The Next Big Thing

Dear Artist, On Friday night, after I spoke to a group of painters in a distant city, a young woman came forward and asked, “As a painter of mostly rocks and trees, do you in any way follow current art trends to stay abreast of what’s going on, and if so, what, in your opinion, is happening, and what do you think will be the Next Big Thing?”

“With a certain arrogance”
mixed media
by Charlie Isoe

I’m not sure what I blurted out, but it was probably glib. I was signing books at the time and trying to remember my name. When things calmed down I looked up with the intent of giving her a decent answer, but she had mysteriously melted away. Even though I’m a small statuary gnome down at the bottom of the garden painting rocks and trees, I’m totally interested in following the trends. I have been all my life. I particularly love the mind-bending joy and challenge of installation art in practically all its forms–with the possible exception of displays that include raw meat. I’m particularly fascinated by the art and the sociology in magazines such as Modern Painters and Juxtapoz. And yes, since I’ve been reading these and others, I’ve been able to follow a few of the trends. Over the years I’ve often been told about the Next Big Thing. During the last decade the painting department has seen a great resurgence of figurative art. This has actually brought a lot of brilliant young draftsmen and draftswomen to the fore. Add to this the requisite anger, protest, mixed metaphors and casual nihilisms and you have some pretty interesting stuff. Dribble-downs, sore-looking mouths, sensuality, drugs, inner demons, religion and human fluids are all the rage. Charlie Isoe, a young, big-painter of Berlin and now of Amsterdam has been anointed one of the “Next.” So you can get an idea of at least one branch of NBT we’ve put some of his recent work at the bottom of this letter. Getting back to my lecture, if that young woman ever reappears I’ll tell her we’re currently enjoying a complex of variety, novelty and retro. Drawing, decoration, design, mindlessness, off-the-wall goofiness and thick paint are all in style, as well as anything that might upset your grandmother.

“The namedropper”
mixed media
by Charlie Isoe

Best regards, Robert PS: “I shot a tractor by mistake. A tractor is quite big. I don’t really shoot animals these days. I don’t like to, and I don’t need to.” (Charlie Isoe) Esoterica: Hand in hand, museum-feed and collector-feed thrives on what is perceived to be new product. It’s a sacred trust between the imaginative and the entrepreneurial. The object of the latter is to gain control of the former. The object of the former is to keep going. Anticipating, predicting and developing NBT is the game. Hype helps. Now I’m going back down to the bottom of the garden.   Charlie Isoe

mixed media painting


“The ugly consequence”
mixed media painting


“New York George”
mixed media painting


“Rotten thing to say”
mixed media painting

            Stop looking for it by Bob Ragland, Denver, CO, USA  

by Bob Ragland

There ain’t no next big thing in my opinion. Sunday Morning TV last Sunday showed artists using everything to make “art.” Hey, Robert Rauschenberg already covered that ground. Everything after that is, well, er repetition. Artists need to just make what they make, and stop looking for the next big thang.     There are 2 comments for Stop looking for it by Bob Ragland
From: Marvin Humphrey — Apr 30, 2010

Bob, you’ve nailed it. Many artists are so hung up about NOT repeating anything, that they tie themselves up in their own “Originality” straitjacket.

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Apr 30, 2010

Bang on Bob … just do art for the fun of creating art ;D

  Just make it good by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Birdshop set”
acrylic painting
by John Ferrie

The thing about the “next big thing” is by the time anyone knows it is the “thing,” everyone has moved on to discover the next “next big thing.” Call it a Flash in the Pan, a trend or just the current hot spot. It happens in art, fashion, Movies and Politics. And what may seem like something HOT one day is quickly the dark side of the moon the next. “I love it, I hate it” are the catch phrases that make someone famous. But, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than good quality work. The thing about being “hot” is there are decades of work and acres of canvas that the artist has done. Then the ‘system” wants more work and they want it right away. There is no way anyone is going to sit up and take notice of the second wave of the “big thing” when the work is just half baked. There is 1 comment for Just make it good by John Ferrie
From: sharon cory — Apr 30, 2010

