Mentoring

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Dear Artist,

There’s that wonderful feeling that it’s the first day of the rest of your life. There’s a kind of newness; I’m noticing for the first time the bow-wave of mallards on half-frozen ponds. Country-road families take leisurely walks, little-ones up on father’s shoulders — even the dogs seem to sniff the new millennium.

Among the resolutions (which are lodged with me for safekeeping) there are some resolved to give back more of what they’ve been so handily given. Perhaps they are mid-aged ones, I don’t know — what the late psychologist Eric Erikson called the “generative” stage of life in which we feel the need to be caretakers to others not of our immediate family.

Mentoring art is a delicate art. For me it has been a bit of a study. It’s not like demonstrating a DVD or checking someone out at the controls of a 747. There’s another ego in the way. A life force with ideals, visions, expectations, limitations. No matter how young or how willing all must be rewritten through the filter of self-esteem. We artists stick ourselves out. This in itself deserves respect. Whether we’ve been, or just know we can go, we are solitudes and alone with our interests. We cannot be micro-managed. We can take heart that everything we do is different than the last thing we did — or indeed everything that’s ever been done. That knowledge is the key to sound mentoring — when you bend to lift up — be gentle — allow that they are to be kings and queens of their own solitudes.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “All education must be self-education.” (Robert Henri)

“Nothing is worth more than this day.” (Goethe)

Esoterica: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, dramatist, novelist and scientist who credited his successes to a happy and sheltered childhood. His aim was to make his life an example of the full potential of man. Work itself stabilizes, he found, and we empower others by empowering ourselves.

The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. Also, informative and provocative material continues to come in on the subject of online galleries.

 


Days of our years
by Helen Peel, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
 

“Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, today is a gift — that’s why it’s called ‘the present.’ ” I read this in a craft shop in Georgetown, Ontario. I think it was credited to George Bernard Shaw.

 


Muddy pathway
by Sebastien Kohli, Brussels, Belgium
 

Making our way on the path we pick up some mud along the way. If only we had the capacity to stay clean, to be forever renewed, and fresh. Then we could be free and liberated givers, the world would be filled with truth, and all art would be a joy.

 


Something going on in the Art of Life
by Elle Fagan
 

I have only begun talking with startout artists, and was glad that it was a short term taste… all the concepts fall on the sensibilities when we begin something new… I have learned it is very different from teaching A&C and exploration-art with little ones. The individual in question was interested in taking a “nuts and bolts” workshop — and so the relationship ended. When the concept entered my life it energized me creatively, and I experienced it as a compliment. I think it is important to be honest in such relationships; clarity of Truth makes it good for all on many levels in the art of life.

“You can’t teach art” (ECU prof. and White House Restorative Artist, John Satterfield.)

 


Mentor quotables
by Alyce Bryson, New Jersey, USA
 

There should be a new heading Mentoring in the Resource of Art Quotations. I hope to find more quotes by artists on mentoring, but here are some possibilities:

Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise. (Mary Kay Ash)

The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive. (Joe Batten)

The leader seeks to communicate his vision to his followers. He captures their attention with his optimistic intuition of possible solutions to their needs. He influences them by the dynamism of his faith. (John Haggai)

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they may eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability. (Fred A. Manske, Jr.)

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within. (Bob Nelson)

 


Blissful co-dependency
Marina Morgan, Vancouver, BC, Canada, talking about Paul Van Ginkel
 

paul-van-ginkel_future-champion-20x20-oil_

“Future Champion”
oil painting by Paul van Ginkel

My artist usually has the trick of inspiring me always to try and provide the substance of your “wish list” to him, (with variable results!) and he more than reciprocates with me. His superior ability in this regard, and his desire to foster it, are his most admirable, not to say endearing, talents, for which I am with him. The canvas genius is bonus (unless one starts to think elliptically, and consider how the talents interface, and which, if any, is causative of the others.)

