Passing Fancy

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“Fads are the kiss of death. When the fad goes away, you go with it.” Conway Twitty (from Brainyquote)

Who or what will be in the spotlight of art for 2014? What does it take to make it into the spotlight, the center stage? An idea, a painting, a poem, a sentence, a photograph that goes viral. There is no question that rocketing into superstardom overnight can make an artist a bunch of money, prestige, and more. Is that a place that can be planned for and what if it doesn’t happen?

The answer would necessarily depend on the artist. I confess to not knowing the exact percentage of those who make it to the viral stage but my guess is the number is rather small, probably closer to those who win the lottery. That is one of those wonderful things that is great if it happens but not something to take to the bank. Building a success that stands the test of time rather than the flash in the pan of being a current fad is a realistic goal. Sure it would be great and few would turn away the chance to be that fad but what about tomorrow?

Tiernan Morgan of Hyperallergic writes of the fading of the Banksy craze. Banksy was all the rage of the London art scene but is now becoming a thing of the past. Banksy became a huge success story and the darling of the art world for a time. As Morgan writes, “The art world, with its unforgiving addiction to novelty, always sneers at commercial success.” Banksy’s success has become his downfall. As he fades, the so-called art world will be looking for the next “novelty” to latch onto.

Before Banksy became the trend there was Damien Hirst and his dot paintings. The travails of Hirst have been much in the news lately. One wonders if Hirst’s troubles are due to the “novelty” having worn off for his dot paintings. Modern Edition speculates that perhaps Hirst’s downfall in popularity can be attributed to “overproduction.” An overproduction of dots may have led to the art worlds taste for the “novelty,” of Banksy’s stencils on the street. Now stencils are in overproduction.

Plantiebee asks the question, “Do you feel like you, yourself, are influenced or molded by the current trends in the art world?” Are artists creating art that is in the soul or creating for what the art world might want? Predicting how the two converge is an unknown. A commercial success is a great thing for any artist however fleeting it may be. The more fulfilling goal may be to gain the success that lasts. That success takes time, planning and following the heart not the trends. The long -term plan may also make a successful career and one that stands the test of time. Plan for the long term but grab the spotlight if it comes your way! A passing fancy is still a fancy.

Plantiebee has a great discussion of the subject of trends in art and what it means to artists at the link:

http://plantiebee.com/art-styles-fads-themes-and-feelings/

Felt or Flat

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“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (from Skinnyartist)

If a painting, a piece of music, a poem, a story, a performance, a photograph is so beautiful it touches the heart, it is considered a great work of art. That description is the ultimate validation for the creator of the piece. How does an artist get to the place of creating works capable of touching the heart of the onlooker, reader, listener? As Helen Keller says, it must be felt with the heart. The act of making art must be approached from the goal of creating purely from the feelings of the heart.

Marla Hoover at The Arkansas Artist says, “I always try to paint what is in my heart at the time and I see so many ideas that I can’t seem to get them all out fast enough.” Ideas come from the inner artist, the one who resides in the heart. Ideas from the heart are felt rather than reasoned. Hoover goes on to describe the difficulty of painting what some one else has suggested. Some one else’s suggestion is coming from that person’s heart, not the artist’s heart. Drawing that distinction can be problematic.

Taking the time to listen and to feel the heart before creating art, can open the door to the flood of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily mean another person’s suggestion can’t be felt, it simply means it’s best for the artist to be sure his/her own heart is engaged in the process, as well. Art without the engagement of the heart is likely to lack the energy of feeling, leaving the artwork on the flat side. There’s not much that is beautiful in flat feeling-less art.

Monet’s gardens at Giverny were where his heart and his art were deeply felt.  For more on Monet’s gardens and his life at Giverny follow the link here.

Word Games

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“Criticism is easy, art is difficult.” Destouches (from The Painter’s Keys)

Why do artists need guidance and assistance to write about their art? It’s a fact for many artists. Creating a painting is one thing, describing the process of how that happened is another. An artist knows, usually, why a subject or theme moves him or her to paint it. There is a spark that must be expressed. It is a drive that comes from inside. But to put that drive into words can stump many artists. Some even panic at the thought of putting it down on paper for others to read. How can an artist write an emotion, a thought, an inspiration? Sometimes there simply are no words.

