Disruptive innovation

Dear Artist, It’s been fifteen years since Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen’s much quoted The Innovator’s Dilemma was first published. Countless corporations, governments and technological organizations have applied his ideas in attempts to improve bottom lines and minimize failures. Disruptive innovation describes how steamships disrupted sailing ships, autos disrupted railways, mini-computers disrupted mainframes, Wikipedia disrupted paper encyclopedias, digital photography disrupted film photography, etc. To put it in the Christensen vernacular, “Start-ups often provide disruptive innovation and readily eat into the market share of older value networks.” Disruption, it would appear, is one of the natural keys to invention and success. I’ve been curious how Christensen’s principles might apply to art. Impressionism disrupted academicism, abstraction disrupted realism, etc. While there are many artists who work diligently to create the next “ism,” some among us think that realism is currently re-disrupting abstraction. But let’s face it, many of us are happy to produce what we think are safe, middle of the road, non-disruptive art that thrives on the comforting repetition of traditional forms and sentiments. I’m not making a value judgment here, I’m just reporting. But I do invite artists to look at their work and try to measure just how disruptive it might be or become. Works of art that vary from standard conservative norms tend to attract attention. Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde shark, sliced cow and diamond-studded skull come in high on the Richter Scale of “shock and awe.” At the same time, subtle variations and stylistic nuances also draw quiet attention. Evidence of newness and novelty intrigues, puzzles, amuses and motivates viewers. In a competitive world (of which the business of art is one) the conscious or unconscious attention to this phenomenon may be vital to both survival and thrival. Here are a few questions worth asking: Are all disruptive art forms art? To be disruptive in your art, is it necessary to disrupt someone else’s? Why do humans crave novelty? Is “shock and awe” necessary? Why does Damien Hirst make so many folks upset and annoyed? Best regards, Robert PS: “Breaking an old model is always going to require leaders to follow their instincts. There will always be persuasive reasons not to take a risk. But if you only do what worked in the past, you will wake up one day and find that you’ve been passed by.” (Clayton Christensen) Esoterica: Cruise your work-in-progress and ask yourself a few further questions: How could this work be more imaginative? How could this work have a beguiling subplot? Where in this work have I sunk into normalcy and complacency? Is this work dull, boring, yawn-inducing? In what way is this work different from what I’ve previously seen or done? If I were a “start-up,” what would I do? Courageous, outrageous, audacious, bodacious–where art thou? Incidentally, if you’re interested in pursuing this subject, you might take a look at Innovation in our own Resource of Art Quotations.   A Trojan Horse by H Margret, Santa Fe, NM, USA  

“Dark Stallion”
acrylic painting
by H Margret

Damien Hirst’s work is insulting to the senses. He’s not an artist, but a showman. The art world is full of showmen, right now. People who make huge amounts of money for concepts that are not liberating, creative or satisfying suck all the air out at the top level, leaving no oxygen for the rest of the creative people and then make real art look vapid. He’s a set-up for the rest of us to fail. A Trojan Horse. Warhol is the same type. There is so little creativity permitted now that the really creative interesting work is unseen. I live in a busy art market and the repetition element is pervasive. There are 2 comments for A Trojan Horse by H Margret
From: Kathleen — Jul 06, 2012

I agree with you about Hirst and Warhol — and I like your Dark Stallion a lot!

From: manuel, long island — Jul 06, 2012

art needs to be considered in the context of its time and place. Warhol was indeed innovative for his time. and some of his images are quite powerful.

  Thinking outside the box by Bill Hogue, Dallas, TX, USA  

mixed media painting
by Bill Hogue

I recently completed a series of abstract paintings on boxes. Some were designed as floor pieces, some to fit on lamp tables and some to sit on desks. I made one as a center piece for a table (illustrated). This mixed media painting was made from a box 12 x 24 x 4.12 inches, so the five exposed sides are the equivalent to a canvas 29 inches square. In some way these paintings are like a vase of flowers that can be moved about easily. In other ways they are like sculptures. The jury is still out on whether they will be a commercial success or not but I found satisfaction in doing them. Artists today have so many choices of materials and I’m not recommending boxes as one of them. The prep time involved to use paper boxes is usually longer then it takes to do the painting, but I recently started using PVC sheets, which come in various sizes and thicknesses and colors and am working on a painting, with five exposed sides, that hangs on the wall and which wraps around a corner of the wall. I’m not suggesting that any of these things fall into the “Disruptive Innovation” category of your recent article, but I do think we should all get out of our comfort zone occasionally, no matter how goofy it may feel. There are 3 comments for Thinking outside the box by Bill Hogue
From: Liz Schamehorn — Jul 06, 2012


