Within the 52 years of painting professionally, there were 46 of those where Bermuda played a major role in my achievements. I created 268 artworks of Bermuda and its people. 118 were portraits the rest were of the land and sky and waters surrounding the islands. Still is a place of wonder.
To thank Bermuda for its never-ending welcome throughout these years, on July 14 of 2019 I donated 4 paintings to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
Warhol died in 1987. But make no mistake, he's still around. The effect of his persona continues.
He not only saw through the thin veneer of his time, he eerily saw where it was taking us.
And that says more about his innate genius than the sum of his seemingly
endless kitsch presentations.
But how is it he saw what we did not see until so much later?
What would (could?) he say and do "about us" if he were still with us?
Would he continue to focus on the icons of his day or would "we" now be the center of his attentions?
Andrew Warhola affected and continues to affect the perceptions of the world
All of "us" have been taken in by his observations and his manner. Does his influence please us? Should it? Maybe yes, maybe no.
It would seem that all depends on what we do with what we learn from
linking his past observations with our present behaviours.
All in all, it wouldn't hurt to better understand the roller-coaster ride we're presently on.
Soup Can Ethics
By the mid 60s, Andy Warhol was a fixture; “the” brand; the symbol for “self-commodification”. Thus, to the game of contemporary visual art creation & distribution, his persona (the painter, sculptor & conceiver of ideas) summarily elevated itself to the status of "artist = art". A strategist, Warhol considered this the right defensive move for the times. With an increased demand for all to be free and equal (à la Allen Ginsberg) Andy sought to maintain (protect?) his “place” in the grand scheme of things evolving. Though a calculated move, this final morph from Pawn to Knight to King was nonetheless dangerous. But then. . . he was Andy Warhol.
Rather take that step, in his own mind, than accept the humbling reality that was increasingly being touted by a rising rabble of “average folks” - i.e. : those within a flower power context who now considered artwork-making “groovy”, and artists?. . well, just “anybody” who did such stuff - i.e. : those who “played with” and did fun things called “art”. Odd assertion this. . . At the same time that the “doing of art” was being brought down to an “anyone can do it” level, “being seen to be an artist” (having royalty status) was becoming a generalized “craving-to- be”.
The Who’s Who In The Game (Chances Are. . . )
Though pundits now discourse the influence of Warhol on Banksy and Hirst, in the grand scheme of things, that seems rather irrelevant. More important is : how does his enigmatic personality and legacy relate to we contemporary drawers and painters - we, who are not of the chosen few?
On the bright side, we can always dream of the day our work gets a pass - is seen to have something important to say. But then, what are the chances? In a world of multi-million (billion?) artworks produced daily, our “masterpieces” are more likely to be considered pretty good at best and at worst, just “pretty”. In Warhol’s case such rejections, meaningless as populist logistics generally are, were not an option. In lieu, he threw it all in our faces. And, being smarter than most, his timing was perfect and he won the toss.
Dreams Are Made Of. . . Uhm?
But how is it that Warhol would ever be related to us and we to him? Well, Warhol seemed to have forecast western society’s eventual adoption of a pervasive Kardashian-superficiality - i.e. : a trumpeting of an “anything is possible if you wish it to be so” mantra. Nonetheless, the 60s failed to carry forward the equal and opposite consideration that the uniqueness of mastery, of genius, of daring-do would remain, as always rare and elusive. In essence, the Warhols, Caravaggios, Benvenuto Cellinis, Fra Filippo Lippis, Gauguins, Daumiers and Fischls of this world (despite their bluster and delinquencies) were and still are stand-outs - different somehow; not of the rabble. They were and are more than many of us can aspire to be - not because they were at times nice, at times abominable, but rather because their work was and is so damned good. In essence, to aspire to is fine. But the achieving of illusions, of getting a star on the walk of fame, is more often than not a realistic aspiration only if we’ve been dead for a bit. And even then. . . The odds are still better in Vegas.
Though The Times They Are A Changin’. . .
As much as the 60s art world was immersed in creative bravado - in a reawakening of the power of stimulation and propaganda, contradictory feelings nonetheless filled the air. If changes were to fully occur, alternate realities had to first respect the laws of change. New ways of doing things had to allow the past to say its goodbyes, if goodbyes needed saying. In essence, to emerge intact, any new and improved “ballsy” era (read: Pop) had to both take root in something solid (if it was to survive at all) and, at the same time, deal with an emerging populism that demanded “its own elevated place” on a global scale.
