Problems of the multi-media artist

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Jennifer Foster wrote, “I was recently at an arts professionalism seminar where one of the presenters was a gallery owner. I asked him about submitting work to galleries in more than one medium. He surprised me by saying that anyone who did this simply showed that they didn’t know who they were as an artist. I always thought that diversity and ability in many media were strengths — just as cross-training is for an athlete. When submitting to a gallery or a jury, do artists do themselves a disservice by showing work in more than one medium?” Thanks, Jennifer. Artists need to realize that dealers are often coming from a different place than artists. While you and I know that cross-training and diversity are desirable, even necessary for creative growth, a dealer looks at an artist’s work with other things in mind. Product consistency is one of them. Dealers are, after all, entrepreneurs. In this role, most dealers like to slot each of their artists into specific media and genre. Many of them think they know what their customers want, and don’t wish to muddy the waters. It’s sad to say, but many excellent dealers are not too interested in your range of capabilities. My advice is to submit consistent, one-medium work at first. You can go about showing your breadth and depth later. Here are a few ideas for the multi-media and multi-talented artist: — Keep working and developing independently, no matter what. — Deliver work in different media to different galleries. — Deliver work of different subjects to different galleries. — “Leak” your multi-media activities by blog or word-of-mouth. — Give dealers exclusivity in specific geographical locations. — While it’s good to make consistent and regular deliveries, don’t worry if you miss a stroke or two. The nature of our game is to be distracted by our muse, and while this may not always be good for the wallet, if the dealer has character, he’ll respect your wanderings. Finding copacetic dealers is a fact of life in visual arts. You need to vacuum out the scissorbills and the not-so-swifts. After the cleanup, you’ll find the rest to be gentle enthusiasts, strong advocates, and good friends. Best regards, Robert PS: “The person who reps you is golden.” (Nick Farbacher) “Galleries are displaying a product. They’re not museums.” (Nohra Haime) “Business sure screwed up the art world universally.” (Robert Rauschenberg) Esoterica: Juried shows present a refreshing facet to the acceptance game — generally no commercial instincts are in play. As a juror I’ve often noticed an artist’s change in media opens a door to new brilliance. Opportunities sometimes follow. Even switching from oils to pastels may bring out a capability that was stultified in the previous medium. In today’s world of electronic arts, fractals and Watson-inspired machine-art, it’s all so very hard to resist. For an artist, exploration is oxygen.   Masters specialize by R. Duane Hendricks, Calgary, AB, Canada   Should one see a parallel in music? Few master performers play several different instruments to make their living. Occasionally it happens that someone can succeed at a high level as pianist and violinist, or trombonist and composer and conductor, but more often a musician specializes. The techniques required of the different media or instruments are very demanding. There is 1 comment for Masters specialize by R. Duane Hendricks
From: Anonymous — Mar 04, 2011

So Michelangelo and Da Vinci (painters/sculptors/inventors) were not Masters? How constrained. Condolences to the person who limits themselves because of status quo. I admire the person who can do something well — but I am in awe of those who do many things well!

  No to Picasso sculptures? by Sonja Picard, Ladner, BC, Canada  

“Om namo narayanaya”
by Sonja Picard

I wonder if this gallery owner would have said the same thing to Picasso who also sculpted clay. What an insane statement; he obviously does not know a thing about artists that he apparently represents. I just started painting and may add that to my repertoire along with jewelry designer and sculptor to my professional art career of 20 years. Thank goodness he’s just one misguided person in the art world.       There are 3 comments for No to Picasso sculptures? by Sonja Picard
From: Anonymous — Mar 04, 2011

I agree with you. Those that can, do. Those that can’t critique.

From: Anonymous — Mar 04, 2011

hi Sonja, Caroline up in PR, love the bracelet and your letter. cheers ;0)

From: toddriehle — Jul 15, 2011

Art work is wonderful and creative one.