From: Susan Avishai — Jul 06, 2012

What’s interesting is how your painting, rather than being “of” something, becomes “the” something. Makes me ask questions about painting, which is always a good thing.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jul 06, 2012

I like the idea, yet worry about its getting toppled over…do you weight them down from the inside? If it is a centerpiece on a table, what about food spatter?!! This made me think about the “distance from the art” question that I had never really thought about. I really like the idea of wrapping one around a corner!

  Finding a new vocabulary by Nicole Lavoie, Pontiac, QC, Canada  

original painting
by Nicole Lavoie

I am of the older generation but seeking something new in art. I started like most with the realism but after being in contact with the art of ’60s to ’80s I could not refrain from wanting more and looking for excitement in my own work. Of course I got hard comments but mostly silence from family and friends. I was alone and doubting. However my need for the different and the unexpected lingered and I travelled from my old accepted style to the new alien one. Finally, not long ago, I decided I didn`t want to end my life staying on the diving board. I jumped and, although it is difficult, I am truly happy researching and discovering new ways and vocabulary. I may not be recognized internationally before my death but I am happy doing what I do and I think that is important, and some people like what I do. There are 6 comments for Finding a new vocabulary by Nicole Lavoie
From: Linda harbison — Jul 06, 2012

I love your use of color!

From: Sally Chupick — Jul 06, 2012

I like what you do.

From: ROSE — Jul 06, 2012

FUN,FUN,FUN !!!!!Comes to mind. Your work is so cheerful.

From: Chrys L. Hendrick — Jul 06, 2012

Nicole, this “untitled” work is beautiful in its colors and thought-provoking in its design. I see many figures and creatures, yet there is an undercurrent of dismay or perhaps even tragedy (a la Picasso’s Guernica). Am I on the right track? Clearly you have something to say that’s worth “hearing” and a wonderful talent for expressing it. Keep diving!

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jul 09, 2012

I don’t usually like this type of painting, but there’s something very appealing about yours, Nicole. It’s interesting.

From: Patsy — Jul 09, 2012

Do I see the nativity here? The type of buildings, the animals that look like camels, the fish from the lake of Galilee, the angel above, the couple trudging along, the woman holding a baby in the centre of the picture? Am I right?

  True ‘disruptive innovation’ by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France  

“Car Waiting”
oil painting, 32 x 45 inches
by Jeffrey Hessing

There is a big difference between “shock and awe” and disruptive innovation. Shock and awe is a superficial and short-lived gut response. True disruptive innovation changes the course of the way we see, think or do things. I am skeptical of art that stakes its value on newness. Anything that’s main interest is its newness will get old quickly. This is the heart and soul of the fashion industry. Not art. The core of all art is expression of the deep self. If, in following your deepest instincts, you wind up doing something that is disruptively innovative, that is fine. If you consciously set out to do something that is innovative or to shock, it is likely to be contrived and short-lived. Damian Hirst had an exhibition at the Jacques Cousteau Museum in Monaco. His shark was the centerpiece. In the next room there were tens cases of fish that Cousteau had been collecting and putting in formaldehyde years before. It is only the context of the contemporary art museum that makes Damian’s shark interesting. It is easy to be shocking. Go to any B rated horror film. I don’t go because I would be deeply disturbed. That doesn’t make it great art. Hirst’s work is not innovative. It does not change your perception of life or the world as great art does. On the other hand, in marketing, Damian Hirst is a modern master. Recently, I met a seventy five year old Japanese potter. He is the fifteenth generation in a family of potters. He offered me a small bowl when we said goodbye. It sits on my table and gives me a profound sense of joy and beauty each time I look at it. We still listen to the radio, we still take trains and we still have desktop computers. Things of real value outlive the disruptions. Humans have been painting for 30,000 years. I don’t mind disruptions. There are 2 comments for True ‘disruptive innovation’ by Jeffrey Hessing
From: Liz Reday — Jul 06, 2012

Good painting.