Basically, what we had in those years was a melding of 3 world views : the classic “old”, a usual irreverent “new” and an unexpected ever more brash perspective which had (and still has) a “who gives a f**k!, I can do that too!” disposition. And with the 70s well on its way, Warhol knew what was going on and what would inevitably be. And because he was a keen observer, his name, personality and visions came to survive that of the many who sat at his side and even of she who shot him. Yet. . . Does the new always survive and even crush the old, the classic, the established perspective?
Old Remains New If It’s Still Around To Irk The New
The classic perception that artwork is nothing if art does not emerge from it has always been (and continues to be) a threat to a contemporary society’s ever “newer” visual aspirations and neo-meanderings - be they as superficial and crazy as they seem to be, actually are. . . or aren't.
During Warhol’s reign, the world's masses were being baited, lured-in like innocent fish to a Disneyland effect : i.e. : the beginnings of a never ending entertainment = happiness shtick. If side-shows were what got and still get eyeballs, side-shows it would be and, for that matter, remain even more Machiavellian to this day.
With the rules of the game bent and on the verge of snapping, everyone began to slowly sit up straighter through the late 20th century; hoping that in the end they too would be considered a find, a prodigy, a genius, a wunderkind - above the rest of the proverbial fray - at least in their own minds. But then, as ten year old musician Ariel Lanyi wisely stated a number of years ago : “. . . a prodigy is basically someone who can play fast (impress?). . . not more than that. . . (one who does not) understand music.” (the art of it all?).
That is not to say that “fast (brash?) side-show” entertainment was then or is now a sure thing recipe or even a bad one in any era. Some daring, if not “ôser” performers made it in the past and some still do. And by sheer numbers, in our time, bets have to be on the flamboyant fare of the great unwashed and not on the offerings of the select few actual “genii”. When it comes to “arousing”, titillation of the “masses” counts for more. The elite are about import, the masses about impact. As an emotive collective, it seems we are more into the latter. When push comes to shove, at least in every second generation or so, what is popular holds more sway than what deserves recognized achievement or respect.
Everyone’s an artist and everything is art
In essence, Warhol’s assessment remains correct. The rising tide, the rising no-voice class has been, uhm. . . rising for some time. Though the me, myself and I generation was evolving slowly, by the 1990s it had already begun showing its true colours - as muddied as they were.
Me - Oil /huile - 24" x 36" - 60cm x 90cm) - 1995
By 1995 our collective cravings had us “‘acting like” (whatever that means), if not actually being, artists (as romantic and supercilious both that wanting and acting-like are). And, erratic as that “becoming” has been and still is in this 21st century, it continues to be powerful enough to edge many "real" creatives out of what suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harriet increasingly want for themselves : i.e. : to be seen. . . to be seen to be unique, to be known (popular) and to be loved as more than just ordinary folk who spend their whole lives being nobodies, in an increasingly nobody world.
Creativity, or so it seems, has today become more about therapy than creative élan. Where the therapeutic process of creativity was once related to a “self bettering”, and artistic creativity about skill set acquisition of a new and wondrous language, today creativity is a melded and moulded commodity. it is more about emoting - about how we feel in our never ending bursts of sads and happies.
And in that, what about Hirst and Banksy? Who cares! The visual arts are a lot less about influence these days than they are about “I, Me and moi”.
I, Me, Moi - Digital Rendering - 10" x 28" - 2017
Are we "Art" or is art "us"?
Andrew Warhola knew enough about “old art” theory to bank on his notion that the viewers of his artworks were in actual fact (and without their even knowing) the subjects of them. Yes, his marketing genius skills were noteworthy. But first and foremost, his work was a stalwart reflection of his times and of the future. We the people were reflected in the faces of his iconic actors, actresses, politicians and other subjects "in high places”. And we still are.
For all intents and purposes, his artworks were the first “cell phone selfie reflections”. We looked at them, into them and ironically wished ourselves pictured. And as Warhol snapped those “pictures”, Marilyn, Mao, et al got us wondering, smiling, cavorting and posing.
And so, back then, there began to evolve a clearer and yet still ignored picture of how the masses - how "we" were all formulating a contentious stand of status against “every man collapsing”. In that, we have found (and keep finding) every man (ourselves) in an envious grudge match - one in which we incessantly reach out to grab for ourselves even a minuscule morsel of the crumbling status that is "status".
