Not your father’s Oldsmobile

Dear Artist, 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. Best regards, Robert 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  

original painting
by Joseph Jahn

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. There are 3 comments for Big eyes done by Keane’s wife, Margaret by Searcy D King
From: Nan — May 25, 2012

I hope Margaret Keane revealed this information publically. As I understand it, Twelve Step programs are grounded in confidentiality. Members trust that what is shared will be safely kept. I am uncomfortable reading these details on this forum. Nan

From: Nina Allen Freeman — May 25, 2012

Thank you for sharing that story. I have always wondered about those paintings and you have put them into perspective for all of us.

From: Brenda W. — May 25, 2012

I agree that (God) “has the power to use that artistic expression to reach others when the time is right.” I am a part of a small group of Christian artists meet weekly to seek Him for guidance as we create ‘prophetic art’ – art that speaks His Message; we believe these anointed pieces will touch the viewer in a way that nothing else can. It is amazing what is being produced as we seek Him …..

  Long distance connection by Pauline Lazzarini, Rohnert Park, CA, USA  

original painting
by Pauline Lazzarini

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. There is 1 comment for Long distance connection by Pauline Lazzarini
From: Anonymous — May 25, 2012

Pauline, your friendship enriched both of your lives. Everyone should wish to have such a warm relationship, especially late in life. I am sure that Norma would have loved to pass on that experience to other people.

  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. There are 2 comments for Insight to Mark Rothko by Hank Zauderer
From: Kathleen — May 25, 2012

My advice is to find a place to see Rothko’s work in person. What a huge difference from reproductions! My husband was unimpressed with the latter, but then ran into an original at a museum and was mesmerized.

From: Liz Reday — May 29, 2012

Ditto. See them in person in a museum. Many museums have a Rothko in their permanent collection, but check in advance to make sure they are on display when you plan to visit. The altar motif becomes clear in the larger scale of the actual work.

  Studio lighting by Lori Goldberg, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting
by Lori Goldberg

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. There are 4 comments for Studio lighting by Lori Goldberg
From: Anonymous — May 25, 2012

As a beader, my experience with Ott lights is that they tend to distort reds into varieties of brownish hues and therefore, it is necessary to check color verity under incandescent light or preferably sunlight when possible. Most flourescent bulbs make this color shift. Maybe there is a truer color light bulb out there that I just don’t have. It’s something to look out for.

From: Lorraine Khachatourians — May 25, 2012

I tried the CFLs but found them ‘bland’ and not intense enough (eyes getting old). I have an Ott light on my desk which I use. I also tried a CFL in a reading light that was just above my head and after an evening of reading with it, ended up with something like a sunburn on the side of my face closest to the bulb. Got rid of that right away. I am trying a new halogen fixture. So far I like the ‘colour’ of the light. Will see what it is like in winter, which lasts a long time here.

From: Hugo — May 26, 2012

I equipped my studio with the new thin fluorescent 4′ bulbs. There is a variety labeled Natural Daylight Spectrum (more than twice the price of the normal cool white). They are a real pleasure to work under.

From: Anthony — Jun 13, 2012

As I am late to read through the letters etc.,this may not help but….I find over the years that you must have different types of lighting. Portraits are sensitive to skin tone so you need to filter those yellowish incandescents (halogens too) with a blue filter, unless you’re painting in real daylight of course. I like to use the older torch floor lamps and use a 500w halogen bulb even though the supposed max is 300w. It floods my white ceiling and doesn’t cause shadows and I also use a smaller adjustable reading lamp with a daylight 100w incandescent bulb. The extra cost of energy is a small price I pay for being comfortable doing what I love best. It’s mostly in the winter months that I need to put the ‘sun’ on so it ain’t that bad. Oh yeah, the blue filters can be purchased in sheets and are fire retardant and as for the heat and potential danger of the 500w bulb, I’m right there and turn it off when I leave. It’s nice and warm in the winter too, so it’s not really wasted! I give it a few more years before they can make all painters happy with light.

  Change of name act by Andrea Loeppky  

acrylic painting, 30 x 30 inches
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. There are 5 comments for Change of name act by Andrea Loeppky
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — May 25, 2012

Andrea, just to let you know, I did the same thing regarding changing names. I was married for 23 years and it was another six years before I remarried. The question my (now) husband asked was “What name are you going to sign on your paintings?” I was advised not to change my name since I had been painting all those years under the previous married name. But, I knew it was important to my husband, so I decided to add my maiden name and also the new married name. As Robert says, it is a talking point… and I have never been sorry. Was Marsha Bacon, and now amd Marsha Hamby Savage. Many people say “Marsha Savage, what a great painting name!”