Love the painting

  Copycatism by Pepper Hume, Spring, TX, USA  

Illustrations for ‘Sidney’

The interest in The Next Big Thing hits me with coincidence. I’m reading Russell Lynes’ 1949 book which deals largely with this very issue over the years. This 60-year-old book is full of observations that could have been made last week instead of 60 to 160 years ago. The trouble is, trying to be TNBT probably involves novelty for its own sake. Chasing TNBT smacks dangerously of copycatism. It’s the name of the game in Hollywood – when something original catches the public fancy and becomes TNBT, suddenly that becomes the thing to do. In the arts, what makes TNBT is actually marketers glomming onto something original, whether it has honest foundation or is the aforementioned novelty, and selling it to the public. Mr. Lynes points out more than once that TNBT is often a flash in the pan and soon fades from sight. It boils down to the artist’s ultimate concept of success. Do you want to make a lot of money and live well or find your own voice and just possibly contribute to big A-art? Sure, it’s disheartening if you never sell, but is that why you make art? There are 3 comments for Copycatism by Pepper Hume
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 29, 2010

Yes- Pepper- I make art to sell. I don’t make art to keep for myself. I make art to go away from me and have a life of its own because I don’t have any emotional attachment cords firmly affixed to my art. It is a free creation. I make art as my main daily ongoing creation experience. I EXPECT it to support me. It’s perfectly OK for it to support me. Anybody who thinks we make art just for FUN or for some other ridiculous reason isn’t willing to acknowledge that making art is WORK- and in this cultural system we can get paid for our work. And it’s totally OK. So until EVERYBODY who’s holding onto the dysfunctional starving artists belief system DUMPS IT and starts to make art TO SELL we’ll all continue to wallow in a culture that dis-values our work much of the time.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Apr 30, 2010

That is the rub though, isn’t it? I make art to sell-but to sell and to attract the public it has to be interesting, original, new, fresh. Am I going to glomm onto someone elses “fresh” ideas or trust in my ability and give myself time to think up my own?

From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 30, 2010

Art is communication: it should resonate with others. If it doesn’t, if it only talks to the artist, then it is therapy. Nothing wrong with that, therapy is good, necessary, even, but it ain’t art unless it can go out and speak to a wider audience. Something seen as unique may speak to that audience in a new way, or communicate an idea, or feeling, or explore a concept in a way that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes that’s the NBT. The world keeps changing; new issues arise, there’s probably always room for the NBT, and probably always those willing to jump on the NBT bandwagon without having anything new to add. Today, there are a lot of people making “art”, a lot of people buying it, and probably, as always, very few people with the gift to say anything new or communicate worthwhile ideas in a new way. Nothing’s changed. But with the internet, art magazines – and workshops aplenty, the access to the NBT, to new art, to communication in general, has exploded. Art should explore, energize and communicate. If it does that well, it should also sell.

  Be true to yourself by Deby Adair, Australia  

“Rielle and Pud”
original painting
by Deby Adair

Art is about individuality. If it flows and it really belongs to you, then I don’t have a problem with it. However, if an artist bases what they think they should do, so they can catch the whirlwind of a ‘trend’ or flavor of the month, in opposition to what they actually really want to create; then the end result might indeed shock, might even be acclaimed, may even make them millions but, in effect, defeat the entire purpose of following their art. If anyone is ‘in’ art to catch the Next Big Thing, then you’ve already robbed yourself of your purpose. By all means, keep abreast of whatever ‘it’ is, be interested, look at it, critique but unless you create the Next Big Thing because it really means something to you, please don’t jump on to a meaningless bandwagon of artifice. It will be bound to offend the artists out there who are busy doing what they love, and, invariably, as in some unfortunate exhibitions that occur, it will offend the eye of everyone other than your mother. Be true to yourself. There are 2 comments for Be true to yourself by Deby Adair
From: Pepper — Apr 30, 2010

Well said! Your last paragraph really hit it. To paraphrase dear old Polonius (Hamlet): Neither a copier nor a follower be. To your own muse be true. Copiers and followers never set trends, they’re always behind.

