Getting a leg up

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Donna Egan of Cicero, New York wrote, “I don’t have a degree in art but have been painting since the ’70s. I’ve taken and continue to take many art classes and workshops. I’ve found certain shows very political inasmuch as they won’t consider artists without art degrees. Do you have any suggestions for non-degreed artists regarding shows and artist resumes, etc.? If you take a class or a workshop from a well-known artist, can you state that you ‘studied under’ this artist?” Thanks, Donna. There are several questions here, all of them good ones. First, shows sponsored by universities, governments, academies and credentialed art schools tend to include their own folks or a specific group (women, gays, aboriginals, etc.) and exclude others. This is the “political” spin you mentioned. They also tend to have attitudes about the various genres of art — realism, Impressionism, etc. It can be difficult for some outsiders to get a leg up. On the other hand, group shows sponsored by clubs, federations and guilds tend to seriously consider anyone who happens to have the entry fee. In my observation they tend to have less rigid juries and often bend over backwards to accept abstract and conceptual work from outsiders, particularly young people, provided it’s not, in their eyes, too silly. To be fair, both types of venue practice incest — in some geographical locations — flagrantly. My personal solution is not to play in either sandbox. Resumes are for people who need to read resumes. In the land of the credentialed, credentials are important. Regular people just like to collect art that is well done, shows some skill and has a life-enhancing quality. To my uninformed and ignorant eye, the latter is preferable to the former. In my world, people don’t collect art because an artist has an art degree. They collect because the art moves them. Resumes are often a problem for non-credentialed artists. What is there to put in there? As resumes are relatively unimportant compared to the work itself, you can opt not to bother trying to write one. If you insist on having a resume, it’s okay to put in the names of instructors and teachers from your classes and workshops — if you think that might add an olive or two to the martini. You might also leave a few out. You have to be careful who you “study under.” Best regards, Robert PS: “Well, something must be done for May, The time is drawing nigh — To figure in the Catalogue, And woo the public eye.” (Thomas Hood) Esoterica: One of the main problems many artists have with credentialed shows is that the effort upsets the natural flow of personal process. The better artists I know get up in the morning, put on their pants, and go to work. Figuring out where the work is to end up and who they are as artists comes afterward. This is the brilliance and uniqueness of our job. Artists who forget this become caterers and polishers of brass.   Let us not forget the outsiders by Scott Kahn, NY, USA  

“Griswold Point December”
oil painting, 30 x 36 inches
by Scott Kahn

How often have I been to an established gallery, especially in New York, where a thick book lies on the reception table, with page after page of resume, reviews, etc. And then I look at the work in the gallery and feel that it is absolute junk. Let us not forget that group of self-taught, outsider artists who never stepped foot in any classroom and cared less about even exhibiting, and yet ended up with an audience of avid admirers.     There are 2 comments for Let us not forget the outsiders by Scott Kahn
From: Erin, Denver, CO — Aug 01, 2011

Your post speaks to me! I am reminded of something someone said to me once: What is personal is universal. I am one of those self-taught artists who spent a little time in formal training and escaped back to working on my own :) Thank you for posting “Let us not forget the outsiders”

From: Stefanie D Huguet — Aug 02, 2011

This is so true. I was never taken serious before my degree even though I had been creating art for over 30 years & now I am being told I have to “pay my dues” before they will show me. I was told I would be taken seriously after my degree but they still consider me an amateur & won’t show me. So 2 1/2 years wasted to please galleries who play politics.

  Best part of learning by Connie Cuthbertson, Fort Frances, ON, Canada  

“Sisters of Rethymnon”
acrylic painting
36 x 48 inches
by Connie Cuthbertson

Play, I know, is the most important part of learning and I have discovered this many times over the course of my career. (I started painting after showing my 2-year-old how to play with Crayola paints!) Strangely enough, it seems I keep forgetting this important element and it usually comes to light when I see my work becoming predictable. I am currently teaching myself how to work with oils after almost 30 years with watercolour. I am finding it to be an uphill battle… which is exactly why I am doing it. I love a good challenge and the opportunity to play with a new medium is most exciting… and frustrating of course! I learned through play that oil doesn’t move around and work for you, like watercolour will, nor does it clean up the same. I have also learned after mucking around that it is most exciting when applied with thick juicy brushstrokes that actually remain 3D, something not possible with watercolour. I plan to play all summer with my new “toy” and know my work will improve because of it.   Credentials convince of value? by Bob Drake, Damariscotta, ME, USA  

“Betty’s lane”
watercolour painting
by Bob Drake

My take on the credentials issue is that novice collectors, especially those for whom the purchase price is a stretch, use credentials to help convince them of the value of the art they are considering buying. If an artist does not have “instant name recognition” or an arts pedigree of degrees and awards, the potential buyer may not feel that the work is really worth the price, regardless of their own enjoyment of the piece. I suppose this could occur at any price point, but I know it happens fairly often at our local, cooperative gallery. There is 1 comment for Credentials convince of value? by Bob Drake
From: Anonymous — Aug 03, 2011

This is where the gallery staff shines. I never knew how “cool” I was until I overheard a gallery staff talk about me to a new collector. That’s one of the main ways they earn their fee (and artist’s gratitude).

