The IKEA effect

Dear Artist, Recently, Warren Thompson of Ocala, Florida wrote, “Does the IKEA effect apply to art? Is this why some artists think their work is fantastic when it isn’t?” Thanks, Warren. The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias where time and effort enhance affection for the work. It’s named after the Swedish manufacturer whose products come in boxes with “some assembly required.” Harvard research shows that people who contribute to the construction of furniture or other products tend to overvalue their sometimes poorly made creations. The IKEA effect also contributes to the “sunk costs” effect where managers continue to devote resources to sometimes failing projects in which they have invested labor and treasure. This includes the “not invented here” syndrome, where people who should know better tend to discount good ideas developed elsewhere in favour of their own inferior ones. Fact is, time and effort obscure judgment. A fellow I once knew worked on the same painting for 13 years. He kept insisting it was “darned good” but perhaps needed “just a little touch up.” Over time he had fallen in love with a mishmash. Unfortunately, every time he gave it a little touch up he made it a little worse. Then he died. My antidote for artists stuck in IKEA is to try to work with at least the appearance of effortlessness. That way, things are not as precious and personal. Also, try timelessness. Get lost in the work and have some fun. A recent email from a new friend included the question, “I want to sell the attached painting. It took 18 hours. How much per-hour would be fair?” I tried to point out that pricing has little to do with time and effort. Besides, the per-hour rate for painters ranges between that paid to falafel folders in Casablanca and plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills. So many factors are involved in pricing paintings that I’ll put off giving my list until another letter. This is called the “put off” syndrome. But I think you’ve had enough syndromes for today. Best regards, Robert PS: “The deliberate expansion of means and methods does not automatically bring a new dimension of value.” (Pierre Alechinsky) Esoterica: And then there’s Betty Crocker. When her cake mixes were first introduced, they contained powdered eggs. All the housewife had to do was put the mix in the oven. Sounds like a winner, but it didn’t sell. In 1952, just as General Mills was about to pull the product, a couple of consulting psychologists got the idea of asking the housewife to add an egg. The new product, with “Just add an egg,” was a big success. With this minor evidence of ovular domesticity, wives had a vested interest in their cakes and could present them to their families with some degree of pride. For the record, a subscriber recently told me about a workshop she attended where the instructor announced, “Pick your favourite photo and just add paint.”   Warren Thompson

“Save The Turtles”
15 x 22 inches


“Ephesus Ruins”
22 x 15 inches


“Southwest Colors”
11 x 15 inches


“Santuario Santa Maria Di Leuca”
7 x 5 inches

            Origins of the IKEA effect by Gins V. O. Doolittle, Vancouver, BC, Canada   Three professors wrote about the IKEA effect in Elsevier’s Journal of Consumer Psychology in July 2012, introducing the term and concept into popular culture. In July, Elsevier’s Journal of Consumer Psychology featured an article called “The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love,” authored by Dr. Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, Dr. Daniel Mochon of Tulane University and Dr. Dan Ariely of Duke University. Their premise: If you build it yourself, you will value it more. As they explain in the abstract: “In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect — the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.” (RG note) Thanks Gins. Several readers wrote to ask what IKEA stands for. The company was founded in Sweden in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad. The company’s name is an acronym comprising the initials of Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd (the farm where he grew up) and Agunnard, his home town.   Seriously compare your work by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

original painting
by Rick Rotante

I offer several things to consider. One — an artist isn’t experienced enough to achieve “perfection” in his or her work, thus believes personal efforts are the best he or she could do and will consider the work “excellent” — even though in the larger picture the work is actually mediocre or worse. Two — a wannabe artist may not understand what is necessary for creating a quality work and will fail to achieve a higher working standard. Three — not all of us have the talent or ability to create “quality” works of art on any level. Lastly, painting isn’t about cranking out work. The amount of hours devoted to creating a work of art isn’t proportional to its quality. I realize today art can be anything to many people and many are creating what is called art. But the proof is still in the pudding. Good work will always rise to the top no matter how much flotsam and jetsam it has to rise above to be noticed. Create a work and then compare it to your idols. If it doesn’t measure up, it probably isn’t what you believe it to be. There is 1 comment for Seriously compare your work by Rick Rotante
From: Michael McDevitt — Mar 05, 2013

Strong concept here: love the ‘framing’ of her eye. The glare from the digital capture is a little distracting. As always it would nice if we could live across the street and see the originals of each other’s works.

