The price of popularity


Dear Artist,

The other day I was visiting a former painter who just happens to be an old friend. This fellow had some considerable success as a young man in New York and other places. At age 32 he shut down his studio and opened a restaurant. He has since gone on to other brilliant successes. “You really have the business side of art figured out,” he told me. “You’re an excellent businessman.” I told him that when I was in my twenties and making less than $400 a month from my paintings, the critics wrote that I was “a talented up-and-comer worth watching.” I also mentioned that when I started to make more than $400 a month they said I was an “excellent businessman.”

The convention continues. Among the intelligentsia and academia, it’s de rigueur to think this way. Art critics use up trees mentioning it. The favoured artists of many critics are congenitally broke, intellectually challenged and incompetent in all ways but art. Artists who happen to be poor-quality citizens or social basket cases are of particular value. Maybe some critics have “painting envy.” Maybe, down deep, they think creative folks just shouldn’t have it all.

To be fair, my idealistic friend found the life of an artist required too much “selling out.” “Catering” was not his game. Refusing to do what he called “potboilers,” he checked out, never to be seen in art circles again.

The recent passing of Andrew Wyeth reminded me once more of the situation. Andrew arose from a talented family that ate and slept art. He chose to be true to his rural roots and enjoyed a lifetime of love and laughter around Chadds Ford, PA. He earnestly explored his microcosmic world, kept sane and more or less sober until age 91, got mighty good at his craft and painted not a few American icons. Yet the critics never missed a chance to dump on him. The richer he got, the more they dumped.

“Making a fortune,” says critic Michael Kimmelmann, “allowed Wyeth to play a familiar American role — the free-thinking individualist who at the same time represented the “vox populi.” As bohemianism itself became institutionalized, Wyeth encapsulated the artistic conservative’s paradoxical idea of cultural disobedience through traditional behavior.” A self-admitted “good promoter,” Wyeth was also a good painter — a fact enthusiastically embraced by a world of collectors. Quality baffles.

Best regards,


PS: “What you have to do is break all the rules.” (Andrew Wyeth)

Esoterica: Fact is, you don’t necessarily have to sell out to be a success. Sure, conservative reality rings the cash register, but exploring one’s personal reality can be a lifelong love affair made gracious by hard-earned days of electrifying joy. Sensitive collectors pick up on this. In a sense collectors are way ahead of critics because their emotions harmonize with their chosen art and artists. Critics, often “sold out” by their need to dump controversial ink, are different folks than the wide world of untrammelled collectors who cave in to their legitimate needs.


Artists and patrons
by Donald Demers, Eliot, ME, USA


“Atlantic Crossing”
oil painting
by Donald Demers

According to those critics, I suppose Michel Angelo and Leonardo De Vinci were popular “sell outs” to those popes. It doesn’t appear that their art was inferior because it had a strong audience. Those critics should look beyond their self-indulgent pseudo-intellectualism and see that artists and patrons have had healthy creative relationships for centuries while the critics sit on the side lines and criticize.

There is 1 comment for Artists and patrons by Donald Demers

From: Bob Ragland — Feb 04, 2009

On the selling out thing, I noticed in my art career, the people who like to use the term, have never paid for any of my food or heat. I just ignore the selling out comment and sell some more work. If selling well is selling out, so be it.

I do know one thing for certain, no matter what you do , somebody won’t like it.

The best thing to do is to ARTON!!!!!!!

That’s how I feel and I ‘m sticking to it.


The Artist Continuum
by Toni Ciserella, Marysvale, UT, USA


“Dad’s goat”
by Toni Ciserella

Art critics are just another part of the Artist Continuum. They possibly have too much education and not enough talent. Other artists have been bestowed with more than enough talent and less than enough business or social savvy. Tenacity may be the strong suit, or possibly enormous amounts of drive and ambition. Robert, you and Andrew seem to have landed right smack in the center with a good amount of everything. Across the palette of art and the spectrum of life there is infinite color. Fortunate for us? Lucky for the world. (I happen to have been splashed with a tad too much Alizarin Crimson — of which I spend a lot of time trying to tone down.)