  The educated ‘primitive’ painter by Bill Skrips, Blairstown, NJ, USA  

“There’s a reason”
by Bill Skrips

How interesting that Donna wrote about not getting into shows for lack of art education. Since my work tends towards the more folk art “style” and I’m schooled, I face a lot of problems being accepted alongside “outsider” artists — those who have never received training and now make art “from the heart.” For many of the shows I apply to, I state very clearly that I have training and hope that this will not jeopardize my chances of being accepted!           Rigid jurying affects creativity by Audrey Morgan, Port Perry, ON, Canada  

“Nothing Without Providence”
mixed media
by Audrey Morgan

I’ve just recently pulled out of a newly formed Studio Tour planning committee… wondering if it was the right thing to do. I was feeling that the rigid jurying process was getting ridiculous. The area for our studio tour is rather small. We all know each other and our work… and suddenly we are focusing on dogma, rules, awards and resumes. My creative work took a back seat to emails, administration and taking care of my queasy stomach! I agree — at the end of the creative day, the only thing that matters is that I have made something that didn’t exist before that moment… and that somewhere there will be a person who gets a little tiny jump in their stomach or heart and says, “That’s beautiful. I love it!” Pulling away from this group was the right thing to do. Theirs is a sandbox I don’t have to play in. There is 1 comment for Rigid jurying affects creativity by Audrey Morgan
From: Danielle — Aug 02, 2011


  Everything else is politics by Joseph Jahn, Nibe, Denmark  

“figure study 1”
original painting
by Joseph Jahn

Art is entertainment; you don’t need to list anything to be a good entertainer. When was the last time you looked at an actor’s credentials before you enjoyed their performance? (All those publishers that turned down Harry Potter (15) would agree). Asking for ‘papers’ before accepting work is ludicrous. Usually only done to limit the entries to an already set agenda which has nothing to do with quality or value. The Art is the content; everything else is politics and the inability of art juries to truly accept their role as arbitrators of quality. Soon they may want your sales record for the last 3 years, before they can make a decision. Don’t play that game, just keep on making good art and ignoring today’s “Paris Salon.” There is 1 comment for Everything else is politics by Joseph Jahn
From: Ron Ruble — Aug 02, 2011

What an interesting and fine painting. I found myself enjoying and studying the off balance organized chaos. Why it works, I have no idea, but it is captivating and beautiful. Nice job!

  A pernicious development in society by Bryan Dunleavy, Titchfield, Hampshire, Southampton, UK  

“Cornish Harbour Night”
pastel painting
by Bryan Dunleavy

As a painter I would not normally admit to having a PhD and several other university degrees; they are not relevant and they get in the way. But I am ‘fessing up here to reinforce the point. Ask yourself if it would make any difference to your appreciation of the work of Rembrandt, Picasso, David Hockney or Robert Genn if you knew whether or not they had been to university? No, I thought not! One of the most pernicious developments of my lifetime has been the credentializing tendency in society, led by universities and colleges who have a vested interest in promoting credentials and rewarding those who develop the left side of the brain. In the art world this has led to the abandonment of perception in favour of conception. The skill of drawing has been forgotten or ignored by a second or third generation of academics who talk for hours about “making marks.” My heart sinks when I encounter an artist who puts up a string of abbreviations after their name and compiles a list of exhibitions and one man shows. It demonstrates a lack of confidence, if anything, and adds no value. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to learn in any way you can. If that means going to college, then do so. Take what you can out of it; enjoy the warm feeling of being awarded a degree as a mark of achievement, then put it aside and concentrate on becoming an artist. This will require years of hard work and commitment and in time your university qualifications will appear marginal. There are 4 comments for A pernicious development in society by Bryan Dunleavy
From: Anonymous — Aug 02, 2011

Love this painting, but wish moon had a stronger reflection in the water.

From: Anonymous — Aug 02, 2011

Your letter places formal education in its proper perspective, at least for an artist. There are lots of degrees out there who can’t paint. That was partially the reason why I bailed out of college after a couple years – plus, life got in the way. There are also instances where influence can be detrimental to the development of individual style. As education costs skyrocket and art school quality deteriorates an aspiring artist might do better to wander and travel a year or two on a self wrought daily painting education. I know I would have learned more …

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Aug 02, 2011

It is what it is and it is charming!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Aug 02, 2011

Plus, aerial perspective makes the moon and its reflection weaker and if it were made brighter, it would make the painting ordinary.

