the highest bidder.
For those whose main sensitivity is money, name blinds judgment. With the advent of the Internet, even regional and peripheral names can gain mystique. This may be the main megatrend happening in art right now. But art-market well-being is also governed by the liquidity-availability equation. Right now there’s lots of availability and limited liquidity. Without reasonable money floating around, artists, too, can get sad and misty-eyed.
PS: “Perhaps an addendum to ‘this too shall pass’ should be ‘but given time, it shall return.’ ” (Lesley White)
Esoterica: What’s an artist to do about all this? In my opinion, nothing. We are what we are and we paint what we want, and when we lose sight of this we sell our souls. We need to aim for quality in whatever genre or style currently attracts us. There are craters in the old not-so-level playing field, but we artists need to carry the ball energetically as if our personal concept of quality will always be in style. “There is no such thing as ‘on the way out’ as long as you are doing something interesting.” (Louis Armstrong)
Art and liquidity
by Joseph Jahn, Nibe, Denmark
Quote: “Right now there’s lots of availability and limited liquidity.” I disagree. There is tons of liquidity with those that collect art, there is just a resistance to parting with it because of the perceived or real notion that the financial world situation is still in flux after the greed and stupidity of the decade. I do agree that casual buyers of art are lost for the time being, due to fear for savings and jobs and the loss of home values. The money to buy art for most is the last money they spend so all that the professional artist has lost is an audience whose focus was never on art as a first priority. I know very few that will set art above a new TV, but those that I do know set art above TV are the ones I prefer to have view and buy my works. The real core of the artist/collector dance.
The larger audience will return when economics improve, but does that mean more satisfaction for the artist who cannot help but produce art regardless of the environment of sales? I don’t believe selling art was ever an end in itself or we would all be changing our styles to please the dealers and the walk-in buyers. I do agree that selling our work to anyone is a pleasure but sometimes asking why they bought it can be an unpleasant revelation.
Big eyes done by Keane’s wife, Margaret
by Searcy D King, Tullahoma, TN, USA
Walter Keane did not do those paintings of “Big Eyes.” He sold them as his own but his wife actually did them. He was an alcoholic and she lived a very sad and painful life as his dysfunctional partner, and therefore painting the sad pictures was her way of coping. I am a 30 year member of Al-Anon and remember her challenge to him to produce just one picture in public in the San Francisco bay area. He couldn’t! Later she remarried and moved to Hawaii where she paints happy reflections of her new life free of Walter Keane’s painful influence.
If you are true to your heart, it doesn’t matter whether it is trendy or not. God knows the heart and the truth of the matter, and that is what is really important. The art world is so plastic and full of games and egos! You of all people know what cut-throat stuff goes on. For the human being/artist, any artistic expression is a direct communication with a higher Source. Whatever you define as Source, that Source, who created the universe, has the power to use that artistic expression to reach others when the time is right. The art I was drawn to in the 1960’s is certainly not the art I am drawn to today. It is just an example of my growth and change over this lifetime. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect the art I was drawn to earlier in my life. I can look at it with gratitude for addressing my emotional needs at the time. I feel no need to be critical of any art because I certainly do not have the “Big Picture” Source has.
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Long distance connection
by Pauline Lazzarini, Rohnert Park, CA, USA
About 6 years ago, I received a little note from a woman who found me on Painter’s Keys. She told me she really liked my art work. There are hundreds of listings on the site… and I was quite flattered. She was Norma, a now 80 year old artist. We became instant friends and have been emailing each other almost every day since. She has been a mother figure and a friend and has always been my confidante. We have never met or Skyped or talked on the phone. We did everything by email or regular air mail. We made each other gifts. We belonged to a summer art group together. She has shared her stories and photos and I mine. We would encourage one another to paint. We would photograph and send each other our latest work as soon as we finished… she saw things before anyone else. She has gotten to know my friends from my stories. She recently had a birthday and I sent her a small painting I did of her mother as a little girl and she was thrilled.
The last letter I received from her was lamenting on my many losses of dear friends. Today I opened my email and first saw her familiar mail address only to find out it was written by her daughter telling me that Norma had taken a bad fall and died. I am so so sad… Even though we never met… she was one of my dearest friends. I am overwhelmed with grief over the loss.
(RG note) Thanks, Pauline. Norma Larsen lived in Australia. Her daughter Gaye Smith, also in Australia.
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Insight to Mark Rothko
by Hank Zauderer, CA, USA
I am taking a psychiatry class, and the subject of Mark Rothko came up. One member of my class was seemingly really thrilled with Mr. Rothko’s work. I only saw shapes and colors, while my classmate kept talking about much deeper, almost “religious” feelings from Mr. Rothko’s art. Are you able to refer me to a book, or an Internet site where Rothko’s work is explained in more detail?