Up the down stair case
So. . . Was this then, and is this now, a down-slide time or an equalizing of the spoils time? That all depends on which side of the fence we sat on in the past and sit on today. For those who, from time immemorial, have classified themselves as “nothing more thans” - i.e. : as simply labourers, working folk, “ordinaries” - this latest century has been offering up a seemingly encouraging light at the end of the tunnel. But then. . . Is it really a beacon? Or is it more a siren’s touch-screen luring? . . . Are we sending out messages of what we want or is it the advertising in our world of never-ending consumption which is gradually consuming us?
Populist, day-gone-by amenities, like “Thank god it’s Friday” & “Freedom 55", have evolved into newer and better acquisitions of cars, nose, cheek and lip jobs, hair-transplants, save ourselves from disaster insurance contracts, funky jello hairdos, yet another tatoo and other “superficial positives”. For some time now, as a collective, all of these have been making us “feel good”. But have any of them or do any of these marketed compensatory ploys add up to even just one full blown joy?
The fifties brought us TV. Today? Not good enough. We want multiple giant screens in our homes, that we watch less and less of, and ironically take along miniaturized copies to incessantly stare at while walking into telephone polls . 1963 gave us touch tone phones, 1973 walk and talk units, The mid nineties heard the first word spoken over an eventually identified as “internet thing”. And since, much continues to be seasonally introduced - like new cars, as if inventions have to wait their turn to be launched as the next “new and improved” something or other.
And, as time passes, our new and improveds also quickly become “not good enoughs”. We wanted more in the 60s, 70s, 80s . . . And as Warhol mused on. . . We want more now of what is not easily attainable, if at all possible. Cause what we end up having "the most of" today are increasingly unmet instant gratification needs. And the more we crave deeply, the quicker our fantasies fade into the discouraging illusions that they are.
Though not all of us are made to be seers, masters or power mongers. . . all of us, it seems, wish to be seen to be more. From the lure of the television-like print close-ups Warhol created in the 60s, we’ve come to misguidedly embrace, to be fascinated more by the illusion sold than the reality of a falsehood depicted. Excellence in communication was/is, once again, trumped (no pun intended) by the medium being the snake oil message that it is. Warhol knew that. If he were with us, he would know it still.
Openness & Transparency Vibes
But with advertising, promotion and marketing, have we not become more open? Have we not? Have we? What are we? . . . with our right clothes, right cars, right accessories and right doses of Zoloft or Paxil? Are we OK? Better? Getting there? Will the right “new and improved” cell phone be the next aphrodisiac to our never-ending wantings? Never mind the inner joy thing. That’s just too hard to recapture from childhood. And anyway, what’s available? What’s actually up for grabs? Bring on the next Google, Amazon and YouTube promo!!!
It’s as if we've reached a manufacturer’s dream pinnacle of nirvana; a never to be matched orgasm of discovery as our every fiber aches to find that lost "better being” that is us - that ever sought selfie self - with not even a hint of an “other” disturbing our quiescent descent into the bliss of uniqueness. Ah, to be left alone - not in our usual anxiety borne loneliness - but rather in the safe solitude of a connected disconnectedness such as we have found via the Facebook, Instagram and Chatbot personas we have created.
From The 20th To The 21st
Can it be that what Warhol sought was a discovery of the self; which he then projected onto the images of others rather than onto those of himself? In his quest to be seen to be, did he ever become the erudite elitist; the bearer of the ennobled title of "artist” - an identity which he seemingly had to have? Was Warhol in search of that “brand” we so intensely crave to be identified with today - rather than have it identified to us? Was AW, for all intents and purposes, following our dream of being hot-branded? Is the search for self-branding one of our own design lest we appear to "fail" when we are scorched by everyone else’s hot iron stamp? Or is it a desire to be seen to be as big as every other previous master - without all the trouble of working at it?
Yes! . . with time, "I’m an artist too" has come to supersede the ubiquitous “I am an artist”.
Now, that may be easy in the arts and craft world where adult coloring books now contain “art-101" exercises. But claiming a status equal to that of a Sigmar Polke, Corot, John Singer Sargent, Hokusai, Barnett Newman or Pollock remains a rather extended if not narcissistic stretch. And so, is this where we now stake our claim - on an identity, on a brand, in our “selves” rather than in the independent powers which lie within our creations?
