The art of deceit

Dear Artist, Travelling through a distant city, I entered through the back door of a gallery, only to find the dealer trying to sell one of my paintings. Taking a seat at the rear, I quietly waited for him to finish. Leaning close to the nice looking couple, he disclosed that I was one of the best investments in the country. My feelings of creepiness were compounded when he mentioned I had my own stud farm. He must have confused me with another artist, I figured, but no matter, the couple had horses and bought the painting. Thinking about how art itself is a form of deceit, I didn’t blow much of a whistle on my dealer-friend. Painted mountains can be taller and more jagged, women can be even more beautiful, autumn’s reds can be redder, and horses can have longer legs. Recently I’ve been reading The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Modern Life by Robert Trivers. Apparently all animals have deceit built in, and the higher up the food chain we are, the more likely we are to use, abuse (and detect) it. From the amoeba to the fine artist, “smoke and mirrors” is not a bad thing, and good stuff comes from illusion. Trivers, an evolutionary biologist who once took courses in art, tells us that the most effectively devious folks are not always aware of their deceit. Apparently, the most intelligent people often excel in self-deception. There’s an unconscious process of selection and distortion, the better to believe our stories, the brilliance of our efforts, and our place in the world. Trivers revels in all kinds of human follies, the sort of things that make “The Emperor’s New Clothes” such a great parable. Knowing all is not straight and true gives power to the idea that imagination rules. If everything was depicted as it is in total truth, then things would be dull indeed. Maybe art, or perhaps modern art, as some people think, is one big folly, but it doesn’t hurt anyone, and you’ll have to agree it’s a lot of fun. Nevertheless, outright lies retard the progress of civilization. While I’ve ridden a few horses, even painted a small panel while in the saddle, the closest I ever came to a stud farm was when I had one of my old British cars pulled from the mud by a stallion. Best regards, Robert PS: “You can fool just about anyone, but the easiest one to fool is yourself.” (Richard Feynman) Esoterica: One of my relatives, deciding she needed a new husband, went online and found a decent looking fellow hugging a Golden Retriever. One phone call and she was on her way over to the fellow’s home. “Where’s the dog?” she asked when they met. “Sparky belongs to a friend,” he said. “I only used Sparky in the photo so I would look like a nice guy.” She married the guy anyway.   In love with ourselves? by Jeri Haas, Balto, MD, USA  

mixed media painting
by Jeri Haas

I find it hard to believe that a totally truthful world would be boring. We would still have our imaginations to soar to ever more challenging and beautiful places as yet unrealized by the human mind. This does imply another unknown world (or maybe an “unused” mind in another world), perhaps another dimension, but why not? What greatness might come from a truthful and soaring mind? Surely it would be steps up from this agitating and corrupt world in which we are currently living. To me the problem lies in our tendency to “over-love” ourselves. “There’s an unconscious process of selection and distortion, the better to believe our stories, the brilliance of our efforts, and our place in the world.” My feeling is that we were conscious of, and did make a decision at some point in our lives to believe our lie, which only then allowed it to become an “unconscious” occurrence. Remember that all of the king’s people had their own reason(s) to deceive themselves… mostly Fear turned the trick. Not at all an unconscious decision. There are 3 comments for In love with ourselves? by Jeri Haas
From: Patricia Solem — Nov 18, 2011

And then there are those who believe the lie that they are worthless or lacking in talent. That is not a very good thing either.

From: Di — Nov 18, 2011

–I agree Jeri, why not reach for the stars and the sublime. As for the fear or as Patricia said -those who believe they are worthless or lacing talent. It absolutely isn’t a good thing. The answer is: “Don’t believe it! — Reword it to the positive – reframe it to positivism and repeat it a hundred times a day if that’s what it takes!” You’re going to be the new up and coming….