  Art speaks for itself by Kathleen Zann, New York, NY, USA  

watercolour painting
by Kathleen Zann

While I agree that art education and resumes are secondary to good technique and artistic imagination, (indeed many really good painters don’t have formal art education) I also believe that fundamentals such as good drawing skills, and color and compositional design theory are essential to producing good work. That said, classes from well known artists are only helpful to the point that they help one develop good technique, leading to developing one’s own style. Taking continuous classes encourages emulating one’s teacher and limits one’s own artistic vision. While some association art competitions are clearly biased, based on the art accepted, I think entering association competitions is useful in that, when judged by respected artists, one can evaluate one’s own ability compared to those paintings accepted. Of course, all art is subjective, but in my medium, watercolor, most national watercolor associations’ international exhibits tend to attract excellent painters. I think it is beneficial to judge one’s own work by those standards. In the end, regardless of the medium, classes taken or celebrity instructors, the art speaks for itself and the only way to improve is to paint — constantly.   Grants need credentials by Louise Francke, NC, USA  

“Bullish On Europa”
original drawing
by Louise Francke

Many years ago, having some hours to kill before my flight home from the Woman’s Caucus Conference, I wandered into a Madison Avenue Gallery with my suitcase. A conversation began with the owner because of the suitcase. As the talk progressed, he asked if I was an artist and of course I replied yes and would he want to see a resume. His reply: “A resume doesn’t show me what kind of an artist you are but slides will.” He actually purchased three of my lithographs from a very troubled period in my life when this event was a major stepping stone. On the other hand, I have been rejected numerous times for grants which would have certainly helped. Many said that it was my resume which had an MA but no MFA? I never saw the need to return to school for this piece of parchment since I hated teaching, which I felt siphoned off my energy. All I ever want to do is paint and draw and if my images make you chuckle, then I grin too.   Clarity of conviction by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Gabriola Rocks”
oil painting, 20 x 24 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

We are told that we have got to have resumes and CVs and diplomas, and statements and memberships and submissions and approvals — but there are many examples how people accomplish their goals, maybe even more likely, without any of those things (burdens? time wasters? distractions?). How come a drop-in clinic doctor is always able to help without a 6-page form I had to fill in for my useless family doctor? In totalitarian regimes the first things that go are opportunities to make personal decisions. There are no choices to be made. Some other, more innocent places get into a similar game (kindergartens, schools, workplaces). The goal is uniformity, because uniformity is easier to rule, which we all know. People get cultivated into looking for rules and missing them and seeking them to save themselves from the perceivably frightening uncertainty. I think that this is a serious thing that can stifle a creative person and it’s not an easy thing to shake off. I am sure that your frequent reminders, that there is a whole world of choices out there, are very helpful. I remember coming to a revelation (one evening after some lovely shiraz) that it was entirely up to me to decide what kind of an artist I want to be (the next morning the clarity of that conviction got a bit fuzzy but the gist was noted). I have always hated exclusivity, but I was wrong because that too needs to be understood — each one of us is a part of a complicated, fascinating big picture. The more we know, the more interesting choices we can make. Steven Pinker said that people have an amazing ingrained ability to justify their choices and perceive that they have done well, no matter what happens with them. According to him, we will all eventually be happy, whatever we choose to do. He didn’t say at which point this happiness will occur.   Preparing a portfolio by Robin Shillcock, Groningen, Netherlands  

oil painting, 22 x 34 cm
by Robin Shillcock

I like your take on the “working artist” who gets up in the morning, puts on his pants and goes to work. I have sometimes omitted going to the trouble of putting on my pants, simply wanting to duck into the studio and get started. Some planning is needed, however. In other words, we have to become “thinking artists,” meaning that although a resumé is of lesser importance, it is important to have a good one, one that represents what you do and who you are. If you think of producing one, think of going all the way by producing a nice portfolio with images and texts. In France it’s called a “pressbook”; French artists tend to take its name literally, and slide newspaper articles into the plastic sleeves, but that makes it look scruffy and unappetizing to leaf through. Newspaper articles are only interesting if they stem from a writer with a good take on art. I prefer a portfolio that gives insight to my approach in art, with a selection of reproductions that are characteristic of my work. I have several of these size A4 portfolios. They lie about during exhibitions for those who need words to go along with the paintings on the walls. It’s a bit like the handle on a suitcase. Never as important as the contents, but helps others get a grip. It also helps the gallery owner to spice his or her nonsensical talk about the artist’s work with at least some truth and fact. If you want to spend time producing a portfolio, or a resumé, make sure the words fit the images. Forget the lofty art museum speak — boil it down to what you are doing, what you have done and spend less space on what you are striving for because that interests nobody if you haven’t arrived where you want to be. It reminds me of the text in a museum catalogue in which the artist went on and on about the beauty of cloudy skies, and the importance of painting them well, while the accompanying image showed a huge Canadian goose up close and some cloudy sky in the background.   Selection process by Katherine Tyrrell, UK  