From: linda mallery — Apr 30, 2010

I love your painting! It looks like its in the middle of a wonderful story for children,very exciting, makes me want to read the book.

  The NBT secret council by Susan Holland, Bellevue, WA, USA   It would be interesting to know who it is who determines what will be “the next big thing.” I do know that in the fashion industry, there are clutches of merchandising experts who have critical forums on what colors should be becoming fashionable in the next three to five years, and they collude to “push” those colors (different from the current ones, of course) into the public view as what’s right at the front edge of haute couture, so then the regular people follow along and we have a new Big Thing that makes a lot of money for the fashion industry. (Everyone has to empty their closets of that frumpy last year’s stuff and get the cool stuff. Often the school kids lead in the trends… “Oh, PULEEZE, Mom… all the kids are wearing them.”) I wonder who is in the back room deciding it’s time for figurative to come back, (personally I say “Yay”) and who is pushing the angsty, drippy, horror show figurative stuff — pushing the envelope — trying to move folks by shock to throw out the frumpy old tame paintings and get some cool ones. Usually it seems the historically significant trends are brought on by a big movement in the arts that is based on the spirit of the times. Art that is in some consistent way welcomed by a receptive “in group” (read “patrons”) who declare that it’s collectible and valuable. There are certain Big Things that stay big. Why do we still gawk at Leonardo da Vinci and Boticelli, and Van Gogh and Hokusai? If we can work on THAT question we will be better served in our souls, and maybe eventually in our wallets.   Attuning to the real world
by A. Robert Malcom, Tampa, FL, USA   Actually, the ‘next big thing’ is not rehashing of the SOT (same old thing) but in different colors, which is basically (judging from the example you gave) disrespect for being human, and more of the gory idiocy which pervades the post-modern nihilists. No, the real next big thing is one which has been creeping slowly up from underneath the filth and bland and rehashing of the ordinary or depraved. It is a glorification of the real world, the human world in all its rational (which is to say, human) possibilities. A world of self-responsibility instead of dependency, of enlightenment to being human, not lowering to the animal, the egoisms of the true individuals aggregating peacefully with each other, where the artists show the world of intimacy and objective joy and flourishing of the non-sacrificial. It is of the recognition of the sum-plus with the whole of the universe eventually to explore and use to the advancement of our well-being. And where old techniques can take renewed use in the showing, not in recycling worn mythologies and fantasies, or hatreds of what is, but attuned to the real world and relishing it. There are 2 comments for Attuning to the real world by A. Robert Malcom
From: Debra Ward — Apr 30, 2010

Well said, brother! The thing is,there are some artists’ whose experience of real world intimacy is a killing field. Many tortured souls out there and the shell shock drives the work up and out into the public forum. Do we need to slam it or buy it? No, we observe in compassion and move along. You and I occupy the world as a welcoming petri dish of optimism and advancement. This, the incubator I live and work in, quietly hums along. The nihilist’s world view takes the center stage for a brief time, then extinguishes itself. The rest of us walk our paths, keeping pace to nothing but our own heartbeats and, just possibly, soothe the world, painting by painting.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — May 01, 2010

Thank you, Debra.

  Blood gore and more of the same by Adolfo McQue, South Africa   Yes realism is back, with a vengeance. It is much easier to create an impact with a realist technique understood by all but the message carried is one of death and negative feelings, the sad part is most of these artists are totally dishonest and only want to be noticed. Political art is out, too incorrect, nothing much to revel against in the Western world, (or no money in it). Please guys do not be happy when you paint it may show in your work, be sad and think of every morbidity possible, it’s the way to fame, blood gore and more of the same. Francis Bacon said it all much better and he was an original and a really tormented soul. There are 2 comments for Blood gore and more of the same by Adolfo McQue
From: L. Anne McClelland — Apr 30, 2010

Adolfo – I completely agree about Francis Bacon – looking at the works of Charlie Isoe I see Bacon but with less impact and clarity of purpose. Goya, Hollowitz …. lots of people have painted powerfully dark images but images with content much more complex than the anger untempered by pathos I feel in Isoe’s work.