Cultural or Commercial?
by Pat Hart, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada


“Enchanted Land of the Fairies”
by Pat Hart

This letter hit a raw nerve. It’s not only critics who subscribe to the idea that artists should wallow in poverty and “enjoy” lack of commercial success — or any success. So do governments: in this case, the B.C. Government masquerading as the Gaming Commission. (Let’s not think about the Feds.) This probably touches quite a few arts organizations.

Case in point: Gabriola Arts Council recently had funding refused for the annual Thanksgiving Studio Tour. Reason given: during the highly successful (meaning LOADS of people from just about everywhere attended) 2007/8 Tours, one or two artists actually sold some work. Disgusting! How dare they?? In the government’s eyes, this makes the Tour a COMMERCIAL rather than CULTURAL event, despite the fact that the majority rarely do more than cover expenses. Aside from the artists and artisans taking part, there were also writers, poets, actors and musicians giving (mostly free) readings and performances around the island. How commercial, crass and uncultured can we get??

When, where and how do painting, sculpture, ceramics and fabric arts, etc., stop being part of our ‘culture’? When they are ‘sold’?

There is 1 comment for Cultural or Commercial? by Pat Hart

From: Jaleen Grove — Feb 03, 2009

Re: Cultural or Commercial

This makes me so mad! A lot of Canadian culture-gurus are still caught in the 1950s High Modernism paradigm that willfully denies that so-called “non-commercial” art has any commercial interest at all. Really, it’s just an excuse to hold certain artists at bay. The discrimination is based on nothing more than taste, and taste is and has always been linked to class conflict. I’m sorry the Gabriola artists are getting shafted.


Artists at the helm
by Kevin Obregon


“Pool blue”
original painting
by Kevin Obregon

Once upon a time, I was working with another well-known artist installing a large sculpture on the grounds of a museum in Dallas, Texas. While waiting for the crane to make its way down the crooked avenue to place the piece on its spot, we smoked cigarettes, drank coffee and mused about critics and collectors.

I basically came up with this metaphor: “Artists who dare remain are at the helm of their own vessel, both steering and standing at the very bow where calm waters are broken and clarity is at its most pristine. We are the wake-makers. While we’re making waves, they’re surfing our chop.” This is accompanied by a drawing on a piece of cardboard of a boat progressing forward and the dotted “buoys” of those who wait in the wake of our work. Then, there’s the timing. That is, that by the time they receive our wake, we’ve already moved on — ever forward and sometimes having to break the ice.

When I saw the crane arriving, I realized that while one artist might be calling up friends to borrow a pick-up truck, another might call up a crane rental company. It’s all proportionate, I thought. This sculptor who was making more money than I was at the time, didn’t change his collectorship — or his work ethics — with his gradual wealth, it allowed him to scale his work in size and, more importantly, scale up his solutions. So while he was making more for his pieces, he was having to spend more to place them in people’s lives. So goes the internal combustion chambers of art-making. We should all be so lucky.


Andrew Wyeth fan
by Karen R. Phinney, Halifax, NS, Canada


“The yellow chair”
original painting
by Karen R. Phinney

I too am a huge Andrew Wyeth fan. When I was a young woman just out of high school I discovered Wyeth’s work in a magazine (late ’60s) …my mother bought me a set of prints that was being offered by mail-in order (I still have them). I was moved and inspired as an artistic young person, by his work, and the moods it evoked. When in Pennsylvania years ago, I got an opportunity to go to the gallery in Chadd’s Ford and see his work (that was in ’78). Many years later in the late ’90s, I went to a gallery in Rockport, Maine, and saw more of his work. By then my mother was dead, but she was with me that day as I, glassy-eyed, walked through the gallery, looking at “old friends” for the first time, not in a book. It was a pilgrimage. The lovely docent gentleman I spoke to directed me to the Olsen farm, where my friend and I were able to walk around, and were treated to a tour by the somewhat crusty octogenarian, Betsy Wyeth’s brother. He told us stories of Andrew painting there. I have three books of Wyeth’s work, and I love them. My style is nothing like his, but yet I know he influenced me, if only in making me want to paint and do my best.

