These days, a popular term in the media world is “sticky.” It means the ability of a medium or a campaign to hold onto peoples’ interest and perhaps involve them further. On the internet, for example, “The Painter’s Keys” is called a sticky site because there’s a fair bit of content, opinion and information.
At the same time, some artists produce art that can also be said to be “sticky.” A lot of the stickiness of art has to do with sentiment. However, in this area an artist has to be careful. A cheesy light in a cottage window, a cute dog or a sleek chick or other slick image may grab folks, but you also have to think about the staying power of such devices. Very often a sentimental stickiness is best achieved when it’s subtle. If you’re cooking up stickiness, say to yourself: “This is going to be my sticky thing — now can I live with it?” Watch out for shock for the sake of shock. Or for the shock of the simply new. It’s sticky, sure, but how long will it take to become unsticky — or even worse — become unstuck as a tired cliché? Maybe it’s a personal weakness, but I don’t think it’s always a good idea for artists to exploit the knuckle-dragger within.
Fortunately, pure abstract qualities can make art sticky as well. While there are many of these qualities — here are the magic five: Gray to rest the eye. Gradation in a large area — or interlocking gradations. Warm against cool or cool against warm. Strong value pattern when reduced to black and white. Colour surprise. Put those five into any painting and a viewer’s eyes will tend to stick to it. In a way these sorts of considerations are the most elevated, the most sophisticated. Their power is mysterious and therefore compelling.
All this is in aid of a condition that some artists may find undesirable — even insulting. It is to make art that “sells itself.” Simply stated it means the making of art that somehow connects with others and involves them on a relatively profound level. When you come right down to it, stickiness is a tall order — it requires vision and dreams, and the ability to serve well that which you love. An evolved style is the natural outcome of these ideals. The subject matter may be sticky — but generally it’s what’s done with a subject that gives it the legs to walk out of a gallery.
PS: No vision and you perish;
No Ideal, and you’re lost;
Your heart must ever cherish
Some faith at any cost.
Some hope, some dream to cling to,
Some rainbow in the sky,
Some melody to sing to,
Some service that is high. (Harriet Du Autermont)
Esoterica: Another way of increasing stickiness in a work of art is what I call PMII — “Put More Into It.” This does not mean adding another cluttering element. It means dreaming further and exploiting the direction the work is already going — by adding more style, drama, energy, design, elegance, wonkyness, pathos, mood, texture, humour, or any number of effects that an individual artist might discover and claim. When the creator consciously and earnestly cruises her work–one or more of these directions can usually be found.
A sticky story
by Eva Kosinski, Louisville, CO, USA
A lot of what grabs folks’ attention in a work of art is at the level of the proto-story. The work has a sense of something about to happen; it has hints of a story that the “reader” fills in. Maybe a footprint subtly put somewhere, or a face in a window, or something that just doesn’t quite fit — that makes the viewer stop and wonder.
Stickiness is a subject
by Joseph Tany, Alhama de Granada, Spain
If you take everything into painting, that makes stickiness a subject. Just like humbleness, showing off, worth buying, or whatever sentiment or concept — all are subjects in themselves. It is not that you paint a landscape in a sticky way, but you paint stickiness itself. Stickiness is a subject.
Does bigger make sticky?
by Maxine Price, Austin, TX, USA
How do other artists feel about painting the same subject more than once? For instance painting a 24″ x 24″ painting and liking it so much that you do it again at 60″ x 60″. It is never quite the same and more challenging when on a grander scale. I have had various opinions about this including that I am copying myself. However, I feel that it is my image and I own it and can do with it what I choose. I just don’t put both paintings in the same gallery or same city.
(RG note) A well-conceived smaller painting will often gain power with increased size. By all means copy yourself. Is there anyone better?
A sticky business
The work of Thomas Kinkade is a current example of sticky artwork. These photo-lithos positively cloy with winding garden paths, floral gardens, picket fences, cute vintage cars, lights on in the proverbial window and smoke curling out of folksy chimneys. Add to that a sales team at over 1000 outlets and the result is that customers go temporarily brain dead for the reproductions and the result is a great business.
Gets stuck in his sticky
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, Florida, USA
With regard to the “sticky” business, I’m working on a series of paintings that reflect on my life, when I wasn’t doing too well a few years ago. I’m a recovered alcoholic and I’ve carried these images that I’m now putting to canvas. They aren’t of my normal style. But I’m wondering if by going into a dark side of myself it will hurt or help me. It reflects on life and the trying times. I’m wondering if this work could get sticky. So far I haven’t had any sticky success that I can think of. In the fine art arena it’s usually the repetition of an image that an artist gets known for doing. And then he gets stuck in his sticky.