From: andre kamille satie — Jul 07, 2012

I like your comment, Jeffrey. You’ve thought about this at depth. I’ve seen your web site, and your work says to me that you paint from your truth. This is all we can do, really, if we are artists, not showmen; to paint from our truth.

  Subtle newness by Nigel Konstam, Casole d’Elsa, Sienna, Tuscany, Italy  

“Cello Couple”
by Nigel Konstam

Christensen’s ‘disruptive innovation’ may have little to do with the activity of artists, which I see as the refinement of perception. Newness in art may be so subtle that it goes unnoticed. Vermeer is a case in point. His art was forgotten for 200 years. His originality consisted in turning from the description of nature as subject matter, to the quality of light as his focus. Light is what interested him; not the objects that reflected the light. It needed the invention of the camera for people to realize what he was on about. Even now critics believe he used the camera obscura to fix the objects rather than to study unfocused light. Some are even worried by the bourgeois nature of the objects that Vermeer used to reflect the light in his pictures. We are deep in the same perceptive quagmire with Rembrandt. Several generations of scholars have so focused on his supposed stylistic evolution that they have entirely lost sight of his mind-blowing originality: His ability to convey feelings. He transformed the rhetoric of expression by observing body language, which had always been there but not successfully conveyed in two dimensions. Body language is fundamental to our understanding of each other. The scholars’ view is not only absurdly mistaken, it has actively submerged Rembrandt’s great contribution. Perception needs to be not only refined but diligently guarded. I believe this has become the artist’s most pressing responsibility.   Public art is another thing by Karen R. Phinney, Halifax, NS, Canada  

“Street View”
acrylic painting
20 x 16 inches
by Karen R. Phinney

We are constantly re-evaluating things and reinventing them. Flux is the order of the day. We are seeing the flux with RIM Blackberries being disrupted by Apple. But as regards art, which is still something a lot of people react to viscerally, do you think a cherished heirloom passed on lovingly from older to younger generation, would be a piece of some “found scrap” pasted on a board? Do you think that sort of thing (a shark in a tank, a meat dress, a skull with or without diamonds) is going to still resonate in the future? I wonder… the cherished personal art is that of something that stirs us, be it a Rembrandt or Picasso, a Titian or a Thomson. Of course, public art is another thing, but most of us who paint aren’t looking to be in a public space, at least not immediately! So I think that whether it’s abstract or figurative, it has got to make a connection with the viewer emotionally (other than repugnance or dismay). So disruption of the “now” forms, but with perhaps a revisiting of older styles in a cyclical way. It is the way of the world for many things. Nostalgia plays a part too!   Weeding out individuality by Celeste McCall, Southlake, TX, USA  

original painting
by Celeste McCall

In porcelain artistry, the factories used to hire people to paint the porcelain by hand. They would execute a watercolor freehand then transfer that watercolor to the porcelain. It was very expensive and usually one person painted the whole set so that it matched in brush stroke, style, expression, etc. But the factory eventually ‘weeded out’ individuality by making the porcelain artists paint so smooth that they lost their individual mark. Later the factories used decals and hired people to paint each part separately to eliminate MORE individuality and increase MORE uniformity. Finally, with the industrial revolution, machines are used instead of artists.     Expanding your repertoire by Bela Fidel, Scottsdale, AZ, USA   I have been re-reading Eric Maisel’s Fearless Creating. This one is called Expanding your Repertoire (September 2011) and the headlines of his suggestions are:

“Midnight in the Garden of Light”
oil painting, 60 x 48 inches
by Bela Fidel

Know what you currently do Detach from the idea of doing things “one way” Investigate your dislikes Investigate your fears Articulate your possibilities Make a strong choice Stretch in a new direction Accept being a beginner Accept the reality of learning curves Parlay what you already know As in the 12 lessons in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I will take up his challenge and study myself and my creative process along these lines. I expect to come out on the other side with more genuine ideas, more courage and self-confidence, less of the same old and safe. There is 1 comment for Expanding your repertoire by Bela Fidel
From: Jane — Jul 06, 2012

what a gorgeous image!