From: David Thompson — May 02, 2010

I think you do him too much credit to speak of anger here. There is no real emotion, even such a negative one as anger, just a cynical post modern irony. The artist is saying in effect: “I know beauty is not a serious subject for art nowadays but I will play with it and subvert it to show how clever I am and how well I have read the modernist critics”. It is art which says nothing but strives merely to look as modern art should,it is painting to justify theory. Thoroughly cynical and empty and in that respect totally modern.

  Hoola hoops and pet rocks by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA  

“Dressed to dance”
watercolour painting
by Jan Ross

Consider this: my state just had its own ‘revolution’ as the powers-that-be were about to dissolve ANY funding for the arts. The public schools in my county have just let go over 500 teachers, including those who specialize in areas outside the 3 ‘r’s, so that means the average child in a public school is not being exposed to art on a regular basis, as those of previous generations. Museums, art associations and galleries are dying. With that in mind, one has to wonder if future generations will have enough interest in visual art, much less knowledge of the masters, or the basics of how creating art, to even CARE about anything more than, “I know what I like when I see it.” I do not doubt that creative, innovative minds will continue to be born, and the hunger to create will exist, but I believe the overall population’s perspective on art will match those who consider bumper stickers ‘literature.’ For that reason, I believe the tried and true will prevail. Who doesn’t like rocks and trees, waterfalls, portraits and familiar objects? Obviously, paintings on velvet appeal to some people as they still exist, go figure. Like the hoola hoop and pet rocks, the craze will not last long (but garden gnomes will always rule!). There are 4 comments for Hoola hoops and pet rocks by Jan Ross
From: Helen Tilston — Apr 30, 2010

I laughed out loud at your last sentence. A beautifully expressed letter and may the garden gnomes continue to protect us

From: Sarah — Apr 30, 2010

You raise an important point. More and more schools are cutting art education, as states tilt towards bankruptcy. The generalized media, even in art sections/sound bites, focuses on the “art” of movies, theatre and music. Except for artists who sell, and those who read art magazines, who would know that TNBT is? Here’s to garden gnomes!

From: anonymous — Apr 30, 2010

I have a theory about art programs being cut down in schools. Art lovers are not good soldiers. When you intentionally underexpose children to art – the country might be preparing for times of war. I hope I am wrong.

From: Nancy Gould, Prince Rupert, BC — Apr 30, 2010

Not that you need my adulation, your comment and your painting are beautifuly composed and well stated. Thanks for the pleasure of both.

  Not led around by L. Anne McClelland, Mountain View, AB, Canada  

original painting
by L. Anne McClelland

Although, like you, I find it interesting to see what other people are doing in quest of the Holy Next Big Thing I’m quite happy to remain on the outside of all that fuss and just follow the old axiom “To thine own self be true.” I have no patience or interest in attempting to utilize ‘this season’s colour trends or other fashion ideals. I find it fulfilling enough to explore my inner world as well as the things that I find beautiful in the outside world. I am being true to myself painting the little things that catch my eye rather than being led around like a bull by the nose in order to mimic or attempt to compete with people who are high stepping on the wave of the NBT. There are always new things to discover — I don’t believe you have to search that far to find your own direction. Maybe I’m just a bullish individualist, an outsider, a mad painting fool, or perhaps a person who simply finds sufficient reward in my own life and immediate environment. Perhaps I’m over 50 and have released most of my adolescent angst already. Good luck and good fortune to those who wish to surf the big waves but I’m a life long beachcomber quite happy to putter about sifting through the flotsam and jetsam in my own little back eddy of the world — occasionally finding rounded stones and small treasures of quiet beauty in places and people and creatures not normally seen from the fast lane. There are 3 comments for Not led around by L. Anne McClelland
From: L. Anne McClelland — Apr 29, 2010

Just in case anyone is wondering – the three chicken painting is now titled “THE CONVERSATION” and is an acrylic painting.