Thank you for mentioning him, he is an iconic artist of the 20th century. He influenced many, and reintroduced high realism again I think, after years of abstract work being the dominant style! I live in Nova Scotia, and there are a few artists who have been around for years, including Tom Forrestal and Ken Tolmie, who I am sure were influenced by him. There are others too, whose work reminds me of him. It is so typical of the “critics” to slag such a person whose work was filled with passion for his surroundings and the people he knew also. But the public follows its heart, thank God. They don’t always follow the dictates of the “cognoscenti”!


Photographing Wyeths
by Max Mckenzie, Chattanooga, TN, USA


original painting
by Max Mckenzie

Before my retirement to full time painting, I was a photographer and was privileged to photograph many of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings for the Southeast representative of the Wyeth family. He certainly did break many of the rules for painting, at least from my point of view. His composition was completely different from any thing that I been taught and hard edges seemed to prevail when soft edges would have been better to show some distance, and color went from brilliant to what in the world was he thinking. Yet I could not escape the fact that his paintings sold for hundreds of thousands and some for even millions of dollars and I was wondering if I could pay my rent on time. I never knew him on a personal basis, only through his art, but I will miss him.



Down-to-earth legends
by Dustin Curtis, Decatur, AL, USA


“Alpha Male”
original painting
by Dustin Curtis

On a similar note, I was reading my SouthWest Art magazine the other day and they had an issue on “Legends of Fine Art.” Some of the names of the legends they selected are very familiar; Howard Terpning, G. Harvey, David Leffel, James Bama, Alyce Frank, Richard Schmid, to name a few of them. To be selected these artists had to be over 70 years old with considerable success. Part of that success is financial of course. Several of them are even in their 80’s and still working and selling for very high prices (even in the millions in a few cases). What struck me is how “normal” all of them appear. By normal I mean they are not starving, they are actually very prosperous and healthy and seem to have great attitudes. They appear very down-to-earth, even humble in many cases. They are hard-working and are skilled in drawing and painting. How’s that for the critics? In addition, they are obviously not worried about retirement, which many of them could be in right now.

I wonder why more artists don’t look around and see what can be accomplished with hard work and focus. As an artist myself, I wonder what would happen if more of us quit whining and complaining, learned how to really draw and paint, focused, got really good at the business part, and painted until we were in our 80’s or 90’s. What more can an artist ask for? To take a spin on a familiar quote: Those who can’t, criticize and complain.

There is 1 comment for Down-to-earth legends by Dustin Curtis

From: Ralph Legros — Feb 03, 2009

Great insights Dustin! You are my man! Happy painting.


Great art never dies
by Laurence Gartel


“Slasher series”
original painting
by Laurence Gartel

As a Pioneer of Digital Art for over 30 years, I am now receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award called the FOTO MENTOR during the Fotofusion 2009 event taking place in Delray Beach this week. My career started out working side by side with video guru Nam June Paik at Media Study/Buffalo in upstate New York. Back then there were no personal computers, no commercial software programs, no scanners, digital cameras or printers. I worked on analog systems tweaking knobs and buttons and photographed the screen with a still camera on a tripod. The rest is Art History — Paik went on to write the Introduction to my first book, Laurence M. Gartel: A Cybernetic Romance published by Gibbs Smith, Utah, in 1989.

My second book was published by Edizioni Mazzotta, in Milan, Italy with Introduction written by the brilliant art historian and critic Pierre Restany.

In 1998 I was honored for Lifetime Achievement (a decade earlier) by the Chancellor of Austria, Viktor Klima at the Editions of Art Fair in Innsbruck. I tell you all this because this country is ever soooo “slowwwww.” We don’t get great art, until it reaches big money and then suddenly people pay attention. In other countries artists are considered national treasures. Now that I get serious dollars for my work (30 or more years later) seems that everyone is waking up from the slumber that has been eclipsed by pop art celebrity-ism. Because I lived in that era, it was all vapor in the art world. With the current bail-out, we now see exactly what that is all about. Everything does indeed come to light. Great art as you have pointed out, never dies and lives to tell the story another day.


Evolution of art at risk
by Victor Pytko


“Woodward & Grand River”
acrylic painting
by Victor Pytko

Few artists can afford to live by the notion that their only purpose is to create art creatively. Taking time to be an art businessperson may be a survival necessity, but not producing means straying from the pathway of discovery, invention, or innovation. The forward momentum of art and its makers is retarded.