  Strength in consistency by Fleta Monaghan, Asheville, NC, USA  

encaustic painting
by Fleta Monaghan

I reviewed slides submitted to a juried show a few years ago with a group of artists. The purpose was to get an insider look at submissions, make comments and critique (me), engage in discussion and to learn. It was a real eye opener for many. One thing that stood out was that artists who submitted three works that were consistent in theme, style and content stood out. It was interesting to see the work one against the other for each artist and gave a sense of purpose. Entries with three disparate styles or subjects were overall weak, and even if there was one piece that stood out, it did not hold up to a grouping where one painting supported another. I truly believe all artists are driven to experiment and stretch their wings. There are 3 comments for Strength in consistency by Fleta Monaghan
From: Jacqueline Glover — Mar 19, 2011

Michelangelo drew, sculpted, and painted in addition to his architectural works and poems. (Dare we compare ourselves to him?!) I like your encaustic painting very much. Jackie

From: Irene Fridsma — Apr 05, 2011

I like the vitality and movement in this piece as well as the vibrant color. I’m sure that the textural effects of the encaustic only adds to the beauty of the work. Beautiful. As for consistency…I work in several mediums and find that often the theme, or color scheme, or mood is consistent even when the medium is not the same. For a juried show I can see the need for a strong consistent presentation.

From: misae — Jul 15, 2011

Huge work. Can realize the artist and his talent canvas prints

  Creative trip phenomenon by Cheryl Braganza, Montreal, QC, Canada  

original painting
by Cheryl Braganza

I am presently in a haven of sunshine and color in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico built on a quartz rock, so they say. This is my first visit and I am surrounded by serious and not-so-serious artists, muralists, fledgling painters, ceramists, digital artists and would-be artists. In fact, meeting a non-artist is an anomaly here. The weekly newspaper is clogged with art courses of every description. The morning and evening light is exquisite. I thought I had come to paint, but I can’t. I tried to force myself to do a local street scene and gave up. I leave to go back to my studio in Quebec in a few days taking back blank canvases and swollen paint tubes. Do you recognize this phenomenon? Will the whole trip have been for naught? There are 9 comments for Creative trip phenomenon by Cheryl Braganza
From: Sharon Cory — Mar 04, 2011

You’re out of your comfort zone…there’s too much to look at…too many other artists to compare yourself to…too much visual stimulation. Pick any one of these reasons and they’re all valid. I feel this way every time I head off on a painting trip. Sometimes I give in to it. Usually I force myself to paint something, anything, and when I look at it the next day, it’s not bad and that’s the start. Hope this helps.

From: Anonymous — Mar 04, 2011

I too recognize this feeling Cheryl. I don’t paint on site, rather I sketch. Should be a lot easier I keep telling myself. But in some settings it is not. For myself I have discovered I need some level of “safety”, before I can loose myself onto the paper.

From: Nancy — Mar 04, 2011

A suggestion — try to get into one of the workshops that is representative of the art you would like to do while you are there; and of course do sketches, take notes, take pictures if you can. I wish you well.

From: Virginia Wieringa — Mar 05, 2011

Sometimes it’s nice just to be on vacation without pressure to produce.

From: Celia Barger — Mar 07, 2011

Cheryl, next time you might try painting what you see. In this case, it seems to have been painters. Paint them gaggled together with their easels, painting them trying to be alone to work, paint them in workshop groups gathered around an instructor. Then add milieu. Or commentary by visual means. There’s always something that can be done. It sounds as if your preconceived notions came hard up against the disappointment of the actuality being something else altogether. Perhaps being less attached to preconceived notions is better, being able to shift in mid-acceleration, or turn in mid-stream.

From: Dyno — Mar 25, 2011

This painting reminds me of the quote “Butterflys are not a problem as long as you can get them to fly in order”. I’m no sure who it’s by and I’m paraphrasing. Anyways the painting is unsettling for me.

From: Rebecca — May 25, 2011

Cheryl, Go and find an object or person that you find so interesting. Begin to draw that person or object with no plans of what will be in the rest of your painting. Plus Bring back lots of photos so that when you are home you can make many paintings from your trip in your own studio. Thank you for allowing me to input. Enjoy!