original drawing
by Katherine Tyrrell

It’s sometimes easy to see hurdles where none exist. It’s also possible that the importance of the resume may be more rooted in some countries and not others. Here in the UK, I regularly review the annual exhibitions of a number of the national art societies and art competitions in the UK for my blog Making A Mark. The emphasis in the UK is primarily on judging the artwork, not the artist. My knowledge of the selection process used for group shows run by groups of artists suggests that most selection panels are hard pressed to allocate enough time to give each entry proper consideration. They rarely, if ever, read an artist’s resume (which takes more time than looking at an image) particularly those which select on the image only and ignore the name of whoever submitted it. Most art societies — at the local, regional and national levels — don’t even ask for a resume. In general, I think many artists might be surprised at how little time is given over to the consideration of individual entries by artists. However, if they were in the selectors’ shoes and had to give up time to review the very many entries which are submitted they might understand why this is. I’ve been a member of a selection panel and I’ve seen the range of entries submitted for a major open exhibition and believe me it’s possible to arrive at a decision on an awful lot of artwork very fast. My advice to people entering artwork in group shows has always been to make sure that it “reads well.” That’s because it’s typically going to be looked at from a distance for a few seconds. So — in summary — few selectors for group shows have the time to start reading resumes as well. Art competitions vary. Most are going to similarly focus on the image alone and not consider anything else — including the name of the artist and their resume. However some may use a resume to sift. This is likely to be the case where the competition has specific criteria for who can enter (e.g. lives and works in the UK) and the resume is used to check that the artist fits the criteria. I publish lists of selected artists for art competitions and national exhibitions of art societies on my blog. In doing so, I always include a link to the websites of selected artists. I can assure you, after having looked over the years at the websites of very many artists, that (a) not all selected artists are professional artists i.e. they earn most of their income from art (b) not all selected artists have a degree in fine arts and a significant number of successful artists are self-taught. Interestingly, what I do find again and again is that a number of people who are successful in getting selected for open art exhibitions have a background in or make an income from illustration. I can only assume that this is because such artists are trained in coming up with images which have impact even when you see them for a few seconds. Which, when you understand how the selection process often works, makes sense to me. A final point — those wanting to develop an artist’s resume or statement might find my two “resources for artists” sites useful. These both provide pointers but also reference the various sources of advice available on the Internet and the feedback I get is that many people have found them useful. How to write an Artist’s Statement. How to write an Artist’s Resume or CV — this one suggests that you check carefully what information organisations are asking for as some people seem to use the words CV, Biography and Resume as if they are interchangeable despite the fact they are actually different things.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Getting a leg up

From: Daniela, Australia — Jul 28, 2011

Love what you say, Robert, about getting a leg up…I save great reverence only for the masters of old, actually, because of their skills (those I have seen when I have been fortunate enough to travel to where their works are hung), and respect and admiration in degrees, for present day artists who work hard at it – maybe for the money but essentially because they love what they do. Nowadays, I even think art college was good only because it forced a discipline/habit to continually be doing something about art, and, not necessarily for the lessons offered.

From: Faith P. — Jul 28, 2011

I have to respond to this letter on two counts. The first was a self-styled music director (working professionally) with whom I worked many ago. He was simply awful, incompetent, devoid of ideas. He did little more than beat time, most of his flapping gyrations being accompanied by little jumps from the podium, which became big jumps when the music got louder or he completely lost control. All forgivable maybe, but in his resumé he had recorded that he was a student of Herbert von Karajan, who, as musicians and music lovers know, was a really great music director who did not resort to such antics and certainly didn’t teach them. In fact, this “student” had once sat in on a workshop (in music workshops you can be an active or passive participant – I expect that’s possible in art, too???) and built his entire conducting career on that claim. My second incident concerns a young woman who came to me for voice lessons. It turned out out that she had no sense of pitch or rhythm, and after struggling to impart a little of each for many months, I sent her away. A few years later she had found a soulmate, an amateur actor, and started a small review theater with him (on the side). I was told that she was using my name in her CV as her voice teacher and mentor. Since this woman could absolutely not sing, it was casting a negative light on my work as a teacher. I wrote to her and told her to remove my name. It must be annoying for any skilled teacher to be confronted with the fact of having ostensibly taught someone who is not able to produce the goods. I know I was disgusted! The problem is that, whatever you are teaching, you are only going to get about 5% talent alongside 95% would-bes. As a self-taught painter I would definitely count myself as a would-be (hopefully borderline) and feel most uncomfortable with the idea of claiming to be the product of the artists I admire and try to learn from. In my view as a musician, it’s fine to make music, but unfine to claim a musicianship/skill you do not have.

From: Faith P. — Jul 28, 2011

PS The number of singers leaving music college with a qualification who actually pursue a professional singing career of any note is put at about 1% – and that’s a generous estimate. I should think that proportion also applies to those who attended an art college or the equivalent. The proof of the pudding….

From: Kimberly — Jul 29, 2011

Very well said dear sir, I too am an autodidactic artist ( oh there’s the spin) Ha ha. But I have done well. MY community thinks of me as a professional artist, I have teacher with Degrees invite me to teach in the AP classes in high school. I have had art chosen to hang in National Shows and am always being asked to teach someone. But I have had the OH it when I am asked to par take in government sponsored things. They do not like non educated artist. I feel good about what I do and have brought to my community as well as what has come to me after years of painting and sculpting. The only regret I would have is I would love to sit in on a college class to see what I missed. Other than the paper to carry I wouldn’t know. I do know this. That the people I have spent tie with to help get into the “art world” who have degrees typically ( not saying all) are very rigid and usually are uncomfortable stepping outside the classes room and trying new things. Kimberly

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jul 29, 2011

I have degrees and some credentials, I think it helps when you want to teach classes or workshops. People like to have some way of knowing if you can teach them something. On the other hand, I think it is true that too many classes and credential chasing can inhibit creativity and prevent the artist from trying new things. Human nature I guess, even though judges usually reward creative pieces. I have been teaching and still want a couple credentials that I don’t have yet, but at some point, want to just paint for myself.