From: Saundra — Nov 21, 2011

“Love between man and woman, although probably immutable in its basic core, changes and acquires new meaning at different ages . . . love is a form of relatedness and exchange transmitted through bodies which touch, embrace and kiss, and through words which exchange feelings, ideas, and promotes joy and balm to wounds. What love makes intense at a certain age, it makes more serene and tender at a later period of life.” Silvano Arieti (1977)??

  Nature is deceitful too by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA  

“Franz Liszt”
watercolour painting, 28 x 24 inches
by Warren Criswell

As Picasso said, “Art is the lie that tells the truth.” It can also tell lies. But the lies don’t reach out and grab you by the throat — or other vital parts of your anatomy. You know it when you see it. Speaking of even more beautiful women, when I was a kid I learned to draw mostly from Milton Caniff’s comics — Steve Canyon, Terry and the Pirates — in which the women all have large breasts and very long legs. Years later when I began drawing from life, I found I had to learn anatomy all over again. Real breasts are rarely that big and legs are never that long! The same thing was true with landscapes. Being from Florida, I wasn’t familiar with mountains, but later I discovered that real mountains are usually not as dramatic as painted ones. Drawing and painting people and things as they really are was a revelation. You don’t really see a thing until you try to draw it. Imagination is of course vitally important to creativity. But what I discovered was that nature is way more imaginative — and maybe more deceitful — than I am. There are 2 comments for Nature is deceitful too by Warren Criswell
From: Mishcka — Nov 18, 2011

Oooo. . .are you related to Edgar Allen Poe? Your website – I love “Dead Crow Walking” and many others.

From: Christie B. Smith — Nov 18, 2011

Your painting is intriguing on so many levels. It is scary, funny, serious, evocative, mysterious, and keeps me looking for a long time!

  Self-deceit lessens fear by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Vermilion lakes”
acrylic painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Unless the lies have negative and hurtful impact, it can be a lot of fun to dig for them in human behavior. I once started on this subject with a bunch of ladies. I stumbled on the subject by saying that I didn’t think that the face value of anyone can be trusted. This didn’t go well. The jolly gold digger and the sweet facelift beauty commented that I must be a very deceitful person if I think that way because most people are never deceitful. They put themselves as examples of this pure naïve honesty. I realized I chose a wrong subject. Not everyone is ready to face this concept in a playful way. This benign deceitful behavior is deeply embedded, but also socially accepted to the extent that really isn’t anyone’s business to point it out. Having said that, I am not sure that your dealer’s act was benign, but what do I know about salesmanship. It’s also very interesting how self-deceit can turn out to be a self-prophecy. Sometimes we learn what we are missing, and trust ourselves that we can fill in the gaps to what’s needed. Self-deceit can be useful to bridge the gap with less fear. There are 4 comments for Self-deceit lessens fear by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Angela Treat Lyon — Nov 17, 2011

I love seeing your work on these pages all the time – it’s so neat to watch it progress. I do miss seeing the background sepia tone of your underpainting – are you intending to be tight? I love the losseness of your older pieces. Not to say I don’t like these new ones! I can always tell it’s one of yours – you have a distinctive style – aloha – Angela

From: Susan Easton Burns — Nov 18, 2011

so true how we fool ourselves! I like your experiment, but I would lose most of my friends if I tried this….maybe not though, if I was honest about my motivations. I think the opposite of everything i say, can also be true. It really helps me to be kind when I choose my words.

From: Tatjana — Nov 18, 2011

Thanks Angela! Susan, I didn’t do that with intent or wanting to offend, I was just being foolish.

From: Tatjana — Nov 18, 2011

Angela, to try to answer your question…I think that certain kinds of paintings at certain times just have to make their way out. It’s like making and solving different puzzles. This could be an interesting topic because we don’t always move in direction of excelling, lateral moves into something a little or lot different are also important for me.