  Some questions answered by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

watercolour painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Q. To be disruptive in your art is it necessary to disrupt someone else’s? A. After reading The Painter’s Keys for years it is obvious that no matter what you do, say or create, chances are that you will disrupt someone. It would be extremely difficult (and purposeless) to create something that would not disrupt anyone else’s art. In the context of your question, the more novel you are, the more you disrupt the conventional and vice versa. Q. Why do humans crave novelty? A. Because their purpose in life is to get ahead. Being novel is the most progressive, peaceful way of getting ahead. Q. Is “shock and awe” necessary? A. No, but “shock and awe” produces a bigger amount of energy than any other emotion. So it’s the most powerful fuel for getting ahead. You could argue that it’s the most aggressive peaceful method. It’s sometimes used by people craving authority and who don’t have the time or aptitude to build trust, respect, admiration, etc. Q. Why does Damien Hirst make so many folks upset and annoyed? A. Because one of the widely accepted social conventions is that only skill and hard work shall be rewarded. Shock art is a prime example that it is not so. As a result, people who believe in that convention feel cheated. People who do not believe in that convention are either inspired to do something even more novel or to be copycats. There are also those who just like to philosophize, like some people that I know. Interestingly, the word “talent” can be conveniently used or abused in any of those scenarios. Just like quality, it can’t be defined but you know it when you see it if it’s in your realm — sort of like a real case of emperor’s new clothes. There are 8 comments for Some questions answered by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Sherry P. — Jul 06, 2012

What a beautiful portrait. Very sensitive, strong composition, and very strong value shifts. Nice, nice, nice…………….

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 06, 2012

Exceptional. Delicate handling of tone.

From: Tatjana — Jul 06, 2012

Thanks! BTW the comment about quality must be credited to Mr. Robert M. Pirsig.

From: Anonymous — Jul 06, 2012


From: Michael McDevitt — Jul 06, 2012

This is so different from your landscape work. Are you taking a different direction with your style and medium?

From: Tatjana — Jul 06, 2012

Hi Michael, I have two “true loves” in art. I am married to landscapes while having an ongoing long term love affair with portraiture.

From: Dottie Dracos — Jul 06, 2012

Beautiful, beautiful.

From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Jul 09, 2012

This is so different to your usual style I could scarcely believe it was the same artist. It is fabulous. Not that your others aren’t! This makes me think twice about the advice one so often hears: develop a style so you become recognisable. Different subjects dictate different styles and painting techniques – what I see as a watercolour I could not do as an oil painting – is this just me and my lack of expertise, experience, etc.?

  Define and confine by Mary Moquin, Sandwich, MA, USA  

“Lavender Haze”
original painting
by Mary Moquin

To define Art is to confine Art. I wish we would all just give up on that and let it be the elusive amazing omnipotent thing that it is. The beauty of Art is its ability to be so many different things for some many different people. It can be healing recreation or it can stimulate our curiosity, or it can enflame us and provoke action. If you want the attention of the Contemporary Art world, you have to create work that is relevant to contemporary life. If you want to be “part of the conversation” today you have to have something to say that reflects or attempts to interpret the world we live in today. Artists do not exist in a vacuum; we are influenced by our society and culture. Of course, we always have the option not to be part of the conversation. Recapitulating the past is fine if you want, but don’t get in a huff when contemporary audiences say, “ho hum,”–they are looking for something intellectually stimulating that reflects something about today’s world as well or in spite of its visual appeal. We can paint our joy and our admiration of past styles, and some of it is downright amazing. But let’s not limit Art to any definition. Giving people what they want to see all the time can quickly degrade to the lowest common denominator and become like calendar art, visual muzak, happy paintings to decorate the wall and add some color to the room. Let Art be all of it, passive and decorative; provoke social change and outrage, and all the myriad of nuances in between. There are 3 comments for Define and confine by Mary Moquin
From: Liz Schamehorn — Jul 06, 2012

Well put.

From: Sherry P. — Jul 06, 2012

I love this painting, so rich in color and value. It makes such a strong statement. This one makes you want to walk in and look around.

From: Gail — Jul 06, 2012

You are so RIGHT. Art reflects life, not just pretty life, or sentimental life, but all of life. Art can take you from where you are visually and mentally and move you to a different place, or it can put you to sleep… like literature; like music. Pretty only exists in relation to its opposite. The artist can take you to the window to see the view, or she can take you to the window to see the window. i.e. -I think “Lavender Haze” is about the view, but it is also about the conversation between complimentary colors.

  Irritations from oils by Dr. Diane Howard, Calgary, AB, Canada  

Diane Howard at ‘Pearl’ in the Bugaboos.
No allergies here.