  Masterful Ownership by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Autumn Gold”
acrylic painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Generally, experimentation is a very good thing although it can be frustrating and look like a waste of time. One can’t achieve quality without it. That’s why it’s so easy to get stuck in it or imitate it by IKEA and Betty Crocker with a false feeling of masterful ownership over a substandard design. I think that the guy who worked on one painting for 13 years was a fixer-upper type. Someone who gets his fix from fixing the “unfixables.” The motivation is to keep experimenting in a known environment, with a feel of narrowing down the best solution (which may not exist). Assuming a character of a master without actually being a master is what it is, and it probably felt better to him than the obvious alternative. But he probably spent many happy hours in the studio, and who’s to judge that. >Another thing is that people with passion for experimentation sometimes lack passion to produce. This is even more apparent if they are not in a situation where they must produce. I am talking about an artist who keeps making changes to a painting, trying out this and that, and eventually spoiling it while it could have been just fine in some earlier stage. I think that this behavior is driven by a desire to create the best painting we possibly can. It’s about the personal mission, which may be a push and pool between producing and excelling. Everyone has to figure out for themselves how to fit their mission into their own circumstances. There is no easily applicable template for a creative life, although learning from each other, like via Painter’s Keys, is invaluable. Incidentally, it turned out that I was able to IKEA-equip my entire studio for the price of one locally crafted dining room table. Guess which of those two options enables more creativity in my house? There are 3 comments for Masterful Ownership by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: don cadoret — Mar 05, 2013

Stunning gold landscape Tatjana. As always, enjoy your insights and finished works.

From: andre satie — Mar 05, 2013

Beautiful painting, Tatiana.

From: Tatjana — Mar 05, 2013

Thanks Don and Andre!

  ‘The Unknown Masterpiece’ by Warren Criswell, Benton, AR, USA  

“Simone Jumps!”
bronze sculpture
by Warren Criswell

The story of your friend was first told by Honore de Balzac in his La Comedie Humaine, except Frenhofer, the painter in The Unknown Masterpiece, only worked on his painting for 10 years. He wouldn’t let anybody see it for all those years. Finally, he allowed the young Nicolas Poussin and his teacher Porbus into his studio. All they saw was a lot of paint with nothing recognizable except the beginnings of a foot in one corner of the canvas. “What joys lie there on this piece of canvas!” exclaimed Porbus. The old man, deep in his own musings, smiled at the woman he alone beheld, and did not hear. “But sooner or later he will find out that there is nothing there!” cried Poussin. “Nothing on my canvas!” said Frenhofer, looking in turn at either painter and at his picture. “What have you done?” muttered Porbus, turning to Poussin. The old man clutched the young painter’s arm and said, “Do you see nothing? …” Porbus hesitated and said nothing, but there was such intolerable anxiety in the old man’s white face that he pointed to the easel. “Look!” he Frenhofer looked for a moment at his picture, and staggered back. “Nothing! nothing! After ten years of work…” He sat down and wept…. Porbus, in anxiety, went again on the morrow to see Frenhofer, and learned that he had died in the night after burning his canvases. Paris, February, 1832. For me it’s important to get my finished work out of the studio as soon as possible or else I’ll work on it forever.   Powerful connectivity by Betty Billups, Sandpoint, ID, USA  

“Dingle Harbor and Big Skies”
original painting
by Betty Billups

Quality does not always require large amounts of time! If you are a laborer, or working with a dimensional object: roads, gardens, or sculptures, then “time” does have a major part in the creation, however the more time needed does not guarantee greatness. The simplest answer sometimes can be greater than the “time consuming creation.” I have found the longer I mess with a painting, the worst it gets! Sure, there are things that might need “tweaking” …but if the entire surface of a painting requires this, then what is happening is the artist is now out of the creative mode, into the “fix it mode” which has little to do with true creativity. To keep myself in a spiritual or creative “space” when painting, I find if I go out into nature, and attempt to capture a sunset, as it is happening, I actually create within my being, a connection to something greater than my entire being! I believe every human being has this connectivity — this truly one-of-a-kind power of creation that results in a unique creation. What I have experienced is art that comes from an “all knowingness” which usually lacks power, energy, true beauty, because there is so much control there is no place left for “spirit” to enter! I would rather see a creation 100% “strange” than a piece 100% “rule,” right? Why? Because, there is more chance for a “spirit” of the art to exist, which is “almost” not from the artist’s known reasoning or knowledge, perhaps allowing the greater power of Creation to have a “hand in it!” There are 4 comments for Powerful connectivity by Betty Billups
From: Carol Reynolds — Mar 04, 2013

Great comment; I agree totally. Your painting is lovely.