  Harmless deception gets us through life by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“For me”
original painting
by Rick Rotante

We paint on a flat surface and manipulate paint in such a way as to make viewers see things that are not there. That is if we have the ability to do this. What I find interesting is the viewer is willing to be fooled and enjoys the process of being manipulated by the artists. It’s part of the process of art itself. The same can be said of magicians, which in some small way we artists are a part. But this kind of lie is acceptable on a moral level because it takes some sleight of hand to get the message across convincingly when creating a work of art. Harmless deception, if there is such a thing, helps us get through the tough times. Makes the unbelievable more palatable and therefore we can move forward though we know we may be on a slippery slope. It’s the adventure of life. As children, it’s why we put our hand in the fire even after being told we will get burned. I’m sure I lie every day; to myself and to my students as well as my wife. Deep in my heart, I always try to make my lie with some seed of truth or at least base it on some tenet of believability.   The fickle face of marketing by Kim Slocum, Warren, PA, USA  

“Looking for me”
watercolour painting
by Kim Slocum

Artists hold themselves in higher regard when it comes to deal-making and being told what to do, what to paint, etc., until it comes to the point where they just want to sell some artwork. In doing so, they find their audience and hence begin the life of an artist, but it does end in some ways. Either the artist has to stay stagnant (to what others have seen in his work) to continue to be sought after or, if he continues to evolve, he loses his fan club. He may find another but that is doubtful seeing as the art-buying crowd is small. What I find most interesting is the change that occurs once one indulges in the one-time hype, fraud or marketable mention to get bought or sold. It’s like Jackson Pollock crashed (figuratively) after his fame when Clifford Still came in and stole the show from him (Pollock wasn’t changing in the right direction, they said). Many artists at one time denounce the establishment but need it to do their deed… As in the current Guerilla Girls — once admired for being non-establishment, they became so sought after because of the show of force to not need the museums and the galleries. Not now! They are full in and have their own traveling exhibit thanks to the great old establishment. There are 3 comments for The fickle face of marketing by Kim Slocum
From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Nov 17, 2011

A beautiful painting, Kim.

From: Sarah — Nov 18, 2011

Love your painting–you have really captured the essence of a horse.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Nov 18, 2011


  Big-prize art contest goes wild by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia  

“No sailor harmed..”
acrylic painting
by Mike Barr

South Australia is host to the world’s richest landscape prize with a first prize of $50,000. The winner of the main prize and the other $10,000 prize winners were announced this week. This bi-annual event started off okay several years ago, but it has slowly moved toward choosing finalists who painted non-representative work. Any essence of the meaning of the word landscape has all but disappeared. If you click the link you will see that the skill was not in the painting but in the description of it by both artist and judges. The parable of the Emperor’s new clothes rings true here more than ever. I think in this case ‘modern art’ has caused hurt – hurt to art itself and the public perception of it with these clear acts of self-deceit by both artists and jurors. Readers might be interested in looking at this year’s winners and previous years… some of them will leave you speechless, especially the 2006 one. There are 11 comments for Big-prize art contest goes wild by Mike Barr
From: Jackie Knott — Nov 17, 2011

Lovely seascape … tremendous mood in the overcast sky.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Nov 18, 2011

The landscape/seascape above is very elegant, indeed! And the winning landscapes on the Fleurieu site are indeed, very abstract, for the most part! Intriguing, too!

From: Cyndie Katz — Nov 18, 2011

Pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing. I see why you’re upset. On the other hand I do like the winning painting.

From: Sharon Cory — Nov 18, 2011

Sorry, I can’t see why you’re upset, unless you think the use of the word landscape refers only to a representational view of the world. I agree 2006 is a little suspect( I’d have to see it in person), but there are some brilliant pieces from previous years, showing great mastery. I loved this year’s winner.

From: Tatjana — Nov 18, 2011

Love your painting and I also like 2006 People’s choice award.