While the making of art is a process, the business of art is a practice. When it has to exist — admittedly, the artist does have to eat or support a lifestyle — the relationship is symbiotic. But, few artists and art business persons really enjoy the coupling. At best, it works out and there is mutual satisfaction. Popularity and a viable income flow. At worst, a match is never made. In between, the ups and downs of typical relationships make making a living uneven and difficult for both participants.

Still, for those artists who succeed in pairing, the making of art often is directed, heavily influenced, or somewhat affected by the business of art, a siren that leads the artist off course. Oh, art may be produced, and it may be successful as defined by the marketplace, but if art is not groundbreaking or attempting innovation, the continuing evolution of art is at greater risk.

As academics track the history of art, one sees a trend line that follows the development from cave paintings, to the Renaissance and Impressionism, right up to today’s video and performance art. By extending the trend line, you might glimpse the future of art, but that vision very likely will be flawed because of personal bias, technologies not yet invented, warfare, climatic change… well, you get the picture.

However, what artists produce today most certainly will be tracked and categorized tomorrow and only then can we know if we succeeded in moving art forward, what face we put on art and whether it was the main branch or a terminated branch. If we live so long, we may know, but the danger is, becoming a part time or full time art business person lessens our contribution and makes our knowing less likely.


Expertise unappreciated
by Kathy Weber, RI, USA


“flowers for Valentine”
original painting
by Kathy Weber

I entered a show at a local museum renowned (locally) for its annual show of work by members. To submit a painting you have to buy a membership, so I spent $60.00 for the entry fee and membership. Yesterday I went to pick up my rejected painting and got a glimpse of some of the accepted work. While there were some good pieces, there were also some very amateurish paintings of garden gnomes and dogs. My heart sinks every time I see show jurors decide to go with “outsider” art instead of paintings that are done with some expertise and practiced knowledge of color, composition, value, brushwork, etc. I have to believe they don’t know anything about the very hard work that goes into perfecting your craft.

There are 2 comments for Expertise unappreciated by Kathy Weber

From: Julie Roberts — Feb 02, 2009

My art teacher who has been a juror explained that a show needs to have a balanced representation of mediums. In other words perhaps 10 each of oils, watercolours, pastels, etc. Then there has to be a variety of subject matter, so only a certain number of flower boquets, boats, or animal portraits. Then there are jurors with individual likes and dislikes such as no coloured mattes, or no fancy frames that enhance the product. Your ‘flowers for Valentine’ is exquisite.

From: Rick Rotante — Feb 05, 2009

Kathleen – Once a first place finisher of mine in one show didn’t even get a mention at a later date in another show. I wouldn’t worry too much. In the end, YOU know when your work is good the rest is politics, envy and prejudice.


Potential buyers
by Peggy Guichu, Phoenix, AZ, USA


original painting
by Peggy Guichu

I wrote a blog recently about a potential buyer possibly being a “Be Back.” If you aren’t familiar with this term, I’m referring to the person that comes up to you at an show, spends eons of your time talking about how much they love your work and when the time comes to close the sale they need to talk to their significant other and will “be back.” Well, I was right about the man in my blog. He told my gallery owner, when she approached him about the paintings he had chosen for his new house, that he had changed his mind because he didn’t feel that he should be responsible for supporting all the starving artists. Your statement, “Maybe, down deep, they think creative folks just shouldn’t have it all,” really made sense. Even though my family considers me an eccentric artist, I’ve always felt that I’m way too stable and grounded to be a successful artist. I just don’t feel like cutting off my ear to make a sale.

There are 5 comments for Potential buyers by Peggy Guichu

From: Ion Danu — Feb 02, 2009

Your last phrase is not a very gentle one. Vincent Van Gogh did not cut his ear to make a sale. neither did he sold much…and it,s not the cutting of ears which make him what he is now, postumously… I certainly can understand your bitterness (which is mine too) as to buyers like that, and art merchants (Vincent had harsh words about them too) and, generally, about the unfair and totally arbitrary art market – or almost. still, don

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Feb 03, 2009

Actually, we probably only know who Vincent is because his brother, to whom he sent his paintings, died shortly after him, and the widow made a huge effort to—market— Vincent’s work. She was rather successful. Hooray for the non-artist marketing person!