Once, in an art forum, I put forth the possibility that artists are sensitive people by the very nature of being an artist. Very quickly, I was verbally slapped down for making an assumption. However, I hold to the original suggestion that, perhaps, artists are sensitive and thus are open to seeing beauty, insight, emotion and other things that may have been missed by the average non-artist person. That sensitivity may be a part of the difficulty of writing about a very personal process that comes from a deep inner place.

Silvia Kolbowski writes in her blog that the majority of the art publications of the 1980’s and 90’s published mostly art criticism. Every artist knows putting their art out there for others to criticize can be painful. Adding words that could potentially make that criticism stronger can add to the pain. Sensitive or not, who wants to put themselves out there to be the subject of some witty critic using you as the focus for his or her latest quotable zingers. It’s a tough call. However, having the right words to describe the artistic process can go a long way in solving the problem and increasing confidence in writing the artist’s statement.

Author Vicki Krohn Ambrose has a new blog post on ways artists can come up with words describing their work or process. Following the suggestions Ambrose put forth hit the spot. Once the process is set in motion, the words begin to flow. It actually starts to be a game of sorts. After a bit of practice, the fun begins and words are spotted everywhere and incorporated into the artist’s new rewritten statement. This new statement can become a work of art in itself.

When words are hard to come by in describing the process, try the suggestions Ambrose outlines in her blog post and also her book. Make a game of it or see it as a new challenge to be conquered. And you can always follow what Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I never read what the critics write.” Armed with new, exciting words of description and ears closed to the sound of the critics, writing an artist’s statement becomes a fun word game. And who doesn’t love to play games??

Vicki Krohn Ambrose’s book, Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists can be found at Amazon (here).

Weekend Inspiration–Looking to Each Other

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“You can look anywhere and find inspiration.”  Frank Gehry  (from The Painter’s Keys)

Dry spells, days without inspiration, lack of incentive can happen at anytime to any artist.  You show up at the studio, sit in front of an empty canvas or paper and nothing happens.  Nothing is working.  You looked to all your usual sources of inspiration and still nothing.  So what now?  You can give up and walk away or you can look to your fellow artists.

Stories are everywhere of artists who worked in groups.  The Impressionists were noted for it.  Monet and Renoir occasionally painted the same subjects.  Picasso and Braque explored cubism together.  The tales of artists gathering together in Paris cafes and bars are well known.  The Abstract Expressionists frequently met in New York at various locations.  Artists are gathering today.  Are you one of them?

Gathering with fellow artists today does not necessarily mean physically meeting in a restaurant or studio.  Artopia Magazine suggests, “Following artists on social media is a great source for finding inspiration on many levels.”  Taking the time to “like” other artists on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, read artist’s blogs and check out artists websites are all ways to gather with other artists in today’s internet world.  Artists are doing amazing things all over the world.  All it takes is a couple of clicks to enter a world of inspiration from fellow artists.

Indiemade.com suggests joining a local art group and if you don’t have one, start one.  Find a group of other artists and make plans to meet together.  You can choose to take a meal together regularly just to discuss art in general.  You could meet together for some Plein Air painting.  Another possibility is potluck once a month rotating at each other’s studios. Find your fellow local artists and make a plan.

When you are blanking out on inspiration, look around at other artists and see what they are up to.  If you find your fellow artist also in a blank place maybe you can inspire each other.  And if not, you can always commiserate with one another until new sources of inspiration can be found.  Nobody stays dry forever.  Companionship during the dry times may help move the dryness on down the road.

Critical Distinctions

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“The Distinctions of fine art bore me to death.” Maurice Sendak (from Brainyquote)

The debate has raged on and on over Fine Art versus Illustration. Is illustration fine art? Is fine art, illustration? Many a late night conversation among art students has debated this question. The snobbery on each side is rather humorous. Each believes his/her choice is the more worthy art. Blog posts abound on the topic. Will the question ever be answered? How will we sleep at night until we know the answer?