I have been painting in oils for the past seven years. It appears that once a year I come down with a continually dripping nose, sore throat and even more terrifying a burning sensation throughout my chest and lungs. This normally disappears within 24 hours and especially if I stop painting. I have several studios and some are better ventilated than others. But lately my resistance and tolerance to my oil paints, walnut oil and solvents have diminished to a point where just walking into the studio or touching the tubes of paint make my symptoms reappear. I use M. Graham oils but I am seriously considering switching to acrylics. Is this why you switched over from oils to acrylics? (RG note) Thanks, Diane. When I switched from oils to acrylics in 1974 I was having similar symptoms to yours. I think a lot of it had to do with poor work habits in the studio. Also, I was a bit neurotic. After 40 years with acrylic I still get skin irritations, runny nose, etc. My chest is much better since I stopped smoking cigars. I am still a bit neurotic. I haven’t stopped painting, however. There are 2 comments for Irritations from oils by Dr. Diane Howard
From: Liz Reday — Jul 06, 2012

I know of several artists who had to change over to acrylics for the reasons you give. I have not had any issues with oils and turps, thank goodness, but I switch back and forth with oils and acrylics just to shake things up a bit. Fifteen years ago I had to sell my etching press and quit printmaking due to arthritis in my hands. Since I took up painting, everything has been great. Of course I can’t clean my house or studio anymore, but have a team of cleaners to help me out there. The trick is being flexible and not using these physical annoyances as a reason to not paint or make art. No excuses, fire away!

From: Kay Christopher — Jul 06, 2012

You might also want to look into water-soluble oils which are less toxic.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Disruptive innovation

From: Mystery Guest — Jul 03, 2012

I’m already doing it. But I don’t think of it as disruptive. When it becomes “work”, not “play”, I quit for a while. It’s a process of fitting yet another facet on a tetrahedron. Test and discovery. Multi media. Methodic variation. There are no failed attempts, but only works in process. There is no “try”, there is only “do”. I never listen to an “expert”, to learn anything. An expert is someone who seldom gets wet. What do you find in my inkblots ? And, like Vincent Van Gogh, “I’m glad I never learned how to paint.”

From: Robert Sesco — Jul 03, 2012

I guess there are a few valid questions: (1) “Who is doing the evaluation of the art?” (2) “What is the artist’s intention?” If the artist’s intention includes not caring how anyone evaluates the art they create, then indifference and disruption alike have no meaning. If the artist’s intention is to irritate and annoy, then indifference kills and disruption is king. If the artist’s intention is to have favorable evaluations from academia, or experienced professionals, peers, mom and dad, or any narrow group, then indifference from these evaluators kills, and disruption works or not relevant to the narrow group’s tastes. If the artist’s intention is to earn a paycheck with the works created, then indifference by the evaluators kills, and disruption works or not relevant to the public’s at-large tastes. I can think of several examples of Disruption: (a) a P.T.Barnum advertising tool that keeps an artist on the radar of those whom they are trying to irritate and annoy or from whom they can gain a favorable evaluation, or (b) a way of creating that becomes popular regardless of the artist’s intention, or (c) an irritant like a mosquito that refuses to accept indifference as an evaluation. Art is communication, I was once told, and if true, then we will always have the eloquent and the inarticulate among us.

From: Raw’n’Wild — Jul 03, 2012
From: Faith — Jul 03, 2012

For me, the word “disruption” (incl. adj. disruptive etc.) is negative. It implies that innovation is a undesirable disturbance, a destructive element, distainful of past accomplishment. I cannot see any useful purpose in using it to define anything that denotes progress, development or change for a sound reason (to improve conditions, make a new (art) statement, make life easier, stimulate discussion ……). Today’s letter is unfortunately disruptive, because it forces readers to ask (themselves) questions that are at best unnecessary and at worst unanswerable. Using a definition by Clayton M.C. is thus falling in with his misguided vocabulary. Has Clayton got a massive chip on his shoulder? Did his invention of the square wheel not take off? And more to the point: Is everything that came after cave art disruptive? Is cooking disruptive – and eating even more so? Is taking that morning shower using aroma therapeutical essences disruptive? Do some people (presumably including Clayton) believe that disruption is the engine of creativity?