From: Suzette Fram — Feb 03, 2009

We’ve all had those viewers who spend a lot of time talking to you and seem really interested, and in the end walk away to ‘check with their spouse’ or ‘go measure the space to see if it will fit’. I have come to the conclusion that they are people who are lonely, or have too much time on their hands and they’re really just enjoying an afternoon out, and have no intention of buying anything. And yes, that can be really disappointing for any artist.

From: Kevin Obregon — Feb 03, 2009

I tend to agree with the sentiment regarding the “Be Backs” of gallery openings, in that many are perhaps lonely, while many are perhaps wanting to know the artist a bit more before they decide. I make a pact with myself on opening nights, that more than anything, I want to meet new people and share my story. The art comes later. The decisions to buy (note I do not call them “buyers”) may or may not come, but with that ethos, there comes a realization that people tend to buy for visual reasons as much as they buy for personal reasons. They will invest in you-the-artist as much as they will invest in a piece of work they enjoy, provided you give them a reason to enjoy you-the-artist.

From: Bob Ragland — Feb 04, 2009


Art is a luxury?
by Deb Marvin, Worcester, MA, USA


watercolour painting
by Deb Marvin

I was watching the evening news the other night and the Republic House Minority leader was criticizing the inclusion of $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts. As he was speaking and saying that at times like these art is a luxury, I realized that he, and so many others, do not see art-making as a career, a job, employment, etc. The reality is that an artist is a one-person small business. (Okay — some artists are so successful they hire others to do the work.) As such all the rules apply to them as much as to any business. We pay taxes, we buy supplies, we create and sell a product, we actually create other jobs — gallery staff, art teachers/professors, staff who work at various art supply stores and companies, manufacturers who make our paper, canvas, paints, pigments, clay, brushes, etc. In other words artists are as vital a part of any economy as anyone else. Perhaps I am sensitive to the issue because, as mentioned in a previous response, I recently lost my position at a large financial services company and have decided my new job will be as an artist. I won’t lay myself off, I won’t play corporate politics with myself, and I will produce inventory. If my work doesn’t sell right away I will have plenty to cart around to galleries, shows, etc. And when the economy picks up again (and it will — the question is when?) I will have plenty of work to sell.

So now I am going to send letters to my representatives in Congress and tell them that there is a huge population of creative, self-employed artists out there, doing their part to keep the economic wheels turning, and that we should not be overlooked or disregarded as part of the solution.

There are 4 comments for Art is a luxury? by Deb Marvin

From: Claire DeLong Taylor — Feb 03, 2009

I wonder how many in Congress who share this sentiment have paintings hanging in their homes or ceramics sitting on their tables? How many paintings and sculptures grace the walls and grounds of our government buildings? If elected officials claim that art is a luxury in times like these, then I say remove all art from the offices in which they serve, or maybe cover them in black until the “times” improve.

From: Lynn Bleasdale — Feb 03, 2009

You might also mention the fact that although there are some cultures on this planet that have no religion, not one has ever been observed that has no decoration.

From: Suzette Fram — Feb 03, 2009

Very well put, Deb, thank you. Unfortunately, art is a luxury for the one at the end of the line, the buyer. When money is scarce, necessities have to be bought first and art falls by the wayside. Unfortunate, but a fact of life.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Feb 04, 2009

In response to Suzette Fram, you are correct: when it is difficult to put food on the table, art becomes dispensable. However, when the heads of banks and corporations line up for government assistance, those resources should also be made available to small business owners, including artists. I would suggest that a self-employed artist will generate more economic stimulus with his/her share of a $50 million assistance package, as that money is likely to be spent locally on “necessities”, than an executive, who needs another gold watch, heftier bank balance or European vacation.




Afternoon Sun at Salt Creek

arcylic painting
by Hope Barton, FL, USA


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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The price of popularity



From: Bobbo Goldberg — Jan 29, 2009

Had to laugh, Robert, at the (unconscious?) irony in this article. You said of your friend, “‘Catering’ was not his game.” So he opened… a restaurant? I presume they cater. I’d also have to presume that, somewhere in the place, pots boil occasionally? Thanks for the grin.