From: Tatjana — Nov 18, 2011

I think it’s fascinating how the art market is split in two with a chasm in between. On one side we have overflow of art, and very few buyers. Robert once mentioned something like few millions of artists in US with few percents of them making notable income from sales. On the other hand is the high end market regulated by a few dealers, where there is such a lack of supply that buyers are on waiting lists and ready to dish out millions and be grateful they got their turn. They often don’t discriminate based on quality because they need an entirely different system of value to justify the chasm. What mortals as us call “emperor’s new clothes” is necessary for them because if quality was the only criteria, the high-end market would be overflowing and prices would plummet. There are many great artists out there in the sticks. Even if only 1% of the few millions are making quality art, it’s still tens of thousands of good artists out there — imagine all of them hitting Sotheby’s with say 50 good paintings per year? That’s not going to happen so I don’t feel that this whole thing can have a significant influence on most of hard working artists. Some of those national high-prize competitions prefer to stroke the Sotheby’s model than be drowned on our side of the chasm. But, they do accomplish something interesting — they influence esthetics of the masses. I find that I am starting to like things that I didn’t like before — perhaps minds get a bit more open, or smoke and mirrors are doing the job, I don’t know. Is it an evil plot or a law of nature?

From: Sarah — Nov 18, 2011

Really love your painting, and I agree with your point about the finalists in the Fleurieu prize moving towards non-representative work. The Oxford Dictionary defines a landscape as: 1. all the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal and 2. a picture representing an area of countryside (seaside). Arbitrarily rejecting a long-held definition of a word has its perils, not least of which is that it makes communication difficult. While some of the winners of the Fleurieu in the last several years are interesting, it seems to me that they should be characterized as abstracts.

From: Anonymous — Nov 18, 2011

Mike, I do not love your painting as most people here do, but this site, while fun, is largely composed of realistic artists. Not many paintings MOVE me, whether they be realistic or abstract. I was a representational artist for 40 years until I saw paintings by Josh Goldberg which blew me away. I studied with him and now paint abstract acrylics and it is an amazing soul journey. A pompous attitude ignores the fact that an emotional response to art is a personal thing. Good or bad is opinion. The art world is political of course. My advice: don’t take yourself so seriously.

From: Peter — Nov 18, 2011

Looks to me like Fleurieu Art needs to bring back the Peoples’ Choice.

From: PY Duthie — Nov 18, 2011

Thanks for mentioning Josh Goldberg. I looked up his work and was amazed.

From: Anon — Nov 21, 2011

Josh Goldberg’s paintings look to me like one same composition over and over again…

  Smoke and mirrors not necessary by Quin Barrie, ON, Canada  

“Moonlake at the treeline”
acrylic painting
by Quin Barrie

I’m somewhat inclined to think the business of modern art is akin to a cancer and is boundlessly pernicious. Deceit, lies, pretenses, fraud, salesmanship… whatever it is called, is a symptom of a tragic disenfranchisement between art and people. Art should not require anything beyond its own manifestation to inspire a ‘sale.’ A person should desire a piece solely on the visual or emotional delights it evokes as they gaze upon it. No smoke and mirrors are necessary… nor should be the copious mythologies spun to convince artificial valuations of a work in the viewer. It’s always the most rewarding when a person purchases a painting of mine simply on sight. It matters not to them who painted it… they have no concerns of it as an investment… and they could care less about what the artist or anyone else thinks it means. They simply find beauty and delight in the image, and have emotional affections to the point where they desire it for their own. That’s when painting is most rewarding for me. When a client starts asking the gallery manager, ‘Who painted it?’ ‘Did he go to art school’ ‘Is he popular?’ ‘What shows has he done?’ ‘What collections is he in?’ ‘Has his work gone up in value?’ etc, then I know I’m dealing with a dilettante who is engaged in pretentious games that are wholly corrosive to the entire realm of art. In extracting the critical component of a person’s tastes and reactions from the relationship with art, it becomes a realm of grandiose perversity, devoid of reference and anchorage. In that realm, monetary and aesthetic value are arbitrarily imposed judgments, inflatable to the limits of the imagination. Whereas this phenomenon may enable an artist fantastical profits and specious acclaim, such a system of disassociated valuation guarantees the discrediting and impoverishment of countless other artists. When art was integral to a culture, it was simply the way the culture expressed and explored their character. The artist was the instrument and voice of the community, and they and their creations were valued as such. An artist was fulfilled, not because of monetary excesses and vainglorious accolades, but because they and their works were integral parts of the social fabric, and therefore simply had inherent value and meaning. I would love it if art returned to a place like that in our culture. I know so many great artists who languish in strife and deserve a role of enriching lives with their talents. And people deserve to have a life and society so enriched. Artists are essential to a culture and should be functionally integral to the benefit and enjoyment of all. Everyone wins in the freedom from the monstrous judgmentalism, hideous elitism and pretense within the modern art world. There are 8 comments for Smoke and mirrors not necessary by Quin Barrie
From: Anonymous — Nov 17, 2011