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jul 03, 2012

Faith- Disruption is the engine that explodes boring, safe, palatable to the masses, dull-witted, annoyingly bland, gawd-awful, gagging, cloying, sticky, tired, tedius, nasty, over-played, heard-it-too-many-times, number-one-on-the-charts, brainwashing, mind-numbing, dumming-down, commercial, redundant, acceptable, makes-me-want-to-throw-up crap. Or in other words- NORMAL. Being an opera diva where all you do is perform the same tired songs over and over because that’s all anybody wants to hear, you wouldn’t understand the power of innovation that pushes everybody’s buttons and makes timid folk run like hell. And I played a cello in an orchestra for many of my early years, so I know what that’s like. If I never hear eina-clina-nacht-music (bad spelling) again I’ll be just fine. On the same note- if I never see another christmas tree again- I’ll be even better! Or another political ad for president… I am a disruptive force. It took me a long time to accept it and an even longer time to fully appreciate it, but now I revel in it. Thanks again- Robert!

From: Elihu — Jul 03, 2012

Why do people get so worked up over what might be passing fancies? The history of art by name artists is relatively short, and it doesn’t take too long for the cream to rise above the merely sensational. The question is not whether work is art. Duchamp said that when an artist spits it’s art. The question is whether it’s any good. Fine art can be innovative or work well done within existing traditions. Also, as someone said, there is a place for canaries as well as eagles in the world of art.

From: Loretta Puckrin — Jul 03, 2012
From: Claudia Roulier — Jul 03, 2012

Robert, I do tend to agree with you on this one. I’m always running stories through my head when I work. It’s not something that I do to be different, it’s something I always have done. My work, especially my assemblages, fall into the “disruption” realm. It’s a little hard to explain, but what I don’t do, is go looking for the most outrageous thing I can think of. I just build things I like to look at and believe me my work is not everyone’s cup of tea but I know that and do it anyway.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Jul 03, 2012

I think innovation has its place in art and it is something that must be tried to challenge our muses to create something new and exciting. Something that challenges us may add to our repertoire. Perhaps it will lead a painter to develop his own distinctive style. As artists we are evolving until we find our own satisfaction. It boosts our morale.

From: Norman Ridenour — Jul 03, 2012
From: Moncy Barbour — Jul 03, 2012

I am going to sound a bit selfish and say I just have to paint for me first.

From: Peter William Brown — Jul 03, 2012
From: Celeste McCall — Jul 03, 2012
From: Follows Bear quoted — Jul 03, 2012

“There is sky enough for every vision.” ~Follows Bear (One of my most valued mentors.)

From: Dr. Robert Newport — Jul 04, 2012

Disruption for the sake of art, or for the sake of selling art or even getting noticed, seems to me to invalidate what we as artists are here to do, namely communicate our vision, whatever it might be, in what ever way we can. If that way, turns out to be disruptive, then I say great, go for it, if it’s not, then so what, it is the communication of the vision that is important.

From: Lorne Hazelwood — Jul 04, 2012

The Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, “disrupted” the Kingdom of Great Britain.

From: Joan Rhodes — Jul 04, 2012

Thank you for the new way to look at my art. I try to make it to perfect and now you have me looking at it differently.

From: Jamillah Jennings the artist — Jul 05, 2012

Thank you for emailing me, you keep my spirits up, i have been drawing from the figure, at SVA, and i have been drawing at home. I truly miss my husband, the Artist Ellsworth Ausby, and my Dad who was 93 years old who passed this year, but i truly feel their spirits helping me to keep working, my husband always told me he was going to make an artist out of me. Somebody told me that I was his Muse.

From: Glen Hargrove — Jul 05, 2012
From: Susannah Wagner Merritt — Jul 05, 2012

I had an Art Gallery, closed it a year ago to fight cancer, l m winning at this point. But it gave me an opportunity to see how many other artists organized their work. One of my favorite artists David Tanner wrote on the backs of his works. Why, what and how, and any special meaning, such as the tea cups in the still life belonged to my grand mother. Or this forest was painted when l was in Russia and the temperature was unbelievable. I found it very helpful when talking to clients about his work. I have to believe that new owners found meaning and value in the messages as well. It certainly helped in cataloging for the gallery. Oh, and thank you for my twice a week letters. While l was in the hospital for 6 months, you will never know how much they helped.