From: Gavin Calf — Jan 30, 2009

I have heard it so many times: ‘The artists paints and the partner promotes them, making them rich.’ And I’m sick of hearing it because one, my partner does what she does well and refuses to fall into the traps I set her because I am “hopeless” at self promotion. So, between that proverbial rock and hard place I know I must overcome my phobia and just “do it!” UGH!

But its rewarding.

From: Zariah — Jan 30, 2009

Oh, that is SO true!!! Thanks for sharing, Robert.

I love how eloquently you express these wisdoms.

And your email letters are always so insightful!

P.S. I should let you know that the required math question is IMPOSSIBLE to read in firefoxbrwser! I had to visit the Math Guard site to troubleshoot this problem. Now I am able to send this using Internet Explorer.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 30, 2009

The word “critic” has lost it’s meaning and has become a shooting gallery for those with access to publicize their opinions (another word lost in translation) To critique is the meaning of “critic”, not editorialize and insert subjective content. Most critics can’t tell you much about the process of painting much less about what it takes to be an artist. So these individuals tear apart, subvert and otherwise obfuscate the issue and use sarcasm and “dim”- witted attempts at humor at the expense of the poor artist they are critiquing. To critique is to give a synopsis of the work, not read into it the authors misconceptions and misunderstandings of the artist’s intent. Many critics have no art training or experience in the field to competently judge an artist or his/her artwork.

They have become minor (underscore) celebrities that, in time will fade away into obscurity as so many before them, and the artwork will endure to be admired by future generations free from any negative comments ever attributed to it.

A critic is similar to having two thumbs on one hand – useful but gets in the more than not.

As for opinions ( which are not facts ) – everyone has one and all are pointless except to the one giving it.

From: Bill — Jan 30, 2009

Side stepping the subject of selling, I thought I’d mention that much that previously passed for criticism in local media is now merely review, and review without much of a critical element. Many outlets no longer have an art critic, they have an art reviewer or simply an art writer, which is much the same. Criticism, for better or worse, spurs thought about work, but the reviewers tell you where to find it, and in the most general terms what you’re going to see when you get there. Sometimes they’ll actually give you a little bio of the artist. That’s about it anymore, at least out in the hustings.

From: Delores Herringshaw — Jan 31, 2009

I agree Robert as an artist for 76 years and with a few sucesses along the way, but for the most part I could not live on my earnings. However I will paint until I die because it is my passion and joy.

From: Bob — Jan 31, 2009

Can’t help thinking about the quote by Benjamin Disraeli,” Critics are those who have failed in literature and art.”

From: Bill Osmundsen — Jan 31, 2009
From: Claudio Ghirardo — Feb 01, 2009

I will only say one thing regarding this: if you look at history, especially pertaining to the development of art, critics have always “slammed” the something new arriving on the scene. Yet the artists and their works have endured and been recognized as pillars of achievement while the critics are remembered for their negative opinions and narrow-minded viewpoints. What more is there to say?

From: Kate Hoekstra — Feb 01, 2009

Our local cultural center where artists display their work a couple of times a year, and where some art classes are held, has started a monthly get together of artists to discuss many concerns…. surely, one of these will be how to survive the downturn. However, the broader purpose will be to think about, question, the accepted venues for artists, e.g., shows, galleries. Perhaps this crisis will generate some creative ways to move art forward in the same way rejection (salon de refuses) did in the past. Adaptation is always the way to growth. Complacency is the way to entropy.

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Feb 01, 2009

Oh, well, when all is said and done, critics, I suppose, serve a purpose, to society and to artists. To me they’re the onlookers that won’t sweeten the coffee just because you brewed the pot. I think critics can help develop an artist if their love for the craft is true, and I think they inadvertently expunge those that don’t really have a passion for artistic communication, such as your friend you mentioned. Do you have a favorite critic? Of course, you probably do – the one that likes your work best, huh? I only have a hand full of critics that have seen my work, none professionals at it, but their approval gives me incentive for marketing that is invaluable. I hope to encounter at some point critics that will further fuel my creative energy, and hope to avoid those that would snuff my candle.