Dear Quin Your words are wonderfully put together and will be granted many nods of approval. Cheers Mike Barr

From: wes giesbrecht — Nov 17, 2011

Beautifully put. Unfortunately, the way art is valued (or not) or even recognised as art (or not) is in the hands of those seeking wealth, power, prestige etc. Kind of like pretty much everything else in modern life. (And people say I’m a pessimist.)

From: Quin — Nov 18, 2011

Thanks for your replies. Perhaps a bit preachy there…but I suffer from chronic idealism. :D

From: Patsy, Antrim — Nov 18, 2011

Amen, Quin! You have expressed it so well. It is interesting to click on the link that Mike gives for the South Australia landscape prize, and go to Past Winners. Look at the People’s Choice winners. Unfortunately only two are shown, but to me it confirms that the majority of people prefer art that makes them happy.

From: Karen — Nov 18, 2011

I am in a small gallery in a medium sized city. I find that a lot of people who come in are looking for art “to put over the sofa”, or to enhance their dining room. They may even categorize art as “kitchen art” (because it contains some food items or a pot or two) and they see it strictly as a decorating item. To my mind they aren’t being touched by the painting itself, merely seeing it the way you would a lamp or a coffee table. I buy (as well as paint) pictures that move me and I hope move others. I have too many paintings in my house as I hang my own, plus others that I have become enchanted by. I cannot imagine someone buying a piece of art because it “goes with the decor” but doesn’t touch their soul! But it happens. I have watched, on the other had, some young person wrestle with the desire to have a piece that is beyond their means as a student. “We have layaway” I tell them. But to pass up a piece that really moves you may be a source of regret, for awhile…. that is the connection I look for, not, “does it match the sofa”?

From: Sandy Donn — Nov 19, 2011

Imagine a world without spin.

From: Libby — Nov 20, 2011

Quin, I want to have that painting from the moment I saw it

From: Anon — Nov 21, 2011

I once painted a moonlight scene with dark blue sky reflecting in dark blue water and two moons. My teacher told me that the painting is beautiful with only 2 errors – she hated the moons and told me the scene was cheesy. Your beautiful painting validates what I knew – some teachers have no clue what they are talking about.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The art of deceit

From: Robert Sesco — Nov 15, 2011

Of course, there is self-deception and there is simple ignorance. Passionate positions about the nature and/or purpose of art; the idea that the President has control over the economy; or that the President is to blame for this or that when in fact Congress, a much hazier and less sexy lightning rod, is in fact to blame; choosing a President because he LOOKS good; buying a bottle of wine because the label is pretty; firing a winning coach because he has one losing season; debating the best way of parenting; judging a book by its cover; not wanting to get involved when a crime is witnessed; getting a boob job, or looking down on the woman who does; road rage, as if that’s going to solve something; attempting to make the case that ‘investing’ in the stock market is not gambling; trusting a ‘fund manager’ with your life savings when they can’t consistently do better than a chimpanzee or a dart thrower in competitions; believing that God is on OUR side, and not theirs also; believing we have the capacity to understand, when in all likelihood we don’t. Better to realize your limitations, live by the Golden Rule, and live in awe of your world and its events while you do your best to alleviate suffering in those around you. Create beautiful paintings and attribute it not to yourself, but the divine spark within. One sentiment among many is that we have a right to the work, but not the results.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Nov 15, 2011
From: Dwight — Nov 15, 2011
From: Jack Griffin — Nov 15, 2011