From: Anonymous — Apr 30, 2010

From one of the gnomes over 70 very well said.Good looking Reds too..

From: georgianne fastaia — May 08, 2010

” Go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. ” to this discussion comes the answer from Rilke, resolute and matter of factly.

  [fbcomments url=””]    woa  

French River Town

oil painting by Bonnie Mincu

  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 Elisabeth Seeger of Seattle, WA, USA, who wrote, “Who cares? The Next Big Thing changes every 5 minutes. I paint what I love — the play of light and color on mostly rocks and trees!” And also Nicole Rigets of West Vancouver, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Isoe: Francis Bacon meets Emmett Kelly!! Well Resolved — I admire the titles.” And also Peggy Small of Gibsons, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Who’d want it on their walls?”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The Next Big Thing

From: Cheryl Lyona — Apr 26, 2010

In all of the blogs, art articles and writings I have read throughout my life, yours is the most thought provoking and intelligent. What you provide is an incredible forum of discussion on so many topics within art – not just how to, but also what happens when, and the why(s) of making art. As an artist of many years, I question and reply upon occasion…but your words seem particularly timely as well in the processes of making and showing art. Just wanted to say thank you for your letters, your sharing of it all for everyone to participate – it is good of you.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 26, 2010

Though I don’t really have any idea of what either of my own late grandmothers might think of my body of work- I’ve been disturbing grandmothers (in general) with my work for a very long time! I sort of get that little “I’ve succeeded again” inner voice of wicked glee if I actually get to witness somebody’s grandmother approaching a catatonic state after having viewed my work!

From: Ted Duncan — Apr 27, 2010

Is this not Francis Bacon revisited?

From: Darla — Apr 27, 2010

Susan Holland wrote that “a big movement in the arts . . . is based on the spirit of the times.” I think people now are a little scared and insecure, and want to see something that is real, genuine and basic. Hence the renewed interest in figurative art. Figurative art leavened by stylization or a touch of the abstract seems to get your idea across very effectively. It’s not really going back to “the good old days” so much as a search for something that is more real than the platitudes and spin that we see from media and politicians these days. Sometimes a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 27, 2010

I like Susan Holland’s thought-provoking take on the significant “what’s next” and “what has been”, and who determines both. I’d like to naively think that the cream rises to the top, but she’s right: the cream is filtered through the “deciders”: the curators, collectors and gallerists who give their blessing to one or another art star of the day. I’d like to think that in the context of a longer historical view, that the Damien Hirsts, Jeff Koons, Tracy Emins and Andrew Wyeths of the day may become mere footnotes. I think Robert’s “Esoterica” comment sums it up: the conspiracy between museums and collectors, with a good dose of hype, drives today’s “art market.” There may be different players in today’s art game (in the past it was popes and princes) but I’ve no doubt that the same machinations have been going on for a long time. Let’s not forget, as well, that most of the historically significant painters we revere today, were what we would describe as “commercial” artists: they mostly painted on commission, for patrons. Today we may idolize the artists who create and interpret their angst-riddled vision of the world, unfettered (sort of) by crass commercial realities. In the meantime, I think I will join Robert at the foot of the garden and paint to explore the ideas that move and challenge me, and hope they resonate and find an audience.

From: Dwight Williams — Apr 27, 2010

Good for Brigitte and Robert. After more than 70 years at this artsy sport, the foot of the garden is the REAL place to be.

From: Margaret van Gurp — Apr 27, 2010

I am a mother of 6 children and now have 5 greatgrandchildren, am 83 years old and still love the newer styles of painting, I started making art when I was 6 years old and am still painting, drawing and sculpting.

From: Jackie Knott — Apr 27, 2010

Disturbing a patron and leaving them with angst was never my goal. I get what he’s doing and however well done, I would have trouble looking at Mr. Isoe’s work over coffee in the morning. I want my work to be easy to live with like a comfortable robe and slippers, something you grow fonder of over the years. Unless the Newest Big Thing becomes a real movement, such as Impressionism, isn’t it no more than a fad that will pass just as fast? Or rather, an artist developing a painting style so characteristic he or she cannot be confused with anyone else?