From: Aleta Pippin — Mar 05, 2013

Betty, wonderful comment. My goal is to paint from that space of allowing and connecting with spirit. Thank you for sharing.

From: Cyndie Katz — Mar 05, 2013

Very nicely put! Thanks! C.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 05, 2013

I’ve known many a painter who produced work far fast than I do. But the amount of time I’m willing to put in to make what I’m making does not in any way get in the way of ‘spirit’ being present and part of my creation experience.

  The problem of ‘too easy’ by Linda Dark, Camarillo, CA, USA   I am quite isolated. I have a nice family. But they are not painters. I, too, have a studio. I cannot throw them away — the pictures, not the family — or burn them. But, I do not even go in the room unless I am looking for a can of paint thinner, etc. I think those panels are jinxing my muse. I am not one of those who can go back and rework. I tell myself I will, but I don’t. It just isn’t any fun. At all. My daughter in law has asked me for one of my paintings, any one of them. I was speechless. I stared at her, then I blinked and tried to smile. “Er, uh, ahem. Yeah. Of course. I should be finished with the one of the Donut Shop pretty soon now, then you can have it.” That was three versions ago. Most are boring. None are hideous. They aren’t on my walls, why would I want them on hers? Scenario: I see the picture in my mind. I start. It’s working. It’s too easy. There must be something wrong, because it’s too easy. It’s too colorful now, it looks gaudy; after awhile it’s too drab, then it’s too colory again. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! There are 10 comments for The problem of ‘too easy’ by Linda Dark
From: Karen — Mar 04, 2013

Just pick one solution and complete that thought process, follow it through to the end — commit wholeheartedly to it being gaudy, if that’s where you are at. Or to being monochrome and drab. Carry it through. But then stop. If you get a new thought, **start another one**. Don’t keep second guessing and reworking on top of the same one, or you will never ever finish it, and it will get worse and worse… You will loose interest and freshness. For heaven’s sake, just allow yourself to start another one. Then you can look at the two side by side and decide which one you like better, rather than having no finished paintings at all. Cheer up, and make more art!

From: sj — Mar 05, 2013


From: Jackie Knott — Mar 05, 2013

I have a friend who is a corporate consultant. Not actually sure what he does but they pay him well. He’s been generous enough to ask questions, analysis, offer suggestions, etc. I thanked him because he gave me some guidance I plan to follow. I told him how much I respected his opinion. He said, “All I did is hold up a mirror for you.” I’ve since thought about how pointed those questions were and how they forced me to self evaluate and focus. Subtle, kind, but effective.

From: Tatjana M-P — Mar 05, 2013

I make sure to remove finished paintings from the studio. The ones that will never go anywhere I pack up in a separate room making it difficult to get them. Good stuff has to be sent out as soon as possible. I only leave sketches and ideas for new work. Surround yourself with new canvases.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 05, 2013

Linda- you poor thing! You are quite isolated! Even in the DARK, as your name suggests. And you’re not going to like my comment- at all. It just isn’t any fun??? Damn! Why bother then? If you can’t produce masterpieces on the first go-round- I guess you’ll never produce masterpieces then- will you? I’m so glad you have a nice family. (Try to pick up on the overwhelming sarcasm in that statement.) Who cares- really. Your painted panels are not jinxing you. You are. You ARE your own worst enemy. You can’t finish anything. You can’t sign it. You can’t sell it. You can’t even give it away. And worst of all- whatever you’re creating isn’t even good enough to hang on your own walls. So you can’t even look at it- to study it- to find out if you might actually be able to improve it. My walls are covered with my work in every stage from inception to completion. My work is constantly being created. My walls are constantly changing. And I know how to finish something. And sitting and just looking at my work while I’m creating it- in a meditative state- in all different day/night lighting conditions- helps me make better work. So many artists love it when they’ve worked so hard for so many years that it- in fact- becomes easy. If it were so easy for you- you might just finish something. There is something wrong. Go look in the mirror. And then read my statement below- before judging me for being a bit too harsh. You need to grow up. You sound like you’re about 12 years old.