The attraction of brilliant writers who also happen to be accomplished artists–such as Robert Sesco, above, is what makes this site worth returning to again and again. Thank you Robert and Robert.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Nov 15, 2011

No two people view life and the world in exactly the same way. Reflecting our own uniquely filtered perceptions may trigger facets of others’ imagination. I drink water for health, but perhaps I’m just diluting myself.

From: Sandra L. Jones — Nov 15, 2011

Robert, Why would you add to the deceit by not pointing it out as not true? To me, that makes you deceitful as well.

From: Scott Kahn — Nov 15, 2011

Self deceit is indeed a most damaging trait. The remedy, for an artist, is to paint a self portrait!

From: Diane Arenberg — Nov 15, 2011

My daughter stopped in to see my gallery show in Santa Fe while she was in town a few years ago. The owner waxed on and on about me until she stopped him and asked, “Do you know who I am?” He said no, he didn’t. When she revealed she was my daughter, he replied, “Then you know everything I just told you was b _ _ _ _ _ _t”. Gallery owners have an obligation to tell the truth to their customers, not make up a convenient lie to make a sale. I’d love to be in a gallery there again, but not that one!

From: Andy Marshall — Nov 15, 2011

Life is a deceit, and deceit is in the eye of the deceiver. I love being deceived by art; when I like a painting for reasons other than what the artist intended it means that much more to me and shows me that perhaps the artist deceived their self. When I look at a mountain on a painted canvas is it a mountain or a painting? Are all paintings art and their painters artists?

From: Khalil Dadah — Nov 15, 2011

In fact self-deception, for human beings, is a divine blessing! Their lives are too short, to fulfill their desired goals.

From: Andrea Tiffany — Nov 15, 2011

Have you seen the movie ‘The Man Who Invented Lying’? The ‘before’ world rings true to your letter.

From: Phillip Singer — Nov 15, 2011

I paint strange surreal paintings and I’m always asked… What does this one mean? The truth is I don’t know, but no one wants to hear that. I don’t like to lie so I have to find a more interesting way to tell them…. ” I don’t know”. Other times I answer an entirely different question and they forget that they asked me … “What is this one about?”

From: Leslie Bamford — Nov 15, 2011

I read your twice-weekly letter with great interest and very much enjoy your thoughts. However I am not a visual artist, I am a creative writer (who occasionally paints — not well – just because I can’t help myself sometimes and must pick up a brush). Interestingly, I find that everything you write about the creative process in art applies just as well to creative writing. I even share occasional paragraphs of yours verbally with a creative writing class that I have. Just wanted to say that it interests me that creativity, in whatever genre, comes with the same issues and we are all “artists” in the general term, coping with our stumbling blocks and down days and moments of triumph when we know we produced something meaningful or even spectacular in whatever way we choose to express our truth.

From: Jean Burman — Nov 15, 2011

ESOTERICA: THE SIMPLE INALIENABLE TRUTH A liar doth not… a good husband make. The leopard will never change his spots. Sparky belongs to somebody else. She married the wrong damned guy! [grin]

From: Christopher Hollins — Nov 15, 2011

“All my work is an attempt to help you realise you possess two ways of looking. A learned intelligent way and an inherent instinctive way. I, as an artist, want you to look in the inherent way but you won’t do this because you always look for something you have learned to recognise. This is what you have evolved to do because it gave your ancestors a greater chance of survival. The way you are born to learn to look therefore subdues your powers of perception. You look in a controlled and organised way that works to hide an emotive and original sensation of what you see.”

From: Jérémie Giles — Nov 15, 2011

The one email I never delete before reading it at least twice. It also allows me to exchange your wisdom and humour with whom ever is around my studio. Again today, “THE ART OF DECEIT” does it for me.