The lines cross so frequently it can make a body dizzy. This piece is fine art. That one is illustration. This work of fine art is also illustration. And this illustration is actually fine art. Some say illustration is in magazines and fine art is on gallery walls. But fine art also appears in magazines and illustration can be found in galleries. Maybe someone should put out a directional book so that viewers can identify which is which. The Complete Guide to Discerning Fine Art from Illustration would quickly become a best seller. The question then is who is going to write it? We can’t have a fine arts professional making the decision on illustration and vice versa. I can feel my head spinning!

What if the fine artists and the illustrators got together and decided they were really all the same group? An artist is an artist is an artist no matter what your chosen medium or place of commerce. It’s all one big happy family. Fine artists and illustrators are one in the same. The critics would be totally confused. They wouldn’t know who to criticize and who to ignore.

All could be harmony until the graphic designers hear about it and want to get in on the game. Since no one has settled the debate about whether graphic design is fine art or illustration or neither, they will have to join the family, too or that might set the debate spinning again. Perhaps it is best to just ignore the debate. Artists focus on art leaving the question of who’s who to the critics. Sorting it out gives the critics something to do and it is always better to keep them occupied. They get into trouble otherwise.

Weekend Inspiration–Seeking Kindred Spirits

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“As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight.”  James McNeil Whistler (from skinnyartist.com)

Art inspires literature.  Literature inspires art.  Music inspires both art and literature, and vice versa. There is an emotional connection that is felt, one for the other on a deep level.  It has been going on for as long as humans have communicated with each other.

The evidence is there. Blog.ted.com has an article by Kate Torgovnik on Ten Books Inspired By Paintings.  Redbubble.com has a group devoted entirely to art inspired by literature.  A Current Under Sea has a post by Angie about literature inspired art.  Flavorwire.com has an article titled Great Works of Art Inspired by Great Works of Literature.  The list goes on.  Examples abound of the arts inspiring the arts.

Artists, writers, and musicians create from a place within that speaks to inherent creativity.  It is a special language heard and recognized one in the other.  Spirit recognizes kindred spirit and is inspired. It is a mystical place.  Those times when blocks happen, a moment to seek the place of the kindred spirit may be in order. Check in with your writer and/or musician friends.  Take time out to read a meaningful work of literature.  Read poetry.  Listen to a piece of personally inspiring music.  Perhaps in the shared language of creation fresh inspiration will be seen or heard.

Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, inspired the book of the same name.

Listen Up: Heart versus Brain

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“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” Leonardo da Vinci

What is political art and what isn’t?  The Tate’s new exhibition, “Art Turning Left” exhibits the art of left-leaning political artists like the Guerrilla Girls.  Undoubtedly, the Guerrrilla Girls made a splash with their bold political statements turning up in odd and surprising places but always with a point to be made.  And they made no bones about the purpose of their art.  The Guerrilla Girls wanted to be heard and they were screaming in the face of as many people as possible.

The Tate’s exhibit would tend to surmise that political art was entirely a product of the left.  The truth is both right and left have always used art as a means of getting their message out.  Hitler was to known to frequently use art for his political purpose.  But is it art or is it propaganda?  Do artists become artists to make political statements or to pull something out of the heart to bring enlightenment to the world?

The answer would seem to lie in the designation of importance of either goal.  Is my art about informing others of a political injustice?  Or is my art about expressing something in my heart that must get out for others to see?  Creating art solely to make a point would seem to be the dividing line.  If you did not have a point to make politically or socially, would you be making art?  The fact that what is in the artist’s heart may be expressed as a political message is a different thing than making a judgment to use art as the vehicle for getting a political statement into the public arena.  One is a calculated brain decision.  The other is the expression of the heart.  The difficulty for the viewer  is to tell which is which.  The feelings of the heart can override the calculations of the brain as long as the ears are listening.

For an entertaining look at art purely for political gain go to the blog: Standing Ovation, Seated.