From: Mike Barr — Mar 05, 2013

If it’s all to easy but you are not happy with your work, then you are not painting well. It sounds like you have no direction in your work. You do need a bonfire for your old work and start your art afresh. Study other artists works to see what appeals to you and emulate them. You will find your own style that you are happy with. Surround yourself with good art – something to aspire too rather than mope around with stuff you don’t like.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 07, 2013

Of course- I thought of some other things… Linda- who’s paying for your studio space? Really! I have to PAY for my space. Since I’m PAYING for it, I guess I better use it- right? Paying for it and not using it sounds pretty stupid- doesn’t it? And I’m both working and living in a 750 sq ft room- in a neighborhood that is quickly gentrifying beyond my ability to even afford- so I may be out of a studio space and on the street before too long- anyway. But worse- is not paying for it because YOU DON’T HAVE TO- and not valuing it because of that! Think about it- because some of us have a damn hard time paying for our studio space on a consistent basis because we’re finding it difficult to make enough money selling our art in this economy. But that concept doesn’t even appear on your radar screen- does it? And also- it’s not called art fun- or art play- is it? It’s called ART WORK- because it’s work. Now mind you- I do get enormous pleasure from doing my work- from making my work- but I’m not doing it for fun- I’m doing it to make a living. Now let’s look at the work aspect a little deeper. Just creating a work of art is work. But then, after it’s finished and signed- you may have to frame it- and that’s work even if somebody else does it for you. Then you have to exhibit it- and getting into a gallery is work- as is hanging your own show somewhere. And mounting your own show requires you to have a lot of art work. And actually installing a show is a lot of work. It includes coming up with a theme right off the bat. And then there’s signing and labeling, postcards, mailing, hosting a reception, paying for everything you need at a reception, finding people to help you host a reception, mingling with the crowd as you attempt to find buyers for your work, and on and on. And that all takes place after you do the installation- which I guarantee is work. It’s a lot of work. Now this work can be a pleasurable experience, but it will still often be an enormous effort. But hey- it’s worth it! Isn’t it? But then I thought of something else too! I just can’t imagine what it must be like to be so perfect that the first and only time I sit down to paint- I paint something that’s just perfect! And every time after that I sit down to paint and I paint something else that’s just perfect! Because I’m perfect! Because I was told by my parents and teachers and husband that I’m just perfect- so how on Earth could I sit down to paint- only to find that my first try isn’t quite as perfect as I thought it should be once I stepped back from it to look at it after my perfect painting session was over. So you’re perfect- right? Otherwise- there’d be work involved- right? While we all must be our own first judge of things, next you should try to enter and get in a juried show! Of course- getting your work photographed is work. And filling out application forms is work. And submitting them- either online or by snail mail is work. And writing a check to pay to enter is work- too! And then you may get rejected!!! So learning how to have your perfect self rejected by some jury- that’s a whole lot of work!!! But if you get in- then it’s still work to get dressed and just show up at a reception. Apparently- you think making art is nothing but play- fun. You may one day discover that doing it well is a lot of work. Of course- you may not ever discover this. But whatever. And pardon my redundancy. And one more thing… In the immortal words of that great singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper- ‘Girls just want to have fun.’

From: annonymous — Mar 07, 2013

Bruce – we could really get serious and consult the cards!

I find it hard to believe you do any work other than write your verbose rants.
From: Anonymous — Mar 07, 2013

Bruce must have had a bad night at the restaurant. “Girls just want to have fun?” Some of us could make your life look like a cakewalk, my friend. In among the dozen multiple and overlapping jobs we’ve had to do to eat (including waitress) we still struggled to make art. We take that vocation no less serious than anyone reading this.

From: Anonymous — Mar 08, 2013

Bruce, shouldn’t you being laying all this angst on your therapist instead of us? You’re getting to be a bit boring.