From: cassandra — Jul 05, 2012

If your work is even very mildly disruptive, as in realistic with a slightly different focus or perspective that makes your work something no one else is doing, just try to find a gallery/curator who will take a chance on it. It is like “OMG no one else is doing that. We can’t hang it here our clients might not understand it”. The fact you can sell it yourself because people really like it counts for nothing. Who you know, who knows you and what pigeon hole do your fit in rules the day in most commercial and many public galleries. Artists are often disruptors the art business people are conservative thinkers. Strange reversal from the electronics world, eh?

From: Faith — Jul 05, 2012

Bruce: You do have massive chip on your shoulder! Why knock opera? Or were you just having a go at me? Opera was the first multimedia art form and has survived a whole lot of “disruptions”. It is “normal” for most people to want to be familiar with their surroundings and anything else that’s important to them. A performing (solo) artist – vocal or instrumental – might have the choice of recreating or merely repeating what has gone before, but will chose the former if he or she wants to achieve anything. I should point out that years of repetition have gone into perfecting the skills a musician has and must uphold. Even the lowliest orchestra musician would be jobless if the chore of practicing were neglected. Many singers join (settle for singing in) choruses, where the mentality is sometimes that of a second-rate orchestra player, but certainly not always. I’ve known many chorus singers who put heart and soul into what they do, though the creative scope is limited. That also applies to orchestra players. The secret is to believe in what you do, whatever it is. Once that belief goes, there’s no point in continuing in that direction (though some have to for economic reasons), as you recognized yourself. But whether what you do now is an improvement, I cannot judge, and would not want to have to. I assure you that singing even one beautiful note is a totally creative process requiring endless skill and experience. Opera (or whatever music is being performed) is the vehicle for voice, just as the canvas, paints, etc are the painter’s vehicle. Scathing judgment of one art form does not make you better at another one. Playing the cello in an orchestra does admittedly have its limitations, but if you had been good enough, maybe you could have transcended that and become a soloist. I can assure you that there is a huge difference between sitting in a row with others doing exactly the same as you are doing and standing on a stage as a leading soloist. It is really absurd to compare the two. That said, if you think your mission in life is to be disruptive in the sense you use, that’s your choice. I don’t think you’ll find many opera fans who want disruption to their preferences, however antiquated they are in the eyes of self-styled great disruptors.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jul 06, 2012

I really don’t like art that has to explained. Reading wall text, historical criticism, listening to docents’ lectures, etc. distracts from what is there before me. I like to develop my own responsive feelings and thoughts; have my own “take away”; one of which stays with me. Years ago there was a big brouhaha over Lucas Samaras’ “Piss Christ” and what I came away with, with a shrug was, “Well Jesus was always in hot water.” If the metaphor comes, it comes. Sometimes when I see an abstract painting, my take away is wondering if it is preparing me to see beauty elsewhere, in something new, as seemingly trivial as patterns of drywall tape and bits of plaster, or as profound as a landscape for a dream. It is all about phenomenology, what is actually there and my response to it. I do like the quote from Follows Bear, “There is sky enough for every vision.”

From: B.J. Adams — Jul 06, 2012
From: Kathleen Mattox — Jul 06, 2012

Unless you have some pieces in reserve, one of which could take the place of the one that sold, then people could see another painting that was still for sale.

From: Alexander Hornstein — Aug 14, 2012

This is my first “clickcback” and am happy to do so in reply to a subject, innovation, which in my trade, human evolution, has been called “variability” by Zeki. Art,and in particular painting, which I have practiced on and off throughout my life as a hobby, is a wonderful field for exercising what he considers the basis and the prime mover of the extraordinary development of life on our rare and privilledged planet. I am retired since many a year, live alone, have no one yet here, in France, to share my enthousiasm with, am considering to return to painting, and am therfore so glad to join your company. Thank you.

     Featured Workshop: Evelyn Dunphy
070612_robert-genn Evelyn Dunphy workshops Held in Milford House Wilderness Retreat, southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.


watercolour painting, 14.5 x 20.5 inches by Elaine Munro, Arundel, QC, Canada

  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 Charmian McLellan of Boulder, WY, USA, who wrote, “As a revered art professor once said to our class, ‘Don’t try to be different. Just try to be good.’ ” And also Giovanni Pittoni of Facebook who wrote, “I don’t care what anyone else does. I look after myself.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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