From: Linda C dumas — Apr 27, 2010

I loved both my grandmothers very much, and would never want to horrify them – but I wouldn’t mind puzzling them a little…

From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 27, 2010

While I try to refrain from disparaging remarks about anyone and their work, lest I be gessoed with the same brush, and while I respect both Robert’s ideas and those of other artists he presents for us, I have to say that I believe he made a mistake in Mr. Isoe’s name. I believe he may have meant to refer to “Charlie Isore”.

From: ralph hislop — Apr 27, 2010

I have always considered you to be a fine painter of rocks and trees,and I have always enjoyed your twinkle.Now I see that you are a master of self control,something else to be admired. Be well. Ralph Hislop.

From: Betsy — Apr 27, 2010

Mr. Isoe’s reference to Mr. Bacon dominates the rectangles submitted. The NBT used to be about having something NEW to say.

From: Bill Cramer — Apr 27, 2010

I’ve heard it said that art should drive art, not the galleries or art critics. However, I suspect it hasn’t been that way for a very long time. I see the influence of Bacon and Egon Schiele in works by Isore. Nothing wrong in that, “borrowing” is a time honored practice.

From: Antoinette Ledzian — Apr 27, 2010

RG, your sense of humor is part of my daily food group. If you decide to go commercial with your gnome, please put one aside for me . . . I would bow to it every time I go into my garden!

From: James — Apr 27, 2010

If the NBT is giving me the “willies”, Mr. Isoe has succeeded.

From: Henryk Ptasiewicz — Apr 27, 2010

I really don’t have a clue, and I’m continuing on my own path anyway, but, I have noticed that draughtsmanship is coming back to Fine Art, as well as the influence of Graffiti and Manga. My theory is that a lot of people who would have pursued a career in the illustration field have turned to painting, and at the same time as people have grown tired of “anything goes” in the name of Art. A lot of contemporary Chinese painters who can also really draw and paint well, have pushed the standards right up there. I too read as much as I can get my hands on and would like to add “Hi Fructose” to your list, as well as any good Photography, Design and Architecture publications, in fact there isn’t much that isn’t well designed and valuable these days. I still believe in good craftsmanship, and last but not least, let people buy what they like.

From: Gerry P — Apr 27, 2010

Living in the boondocks as I do, I am dependent on books and the internet for world intelligence. Meanwhile, I am back to struggling with my traditional landscapes.

From: Margé Drew — Apr 27, 2010

Charlie Isoe seems to be influenced by a movie and is recreating the JOKER in his paintings. It is sort of like when people use to draw mustaches on posters. Sure hope this is really not the new direction or trend of art. It also has a rather slash and burn sort of feel but than guess that the JOKER was a pretty bad dude.

From: Alice Church — Apr 27, 2010

After reading the above comments and seeing the C. Isoe painting, may I be so bold as to enter a quote by Dwayne Harty, an artist? The sentence I saved is his comment on “ART” ….’it’s purpose being to elevate our lives with beauty’ And Renoir, who is quoted as saying ‘why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.’ I plan to continue painting what pleases me and gives joy to others. So I will die poor, but only in a monetary sense. My riches are in my heart, not my wallet.

From: Suzette Fram — Apr 27, 2010

“Charlie Isore” indeed. If Mr. Isoe is the NBT, heaven help us. I find his work ugly and disturbing. There is enough ‘ugly and disturbing’ in our world frankly, what we need is beauty and serenety.