From: Janet Summers — Jul 20, 2011

Travel broadens the mind and frees the spirit! I prefer to go it alone, I usually spend the first few days having a look around, then IF I feel like painting I do. I find that the images seen and the whole travel experience keep inspiring me for months after, and influence my painting. Group travel and group painting aren’t for me, if you are an independent type try to travel solo next time!

From: Tina Sotis — Jul 26, 2011

I understand what you mean, Cheryl. Perhaps you needed to just rest and take in all that amazing light. When I travel I hate that pressure to create something. I work in oils, but all I take with me are a camera and my IPad with a painting app, or a sketch book and some colored pencils, but that’s it. A fellow artist told me that she never painted when she traveled because she always felt like she was in “art prison”. It’s a funny expression, but one that personally resonates with me. The others’ suggestions are just as valid, but creating art is such a personal thing and everyone needs a unique environment.

  More mileage in multi-medium by Denise C. Smith, MI, USA   A solution would be to correctly call the art “multi-medium.” “Multi-media” is an advertising platform in which a campaign is spread between television, radio, print and display, etc. Many artists get this title wrong and it tends to confuse the viewer / gallery director. I am a “multi-medium” artist working in scrimshaw, kiln-fused dichroic glass, natural stone and wire-sculpted jewelry settings (also a graphic designer — but don’t include that in shows other than display technique). It has taken me quite a bit of work to develop an understanding and acceptance of my artistic presentation, but it is slowly becoming “expected” by my clientele and since I am not defined or limited by my announced medium, there is an excitement to see what I’ve come up with in my combinations. There are ways to present and actually get a little more mileage out of being a “multi-medium” artist. My suggestion to the artist or any artist considering varied mediums would be to actually play that up in their presentation and arrange them in section in their display so as not to confuse the viewer. People take more time in my booth because it transitions from end to end and they find more interest than in normal booths. Quite an advantage! There are 3 comments for More mileage in multi-medium by Denise C. Smith
From: Sheila Minifie — Mar 04, 2011

Multi-medium might well be a good solution. Multimedia, as far as I understand it, is a digital combination of sound, images, text, video, etc often if not always with interactivity. Mixed media is of course a combination of mediums in one work. I am a multimedia artist, video artist, sculptor, painter of both ‘pure’ and ‘mixed media’ work. Imagine the public confusion with these terms, let alone many artists. In the past, I do think I spread myself too thinly and it’s only now that I’m concentrating on one, that I’m moving forward truly to a more mature vision but that’s just me. I had a hard time at Art School at Uni with lecturers not understanding multi-medium working (or digital!!) and it has not helped me commercially. However, Viva La-Whatever-You-Want-and-Is-Best-For-You!

From: Cristina Monier — Mar 05, 2011

Mixed media is the correct term. I usually start my larger paintings in acryllic and then add transparencies and such in oil, it also gives me the possibility of playing with shiny and opaque, I never had trouble with galleries, as long as you respect the time honored fat over lean you will be all right.

From: Anonymous — Nov 08, 2011

The title “multi-media” artist is not incorrect. To prove it, simply refer to a dictionary. The Merriam Dictionary, for example, says, “media is used as a plural of medium”. Tony Max

  Free from gallery chains by Louise Francke, NC, USA  

“Moore fields Barn”
original painting
by Louise Francke

Yes, I switch media and themes like hats. Otherwise it gets boring doing the same old. Working in a different media opens my mind as to how I can stretch the media I usually work in — oil paint. Recently, I’ve been out in the fields using oil pastels on small pieces until it gets too hot. Then I’ll make another switch! It’s nice to not worry about details and to be free as a bird color wise. Now, if I could only leap a little further from the naturalistic way I handle my subjects. My now defunct gallery used to carry all of my media and subject matter, which was nice. Currently, I just want to explore without the gallery chains and requests that keep one locked in a specific niche. There are 2 comments for Free from gallery chains by Louise Francke
From: Casey Craig — Mar 04, 2011

Love the colors in this barn!