From: Karla Pearce — Nov 15, 2011

What you just described is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) it is no joke. This type of self deception ruins people’s lives. ( NPD ) runs rampant in the arts. I wouldn’t encourage it.

From: Al Lofthouse — Nov 15, 2011

B. S. baffles brains.

From: Anonymous — Nov 15, 2011

As an art dealer who regularly reads your letters, I was taken aback when I heard you say that your dealer fabricated a horse story to make a sale. Then I realized that many successful art dealers do often run a bit loose with the truth. Perhaps I need more imagination to be a more successful dealer than I currently am.

From: Tom Lockhart — Nov 15, 2011

Count Your Blessings Robert, that your gallery made a sale. You are in a rare situation right now that you are even experiencing sales. If it took making you out to be something you are not then I go get some horses. Especially after your last sale of $60,000. 00 dollars you can afford it.

From: Moreen — Nov 16, 2011

I have been subscribed to your twice weekly letter for a few months now and have been reading your letters regularly. I didn’t realize how much I look forward to it as it gives me a sense of comfort and sense of connection with fellow artists miles away from me till now. I just opened a solo exhibit and the months of “hard work” and preparation burned me out..More power to you, Robert. (Austria)

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Nov 16, 2011

We do have some tendency to deceit to perk up our ego; a sense of self conceit. Perhaps sometimes we would like to think that we are as good if not better than another artist. I used to think that when I thought of someone they would be thinking of me too at the same time. It made me feel happy that someone would be thinking of me like a friend whom I have been corresponding with for a long time. Each time I participated in an exhibition I thought this time my painting will sell !Some optimism helps to keep on doing what I love doing. Painting is my joy to do and the thought of someone wanting to own one of mine is a boost to my ego. Toronto,Ontario. ________________________________________

From: Jackie Knott — Nov 16, 2011

We’re tossing around several different subjects here. Self deception is at the opposite end of self confidence. If you think you’re better than every other artist out there (and are not) you’ll never improve and will stagnate; on the other hand, self confidence will take you in a progressive direction where your vision lies. Critical honesty with oneself is necessary. As to the art itself we make decisions in execution to make a more pleasing work … not deception but deliberate choices meant to make the whole piece a work of art born of our personal perception. I don’t see that as a negative. It’s part of the art. Sure, we know there is a generous measure of showmanship in the arts. I wish I could remember his name, but a writer commented years ago, “When I was little and told stories I had my mouth washed out with soap. Now that I’m a successful writer I get paid for the same thing.” It’s all in context. Selling is quite another matter, and for a gallery owner to fall into used car salesman mode is almost funny. Why wouldn’t the truth of Robert Genn’s reputation, lifestyle, and interests be enough to sell a fine painting this couple could enjoy? Unnecessary. I knew a very successful used car salesman who insisted he never lied to a customer to gain a sale. One of his common selling points was, “Out of all the pieces of crap on this lot this one is probably the best you’re going to be able to afford. I hope it will get you to work for six months but then it will die on you. If you’re handy with a wrench you might get a little more. You want a better car, my friend, you’re going to have to come up with some more cash. This is the best I can do. Now let’s go sign some paperwork.” It is noteworthy “lying” seems to be expected these days, whether it is on a resume, corporate interests, politicians, or government policy. A healthy dose of skepticism better be part of our interaction with everyone and everything.