From: Diane Overmyer — Feb 01, 2009

When I was in my 40’s I returned to college to study fine art. I received some flack for not painting “darker more ominous” paintings. I had a friend who was just as passionate about her art and she was just as well adjusted in life as I. We both painted from our hearts, so we occasionally we were accused of painting “happy paintings.” (God forbid that art make people feel good!)

From: John Ferrie — Feb 01, 2009

We all have different definitions of success. I am a success because I am doing what I love and I do it everyday. However, I am no dummy and do need to pay my rent and have the heat and lights on. I come from a family of stock brokers and business professionals. While most of their conversations are like gibberish to me, something must have caught on. I know that I have to market my work and make a sale. Otherwise it is just a hobby and not really something you can take or be taken seriously over.

I am known for being good at marketing and self promotion. I try to be a good business man. When I see other artists who have been signed by a gallery, I see a number of things. There is an exhilaration of being with a gallery. Simply put, a gallery is a business and just a stepping stone between the artist and the buyer. Artists’ work inevitably shifts and there is a new direction to their work. Galleries seem to think they can tell an artist what to paint based on what they think will sell. It is a challenge to paint what you feel and try and paint what will sell. Rarely is anyone happy when this struggle occurs.

While I am trying to figure out the vocabulary of my upcoming exhibition “14”, I am forever trying to figure out if this will read, if this will sell!

From: Paul de Marrais — Feb 01, 2009

It would be surprising to actually view what artist incomes really are. Many thousands won’t make $5,000 a year let alone a living. Many don’t make $1000 from their art. It’s been a long time since I worried about “selling out’. Lately a gallery asked me to paint a large abstract painting for them. I’ve been a traditional landscape guy for quite a few years but was happy to oblige. I enjoyed the process very much and the painting is at the very least attractive. I used the same skill set and the same design principles to create it. I gave it my best effort. They requested another one. To some this would certainly be ‘selling out’ but I really don’t care what others think. This is the benefit of being over 50. One ceases to worry about many things that would concern a young person. Not giving my best effort would be ‘selling out” to me. To work with a gallery on a request is simply good business. It shows them that I am willing to ‘partner’ with them and not be just some offbeat character who drags in his ego along with some paintings now and then. I doubt I will suddenly be an abstract painter but working in a different mode stretches me artistically and that helps me grow as a painter. I am not a great businessman like you, Robert, but I am improving. My improvement is tied to my willingness to work with other people, to giving people what they want, to chucking the artist stereotypes and to being a member of society. Art is always for other people. It’s a gift artists possess. Gifts need to be given away. The more we give, the more we receive. That’s good business.

From: Ron Unruh — Feb 01, 2009
From: Jane Morris — Feb 01, 2009

Success in this world should be embraced in a positive way. Someone once said to me, “Winning is the greatest way for success.” So many artists seem to hang in the shadows when they should be out there. It’s ok. I wish you nothing but greatness in whatever you choose to do. Health, wealth, and happiness.

From: Frances Stilwell — Feb 01, 2009

I don’t get what you are saying. I thought you, Robert, didn’t sell out but instead were true to yourself. Are you saying critics like people who don’t sell much, more than those who do, even if the former are lacking in craft and integrity?

Not clear. Do you sell out?

From: Lorelei Green — Feb 02, 2009
From: Skip Van Lenten — Feb 02, 2009

Kimmelmann’s criticism of Wyeth is so pompous and off-the-wall literally that it prompts me to the following conclusion: “Those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t do either, criticize.”

From: Linda Harbison — Feb 02, 2009

Interesting observations. When I studied art at a well respected Appalachian college, I got the distinct impression that the only artists to be taken seriously were either sophisticated world travelers who studied various foreign cultures in order to inform their work, or at the other extreme, introverts who never left the holler for so much as a trip to K-Mart. (Wal-Mart had not yet taken over at the time.) There seemed no place for me, someone with a strong desire to create art, but coming from an average suburban home and possessing an innate tendency toward practicality.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Feb 02, 2009

Are you really concerned with the way public perceives you because of your business success? You shouldn’t be because there will certainly always be people who hate you for that. Those people just can’t be helped, that’s the way of the world. Why do you even bother opening up that subject? If you ask me, it’s a waste of breath. It is much more important that there will certainly always be many, many people who love and respect you and want to learn from you, so it is a better investment (business and emotional) to focus on those…as you are doing most of the time and there are many grateful artists out there!