(RG note) Thanks, Hank. The best insight into Rothko’s mind that I know of is The Artist’s Reality; Philosophies of Art, by Mark Rothko; Edited and with an introduction by Christopher Rothko. Probably written around 1940, it shows Rothko’s ideas on the modern art world, art history, myth, beauty, the challenges of being an artist in society and what he felt was the true nature of American art. Christopher Rothko, the artist’s son, describes his father and the discovery of the manuscript and the fascinating process of bringing it to publication. It’s illustrated with a small selection of relevant examples of the artist’s own work as well as with reproductions of pages from the actual manuscript.
Another book, The Legacy of Mark Rothko by Lee Seldes, gives insight into Rothko’s checkered life, his death by suicide and, more than anything, what happens to a careless artist’s estate when it’s not managed properly.
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by Lori Goldberg, Vancouver, BC, Canada
I’m curious in knowing what lighting you use in your studio. I am re-thinking my studio lighting and would appreciate your comments.
(RG note) Thanks, Lori. I’ve loaded up with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL). Those are the curly ones that screw into normal sockets. I use the ones on the cool side. I like them because they are supposed to last longer and use about 75% less energy. On the other hand, some research finds that their “electronic fields” can cause migraines and skin rashes, etc, etc. Even though I am a well known and much discussed hypochondriac in some circles, so far I have not been bothered that I’m aware of. I’d appreciate hearing anything readers might have to say about this. Right now I have principles, but they can be changed. Just today I learned that a far greater threat to global warming is not automobile emissions but bovine flatulence.
I know a few artists who swear by Ott Lights. They are of excellent design, equate the colour temperature of daylight, and not so expensive if you limit yourself to just one at your easel.
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Change of name act
by Andrea Loeppky
I am in the process of divorcing after 20 plus years of marriage and would like to go back to using my maiden name which I much prefer. It would be Andrea Scott-Pearse However I have been successfully painting and selling since 2006 and have my married name as my website. What to do, as I see disadvantages particularly since I have been signing my paintings using my married name.
(RG note) Thanks, Andrea. This is a most significant problem, particularly for women who wish to cut all ties with a previous relationship. Children (if any) should be consulted or at least told your plans. As we all know, there’s value in the continuity of a name. But in some cases a change of name can be a talking point — before and after sort of thing — and folks can try to figure out whether the really good stuff came after. Gives dealers something to talk about. It’s a lot of trouble, changing domains, emails, etc, but it’s doable. In your case, and with your classy maiden name, I’d say go for it.
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To reward or not to reward
by Tom Bennick
Again, I am at odds with my art group. The conflict revolves around contests for kids involved in art. Recently I turned down an opportunity to judge a group of kids from kindergarten to fourth grade. The guidelines were very stringent and the contest was to be judged with a 1st, 2nd etc. ranking. I believe that kids need the experience of art without the rating system. They don’t need to be judged for what they do, even though it might seem inferior to others. This, to me is the quickest way to stifle the interest in art. There is a winner and a loser and the loser just might believe they don’t have what it takes to do art. At that point they may never attempt to express themselves in a creative way. Too much of our society is based upon competition as the sole reason for attempting anything. It is as if everything needs to be in a box, categorized, numbered and judged for quality. Many in my group expressed the opinion that that is life — win or lose. That might be life but to defeat one at such a young age is cruel. I believe in the quotation of Albert Einstein, “I believe in standards for cars but not people.”
(RG Note) Thanks, Tom. I’m of the opinion that we are giving far too many awards these days. I’ve juried competitions where we jurors were required to turn just about everybody into a winner. This generosity has the effect of lowering standards, even with kids. Kids need to be shown that you don’t get stars for just trying or just showing up. You get them for excelling. The price of over-rewarding is mediocrity.
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by Ken Bravo, New York, NY, USA
Some of my collages are more conceptual than others. The pictures were printed at Kinko’s on 32 lb paper. The white is very white and the paper seems to have held the glue well. What I still haven’t quite figured out (and to be honest I need to do some experimenting) is how to preserve the work. What can I do to cover all of the surfaces? Water based seems to wrinkle the paper and other media may yellow over time. Do you have any thoughts that would help?
(RG note) Thanks, Ken. Gloss 32 lb photocopy paper is not archival, but will stay bright white for a decade if kept in a dark place. I’ve had a bit of luck with a light spray of Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic coating 41303 on both sides. If overdone, the spray can give photocopies a sort of film-grain effect, which may or may not be desirable. A heavier, archival support would be a good place to start.
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 >Marvin Humphrey of Napa Valley, CA, USA, who wrote, “Quality stands the test of time. Monetary reward is not directly connected. Mozart was buried in a paupers’ grave; Snoop Dogg is presently enjoying his millions.”
And also, Chris Everest of Sheffield, England, who wrote, “Anybody wanna buy a stuffed shark in formaldehyde?”
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