* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Artists, when they are absorbed in their work, are also deeply connected to other human beings. The theologian Matthew Fox said, “The journey the artist makes in turning inward to listen and to trust his or her images is a communal journey.” The psychologist Otto Rank argued that, “The collective unconscious, not rugged individuality, gives birth to creativity.”
To be sure, artists are not making real contact with real human beings as they work in the studio, but they are making contact in the realm of the spirit. The absence of the pressures real people bring to bear on them allows them, in solitude, to love humankind. Whereas in their day job they may hate their boss and at Thanksgiving they must deal with their alcoholic parents, in the studio their best impulses and most noble sentiments are free to emerge.
Eric Maisel in A Life in the Arts
Comments are welcome!
Q: When you left the Navy you worked on commission as a portrait artist. Why don’t you accept commissions now?
A: As I have often said, I left the active duty Navy in 1989, but stayed in the Reserves. The Reserves provided a small part-time income and the only requirement was that I work one weekend a month and two weeks each year. Plus, I could retire after 13 more years and receive a pension. (In 2003 I retired from the Navy Reserve as a Commander). The rest of the time I was free to pursue my studio practice.
For a short time I made a living making commissioned photo-realist portraits in soft pastel on sandpaper. However, after a year I became very restless. I remember thinking, “I did not leave a boring job just to make boring art!” I lost interest in doing commissions because what I wanted to accomplish personally as an artist did not coincide with what portrait clients wanted. I finished my final portrait commission in 1990 and never looked back.
To this day I remain reluctant to accept a commission of any kind. So I am completely free to paint whatever I want, which is the only way to evolve as a serious, deeply committed artist.
Comments are welcome!
Q: Would you speak about the practical realities – time and expenses – involved in making your pastel-on-sandpaper paintings? What might people be surprised to learn about this aspect of art-making?
A: I have often said that this work is labor-intensive. In a good year I can complete five or six large (38″ x 58″) pastel paintings. In 2013 I am on track to make four, or, on average, one completed painting every three months. I try to spend between thirty-five and forty hours a week in the studio. Of course, I don’t work continuously all day long. I work for awhile, step back, look, make changes and additions, think, make more changes, step back, etc. Still, hundreds of hours go into making each piece in the “Black Paintings” series, if we count only the actual execution. There is also much thinking and preparation – there is no way to measure this – that happen before I ever get to stand before an empty piece of sandpaper and begin.
As far as current expenses, they are upwards of $12,000 per painting. Here is a partial breakdown:
$4500 New York studio, rent and utilities ($1350/month) for three months
$2500 Supplies, including frames (between $1500 – $1700), photographs, pastels (pro-rated), paper
$2000 Foreign travel to find the cultural objects, masks, etc. depicted in my work (approximate, pro-rated)
$3000 Business expenses, such as computer-related expenses, website, marketing, advertising, etc.
This list leaves out many items, most notably compensation for my time, shipping and exhibition expenses, costs of training (i.e. ongoing photography classes), photography equipment, etc. Given my overhead, the paintings are always priced at the bare minimum that will allow me to continue making art.
I wonder: ARE people surprised by these numbers? Anyone who has ever tried it knows that art is a tough road. Long ago I stopped thinking about the cost and began doing whatever is necessary to make the best paintings. The quality of the work and my evolution as an artist are paramount now. This is my life’s work, after all.
Comments are welcome!