From: Pat Blair — Jun 30, 2011

I too am currently without the “chain” of a gallery. I find it freeing and I am exploring new medias. Having painted in watercolors for so long I found my palette colors becoming unexciting. Now I am painting in pastels and am as excited as a new painter! I must continue watercolor painting as well, however, because I teach watercolor painting to beginning and intermediate painters.

  Push enough buttons by Elizabeth Pudsey, Burlington, ON, Canada   Robert is right. Galleries are only interested in what they can sell. It is the only business I know where merchandise is not purchased from the supplier. Consignment paintings are then sold (hopefully) and large commissions are taken. The artist is left with a small portion, and quite often a bill for the framing. I have been with many lovely dealers, who try to control what you produce, and were you can exhibit. As many former students keep in touch, I hear their stories over and over again. Your advice is good; artists should be true to themselves and grow in knowledge and creativity. Find other places and other ways to exhibit and work — artist-run and group shows and other town or out-of-country avenues. Push enough buttons and something will happen. The important thing is to be true to your own creative spirit.   Choose appropriate venue by Diane Arenberg, Mequon, WI, /Santa Fe, NM, USA  

“Golden Moment”
pastel painting
by Diane Arenberg

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. My major mediums are pastel, monotype printmaking, and jewelry. I have heard, “You should just do ______” so many times I would like to scream! Of course, the blank can be filled in by any of the three mediums depending upon who is doing the looking. I could no more do that than cut off my arm. I view working in several mediums akin to speaking different languages. For example, when the Cerro Grande fire hit Los Alamos in New Mexico, it affected me deeply because I had flown over the fire when it was raging. It was at once the most terrifying, awful, beautiful thing I have ever seen. There was no way to express myself in just one medium. Over a period of years, I ended up painting it, sculpting it in stone, wax, and then making a bronze sculpture. Finally after the third, I felt satisfied. Your advice to Jennifer is so wise. Know your audience. Some people have a difficult time understudying artists working in one medium, let alone three or more. Rather than cutting off a limb, I have opted to pick and choose appropriate venues for each medium. The gallery owners are not saying they disapprove of an artist working in multiple mediums, they are simply saying they don’t know how to market your work that way. Vive La Renaissance! There is 1 comment for Choose appropriate venue by Diane Arenberg
From: Kay Christopher — Mar 10, 2011

I was on the ground during that fire. Would love to know what it looked like from the sky. It was indeed terrifying and awesome. Can see how it would spark a creative response.

  Same series, different media by Karen Gillis Taylor, Niwot, CO, USA  

“Starry Night”
art quilt
by Karen Gillis Taylor

This topic is timely for me as I am just completing a fabric “quilt art” piece which is a media departure from my usual painting mode. What’s keeping me on track is that the new fiber piece is in the same cityscape series as my current painting series. I won’t feel like I’m shifting gears too far out of line if I show the piece to my gallery owner or others, as I think it’s keeping the same spirit the paintings convey. What’s more, the fabric patterns inject interesting abstract shapes and textures into the work, and I seem to be choosing the same colors I normally work with in paint, which is providing another form of consistency. Working in this second medium is giving me a new boldness which I’m excited to bring to my next acrylic piece! You can see the two media side by side here. There are 5 comments for Same series, different media by Karen Gillis Taylor
From: rose — Mar 04, 2011

i love it…

From: michael — Mar 04, 2011

me too. wonderful.

From: Caroline Jobe — Mar 04, 2011

love your work and your blog!

From: Anonymous — Mar 06, 2011

Love your work; your colors are delightful!

From: Libby Rudolf — Mar 22, 2011

How beautiful!


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Problems of the multi-media artist

From: Janet Best Badger — Mar 01, 2011

I worked for years bouncing between linoleum prints and etchings. They are opposites in the world of printmaking. Color relief vs. black and white intaglio. Then something clicked and I realized I could wipe my carved linoleum plates…intaglio! This opened up an entire new world. I don’t think any artist should ever stick to just one way of creating.