From: Brenda Bisiker — Feb 02, 2009

What do you mean “quality baffles” ?

From: Karl Eric Leitzel — Feb 02, 2009

While I never met Andrew Wyeth, I’m a fellow Pennsylvanian and I grew uppractically idolizing Wyeth as I developed my own artistic direction. His realism clearly has a depth of evoked mood and personal expression that, in addition to his technical ability, takes it far above the romanticized sunsets and lakes that some artists have built into economic success. His life, too, while being rooted in small town Americana, had enough challenging twists and turns (dealing with the sudden death of his father, the Helga period) to suggest a complex individual behind the artwork. Most of the people who expend ink dissing his art and his success ought to pick up a brush themselves and try to create something of lasting value.

From: Nancy Cook — Feb 02, 2009

The blessings that Andrew Wyeth had were due to his very good sense to marry his wife Betsy. She was his business manager, she didn’t let his art be reproduced ad nauseum on everything and everywhere. She kept many of his art works in their Private Collection. He had amazing ability, but with a good (and lovely) manager he “beat the odds”……..

From: Gisèle Lapalme — Feb 02, 2009

I’ve been painting since I was 13 and still painting at 55, gave art lessons for 21 years, and decided this year to just paint and wow enjoying it, painting on the spot and in the studio. In 1987 was selling a 16 x 20 $175. framed in a gallery. Gave up on galleries (well, maybe not a good idea) and now selling a 16 x 20 $1,200. still quite modest. Thank goodness I not living just on art. I did 3 years ago read a letter of yours talking about raising 10 to 20% per year or so and now I try to following it. I recently went out west this fall and saw 8 paintings of yours at a Gallery in Kelowna B.C. I was really thrilled to see them and would have been nice to meet you in person but Mr. Turcotte said you were out of country. I say I could not afford your paintings so I bought your book and enjoying it very much.

From: Jennifer Bellinger — Feb 03, 2009

Can anyone name one critic? How about a famous artist? Nuf said!

From: Joyce Goden — Feb 03, 2009
From: Dennis — Feb 03, 2009

The comments regarding $50 million for the arts by the Republican House Minority leader speak volumes about how ignorant many in public office truly are regarding the arts. When one considers how much money is wasted by Congress $50 million is a drop in the bucket. Regarding Andrew Wyeth – I remember seeing his work at the Whitney some time ago. The exhibition, Unknown Terrain showcasing his landscapes was simply put- remarkable. My approach to painting is different but I was impressed by his intelligence and mastery of his craft. One could analyze the subject matter but after studying the paintings I came away with a profound respect for him. I may paint abstracts but there is no doubt in my mind that the art work of Andrew Wyeth has much to offer an artist.

From: Selwyn (Sell) Owen, Realtor — Feb 03, 2009

I have read much of what is referred to as “art criticism” over the years. I felt that I should understand it & to see if it mattered. Variety, quality, import and selling ad space have all come together to let me know how little criticism matters. Art work itself can exist quite happily without being used as a dart board, auction tag holder, or filler for a short of content film. The old adage of “If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing” does not seem to apply to the arts.

We have had numerous “art movements” that might never have reached that lofty description without a word to the wise ; but the movement would have been no less important. This thing called aesthetics is a strange coat to wear. Just like the other olden Goldie of “Everything is for sale.” Well, there are some who paint, sing, write etc just for the sake of it. Anything else, as in marketing, could be secondary, although we all still need to eat.

From: Jim van Geet — Feb 05, 2009
From: Jack Singer — Feb 06, 2009

I have had many things said by critics about my work over the years but the only adjective that sticks in my mind was one guy whose name I can’t remember said my work was “underwhelming.”

From: Rachel Trockman — Feb 09, 2009

Oh, boy. This one’s a ringer. I do have that strange sort of bias against the artist who is popular and able enough to live entirely from sales of his art. Seeing it in writing is a valuable kind of shock. Thank you.



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