A subscriber wrote, “I need help with ‘developing ideas.’ I have to show I can do this in my portfolio to apply for art school and although it is an admission of a lack of imagination to ask, I really need a structure to help me. I have to do more than supply completed works. I know that artists get ideas while working, but how do I develop themes and explore subjects?”
“Curator,” one of the commonest words in the art vocabulary is hardly mentioned in the art handbooks. According to the Oxford Dictionary it’s derived from the noun ‘curate’ — officially “the assistant to a priest or a clergyman appointed to take charge of a parish during the incapacity or suspension of an incumbent.” In historic law a curator was a guardian of “a minor or a lunatic.” These days it’s the person in charge of a museum or art gallery. In our business we generally think of the curator as the chooser of what’s going to be seen by the public.
A friend, I’ll call him Cosmo, was a lifelong art collector and a generous museum benefactor. He loved to support artists young and old, and had even infected his kids with his collecting joy. Early in our friendship, Cosmo and I paddled the rapids of his beloved Northern river. There, he told me that his passion for business was like mine for art. Another time, he took me to the top of a skyscraper so I could see a banker’s view.
Yesterday, in the New York clubs — Salmagundi Art Students League, the Society of Illustrators — I was cruising historical and current members’ work, listening to wisps of conversation, digging in archives, wandering down memory lane.
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) came to New York from Wilmington, Delaware, in 1873. “Pyle arrived at the right time and instinctively recognized the power of pictures for everyone,” says Pyle’s biographer, Henry Pitz.
“What happens with you when you begin to feel uneasy, unsettled, queasy?” wrote American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron in her 1996 book, When Things Fall Apart. “Notice the panic, notice when you instantly grab for something.” For artists, we may make sense of the discomfort of creative inquiry by giving it a name and influence. A genuine self-delusory avoidance activity is better known by its power-handle: “Block.”
The well-known physicist and writer David Deutsch is also well-known for the messiness of his workplace. Once, when a TV crew came in to record an interview with him, they offered to tidy up a bit before beginning. He told them they could if they put everything back exactly the way it was. They did.
German-born English psychologist Hans Eysenck, in his studies of the brain’s reticular activating system, suggested that we all have a set point for regulating arousal levels.
Fifteen percent of us, Eysenck determined, have a naturally high level of arousal, which makes us introverts. He also notes that when introverts develop the skills for managing social activity and relationships and then optimize their penchant for looking inward, they can be among the very happiest of people.
A subscriber wrote, “I received a call from someone that had seen my work in a gallery. Then she bought a piece from my web page and I mailed it. I called the gallery to tell them the good news and let them know that I owed them some money. Our agreement is 50-50. I told them how much I owed them and they said they’ll take it off my next check. Great! Yesterday, I got a call from a neighbor of this art buyer, and the neighbor bought a painting as well. Should I also credit the gallery another 50% from the neighbor’s purchase? Both paintings were on my website, and not at the gallery.”
Artist Mitchell Freifeld wrote from Portland, Oregon to ask for more clarity concerning the letter “Ignorance,” which mentioned my dad’s criteria when jurying. “It would be a great benefit to have this road map ‘decoded’ in the simplest possible terms. I’m sure others who read the piece would like to see this as well.”
While these points are subject to modification — sometimes there’s something major to upset them, like, “I like it” — here’s Dad’s list, with my notes:
A friend of mine (let’s call him Dino) entered retirement the other day and took up painting. You could say Dino has a life-long appreciation of art, but until now he has only thought about actually doing it. He went to a lumberyard and bought some wood for stretchers. He quietly helped himself to a bed-sheet from the family closet. He was thinking big. His work is huge. He primed with blue latex, then hit it with commercial acrylic, roller and brush.