From: Anonymous — May 25, 2012

Go for your new name. Perception is an odd thing: without your reason some people may think, “She must regret leaving because she still keeps his name.” Use this life event as an excuse for a news release, regardless of your name recognition. Send it to every newspaper large or small, publication, galleries, clubs, etc. Then throw a “new name party,” offer a demo/talk, invite your local patrons and give away a painting. Done deal.

From: Kathleen — May 25, 2012

Fine painting! Best of luck in the name juggle.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — May 28, 2012

Maybe you women should grow a pair and never take on your husband’s name- at all. Please. It’s just a bunch of ownership-based tradition bullshit to begin with anyway. Change your name, lose your self-identity and soul. Give it up to your husband. What an utter crock that is.

From: Anonymous — Jun 14, 2012

Bruce, do you ever have anything nice to say to women? Thought not. Most women see taking on their husband’s name as a sign of love and commitment. Perhaps that concept is beyond you.

  To reward or not to reward by Tom Bennick  

mixed media
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. There are 6 comments for To reward or not to reward by Tom Bennick
From: Wes Giesbrecht — May 24, 2012
From: Joseph Jahn — May 24, 2012
From: Rose — May 25, 2012

Great talk…Thank you for the info.

From: Sharon Cory — May 25, 2012

I think it’s tragic that art classes are conducted with the attitude that everyone’s art is equally good. I’ve done many workshops with classrooms of kids, offering new and exploratory materials and ideas, and at the end, the kids always wanted to know whose was best. And I gave them this information, always explaining that an Art competition was different from a sports competition, where it was set up to produce a clear winner. In Art, any opinion I had as to the best would be based on my beliefs and education, and also my taste. The kids got that! I used this as a learning tool to reinforce the most important tenet of the Arts, that the best work was the most original, not the prettiest. Almost invariably it was the loners and oddballs in the group, who took the new materials and produced something original and often glorious. Suddenly the spotlight was on them, and they glowed while I explained why I liked this work and not the other. Some of the kids, at first, were hurt that their work wasn’t picked, but when they got over it, (and they always did) they realized that they too could push the boundaries, colour outside the lines, etc. I’ve heard from some of the truly artistic kids later, and they all said that this was a defining moment for them, when they realized that they had something special. They continue to be fine artists. I hate to think that they might have gone through life, never hearing about their best talent, the one they were born to do. I think Art competitions, done properly, can be a wonderful learning tool for awakening genius and inspiring everyone to raise their standards about Art.

From: Anonymous — May 25, 2012

I think that grades are to be used in the school, not for fun and social events. There is something very distasteful in adults passing judgment on children unless the task and the expected outcome are clearly defined by a curriculum and by education professionals. It is even more distasteful how many medaled money-generating events for kids are sprouting everywhere. Someone is loading their bank account from parents who don’t know how else to entertain their parenthood. Tom, you did well in my opinion.

From: Hugo — May 26, 2012

From my own experience, a single off hand remark by my mother when I was about 13 put me off painting for some 40 years. Just note what happens with kids between grade 1 and grade 6 in general, with the reduction in confidence in drawing and painting. Add formal judgement to that and you can pretty well do away with art in school. A real budget saving strategy!

  Preserving collages by Ken Bravo, New York, NY, USA  

“Bird house”
by Ken Bravo

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.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Not your father’s Oldsmobile

From: Susan Holland — May 21, 2012

Robert, the cycle does tend to repeat itself, and so an artist who lives long enough may find that the out-of-vogue art he passionately makes may come suddenly into vogue! Stubborn people like me insist on saying my heart in my work rather than getting on the current popular bandwagon. It’s not smart, market wise, but it saves my self-worth to stand my ground. People still find me, even if I’m not blingy.

From: Chris Everest — May 22, 2012

Anybody wanna buy a stuffed shark in formaldehyde ?

From: Dwight — May 22, 2012

I once congratulated my 100 year old Grandfather for dressing in style. His instant reply, “Back in style.”

