Ashes To Ashes - A response to a LinkedIn article entitled : The Burning Question of the Starving Artists - Nov 25, 2015Read Now
Whether by motivation or arousal (!), so-called starving artists (I must beg to differ) do not create "art". Whether starving or otherwise, with or without training, with or without talent, individuals are universally creative. But at best, most of us create "artworks" whose legitimate lofty goal is to say something, to share something with others. Some, from the very beginning simply want to speak to themselves - thus the concept of art therapy is born. Others have a deep compulsion to go beyond themselves, to give their creations the tools to speak on their own. In some rare occurrences, that happens. Some artworks do become more special than others. They exude far more than the generalized norm when, on their own, they "say" something mesmerizing or enigmatic, unexplainable, but nonetheless incredibly enticing. And that is when "art" happens. . .
Artwork may attract or repel but on its own - without further assistance from its creator - it may, when it is excellent, touch and move the world. When artwork is at this level, we know it to be "art" and we know it emerges over and above the physical created elements of it. In essence, art is what artwork becomes when it exudes an aura of wondrousness. For the goal of artwork is always to be, to become "art". But because that essence so rarely emerges, few artworks - despite the billions created daily - achieve that goal.
As for Ramit Sethi. I am not a fan. His views are much too generalized in that he perceives the ultimate goal in life as making money and everyone trying to do so as being the same. We’re all a homogenized package of “wanna-be richers” rather than individuals to motivational speakers . In a consumer-based environment, that may be a legitimate perception. But to be quoted as saying that “artists. . . are constantly adopting worthless beliefs. . . .” is a rather belittling attitude toward a segment of readers who just happen to help him make his money. Under what category does this motivational comment fall in the quest to make his clients richer? Discouragement or encouragement? From this citation, I presume he sees this segment of the population as rather faulty elements in the process of distribution and consumerism. Basically, it is implied that “artists” are lacking in what it takes to disperse their product lines.
Yes. In the marketplace (whether we like it or not) our names are nothing more than a brand. In the studio we may be Joe ordinary wishing to create the ultimate in “the art of” painting or Mary extraordinary wishing to sculpt the finest essence of curves and angles. But, when we step away from this idyllic setting and enter the marketplace we, as Ford and Chrysler, are just another brand. But before that brand can have value, the product itself must not only be worthy of being branded but also prove itself to be over and above that sense of “self-aggrandizement" that branding sometimes conjures. Despite all contemporary considerations, or Mr Sethi’s speeches, the selling of artworks has more to do with the product than its inventor - at least until that creator is anointed with a special recognition of "greaterness". But then, as with artists, and art. . . greaterness is a rather rare thing and therefore hardly fits standard branding and or marketing principles.
That being said. In order to market a product, it must first and foremost be marketable, have an interested audience and have a price tag that fits the needs, wants (or illusions) of those who would wish the purchased artwork to be “valuable" art. In essence, we have to get over the marketing of ourselves as being more important than, or at the core of, the sellable product itself. That we, as painters or sculptors, are eccentric, outlandish, dreamy or boringly ordinary matters not - we are not the product. The quality of our work is not us. It is the drawing, painting or sculpture - the artwork presented which is of value. . . or not..
In marketing, no matter the number, the power or the repetition of ads, the flamboyance of websites or the presentation and/or promotions by galleries and art mags, nothing sells unless, at first presentation, the artwork is “attractive”; it lures and has the wherewithal to hold onto “them” (potential purchasers) even after they have left the displaying premises.
As for neuro-science affirmations and dissertations, any definition of reality in the arts is rarely "academic" though it is often a question of logic. Actually, the basics are : I want to be an artist. But, whether I become one or not doesn't depend on my wishes and dreams but rather on my abilities to create something which says more than its physical presence. In this, those who wish, need to or actually do see themselves as artists often delude themselves. Wanting to be something more than we are not is wishful thinking and rarely fulfills itself beyond our dreaming. In essence, what we do with what we have is not often art - whether worthy of the attentions of others or not. But here's the rub. This very fact does not mean that our creations have no value. But, like glass, that perceived value must be tempered in order that it (we) not shatter at the realization that chances are rare that our work will ever be perceived as great "art" or that we will ever be identified with the likes of Warhol, Michelangelo, Pollock, Tiepolo, Cassatt, Monet or any other "brand name" of historic renown.
Nevertheless, most artwork created is not hogwash. Some of it is recognizably horrid but much of it is rather acceptable. Some even reaches level that even the creator never expected. But art, as in “‘art” and not artwork, remains hard to find. Overall, reality dictates that our creativity is what we should concretely celebrate - not “being” an artist. In contemporary terms, “I am an artist” has become a rather speculative, if not vapid statement. Actually, what most of us do serves the purpose of soothing the savage beast within - and that is a most noble purpose - if not a grandiose one.
Despite all that has been said above and in the previous posting entitled : The Burning Question of Starving Artists, today is no more nor less a bad time for those who would be artists - except for the illusion that we all are, simply because we say we are. And because we say we are "starving" (often-times with a glint of pride in our eyes) the very thing becomes a quality of life manipulation rather than a decision made to not be “ordinary” - i.e. : getting a job like everybody else. Starving has nothing to do with or without “art”. It has to do with our compunction to believe that a so-called “artist” needs to not work at anything “else” lest he or she be seen to be less than what they want to “be”. Because so many of us continue to espouse the illusion that the 19th century bohemian artist ideal is still (if ever it was) a reality, we maintain the accompanying false premise that this makes us “passionate” (special?) rather than obstinate - and for some even obsessive.
Today’s artist would best study more the efforts and determinations of those who came before the 19th century- those who were of the working class and who sought to receive recognition not for themselves but for their work - for what they did rather than for who they were. In the beginning, these creative laborers” were students, apprentices and workers in ateliers. They were eventually hired out as assistants and then possibly, maybe, hopefully, with time and honed skill, owners of their own studios where clients would commission works they wished to have identified with their names. For these individuals who earned the title of artist, life had little room for illusion. Theirs was a world of long hours of work which eventually qualified them to be seen to be the uniquely creative independent painters and sculptors that they were. Today, we want it all when we want it all and often redefine the world's parameters to meet our needs whether they fit in with reality or not. And that is often our downfall.
My father’s first reaction to me announcing at 9 years old that I would be a portrait painter was a deep sigh. . . accompanied by a discouraged : “My eldest son wants to starve for a living.” Like many others of that time, he saw the arts as an increasingly vapid environment filled with non-working individuals crying out to be looked at and appreciated for who they were rather than what they accomplished. He was partly right. Nonetheless, the impression of that concocted reality, right or wrong, is still with us. And so, if creativity stands for anything today, it is left to us in this 21st century to get beyond the ill-founded perceptions - i.e. : It's time to get back to work.
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."