From: Darla — Apr 27, 2010

Most of what we hear on the news is disturbing. If that was the only way we got information, we’d be in a sad, hopeless mood all the time. Fortunately, we’ve got our own eyes and the eyes of other artists to show us a wider perspective — despair, greed and anger are not the only possible responses to life. Art and music can show beauty without being hackneyed — how, it is up to the artists to figure out. There is beauty and magic in the real world. That’s the Next Big Thing.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Apr 27, 2010

Well- guess what! I produce work that is disturbing and serene at the same time. Gotta say- the ‘disturbing’ things that go on in this world every day make most people feel alive. Is that perverse in every sense- YES. But it’s how this game has been set up for a very long time. The likelihood that a state of serenity will just happen for everyone- so humans can live petty little undisturbed lives is zero. And boring. I spend my life creating BEAUTY- but it is absolutely my version of it. And I like the fact that it disturbs people. Serenity only happens within any given single human being. And it happens most profoundly by people who are having difficult lives- not easy ones.

From: Lea Daniel — Apr 27, 2010

I enjoy your letter and the feeling it brings of being connected to other artists. I must object, however, to the stereotypical “anything that might upset your grandmother.” As a comment it is both ageist and sexist. In my experience older people have seen and experienced so much it is quite difficult to shock them and the baby boom generation may well be unshockable. Ageism in all it’s forms is nasty and all too pervasive.

From: Sonja Donnelly — Apr 27, 2010

I guess I am part of the “upset your grandmother” group. I can’t bring myself to appreciate the art that is based on shock value. But then there is a buyer or follower for just about everything, if that is your goal, go for it. There is still a place for beauty, and perhaps a bigger need for beauty in these times of turmoil in the world. So I will continue to strive to that end, and if I am left in the dust, so be it.

From: Richard Smith — Apr 27, 2010

I think it’s interesting that Robert should note that the figure is coming back into vogue, but in some of the more avant garde styles. I’m a big fan of Juxtapoz myself and I noticed that while the face and figure may be folded, mangled and mutilated in many of the young modern painters works, they still play a prominent part. And many of these people seem to know what they’re doing. Quite the style contrast to a show I watched on the tube last night about the Abstract Expressionist school. Seems to me that some of the things that used to go into a good painting, or any piece of art, aren’t dead yet.

From: Nance Overdreux — Apr 29, 2010

I can barely stand to look at Bacon’s images. His imitators and those he’s influenced hold my attention even less. I don’t want to live with the ugly or tawdry. I can always turn on the television for that (and I rarely do). Isn’t the Next Big Thing really painters trying desperately to impress Art News critics, collector/entrepenuers such as Saatchi, the next big international invitational show, and the acquisition committees of modern arts museums? I’m sure that someone out there is producing highly original work in a vacuum, without market influences, but they probably aren’t living in lofts in major metropolitan areas, and are probably being called by adjectives such as folk or primitive or outsider. The best I can do is paint what I’d like to see. The evidence so far is that none of my work the Next Big Thing. As another trees and fields and water painter, I’m satisfied (so far) with beautiful triteness. Now if I can only get beyond the trite part of that!

From: Faith — Apr 29, 2010
From: Dennis — Apr 30, 2010

I could care less what the next big thing is. I have my interests,{subjects}, that I wish to explore. The result are paintings or drawings. If people respond to them fine. If they want to buy them that is great. If not I could care less. I do not get hung up on what is the “latest” from Art News or Art Forum. Looking through those magazines it seems that much of the art is nihilistic & self centered. I do not wish to be a part of that conversation. Charlie Isoe’s paintings are brutal and ugly much like Francis Bacon. I do respect his journey as an artist. If I were him I would not worry about the next big thing. Looking at his work it seems that he has his interests and is painting them. That is is the way that it should be. You know running after the train one can end tripping over their own two feet and end up missing the train altogether.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Apr 30, 2010

I thoroughly enjoy reading these letters and comments by everyone. I agree with some, and of course don’t agree with others. That is the way of the world! I don’t mind being shocked, but I don’t want to live with it. Nancy Overdreux said it very well and I believe my philosophy mostly aligns with hers and others that expressed similar thoughts. I am a painter of art that hopefully will show beauty, bring peace or joy, or memories of good times, or places a person would wish to go. In other words, it should make the viewer feel good, be thought provoking in a positive way. We have enough ugliness in this world for me and I do not wish to paint it. I am glad we are all different and wish to produce different kinds of art. The world would be a boring place if we were all alike in our likes and dislikes. And, I believe “The Next Big Thing” is something we might all think about, but might help us incorporate something new in our next work. We do all this without just trying to shock, or without totally leaving our self esteem behind. Shock value is just that! I don’t believe it really has any long range value. The Next Big Thing might be something of shock value, but it also might be a new and innovative approach to worthwhile art. When we attempt using that Next Big Thing in our own way, we modify it to our own handwriting or style. Then it becomes something totally different and maybe once again becomes another “Next Big Thing”. After its 15 minutes of fame, it is no longer the next big thing, but a thing of the past.