From: gail caduff-nash — Nov 16, 2011

A good argument for liars. But as one who prefers ‘representational’ art over the abstract (generally), I’ve often wondered at pictures that show bits of history – wondered just how accurate they are. Because we build whole myths around pictures. And then we start believing them. And is this a good thing? I praise people who look hard and long at the truth and then look again to uncover more truth. Tell me the truth. I could live without ever seeing another pretty face in a picture. When painting pretty mountain scenes, where the lake below is a perfect reflection and clear and fresh, where the sky is unsullied and not full of planes and wires, where wild animals live free and well fed – it is a dream. Sure you can find these places in bits here and there. But you’ll find a row of people just pulled up in their SUV’s with a ton of photographic equipment and too much chatter waiting for just the right point of sunrise. Catch the dream. I don’t like pictures of great negativity either – terrible moments of death and anguish almost made beautiful by some talented artist – or squished pumpkins rotting on the road – or worse. Don’t we have a responsibility to show the truth sometimes? Even if we live in a fantasy land now that wouldn’t even recognize the truth, we artists see things others don’t see. Or we should. I started out artistry doing Nature studies. People would say “what IS that?” and i’d tell them it’s a bony projection on a rhino beetle. Or they’d say “there’s no background” – yes, but look at the mottled colors of the crayfish claw. These are things people never look at unless you point them out. And that’s the truth.

From: Linka Behn — Nov 16, 2011

In October, you wrote on the topic of the value of MFA’s. The topic stayed with me and would not go away. As such, I write in hopes the internal conversation will quiet. I am one of those of the buckets of milieu who chose to pursue an MFA. Granted, I am late in the pursuit, late even in the acquisition of an BFA at 53. However. There was no need for me to add credentials to my name at this point in life—- whatever the acronyms or initials of the designation. As a lifelong learner, teacher, creativity cheerleader– I looked for the next step in my journey. At the completion of my BFA at 53, and MFA at 55- one could conclude that I had acquired debt without judicial reasoning. On one hand– I could agree. The degree gives me nothing except paper credentials to add my resumé in an engorged market within a reduced educational need– those who wish to teach inside an academic venue. Often when learning, I outstepped those who taught, choosing to keep closed my opinions to preserve dignity of teacher as well as student. Self learning, hunger to know, wish to challenge self, sometimes grows beyond the boundaries of an educational system presently in place. Still there was a validation, an opportunity to share, a community that I had not previously experienced that lead, teased, encouraged participation and further steps within the BFA. The acquisition of the MFA was sincerely a different animal. Within the Master’s program, I was forced to focus on the “WHY’S” of my work as opposed to the objective resulting product. As such, I a found rich fodder of exploratory ground to exhume, turn and examine, push beyond my expectations. My community was eclectic, extensive in its curiosity, encouraging and enfolding in its support. There was a rocket booster of propulsion within that program. Does that make my bottom line bigger? No. Really, it is useless unless I am already internally propelled. However– it does give a comparative value from my peers, a real evaluative critique from respected national and international artists, and inspiration beyond what a treasure chest of golden coins can contain. I understand that there may ever be a diminishing value to the degree of an MFA– and perhaps to the rising star of the studio PHD. But I can attest, as an elder creative in the communities of those who create, there are extended values to the experience that do not hold an equivalence in any dollar value. I sell work, complete commissions, teach, discover and learn beyond the Master’s program I attended at Goddard College. But doesn’t that really answer the question? I seek. I find. Answers are individual— carved to the creative who is determined enough to ask. The path is formed by the individual who determines it’s value.

From: jen lacoste – cape town — Nov 17, 2011

This was found on a website dealing with the ongoing poaching of Africa’s rhinos… but hearing you legitimising deceit, makes me think it is apt here too…. “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Frédéric Bastiat Even da Vinci said that “a small truth is better than a great lie.”

From: Edna Apt Lange — Nov 18, 2011

I’m constantly annoyed by having to tell people who mention that I am (or, am I) an artist, No, just a painter. I’m not annoyed at them, but I’m annoyed at my compulsion to be clear about that. On the other hand, it will be a fine day when I can, if ever, finally agree that I am indeed an artist. They mean, are you a painter, but for me there is a vast gulf, which I attempt daily to cross.

From: artist — Nov 21, 2011

Edna, my neighbour is a painter. He paints walls. I suspect you are not that.

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oil painting, 12 x 16 inches Lori Feldpausch, MI, USA

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