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Jul 29, 2011

Two sad stories. I had a friend who painted funky simple animals. She approached the wonderful Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore with her work. They said she was too educated. That made both of us laugh. It was in that same museum that I read the wall text about an artist who said he buried his work after he did it, because he thought you had to have a license to be an artist. That made me cry.

From: Darla — Jul 29, 2011

Credentials look good, and they’re often the only way bureaucrats decide who will be considered for the job. But as most of us know, an art education can be wonderful or useless, depending on who your teacher is. There are so many really silly ways that art is evaluated; the worst, I think, is the idea that art isn’t any good unless you need a translator (art critic) to understand it.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Jul 29, 2011

Ars gratia artis…

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jul 29, 2011

“getting a leg up” is such a strange expression…you must have heard it from Dorothy.

From: Richard Whittaker — Jul 29, 2011

I’ve been doing a self-published art magazine for over 20 years. No credentials. Works & Conversations has been coming out since 1998 [ it was preceded by an earlier magazine]. As for my own art, no credentials, no mentors etc.

From: Warren Criswell — Jul 29, 2011

Of all the galleries I’ve shown in– California to Georgia, Florida to New York, Taiwan to Germany — none has ever asked if I had a degree or what art school I attended. I don’t and I didn’t.

From: Bonnie White — Jul 29, 2011

I am really puzzled by this degree versus “self taught” controversy. Since when does a degree deliver a state of accomplishment, other than the act of paying a certain amount of money and attending a predetermined number and kind of classes. I suppose if I had a degree in art I would be tempted to use it to step over the heads of others, but we all know that there are plenty of people running around with art degrees that can’t find the broad side of a painting. An art degree doesn’t make a good potter, why would it make a good painter? The problem with not having a degree in art is we don’t have an advocacy group. We don’t get the benefit of the doubt or a leg up from those who attended the same school. We don’t come before the Judges with a stamp of approval. What we need is a juried society, guild, or other organization open only to those lacking a formal, preordained, structured education in art. That would be an interesting thing to see!

From: Maro Freitas — Jul 29, 2011

I really liked your advice not to play in either sandbox! You are so right!! Once someone asked me to write a resume – and I said that the only resumes that count is the one that the artist writes when he has the brush in his hand.

From: oliver — Jul 29, 2011

Unfortunately, its true that some collectors and galleries want a resume to bolster their opinion and it seems to justify the prices paid. At some level a price may become a throw away type item, and you may get materials cost or a little more and that may keep you working. Some galleries specialize in outsider art – specifically those without the formal training. It is true though you can “breakthrough” without the degree, and its also true the degree will only get you so far. If you can do them, art and wine festivals can be a good way to develop a following and it is sometimes possible to graduate from them. No doubt about it though, art for art’s sake is tough. There is so much competition – TV, movies, music, books, theater and small things like food, clothes, shelter, cars, education, cheap art found in Wal-Mart etc., family pictures, friends pictures, posters of the masters, magazines etc. ….. and then art and art appreciation is not taught in schools and times are tough. Then too you need something that people respond too, want on their walls, and …….. Its tough but you have to find, collect and cherish fans. Hopefully a couple of them will be influential/trend makers and willing to push for you.

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Jul 29, 2011

I would suggest that some of both is the better scenario. Credentials AND hard work tend to make the better artist. There is far too much work showing publicly that has too little of either. How does the public know what is good work if we don’t educate them? A few art classes and enough money to buy paint doesn’t make a good artist.

From: Ellen Sherfey — Jul 29, 2011
From: Paul deMarrais — Jul 29, 2011

Why do people bother with shows anyway? I like a quote from a Woody Allen movie when he said that ‘he would never want to be part of a group that would have someone like him as a member!” So many amateur and professional painters abuse themselves with this show process and to what end? There rarely are sales of any kind and usually plenty of expense. Absolutely no one cares if you get in or don’t get in. It’s a lose/lose situation. I would hope your writer, Donna, could find other ways to gain satisfaction from her considerable and laudable efforts at improving her artwork. It’s really about gaining satisfaction in the end. If you get satisfaction, you will continue in art. If not, you won’t.

From: Bob Drake — Jul 29, 2011

My take on the credentials issue is that novice collectors, especially those for whom the purchase price is a stretch, use credentials to help convince them of the value of the art they are considering buying. If an artist does not have “instant name recognition” or an arts pedigree of degrees and awards, the potential buyer may not feel that the work is really worth the price, regardless of their own enjoyment of the piece. I suppose this could occur at any price point, but I know it happens fairly often at our local, cooperative gallery.

From: Anitta Trotter — Jul 29, 2011

A few classes at the neighbourhood art supply store are about the extent of my official studies, so a lack of confidence has been a big factor for me. What to put into that sales pitch – the “artist’s statement”?

From: Steve Day — Jul 29, 2011

My freshman advisor at Yale (1959) was Neil Welliver- the “Dean of American Landscape Painting”. I met him once, during freshman orientation week. Since he is now deceased, I am free to drop his name with impunity. . . I have enjoyed your twice weekly letters for a number of years, and always find them useful.