From: Suzette Fram — Apr 30, 2010

Answer to Faith: Faith, you missed the point. The misspelling of the name to ‘Isore’ (pronounced Eye Sore) was not an error but a suggestion that his paintings are just that.

From: Esther J. Williams — Apr 30, 2010

I think the next big thing is just to look back on what was and recycle it with a modern twist. Art is just like fashion, fashion styles recycle every 30 years, so the saying goes. Art styles do reflect but in a morphing fashion. I was watching a Sotheby’s Private video on an upcoming auction of impressionistic and modern works of the masters. There was a Matisse that caught my eye, the curator said it was his favorite, it expected to reach 18 million. It looked like a barely covered canvas with blobs of paint on it to form a flower vase that was in his studio. Matisse included the stretcher bars that happened to be propped up next to the table. The expert said that was a remarkable design choice. I laughed, it doesn’t matter what an artist does, as long as he pleases himself and follows his whims. There is much art being produced nowadays that shows lots of unfinished canvas and it’s widely accepted. See how we have reverted back to decades ago? I study the old masters, they do inspire me, but what is most important is to listen to your own voice inside and consciously make creative changes in your present artwork. It doesn’t have to be a crazy change either. If you make too crazy of a change, it does not become accepted easily. Beware of the fly-by-night ideas.

From: Lorraine Khachatourians — Apr 30, 2010

I think I am going to have to get a gnome for my garden this year. Maybe there will be a worldwide outbreak of them after this. And we will all know the reason. Thanks Robert. Needed the levity after a heavy week.

From: Denyse — Apr 30, 2010

Garden gnomes are the best painters, I agree :) As for the NBT, why don’t we just make whatever we happen to be doing at the time “IT”, then when all the hacks copy it, we just move on to something else ;-)

From: Marie Pinschmidt — Apr 30, 2010

My NBT is a painting so outstanding that someone will go without food in order to call it their own. I hope the NBT in art will be excellence in execution whether it be abstract, photorealism, etc., etc. My greatest desire is to improve my craft with each canvas. Fads come and go but the tried and true lives on.

From: Janice — Apr 30, 2010

I am recovering from a recent heart attack, and am forced to make big changes in my lifestyle. But I am looking forward to being able to create new and exciting art. I feel as though I have been given a second chance and you know how artist feel about another blank canvas- can’t wait to get my teeth into it.

From: Dorenda — May 02, 2010

Full speed ahead Janice! :) It sounds like you will accomplish many wonderful works!

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — May 03, 2010

I think an artist can set her own trend or a big bang of discovery when he/she tries innovation of her own.As Thomas Edison said of invention “it is one percent inspiration and ninety nine perspiration.” Who knows one maybe an artist by trying new trends discover a greatest shakedown of the arts.The examples of Charlie Isoe’s work left a dark eyesore in my mind .We are inundated already with horrific images from movies and others that I shiver when I see images like those.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — May 03, 2010

After the first and obvious Bacon association, I related my uneasiness with Isoe’s stuff as fear of what he might be predicting. His images depict what may be a reality of the future, not the images of love and beauty that most of us are creating and hoping that’s what the world will be like. It’s a bitter pill to take, but look at the Weimar movement and what followed.

From: Nicole Hyde — May 08, 2010

I’m intrigued by the new figurative trend — painters like Mr. Isoe, Alex Kanevsky, David Kassan, Ursula O’Farrell among others. Thanks for introducing me to Charlie’s work, Robert.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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