From: Darla — Mar 01, 2011

I think what galleries want is a consistent body of work from each artist. That doesn’t necessarily limit you to one medium, as long as your art “hangs together” with a distinctive technique. Pastels and oils, for example, can have a similar look from the same artist, and might be integrated into the same showing.

From: Jim Pallas — Mar 01, 2011

A “dealer’s” dealer, the late Allan Stone, once told me, “There lots of excellent artists but few excellent dealers.”

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Mar 01, 2011

Once upon a time, I won two top prizes in a juried show because the juror didn’t notice that they were by the same artist. Different media draw out different aspects of the same artist, I guess.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 01, 2011

Dear Robert, I think the plants must be in line, because I actually agree with you on this one. LOL… I have spoken at seminars to young artists about marketing and promotion. I would ask the artists about their work and they would often say they were a ‘multi-mediaist” Now, I am an artist and I can usually go to the edge. But I often didn’t understand what they were saying. I would just tell them “Pick one thing and make that thing exquisite”. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a painter and filming the process and having that up on a screen at an opening and having a whole interactive display. But when it comes to dealing with a gallery, they want you as a commodity. They also want a through line in your collection that they can sell. Everyone has a fluke where they spin off a cool new and experimental piece. But unless you are Damien Hurst or the Graffiti artist Banksy, the chances of a gallery following along are slim. Galleries are a business and they are the stepping stone between the artist and the buyer. The best way to sell your work though a gallery, is to keep those stones as close together as you possibly can. But maybe that is just me. John Ferrie

From: John Ferrie — Mar 01, 2011

OOOPs, I meant “Planets”…Not plants… John Ferrie, dyslexic artist!

From: Joy Hanser — Mar 01, 2011

I have found out in recent years, through a few resounding rejections, to just keep on with my muse, and though it hasn’t brought me wealth or even sustainability, it has given me self-reliance and trust in my instincts. I discovered I must generate these qualities myself, as they do not come from anywhere external, ultimately. What is more important than that? While I still hope to find that golden one, the rep who has faith in my work, I now mostly just carry on without regret.

From: Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA — Mar 01, 2011

Hello: I think most of the outdoor art shows request only one medium to be shown also. At least in all the many years I have been participating in them, that is what they prefer. If you work in more than one medium, you usually have to have two spaces and another person with you taking care of that second booth. Some will not even allow that. They do not like the two mediums mixed together for some reason. And of course, there is usually an extra jury charge if you do have two different mediums. My main medium is pastels. Secondly I work in Oils and also watercolours. I feel it might not be consistent if too many mediums were represented.

From: Kathy Bezy — Mar 01, 2011

Just a quick note to say how much I appreciate your input in my life. The multi-media article just now was helpful, as I’m struggling w/focus and enjoying experimentation. I didn’t think I needed permission, but was surprised to feel relief that I’m not wasting my time….chasing the muse.

From: Paula Timpson — Mar 01, 2011

Seems the best Creations come when we are represented by Pure Spirit.

From: Dan Young — Mar 01, 2011

My original media was watercolor to get away from glass, moldy paper and conservations issues I switched to acrylics and used them in a watercolor wash fashion. To explore Plein Air I began to use oils. I recently made a major leap when I realized that transparent passages were critical even in the oils. I now begin with washes and stay with transparent paint as long as possible then finish with opaques. It has been a major improvement. Every media I have explored has brought improvement to the primary media. So I say experiment on, enjoy the explorations,bring it home to your main love. New toys keep the child-within happily playing.

From: Haim Mizrahi — Mar 01, 2011

“Arts Professionalism seminar” already spells trouble.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 01, 2011

Many artists throughout history have used multiple media. I paint in gouache, pastel and oil. Plus I use charcoal as most artists past and present. Personally, you should follow your own muse and work in any media you set your mind and the world be damned. But if you are looking to future and fame and fortune, you need to settle into one media and produce the most volume of work in that media. The issue with galleries is they like to pigeonhole artists into one category because it’s easier for them to market this way. The public also feels more confident the artist will continue to produce work they have bought and become known. It’s only when an artist dies and existing work becomes scarce that the money mongers move to the other media that the now dead artist may have used for the purpose of continuing the grave train. The other thing you can do is give your different work to different galleries and don’t tell them you paint in multiple media. They don’t want to buy a stock of your oils and have your pastels become the rage.