  The problem with ego by Jeanne Long, Minneapolis, MN, USA  

“Perfection in Pink”
watercolour painting
by Jeanne Long

Real beauty is never created by you but only through you. Existence flows; you become only a passage. You allow it to happen, that’s all; you don’t hinder it, that’s all. But if you are too interested in the result, the ultimate result — that you have to become famous, that you have to be the best painter in the world, that you have to defeat all other painters hitherto — then your interest is not in painting; painting is secondary. And of course, with a secondary interest in painting you can’t paint something original; it will be ordinary. “Ego cannot bring anything extraordinary into the world; the extraordinary comes only through egolessness. And so is the case with the musician and the poet and the dancer. So is the case with everybody.” (Osho, from the book Joy: The Happiness That Comes from Within) There are 2 comments for The problem with ego by Jeanne Long
From: Parviz F. Rad — Mar 05, 2013
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 05, 2013

Jeanne, I’ve been working with the Osho tarot deck for a while now, and find the zen perspective interesting, but I work with many decks and find Osho’s take on things to still not be the whole picture, as I am experiencing it. An artist has to become recognized on some relatively significant level in order for said artist’s work to be valued highly enough for the artist to make a living at. Famous does not directly and only equate to ego- and is irrelevant if you don’t need to make a living doing your work. I do. And I deserve to- having been at it for 4 decades. So you have to ask- was Osho trying to make a living- or did his religious/spiritual system take care of his daily needs? There is nothing else to become but the best painter you can become. Being the best you can be has nothing to do with anybody else becoming the best they can be. You being your best has nothing to do with defeating anybody else. There is no WAR (with anybody else) at stake if you become the best you can become. Your best defeats nothing and no one. Growth is paramount- and happens by continuing to walk the path you are on. And the path you are on is yours and yours alone. You cannot be on anyone else’s path, and they cannot be on yours. My interest is not in painting- as I’m not a painter- I’m a fiber artist. But my ART is primary and my Creation Experience is the only experience I’m having- even while doing all the mundane things I do just to survive. Also- there’s a card in the deck suggesting ordinariness is in fact something to be achieved. Yet my originality is primary to me, and means I choose NOT to teach, because I don’t know how you teach anybody to BE original, when our culture teaches everybody to think, act, behave, and produce just like everybody else. So my originality is- in fact- important. And my ego also has its right place, necessary for functioning in the world. And because I played the arrogance card a while back, now everyone thinks I’m arrogant- with no humility. Which of course- just makes me laugh. For the artist- egolessness is just a part of the process of getting into the creative zone and working from there without quite so much self-possessed thought needed. And I used to be a musician- am still a dj music programmer, and a poet and (sacred) dancer.

  Final finish on paintings by Glen Shear, Ra’anana, Israel  

“Statutes of Liberty faces”
mixed media
by Glen Shear

To shellac or not to shellac? That is the question. A number of my acrylics on canvas will be on display at the NY Art Expo in a few weeks time. The first works I sold were shellacked. My most recent sales were not. What do you consider most professional? Which provides greater quality to the collector? (RG note) Thanks, Glen. Most professional painters don’t believe in shellacking any more. Modern acrylic mediums are more advanced and longer lasting. When your acrylic painting is dry I recommend taking a lintless rag and putting on a couple of thin coats of acrylic medium cut 50/50 with water with drying between. Laying the work flat gets a bit of medium down between the strokes, thus strengthening the whole surface. After this is thoroughly dry (cured) — about five days in a warm environment — put on a final varnish with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers). I use a Golden product called “Final Varnish with UVLS.” This too can be cut with water and put on with a rag. You can choose final varnish in either matt or glossy to your taste. At the glossy end you can really shine it up with several coats. There is 1 comment for Final finish on paintings by Glen Shear
From: Casey Craig — Mar 05, 2013

Robert do you have a good recommendation for a brand and supplier of lint free rags?