From: Dr. Stephen Merrett — Jul 29, 2011

I thought I had caught you out on your spelling of practice today; in England “practice” is a noun and “practise” is a verb. But it seems that in the States “practise” applies to both verb and noun. As Oscar Wilde wrote: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

From: Janet Summers — Jul 29, 2011

Instead of a resume, why not create a short bio/philosophy. Include only where you are from, possibly how long you have been painting (here you can add workshops or private study) and a bit about what inspires you and how you feel about your work. It should flow like you were explaining yourself to someone. This is more interesting to someone interested in your work and in the end, the work speaks for itself!

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Jul 29, 2011

I LOVE what you say about resumes and credentials – I feel completely redeemed! One of the worst tortures I could think of as a younger artist was to have to try and come up with some kind of pile of words that some hooty-tooty gallery owner or critic could accept. It didn’t help that I’d gone to 4 different institutions of artistic learning and had 12 years of elementary through independent and master training – but no degree. What could I list? I felt like more of a failure than anything. I finally started talking about how I felt about what inspired me to do a piece and what I loved about my work, and that seemed to work fine. Degrees, credentials, be damned.

From: Paula Timpson — Jul 29, 2011

Today is the day Van Gogh died, under a wide- blue sky ever alive in ‘Starry nights and wheat fields, yellow Sun, Communion~ Daring Spirit, he lives in hearts aflame, burning passions and peace in silent Creations, very early morning~ akin to the feeling of Art as Life!!!

From: Adrienne Moore — Jul 29, 2011

I agree, that, while a degree and college costs do put a lot of pressure on the artist, it does make one more aware of the price a student is required to pay and usually that they want and need this kind of training in their craft. Most apprentices accept that they must attend an established trade school to get their qualifications and are there to obtain a certificate of recognition. Not so with self-taught artists who assume they do not need any kind of training. I do envy them for their amazing self confidence because I did not have this kind of secure feelings about my work after graduation. I attended summer school classes where I could honestly practice my own skills. I loved to be off doing the experimental stuff. However had I not had the grounding in the basic skills I would not have done so well as a self taught artist.

From: Ann Robinson Davis — Jul 29, 2011

You are right as rain Robert..Amaze the natives with your class prowess..or better yet, your pieces!!! Good photography is the key to getting into stuff…..go forth and create, then photograph!!!!”

From: John Ferrie — Jul 29, 2011

Dear Robert, In the art world, there is this bizarre misconception that there is some contract for fame and fortune you will sign if ONLY you could get a break. 90% of the money is made by 10% of the artists. Artists STILL have to put their art in galleries on consignment and trust me, getting paid is another battle in itself. 90% of the population, won’t like your work. Yeah, I said 90% and of the 10% left over, only 5% can afford it. Artists need to paint like nobody is watching, and sell their work like they don’t need the money. Most of the artists I know that I deem a success all say the same thing “It is just more work”. They key to success is to do what you love. That is to say, go into a studio with no agenda except to communicate through their work. “Do what you love, the money will follow” is a great way to live. But NOTHING is the beginning and NOTHING is the end. It is all just part of an incredible journey. I am about to turn 50 this year and while I have had some success and notoriety in my career, I am more excited about the acres and acres of canvas I have ahead of me. And I haven’t got a clue what I will be painting when i get to it. John Ferrie

From: Gary Godbee — Jul 29, 2011

I think that Donna has a legitimate concern with her question to Robert, but I don’t think it’s been adequately addressed. There are actually two concerns: Resumes and what to put on them, and being excluded from shows, representation, etc. because of lack of ‘proper’ credentials. First of all, a resume is an important tool: it is simply a record of what you have done as an artist and what you did to get you there. Listing classes at workshops and local art classes are perfectly fine, but unless you really have studied extensively with a particular instructor, and your work has been changed by doing so, I would not encourage you to list instructor names specifically (especially if the instructor would feel comprimised having ‘turned you out’ as his student, as was previously mentioned). Listing shows you’ve participated in, galleries you’ve been involved with, awards you’ve achieved, and anything else involving your work as an artist has the following effect: It lets people know that you have been doing this for a while, that you are serious about being an artist, and that you have had some accomplishments. Even if you are just starting out showing, any place you have had an exhibition (libraries, banks, Uncle Mort’s bagel place…) show that you are trying to get your work out there. In the real world, if you want to get selected by a jury for a show, or considered for a show in a gallery, your history IS important. Obviously, your actual artistic output is the most critical, but most art professionals try to avoid anyone who does not appear professional or seems like a diletente. The other part of the question is about the perceived or actual rejection based on not having the proper credentials: BFA or MFA degree. Yes, in some situations that will be a problem. If you want to teach art in post-secondary education (college or university), you will need an MFA degree, unless you are famous or started teaching years ago. However, there are many venues, galleries included, which are only interested in how much they like your work, and how committed you are. It is sometimes political; it is more usually financial. No gallery will support an artist with shows and advertising if they feel the artist is not as committed as they are, and up to the task of producing a steady stream of consistent work. As far as juried shows go, there are often parameters that, if not made explicit in the prospectus, may show the bias of the juror or jury. Believe me, we all have had to deal with that. However, having no degree (BFA, MFA) does not deter the many artists who still manage to have careers in art. The main thing is to not give up entering shows and trying to get your work out there. Occasional rejection is part of any artistic field, but put your best foot forward and create an honest, even if short, resume. And when you have to come up with an artist’s statement, write something simple and straightforward that anyone can understand- nobody likes reading hyperbolic artspeak anyhow.