From: Dean Wilson — Mar 02, 2011

Amazing how “Watson” has become the word. I have seen it used as a noun, verb, adjective, profanity…

From: Dirk — Mar 02, 2011

If a gallerist wants to make a profit (and she should, shouldn’t she?) she has to stock what she thinks will sell. She has to make a judgment call on supply and demand. This is not the way most artists think. Too bad for them. If you want to sell your art, you ought to make sure there is a demand for it.

From: Yvette Muise — Mar 02, 2011

I will first thank you for continuing a letter that a multitude of us would miss terribly if you stopped. Re multi-media… I’ve always been disappointed by the demand that we limit ourselves. How can anyone claiming to “support” us – limit us? For some galleries are not only turned off by a different media, they also object if your subjects vary. So my question becomes: what do we do about our website? When we invest a lot of money in having one professionally done, is it safer to limit ourselves, in fear that the posher galleries will misjudge us.

From: Basil Frazer — Mar 02, 2011

I’m not sure that juried shows are free of commercial considerations. Often juried by successful, selling artists, they must have just a wee bit of prejudice, don’t you think?

From: Jamie Lavin — Mar 03, 2011

Agent & Chicago Festival promoter Amy Amdur told me that having various styles in your booth confuses people on “what to buy”. After hearing that, I quit mixing the styles in any one display. Gardner, Kansas USA

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 03, 2011

The “public” isn’t a sophisticated group and they are easily confused. Display oils in one show, watercolor on another day in a different show, pastels in another show and so on. When you give them too much choice and variety, they don’t know what to purchase. Also I gives an illusion, to the public, of amateurism. If you can’t decide what media to paint in, they can’t decide which is your best work. Perception is everything.

From: Susan Holland — Mar 03, 2011

I am afflicted with all of the above-mentioned faults! I studied at an art school that takes a renaissance approach, and we enjoyed a huge diversity traditional media, in both two and three dimensional formats. My art spills over into many disciplines as opportunity presents itself — my carvings are sometimes painted, and my paintings are sometimes carved and incised. I add metal and stone sometimes. I have still not “majored” in any one discipline exclusively, and may never change. Often the medium chosen has more to do with space considerations, and what stuff I am trying to express. Carving outside works when a house has no good room to paint in. Mosaics work at a small table. Flat tables ask for watercolor, while a high ceiling allows a nice big easel for large oil paintings. Most of my life (I’m in my 70’s) I have made my bread and butter with simple “normal jobs”, buying with mundane wages the luxury of moving with my (fickle) muse. I have built small businesses this way, which have led to art sales. But I have never actually earned my living with my art. Idealism about the value of original marks is a definite handicap when you are trying to make a living from your art. People buy mid-priced art mostly as decoration, I think. How many people really have a gallery in their homes? I want my work valued as a piece of fine art — that’s how impractical I am — not as a decoration, except secondarily. Now and then I do make a piece of fine art. The other ones are also rans. (And I worry a bit when work I don’t love sells and goes on someone’s wall. But of course I like the money.) Galleries definitely DESERVE their commission if they can get between such an idealist and that “stranger”– the customer. If I am carving wood and painting in any and all media, mixed or not, and loving some of what I make, then this is the good life, whether it sells or not.

From: Judy Lalingo — Mar 03, 2011

I think the key word here is vision. Why you paint should come through in the work; it’s this vision that makes it consistent.

From: judy — Mar 03, 2011

I should have said “Why you paint/draw/sculpt/sew/spin/etc should come through in the work” ;)

From: Alpha Shanahan — Mar 04, 2011

This is timely “food for thought” for me. I have always felt at home moving from one medium to another. Mostly, it is dictated by the subject i want to paint and the concept that goes with it. Although this practice harnesses my creative skills, i have found that this seems not to work too well with my sale-ability. I have an online shop and a portfolio in one of the online galleries and i notice that the ones who have more homogeneity in their display of work get more regular clients. Me? i get to sell here and there. My customers always get back to me with very lovely comments about my work, but i guess, i just need to take note of this fact and put similar works together. Thanks for the article.