  Gallery neglects opening artist’s shipment by Anonymous   A big city gallery that represented me for over fifteen years returned “old” work and requested new pieces about every two years or so. After shipment, any request by me for feedback on reaction or group show comment was vague but optimistic. The occasional work was sold but I decided to withdraw from this gallery. When the work arrived in my studio, I quickly realized that two large crates of chosen and requested paintings, one sent over five years ago, had never been opened or shown. I believe they were put in storage, depending on online requests and never ever shown on its gallery walls. I find this practice very disturbing and since I live very far from this gallery, not something that easily came to light or my attention. How common is this? Perhaps other artists have had this experience. How can you gauge reaction if the work never sees the light of day? Should you answer this in an online letter, please do not use my name. (RG note) While lots of sales are made in gallery back rooms and from shipping boxes when work first comes in, a dealer who doesn’t respect your work enough to open your deliveries needs to be given the heave ho.   A millionaire’s dream by Glen Hargrove   We are so often told not to “never give up” that we somehow have come to believe there isn’t a time when giving up isn’t the appropriate thing. I’ve been guilty of this myself on occasion, but fortunately my friends usually step in and remind me when I’m making a fool of myself over something that should be abandoned. This reminds me of a guy I once met who dreamed of building a sailing yacht. Back in the ’70s, I took a summer job as a nail pounder in a boat building yard. This N. Florida outfit built specifically wooden hulled shrimp fishing boats in the range of 80 to 100 feet. The company was approached by a then-millionaire who wanted a custom 85 foot motor-sailing yacht built to his specifications. The management promptly (and curtly) dismissed him: “We don’t build yachts …we build shrimp boats!” The fellow was not to be dissuaded however. It was his lifelong romantic fantasy, to build this yacht and “sail it around the world,” …as folks tend to dream… The area had a reputation for craftsmanship and, for whatever reason, he was set on building it there anyway, so he simply bought the company! Upon arriving to assume personal control he told the same guys who had dismissed him, who were then his management team, “We now build yachts!” The keel was laid, the yard was stocked with teak, cypress and oak befitting such a craft. A veritable parade of specialists were hired, consulted, fired or replaced, and always at considerable cost (from Marine Engineers, electronics gurus, plankers, and riggers, to a Jamaican caulker, who was in the country illegally). Several years later and at an unimaginable expense, the mighty vessel at last slid off the rails into the river. To no one’s surprise however, it looked a great deal like a shrimp boat with masts and, from what I heard, was taken to Miami where it was never completely finished in the dreaming millionaire’s lifetime. I suppose the world has been circumnavigated enough anyway.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The IKEA effect

From: Susan Avishai — Mar 01, 2013

“Pricing has little to do with time and effort.” Nor is the success of the work tied to that either. I’m reminded of a story (source forgotten, alas) about a photographer who goes back to his teacher yearly to show his recent work and get feedback. The teacher divides the work into 2 piles–the good photos and the not-so-good. One not-so-good photo keeps reappearing for critique, year after year. The photographer can’t understand why it’s always rejected and finally breaks down and tells his teacher how hard it was to get that picture– he had to climb a mountain with heavy equipment and the weather was harsh, and he went without enough food, etc. etc.

The teacher said that the ‘cost’ of the picture has no relationship whatsoever to its success as a good photograph.
From: Mira Kamada — Mar 01, 2013

Maybe this is why governments don’t like artists.

From: Marty Ryan — Mar 01, 2013

There is a crucial moment in creating a piece of art that its important to stop.

This one little concept separates a lot of good art from bad. Over worked art looses focus and in some cases turns colors to mud.The artist needs to trust the viewer. Finishing a piece of work at the right time keeps perception clearer.
From: PATRICIA PAINE — Mar 01, 2013

thank you this is universal beautiful and true , continues to give hope to all of us

From: Norman Ridenour — Mar 01, 2013

A big part of the problem with starters at anything is pure amazement that they produced something / anything. Get in the studio and work, 50-80 pieces per year- then each one individual piece ceases to be precious and the producer ceases to be surprised at results. The exuberant praise of friends / neighbors / relatives is no real help.

From: Frances Stilwell — Mar 01, 2013

I hope sometime you will address this claim an established artist made abut artists not quite so “established.” He said inexperienced artists don’t recognize when they have a good painting out of several. It seems to me experienced artists have the blind spot.

From: Theresa — Mar 01, 2013
From: Kathryn — Mar 01, 2013

Hey Robert, Let’s not forget the Dunning-Kruger effect. “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.” “Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.” (Wikipedia) Most of us know this as the American Idol Effect from watching incompetent singers clueless that they are aren’t any good. It goes to show that the more you know, the more you realize that you have lots to learn. If we do not study our craft, we will be unable to recognize what needs to be improved upon. If you think your working is spectacular, watch out, it may actually mean that you still have lots to learn. and the next time you hear someone slamming their excellent work, maybe you should ask them why. You might be unaware of something that is obvious to them and you could benefit from their awareness.