From: jcb — Jul 29, 2011

To answer one of Ms. Egan’s questions, I would not say on my resume or cv that I had “studied under” an artist if I had only taken one of his classes or workshops. I’m sure that some will disagree, but I think it’s only appropriate when there has been a genuine student-teacher relationship over a period of time. I’ve seen resumes with “studied under [famous artist]” when it’s fairly obvious there was nothing more than a workshop or short class and it’s unlikely that the teacher even remembers his former student, in which case it seems silly and pretentious.

From: Daniela, Australia — Jul 29, 2011

I know I have already responded to your letter Robert, but I can’t help but say, I love what Mara Frietas has to say,”THE ONLY RESUME THAT COUNTS IS THE ONE THAT THE ARTIST WRITES WHEN HE HAS THE BRUSH IN HIS HAND.” My partner would often be asked, “How long did it take you to do this?” He would answer, “ALL MY LIFE.”

From: Kathleen Schuman — Jul 30, 2011

This is one of the best bits of information ever, ever given to artists.

From: Marie Lyon in Summerside, PEI — Jul 30, 2011

I have just read your answer to Donna Egan and couldn’t agree more with what you said, especially “Resumés are for people who need to read resumés”. One can actually get around the word ‘degree’ by saying “I have studied at — ” instead of “I have a degree from — .” I have three years of a four-year degree at Queen’s University Fine Arts and, due to circumstances, did not finish the fourth year in order to get their degree. This does not mean that I did not get some benefits from those three years. Since then, I have taken art courses and printmaking workshops in both Canada and England and feel that I have more than completed the demands of an art degree. I have a deep interest in art history and a curious mind on art techniques and the knowledge that other artists impart. I always include a statement with my work, mentioning my style and other info that may seem ‘impressive’. The measure of one’s worth as an artist lies not in a degree or other credentials but rather in the personal growth that goes with it and what a person does with what she has learned. A degree often has a ‘wow’ effect but, really, this doesn’t mean that one has studied under the best teachers. Now my resumé says “I have studied Fine Arts at Queen’s University” and if that impresses the reader, so be it. If it doesn’t, well, maybe I don’t want to be part of what they offer. This may be sour grapes but they’re not the only fish in the pond.

From: Carol Putman — Jul 30, 2011

Having struggled with Fibromyalgia for several years now, I had experienced the accompanying memory difficulty. For my own information and because I had a hard time remembering certain events of my life, I began recording the art classes I had taken in college and at local arts groups, the places I had worked, the schools I had attended and so on. As I started to show my artwork, I made a list of the shows and dates for my own information. It wasn’t a resume really, but just something to jog my memory. In the process, I recovered many events that had been lost to me. Occasionally, something will come back to me and I faithfully record it. Before I knew it, I had a “Bio” carved out of my damaged memories. I post it on my website not to impress others, but to help me remember where I have been and to stay focused on where I want to go.

From: Carol Putman — Jul 30, 2011

P.S. Feeling the need to respond to Faith P.’s comments, I had an instructor like you who offered less than encouragement. I felt it was his own inability to teach that was the problem. I don’t remember his name, thankfully, but your student is treating you more graciously in mentioning your name than you have treated her here with your comments. Sadly you sound terribly jaded and snobbish.

From: jcb — Jul 31, 2011

I can see Faith P’s point. It’s a good caution to rising artists who may be tempted to claim too close a connection with famous artists.

From: Wilfrido Limvalencia — Jul 31, 2011

I seriously think there should be a rule to have this “studied under…” banned in all resumes. The classes or seminars, conducted by some famous and not-so-famous artists, are usually just for a day or two, unlike in the olden days when a budding artist must apprentice for months and years under the old master to have the honor of name-dropping. The meaning of “studied under…” today is totally different from what it used to be. More often than not it has spawned useless seminars and sadly for the artists, wasted money in their desire to boost credentials.

From: Rick Rotante — Jul 31, 2011

The problem regarding having ‘credentials” matters only when you want to teach in an “accredited” school or academy. Then, the school can use this as a selling point to attract students. In the real world, many graduates from arts schools, know little about art or how to teach. All they know is the curriculum they learned in school. They generally have no sales/ exhibit history and also have no oeuver except their school work. I see this again and again. What is more prevalent lately is the “ethnic” teachers. Personally I have nothing against anyone’s ethnicity. I see Chinese students seeking out Chinese teachers, and Armenian students seeking out Armenian teachers which is fine with me. Unfortunately for me I don’t see many Italian students seeking me out due to my Italian heritage. I have been told by some Chinese painters I know and love, that I had a better change of being a great painter due to my ethnicity since many great painters were of Italian decent.. This is, of course, ridiculous. What I’ve learned comes from hard work and long hours being a painter.Other than that, your work and history should speak to getting into shows. Not to mention your entry fees- which, by the way, are non-refundable.

From: Anon — Jul 31, 2011

Funny, the students who couldn’t quite figure out what I taught them use my name in their resumes, but the people who copy me and mimic my style do not mention my name.