From: Jackie Knott — May 22, 2012

I’m smiling because my first paid commission was a black velvet painting of a Native warrior. I was thirteen (1963) and embarrassed to ask $25 for it, framed. I was stunned when they did. Somewhere in a dim tavern in the suburbs of Portland, OR, that painting may still hang. Who am I kidding? It hit the dumpster decades ago.

From: Suzette Fram — May 22, 2012

Without reasonable money floating around, artists, too, can get sad and misty-eyed. ,

Hahaha, Indeed!
From: Doug Mays — May 22, 2012

I’m going to start a new series of black velvet paintings – not ‘Dogs playing Poker’ but rather Dogs playing Texas Holdem while Texting, drinking Red Bull and listening to rap. Big market there.

From: Marvin Humphrey — May 22, 2012

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.

From: Terry Gay Puckett — May 22, 2012

Wasn’t the misty eyed kid painter Walter Keene? I thought they were nice for a while, at the time. I even had a bit of fondness for the Parisianne street scene, at the time. However, I had a sneaking feeling that they were trite. I have the same feeling about some of the things that I see today that are hot hot hot, but lacking in skill or any real concept.. I try to follow my heart and strive for originality. There is a lot of “big talk, but not walking the walk” out there.

From: Bruce Gruenzel — May 23, 2012

I think you’re referring to the art work of Walter and Margaret Keane. I actually owned one by Walter (a print, of course).

From: Ratindra Das — May 23, 2012

Some things don’t change. They seem to stick around like a button down oxford shirt, or classical drawing of human figures, or some music of Mozart and Beethoven. There’s hope and some sense of permanence in it.

From: Don Rankin — May 23, 2012
From: Enda Bardell — May 23, 2012

Regarding music – My 16 year old grandson happens to like the ’50’s and 60’s music so I’m taking him to the “Buddy Holly Story”. I’m working hard to sell enough work so that I can take both grand children, including my 13 year granddaughter, to my favourite group the “Rolling Stones” concert next year! Sometimes what is old IS new again to some people.

From: Bill Doying — May 23, 2012

I remember the paintings-on-black-velvet from as far back as the early 50s, on the boardwalk in Daytona Beach. It was fascinating to watch the guy work, but even as a 12 year-old I never mistook the work for serious art!

From: Peter Heinrich — May 23, 2012

I knew this baby boomer thing was going to come an bite us in the tukus. Well, it’s like the long tail. We’d better be part of the 2% in high quality and productivity if we’re going to eat more that Kraft dinner with little bits of hot dog.

From: Carole Dwinell — May 23, 2012

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: “I am here to live out loud.” and “An artist is nothing without the gift, and the gift is nothing without the work.” Just a thank you for helping all of us get on with the work.

From: Frederick Winston — May 23, 2012

I am sure every artist’s dream was to paint Elvis on black velvet.

From: Catherine Stock — May 23, 2012

There was a time when I turned down more work than I took on. I got a bit of a fat head that wasn’t merited. Times have changed and now I illustrate at most one book a year, each time thinking its my last. I don’t know if my work is better, but I am a better person for it.

From: Judy Hella — May 23, 2012

Do what you love. I paint for myself. Don’t care who else likes it or not. It makes me happy. Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

From: Peter May — May 23, 2012

In the 1960s, Margaret Keane’s big eyed children were sold under the name of her husband, Walter Keane. Why she chose to do so has not been fully explained, but conflict over that issue was cited as one of the reasons they divorced. Neither wanting to relinquish rights to the artwork, Walter and Margaret’s divorce proceedings went all the way to federal court. At the hearing, Margaret created a painting in front of the judge to prove that she was the artist. Walter declined to paint before the court, citing a sore shoulder. In 1986, the courts sided with her, enabling her to paint under her own name.

From: Boris Gulic — May 23, 2012

“some discriminating connoisseur” with questionable ability to know good art from bad. Discriminating connoisseur?

From: ANNE NYE — May 25, 2012

Robert, I wonder if you’ve written anything about the trend of some popular artists add “embellishments” to their prints and selling as a limited edition? Saw this a lot in California. They are selling for extremely high prices. Would be interested in your comments.

From: Gail Ingis, ASID — May 27, 2012

All mediums have their own way. Learning how to use your chosen medium takes the time worth doing. The art process is an adventure that deserves the time in study and experimentation. Each painting is a victory.

     Featured Workshop: Carole Mayne
052512_robert-genn Carole Mayne workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

The Voice of the Turtle is Heard 4

oil painting 18 x 24 inches by Mark Kuhne, MN, USA

  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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