From: Kathryn — Mar 01, 2013

Frances, Perhaps my above comment will help you to realize the answer to your question. A more skilled person is usually more objective about assessing their work and other artists’ work. They sometimes come off as being more critical. Experience and skill helps us to know when to stop and know when something is good or needs improvement. If you have ever watched an Olympic ice skating competition, the commentators can explain point-by-point whether or not a triple lutz or triple axel was good or not. They could replay the video slowly and show you in a very detailed way if the angle was off or jump way slow, high or low and you can then see and compare one performance to another. They help us see what they are looking at. They have the understanding and awareness of what is good and can break down why in a detailed manner. They also see the overall picture of the performance in its entirety. Here’s the thing. I went to a live ice skating championship. I couldn’t tell why one person had way higher marks over another. I was clueless. They all looked good. I have no skill in ice skating and was incompetent to judge. The judges on the other hand, were consistent in high or low marks. People like me are untrained to analyze and recognize quality. I really wanted a video replay with commentary.

From: Dennis Hume — Mar 01, 2013

Whoever Kathryn is she knows her stuff.

From: Anonymous pro — Mar 01, 2013

One consistent situation is where beginner artists think their work compares well with the work of others that sell for significantly higher prices. When told briefly what they might learn, they often do not want to hear these observations and persist in a state of denial. As mentioned above, a slow video replay pointing out problems and shortcomings is needed but not always available.

From: Russ Hogger — Mar 02, 2013

Ask anyone to draw a line. To the beginner or non artist a line is just a line. On the other hand ask an artist to draw a line, that artist will give that line some flare.

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 02, 2013

Interesting analogy … when I settled our youngest in her humble apartment off campus we furnished it with IKEA. I didn’t know whether to curse the company or praise them. It was a little of both especially after completing a bed assembly at 1a. After a decent night’s sleep it looked rather nice in the light of morning. I remembered the receipt total from our shopping trip and thought what a terrific niche IKEA filled. But, it is what it is … affordable, but other than some noteworthy design it is doubtful their furniture will be in museums in a hundred years. What will make marketing history is their approach to distribution and customer involvement in the purchasing process. Brilliant! Let the customer do the work ….

In art? My labor in the studio only illustrates to me I need to sharpen my technique enough to speed up production. Economy of movement is a beautiful thing and I’m working on it. But I don’t deceive myself into thinking just because I spend more hours on a piece than the next guy makes mine better. Surely even a beginner realizes that much. The end product determines the quality. The problem with art is so much is subjective. You can’t say one painting is better than the one beside it when so many are painted in a different style … when an ice skater fails to make a jump or lands awkwardly even casual observers see that. I spent most of today with a friend in an art gallery. We watched a demo by two very different artists. One painted with palette knives, very swift but deliberate strokes, simple composition, high relief, intense color. Not my ideal but I appreciated her skill. Painting simultaneously, she finished well before the next artist. He chose a complicated monocromatic scene executed in subtle brush strokes. His well defined values gave the painting great depth. Up close, the painting was purely impressionistic. Ten feet away the painting took on a lovely perspective. While she answered questions he continued to paint. Who was the “better” artist? That is up to whoever is willing to pay the purchase price. I might add I’m seeing more oil studies framed in galleries with the same earnestness as completed paintings. One could say, “Oh, this artist has an impressionist style.” Well … no, it was a plein air study and you might see the finished painting hanging in two months. Thirty minutes doesn’t make for a grand painting but neither does a month. I have no idea where that sweet spot in the middle is but I’m still searching for it.
From: John Ferrie — Mar 02, 2013

This is an interesting letter to read this week Robert. Three of the big name galleries in Vancouver have moved into my neighborhood. I welcome these galleries, the more art lovers the more art buyers. With my own exhibition opening this week, I went around to the galleries to welcome them to the hood and invite them to my show. The galleries are all massive spaces. One of them has ghastly florescent lighting, another one looks more like an airplane hanger. While I was in one of the spaces, I did a lap and looked at the new collections of paintings hanging. They were small paintings, portraits, rather crude and looked more like they had been done with crayon that oil paint and a brush. The artists statement read the his work was “…a referenced the Old Masters…”. I tried to keep my eyes rolled into the forward position. There we also all these sculptures down the centre of the gallery. One of them was simply two pieces of cardboard, bent in half and fashioned together with rubber bands. “…these additional works create a complimentary dialogue and augment an understanding of the artist’s practice…” the statement read. Stunning!