 

 


Gallery owner speaking here
Name withheld by request
 

Hold the phone, don’t fire your agent yet! As you can see from the artists that have web sites or on-line galleries they only put the work out there as images. Web sites do not sell the work for you. In order for people to have the confidence to buy, they must have some more important link to the work. That important link is usually a visit to a gallery or a personal relationship with the owner. To see a painting on the web is to see an image, there are zillions of images on the web and you can even manipulate one to suit your fancy. But realize this, original fine art is more than just an image. It is a connection to the continuum that makes it Art. In order to sell these images people have to feel the connection to that continuum and have the trust that that piece is in fact part of the lineage, not just another image. Lots of images are crap and are suited to poster art at best. Original art envelopes people and enhances their lives, it makes them think as they pass a painting, it causes their children to ask questions and to ponder life. Images don’t necessarily do this; there has to be a link. If you, as an artist value your art and expect people to buy it for investment in lifestyle or dreams; then support a gallery that supports you with their body, their soul and of course their web site. The web site is a valuable sales tool but it is not a river that flows with art to be sipped from like everyone is parched. The art gallery system is not going to implode because if it did, the artists would not be able to sell their art. It’s the galleries or artists that sell entirely on-line that will fall off the edge. I know of on-line galleries that are now building brick and mortar galleries because they haven’t been able to sell enough on-line to buy a free lunch for a hungry dog. The thought of making money without working is a dream. When it comes right down to it, you still have to contact the client, convince him or her that you have some valid works of art and then sell him or her on what you’ve got.

 


Rejection by mouse
by Benjamin Lum, San Francisco, California, USA
 

Many of these online galleries are best seen as a platform for online and telephone sales of art. The idea of these sites is to generate enough interest through volume hits that the curious potential customers may make a call and enter the world of the closer. This type of art sales can take place when the client base is not particularly sophisticated and generally lower priced items are the norm. These borderline customers may be willing to accept posters as prints, Giclees as originals, and in general are fairly ignorant of the art world and art marketing. Sophisticated and higher spending customers would have no reason to attend these sites unless they contained something that was particularly hot and in their range of current interest, together with an additional reason to buy — such as a discount. As everybody knows discounts are highly dangerous in the art business. By lower priced I mean essentially framed wall-fillers at $50 to $500. Unfortunately it is practically impossible to make a reasonable return on investment in the art business unless higher priced and generally original art is sold. Most of these sites do not have this potential. By and large they have no content, either written or displayed, to attract sophisticated people. They miss the main value of the internet — information. Furthermore, the poor quality of work shown online dilutes the confidence that potential customers might have. They soon get the idea that the online dealer is throwing anything up to see if anyone wants it — and does not discriminate or select in any way. Even highly sophisticated buyers often require guidance. This role has traditionally been played by the proprietor and staff of a brick and mortar gallery. Naïve telephone operators, no matter how well educated, or geeks behind computers, cannot properly play this role. “Rejection by mouse” is seen by the enormous divergence between hits and closings. “No one ever lost a buck underestimating the taste of the American public,” doesn’t seem to be at work here. On-line galleries are currently losing money hand over fist.

 


E-commerce statistics
by Dan Mulcaster, UK
 

For the first week of November until December 24, 2000, PC Data Inc. reported total US on line sales of $9.8 billion — as opposed to last year’s $4.7 billion for the same period. On line sales here in the UK more than doubled. This indicates to me that people are growing more comfortable with buying on line. Whether artists saw much of that is the question. Your enquiry over the next few weeks will hopefully shed some light on which on-line method works best for artists when they choose to go in that direction.

 

Worth looking at
 

1
Ever wondered how silk paintings are done? You can go to Nottingham artist Leonard Thompson’s pages which give instructions, examples, and other info — like how to avoid the white interstices. http://www.silkartist.co.uk/

2
Look at a progression of fruit and floral paintings and follow the informative online journals of David Oleski at https://www.davidoleski.com/

3
See some of what opinionated Brian Yoder calls good and bad art, including Maxfield Parrish (“good”) and Nazi art (“mostly bad; nude men carrying swords”) and also Picasso, Klee, Pollock, and Rothko (“all bad”)

 

You may be interested to know that artists from 62 countries have visited these sites since January 1, 2001.

That includes Sue Bateson of Horsham, Victoria, Australia, who says, “I do need to discipline myself,” and Jack Hendry of Oregon who says, “My work needs to be less disciplined.”

And Bev Willis, of Fresno, California, who says, “Let the people who know how to market, market, and let the people who know how to paint, paint.”

 

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