*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
…Two positions exist, the artistic and the commercial. Between these two an abiding tension persists. The eighteenth-century American painter Gilbert Stuart complained, “What a business is that of portrait painter. He is brought a potato and is expected to paint a peach.” The artist learns that the public wants peaches, not potatoes. You can paint potatoes if you like, write potatoes, dance potatoes, and compose potatoes, you can with great and valiant effort communicate with some other potato-eaters and peach-eaters. In so doing you contribute to the world’s reservoir of truth and beauty. But if you won’t give the public peaches, you won’t be paid much.
Repeatedly artists take the heroic potato position. They want their work to be good, honest, powerful – and only then successful. They want their work to be alive, not contrived and formulaic. As the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch put it: “No longer shall I paint interiors, and people reading, and women knitting. I shall paint living people, who breathe and feel and suffer and love.”
The artist is interested in the present and has little desire to repeat old, albeit successful formulas. As the painter Jenny Holzer put it, “I could do a pretty good third generation-stripe painting, but so what?
The unexpected result of the artist’s determination to do his [sic] own best art is that he is put in an adversarial relationship with the public. In that adversarial position he comes to feel rather irrational for what rational person would do work that’s not wanted?
…Serious work not only doesn’t sell well, it’s also judged by different standards. If the artist writes an imperfect but commercial novel it is likely to be published and sold. If his screenplay is imperfect but commercial enough it may be produced. If it is imperfect and also uncommercial it will not be produced. If his painting is imperfect but friendly and familiar it may sell well. If it is imperfect and also new and difficult, it may not sell for decades, if ever.
Ironically enough, the artist attempting serious work must also attain the very highest level of distinction possible. He must produce Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov but not also The Insulted and Injured or A Raw Youth, two of Dostoevsky’s nearly unknown novels. He is given precious little space in this regard.
I daresay, this last is why I devote my life to creating the most unique, technically advanced pastel paintings anyone will see!
Eric Maisel, A Life in the Arts: Practical Guidance and Inspiration for Creative and Performing Artists
Comments are welcome!
Two facts differentiate Daybook from my work in visual art.
The first is the simple safety of numbers. There are 6500 Daybooks in the world. My contribution to them was entirely mental, emotional. I never put my hand on a single copy of these objects until I picked up a printed book. I made no physical effort; no blood, no bone marrow moved from me to them. I do not mean that I made no effort. On the contrary, the effort was excruciating because it was so without physical involvement, so entirely hard-wrought out of nothing physical at all; no matter how little of the material world goes into visual art, something of it always does, and that something keeps you company as you work. There seems to me no essential difference in psychic cost between visual and literary effort, The difference is in what emerges as result. A work of visual art is painfully liable to accident; months of concentration and can be destroyed by a careless shove. Not so 6500 objects. This fact gives me a feeling of security like that of living in a large, flourishing, and prosperous family.
Ancillary to this aspect is the commonplaceness of a book. People do not have to go much out of their way to get hold of it, and they can carry it around with them and mark it up, and even drop it in a tub while reading in a bath. It is a relief to have my work an ordinary part of life, released from the sacrosanct precincts of galleries and museums. A book is also cheap. Its cost is roughly equivalent to its material value as an object, per se. This seems to me more healthy than the price of art, which bears no relation to its quality and fluctuates in the marketplace in ways that leave it open to exploitation. An artist who sells widely has only to mark a piece of paper for it to become worth an amount way out of proportion to its original cost. This aspect of art has always bothered me, and is one reason why I like teaching; an artist can exchange knowledge and experience for money in an economy as honest as that of a bricklayer.
Anne Truitt in Turn: The Journal of an Artist
Comments are welcome!
Certainly the most compelling thing in both personal life and art is to be yourself. When we engage attentively and honestly, pay attention to the insights that come to us, see our denial and faulty thinking, and engage in uncovering the obstacles and blocks to our expression, we realize that art is a wonderful medium for personal growth.
If we realize all this, we do ourselves justice when we claim to be an artist. We really mean it, and we own it. Today, as we start working on whatever it is we’re doing, let’s claim our role as artists, being attentive to process as much as finished results.
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision.
Comments are welcome!