So, while I returned to my own studio and contemplated my upcoming exhibition, I was reflective of what people want to see when it comes to art. We artist have to resolve ourselves to the fact that 90% of the population won’t like our work. Of the 10% left over, only 5% can afford it. I always say, no matter what, do good quality work. Then again, after looking around at what is happening in the galleries, the more I know the less I know. Maybe that is just me…John Ferrie
From: Daryl Westholm — Mar 04, 2013

We cling to those with whom we have the most invested.

From: Lucie Patou — Mar 04, 2013

When my students ask when is a painting finished, the answer is:”Right before you screw it up” It is quite often a control issue. You have control over the composition, a good composition can always become a successful painting, a poor composition can never be saved. So, take care of the composition and stop -step back- and trust your eyes to tell you when you have said enough.

From: Mike Barr — Mar 04, 2013

The scarey thing is most of us artists think we are pretty good – when of course most of us probably aren’t!

From: Cindy — Mar 04, 2013

Actually , if I spend a lot of time laboring over an art piece, I may decide its taking longer than it should because it’s fundamentally messed up, and I gesso over it!

From: Ron Wilson — Mar 05, 2013

‘Fantastic shots of you folks in the mountains, Bob. I wish I could join you, I know I would respond well to those scenes too. Woweee.

ArtistWilson in Victoria
From: Rick Rotante — Mar 05, 2013

I can freely admit that I throw away or wipe off nearly half of all the work I produce. I will also say that all the work I have produced to date is imperfect to one degree or another. Yet, I’ve sold much work over the years and continue to sell. I strive for perfection, but seldom reach it. Which, I believe, is the way for an artist to work. The day I reach perfection is the day I will never paint again.

We humans are a product of mistakes. Without mistakes, we would cease to strive, function or produce. Think about that. Life is a series of mistakes. In the big picture, we are a product of mistakes. But- If we are to move forward we must judge our work wisely, without bias or passion and with a jeweler’s eye. And then choose our best works to show and sell.
From: Susan A. Warner — Mar 06, 2013

In reply to “The problem of “too easy” by Linda Dark. The response by J.Bruce Wilcox just cut to the chase! The truth of the matter is sometimes painful but should be valued. Being “nice” and just saying ‘Aww you poor thing’ doesn’t help at all. Sadly, Linda needs to find HERSELF before she can attempt to create anything. Counseling would be a wise route to take.

From: Eduardo Mantecon — Mar 07, 2013
From: Anonymous — Mar 07, 2013

I really enjoyed comments by Bruce Wilcox vs Linda Dark. Thinking about them revealed to me how I am not at the least interested, and at the worst am terrified of the idea of growing up.

I have always felt that way. I am convinced that I wouldn’t be myself any more if I annihilated my immaturity. Of course I know that most people are just fine with it, but some of us in the Never land just aren’t. You talked before about your feelings of being a fraud and I couldn’t relate to that the way you described it. But maybe it wasn’t of being a fraud after all, but instead of being immature beyond what other people would deem acceptable? I am trying to impersonate a grownup when I have to, and I am afraid I don’t do it very well. Maybe my appearance of being stuck up is just bad acting…not knowing the script. Maybe the asocial tendency is just avoidance of those odd adult situations? Thanks to Bruce and Linda for flipping this switch on for me. The good news (I think) is that maturity apparently isn’t necessary for a good life, although it does need to be kept a secret from the boring and scary grownup world. I have to say that I do feel a tiny bit nuts when I fail to effectively communicate with people.
From: Graham Pellew — Mar 07, 2013

No man is sane who does not know how to be insane on the proper occasions.

From: Ed Mariner — Mar 07, 2013

What a beautiful location. I can see why this is the Cadillac of painting workshops.

    Featured Workshop: Nancy Lynn Hughes
030513_robert-genn Nancy Lynn Hughes workshops At the Diamond Willow Artisan Retreat in Calgary, AB, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Fall Reflections

acrylic painting 24 x 30 inches by Marianne Broome, Schomberg, ON, 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 Betty Jane Covington of St George, UT, USA, who wrote, “Oh the poor artist who kept touching up his painting — and made it worse — and then he died.” And also Howard of Teaneck, NJ, USA, who wrote, “Not only do I find your letters insightful and entertaining but filled with the humor of our all-too-human condition.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.