Will it have legs?
by Louise Zjawin Francke, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
For years I’ve done detailed lithographs and etchings of birds and domesticated animal portraits. I had left the nude behind because I felt it just wasn’t in vogue anymore. Wrong! Two weeks before a printmakers show I wanted to change course and convert recent life drawings into simple contour drypoints with limited editions under ten. A strange thing happened. I had always wanted to go into monoprints. I had found beautiful unexpected things in the wiping of the plates. Hastily I printed these too! Two out of the five prints sold in a show. Now I’m thinking not only nudes, but animals done in the simple contour lines and perhaps when a wiping leads to something else, just print it. I’m in a new channel and looking to see how sticky this will be. Will it have legs?
Unfolding of spiritual awareness
by Linda Saccoccio, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
If one is striving for paintings to be sticky, to sell and is able to do this with the utmost vitality in their creativity then it will be lasting and not superficial. Even though originality comes from essential freedom, inspiration and trust and is not about pleasing anyone, I still feel it is important for an artist to have an audience that values her work. I see my work as an unfolding of my spiritual awareness, and I wish to share the energy that these paintings embody. So if it sticks it has value not just to me but to others. What a great offering that is.
Sticky ladder of life
by Sonja Donnelly, Lake Oswego, OR, USA
My work does not sell. Am I somehow sabotaging myself? A strong look back led me to realize I have a history of going right to the last rung of the ladder and getting stuck. Success in my father’s eye, as I saw it, was making money. I’ve never made more than peanuts. My mother was a teacher and I had a learning problem. I failed her too. But I had a gift. I had lots of friends in school, but no boyfriends. I was nominated by a town business to run for Miss Poulsbo, but I didn’t bother to memorize my speech. I have two wonderful daughters, but felt I wasn’t a very successful parent either, but I have a gift. Or do I? I’m still trying to get over that last rung of the ladder. Perhaps it’s the ladder of life and I won’t get there until the end.
Exposing the imposter within
by William Smith, Duluth, GA, USA
Due to some personal measuring stick, whether created by teachers or critical parents, artists often don’t recognize how good their work really is. The exercise of exposing the imposter characteristics can help them identify the measuring stick they’ve chosen and recognize that it, the measurement itself, is invalid, not the work. The work was good when they did it and will probably always remain good. They are good. It is simply the internal measurement that is invalid. The fact that Michelangelo may have never recognized this measuring fault has no impact on the value of his work. In fact, the constant struggle to reach perfection probably made it even more spectacular.
Exhaustion erases guilt
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
No job should be easy — if it is, then we can probably do more, or try harder. Once we know that we have done our very best, there is no space left for any feeling of guilt, just sweet tiredness. When feeling guilty, go back and do more. Repeat until the guilt disappears. “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.” (Vince Lombardi)
by Nana Banana
I’m at the stage to where I need a master painter to mentor me in oil painting. Someone to study with, to get technique, whatever it may be to broaden my paintings. Would you know of any websites or listings I may look into? I’ve met one person who teaches art, but she suggested I find someone else. And I’ve been thinking of it for over a month, so I would appreciate if you people know of anywhere I may check this out on information for a painter mentor, or whatever it is called.
Wisdom of street savants
by Donald Kruger, Culver City, California, USA
Regarding The Dreamway, I was a location manager for movies and TV for 20-plus years — from Lethbridge, Alberta to Tikal, Guatemala — and surely one meets such ‘savants’ on the streets with some regularity. And as did yourself, I have found their wisdom… sometimes cheaply cobbled, sometimes apparently divinely received… to be both haunting and unreconcilable upon reflection. But I always found them compelling, and they tended to stick to me like glue. Over the years I have hired lots of cops to direct traffic and protect the crew they told me not to look them in the eyes, for this made them human, and it was for this reason alone that they would follow me. Indeed, the cops handled such ‘savants’ adroitly but without lifting their gaze from the ground, nor would they entertain street savant ‘wisdom’… not that they weren’t listening, but apparently they’d heard it all before (and considered them to be nuts). Perhaps it appears mythic to our artistic sensibilities simply because it is so unexpected and dislocated.
(RG note) Thank you to everyone who wrote after reading The Dreamway.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2004.
That includes Billy who wrote, “Sticky. If you touch it, you own it.”
And also Katherine Lakeman of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico “My dry spell here in Mexico has been re-“wetted” with all of your remarks, and the recent rains have brought me coolness, inspiration, and creativity.”