From: Aleta Karstad — Mar 04, 2011

I work in both watercolour and oil, and I’ve often said that my watercolours are jealous of my oils, and vice versa. My oils call the watercolours “pale and flat”, when viewed alone they are really exquisitely detailed…. and the watercolours retort that the oils are “clumsy daubs”, while left to themselves they are rich and bold. My two media “don’t like” to be exhibited together. When I have an at-home vernissage, I hang them separately, at either end of the room, but have often thought that even that isn’t enough separation, given what I’ve been reading on this topic. I think from now on, I’ll exhibit either one or the other, and choose my venues according to which I think will sell.

From: Henryk Ptasiewicz — Mar 04, 2011

By sculpting the figure, my drawing and painting has improved. I place my sculpture with my paintings, one adds to the other. I also paint on glass and make three dimensional pieces with those. The point is, it is all my Art, and it’s all related. Not to forget I am a realist and abstract painter

From: William Doying — Mar 04, 2011

Beyond the example of dealer skepticism of other media for their artists, which you make understandable, both I and one of my teachers have experienced something similar from art organizations that require jurying for entry. Having chosen works we thought demonstrated a certain versatility on our parts, we were told in more or less in the same words, that they “could have been by different artists!” with the clear implication that this was regarded as bad in itself, regardless of quality, and was disqualifying for membership. Why is predicatability — even monotony — so highly prized in such a context?

From: Martha Corkrin — Mar 04, 2011

I have finally retired and am trying to resurrect my multi-dimensional creative self. Art school encouraged me to work in multiple forms, and after graduation, I transferred those skills into fiber art and wearable art which brought in “pocket change”. Recently, I joined the local art guild for encouragement and support as I struggled to “be an artist” once again. I was informed that I could not exhibit until I had been juried into membership with five pieces of work — five pieces in each medium that I want to exhibit. If I wanted to do oils, acrylics and fiber art, then I needed to present five new pieces in each category. My heart sank, because that is just not the way I work, and if I forced myself to meet the criteria, the results would very unacceptable. Sadly, I was discouraged. Then, I read your suggestion to “keep working and developing independently, no matter what.” That was just what I needed to hear. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

From: Nikki Coulombe — Mar 04, 2011

Robert, this is an excellent, sensitively written article. Thank you for stepping out of the crowd to acknowledge multi-disciplined artists. The advice is encouraging and helpful, particularly your suggestions to present different media to different galleries, and to not stop working no matter what. It is often said that artists who work in a variety of media do not know who they are as professionals, when in fact they do, as much as any other artist. I think they do not settle for the one thing they do well, but enjoy – and are even addicted to – continual immersion into searching the depths of who we are, not just the surface…to discover the astonishing things we’re each capable of. There is nothing wrong and everything right about aspiring to exceed our own limitations and expectations. As your newsletters are a testament to, we need to think and act as individuals, and keep encouraging each other collectively.

From: mars — Mar 06, 2011

People that are into too many things — do not do well in — any!!! It takes a lot of time & concentration 2 work in one media-alone — so mixing them — I’ve seen it done — but — no — there is always something lost in one or the other!! Atheletes- excell in one sport only-even tho they might do several — same with musicians. Oh well — each to his own. thanks.