From: Phil Kendall — Aug 02, 2011

Artists’ résumés are only for those pretentious people who think they are important just because they happen read résumés. For the art cognoscenti credentials are oh so important and the artists’ résumé satisfies that need. They need to know that ‘their artist has a proper solid grounding in the world of art’ & that ‘this artist is one of them’. Clearly a classically trained artist has few problems in this elite world they, their art & their collectors are from one common stock and they understand each other. After all how could they like, let alone buy, a painting from an outsider? Ordinary people just like to collect art that is for them is: well presented, well done, shows some skill on the part of the artist, the painting has some life-enhancing quality oh and it looks good on their wall. These so called uninformed art collectors simply collect art made by an artist because that art appeals to them. They do not care about their artists’ educational background or their training or their place in the pecking order; they just like the art. Résumés are often a problem for artists who lack the formal art training but none the less are competent artists’. What is there to put in a résumé? A synopsis of their artistic development from the pre-school crèche [oh look a learned accented ‘e’]oh and they are still painting but now retired aged 65…just how long is that piece of string? So do please excuse me being the philistine that I am. Pragmatism indicates their unimportance compared to the work of art itself. Are the past masters any less important because of their lack a current résumé? Those past masters only had years of experience without any formal education let alone a degree in art. An artist can opt not to bother trying to write a résumé. [Dear reader this use of these accented é is their because I remember them from my lessons in the use of the French language, its in my spell-check and it makes me seem more learned]. So, If you insist on having a resume [no pretention here]it’s okay to put in the names of those teachers from your classes but only if you think that might add that cachet to the fact that you are an artist. You may need to be careful who you ‘studied under’ and you might also have to leave a few out. Just in case they are not members of that magic circle of the art cognoscenti with credentials. Those good apples may have gone bad over the years too..

From: barbstur — Aug 02, 2011

I LOVE the Bunny! The hen and chick! Fame tells a story in just her sitting alone…as did the children at the beach testing the waves. I paint to tell a story not to be perfect in application…or to get just get an image as I think others want to see it. I love to tell stories of courage and triumph in adversity with symbols hinned in plain view. I do not have a personal painting ‘style’ I am a realist and that is who I am so be it and I paint the beauty in my minds eye for MYSELF if someone else likes it I am happy for them. If not…I let it be there problem…!

From: Peter Trent — Aug 02, 2011

Some weeks ago I sent in ( paypal-ed) $ 10 to lease (?) some space to promote my upcoming exhibit at the TMR library:silly me, I did’nt get around to sending in the required information and I guess, under normal circumstances the ten bucks drops to the ‘bottom line ‘. If possible, I would rather see that go into some non-profit activity that would benefit childern’s art education ! Yeah, yeah, I know – ten bucks – are you kidding ! No ! – consider it seed money for a project dearly needed in every Canadian province and, if promoted, maybe – just maybe, it could morph into something signifigant. The road to the mountain begins with one step ! Regards, Peter T regard,

From: Carrie Rominger — Aug 02, 2011

I LOVE “Caramel Cuteness”! Perfectly captured with sure strokes. Keep painting!!!!!

From: Diana S. Hutchison — Aug 03, 2011

Kristen, you’ve got your lights,your darks, your all the in betweens, now you can focus on YOUR “BIGS”…want big, think big, PAINT BIG…soon, you will have nourished your own self in a more grandiose way…just sayin’. Good Luck.

From: Greg Rose — Aug 04, 2011

Work either stands on its own merits or does not. All else is someone’s personal agenda, and it’s usually not directly art related. Every year here there is an arts festival several days long, in a park set aside for special events. There is music — and a nice stage — food and some crafts. The only nod toward the plastic arts is a so called “sculpture garden.” There is nothing on paper, nothing on canvas or panel. To be fair, there is an affiliated show which is usually tucked away across town, most often in a commercial establishment, and not open for visitation on the days or times of the arts festival. If the musicians and “sculptors” will forgive me, it’s almost an arts festival without arts. But then again, people keep saying that painting is dead. That being said, there are no installations at the festival either. I wonder whose dream we’re living here?

From: Sylvia Hicks — Aug 05, 2011

I would suggest to this artist,to develop an “Artists Statement”. That can be a powerful tool. But then its all art-speak anyway. Let the art talk for itself!

From: estelle schwarz — Aug 12, 2011

Great newsletter and wonderful comments…

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Aug 21, 2011

Not much to add to what everyone has said. But I couldn’t resist saying to Tatyana that horse people (and probably most people in the western US and Canada recognize the origin of the saying “getting a leg up”. It can be hard to mount a steed from the ground, so it is not uncommon to ask for a “leg up” from someone (who forms a “stirrup” with fingers laced together to help lift the off leg), or “getting a leg up” by using a nearby support, often placed there for the purpose. A good statement and bio can give a leg up by making you and your art seem more accessible to a potential buyer. As for CVs and resumes… eh. Not sure I want to go there.

     Featured Workshop: Gibsons School of Art
080911_robert-genn9 Gibsons School of Art   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Beaver Farm

oil painting, 30 x 30 inches by George Perdue

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