From: Trot Bailey — Mar 07, 2011

If you chafe at the advice of your gallery operator or agent, you either are fighting the market pressures, or you need to evaluate your commercial relationships. Someone who specializes in the commerce of art is usually more savvy about the market that is the artist. The artist needs to consider recommendations in light of the outcome he/she desires. If the need to jump mediums is sufficiently great, try to enlist the commercial worker in your life to help. If that’s not possible, because of limitations of the seller or market, it’s time to decide what’s most important to both of you. Sometimes it’s a parting, sometimes it’s a negotiated approach. I left a locally well-recognized gallerist because her focus and mine did not sufficiently overlap, no matter how hard we tried. The alternative, for me, was less lucrative, but more satisfying. Fortunately no enemies were created in that every discussion was based on mutual respect, the exigencies of both parties, the nature of the market, and clarity of expression. It is possible to advocate for yourself without being contentious, and accepting reasonable outcomes is a growth experience.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Mar 07, 2011

I am an award-winning fiber artist. I do it very well. I take hundreds of different and even unrelated textiles and make them work together beautifully. This process is identical to taking dozens of different pieces of music by different artists and merging/blending them into one mixed-music meditation. Having been a pro-dj in the past I do this very well also. This process is identical to hanging a gallery exhibit- often with many unrelated works after jurying a show. I do it very well also. And I am a tarot reader- a body-worker- and an energy channel too. Never let any idiot discourage you from pursuing more than one medium.

From: Teyjah McAren — Mar 09, 2011

Being of the Multi-Media variety of artists and not having much success for the above stated “you must have a definite style” for galleries to have confidence, I am now embarking on the “definite style” bandwagon but will also approach other galleries with the “other media” work I create. My question is this: does one then redo their entire website to highlight that one media approach? This would mean sending dealers to different websites. Costly? non?

From: Anonymous — Apr 10, 2011

I wonder what Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci would have to say about this? Have we all turned into marketers having forgotten our first love? Art without divine inspiration is like an eagle with its wings held back. Do what you love, so you will love what you do and your wings will spread out like that of an eagles and you too, will fly.

From: Pamela — May 01, 2011

Loved the letter re art making as a tribute. I make it because I have breast cancer and want to leave some evidence that I was on this earth. It has to be good. Don’t want it ending up on a skip somewhere. People generally have respect for art thank God. Mind you I don’t intend to go before I have made my first million or three, so I guess there are years of struggle and joy ahead of me!

From: janie prete — Jun 04, 2011

During 2011, I believe, there was a definition of a craftsman (using one’s hands), (and another______) using one’s head, and hands, and then an artist using one’s head, hands and heart. Can someone remember this.

From: Anonymous — Jun 04, 2011

“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his mind is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”– attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi and Louis Nizer.

From: Jeanene — Nov 13, 2011

I have started painting using acrylic paints. I really like the fast drying and no odor for my room mate. What surfaces are safe to use. Can they be used under oil paint ? What about using on canvass after a photo has been printed on it ?, A friend of mine does this and states it safe. Will acrylic peel after using on oil ? Thank you, Jeanene

From: Joseph — Dec 30, 2011

I’m a pro-photographer and painter. I get sooooo much from these pages and comments that assist me in my artistic side as well as the marketing side – It’s GREAT! Thank you Robert (graditude) to you.

    Featured Workshop: Gaye Adams
030111_robert-genn Gaye Adams Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

My Secret Trees

acrylic painting by Alice Larsen, Sebastopol, CA, 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 Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki of Port Moody, BC, Canada, who wrote, “My ex-dealer used to say things like, “You shouldn’t mix long and short brushstrokes in one painting.” My good dealer says, “Don’t ever make decisions based on what I say, but I wouldn’t be able to explain to clients why some of your paintings are done in oil and others in acrylic.” And also Rosemarie Manson of Smithfield, RI, USA, who wrote, “Exploration feeds my soul and keeps the juices flowing. Although I keep my mind open to exploration, I see commonalities in my work. Harnessing that adventure keeps me grounded.” And also Alex Nodopaka of Lake Forest, CA, USA, who wrote, “The whole ‘business’ about art is the lack of educated buyers. My suggestion is to present only one thematic portfolio at a time to a single ‘dealer’ while you, the artist, expand your mind and craft in many directions.” And also Brenda Behr of North Carolina, USA, who wrote, “I consider myself a painter of high medium diversity. The subject, the light, the time of day and my mood tell me how something should be executed. I am not a Photoshop filter that wishes to impose my style on all that inspires me.”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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