We should be careful. . . Getting away with arrogance now demands a better proposed game plan than was historically implemented in the Pop era. Did we ever truly say our goodbyes to the “past” - or are we just “hangin on” to its guarantee of authenticity. . . just in case? Our dithering is more than obvious. And the today context in which we find ourselves is no better than in the past. The modern world, in its quest to be equal and free, has failed to bring on the goods. Or. . . have we become the failing factor in our quest to "be"?
Is it the environment which has failed to give its masses a recognition of their innate wondrousness as individuals and as a collective? Has it failed us in the offering up of truth? Has it instead promoted myths to which we now so ardently adhere? Has it failed us by encouraging a virtual rather than an actual self-worth; failed us by allowing the superficialities of consumerism and commercially promoted self-esteem campaigns to define who we should be rather than the best we can strive to "do"? Is it all about us being excited and happy, about being great because we think we are? Or is it about us at all?
To Be Or Not To Be. . .
I am sure if he were around today, Warhol the spirit guide would ask himself this very Shakespearean question. In essence, is “being” our thing? Or, is “doing” (working), the one essential in the creation of the state of being, which is crucial?
In "our" art world, is it the creator being artist or is it the created spirit within an artwork being art which cries out for validity? Is it realistic to assume that the mystery that is “Art” exists only because we think art is what we think is "art"? And, despite a lack of capacity to communicate, to speak to the mysteries we think we have created. . . is it nonetheless "art"? Or is it simply a figment of our imaginations that paintings, sculptures and other expressions of excellence exude mystery? Who’s to say?
But then, there's the rub. This very question questions never wanting to be considered possibilities, such as : Do we create art when we create artwork? Or is “art” a mysterious independent by-product of that physical rendition called a drawing or a painting? And if so, is art always there lying dormant in whatever we produce? Is it always ready to pounce, to emerge simply because we say it is there to emerge? And is that what makes it “more than"?
And what if it fails to emerge? And worse! What if there’s nothing there to emerge. . . ? Does that make us no longer “artists”, as we so vociferously proclaim we are? Does it downgrade us to a student level, to an amateur grade of neurotic oddity; an apprentice aspiring to an illusory “Académie” - to a wanna-be-in-waiting - craving “the” higher Hollywoodian calling we all seem to so desperately aspire to?
Or should we simply “do a Warhol” and proclaim from on high that everything we make is art and subsequently everyone who creates is an artist? We could. . . But then. . . Are we anywhere near to being Andy Warhol?
I am, therefore I am. But Am I really? And if I “am”, what am I?
From the onset of the 20th and 21st centuries, fascination for the truly unique and for the mysteries of an emergent enigma has faded - has even been supplanted by a greater gravitas-envy for the “position, status and recognition” afforded a creator of imagery, rather than for his/her process or end product. Warhol knew that. Flower power connotations and left wing radicalism face-offs aside, the increasing “now wants and needs" of contemporary generations (as he predicted through his work) continue to assail us.
And with that, what we have is a sad mid 21st century problem where the “screams” emitted are more Munchian then ever - more than even Warhol or any honest 60s “hippie” could have conveyed with actual feeling. That this predicament has become ever more than the mystery that Mona Lisa has ever been is evidenced by the dichotomous craving for selfie heights; for reflections of the wonders of “moi” which so often remind us that, emotionally, we now are more akin to being victims of ever increasing pressures than we are heroic hopefuls.
And yes, that victimhood we concomitantly embrace with “wishing”does not bode well with the equal and opposite wanting to be seen as “more than” - the “whatever” we now desperately crave as a birthright. There is an historic phrase - an expression in French Québec which remains to this day a reminder that the past is often nothing more than the first day of the present. “Né pour un petit pain” - “born for the smallest loaf of bread” - i.e. : born (to be) less”. Though it may reflect on past feelings of subservience, its existence in our mind’s eye highlights the effects such feelings continue to inflict upon the social DNA structures which incessantly haunt us. When we reach out, are we asking for too much? In other words, will our contemporary choice of a victimhood status always be in conflict with our wanting of more for ourselves? Guilt and lust are two opposites which never stop spitting on each other; vying as they do for supremacy over our lives.
Victims R Us - Oil/huile - 36" x 12" - (90cm x 30cm) - 2006
We are probably the only era which would have enticed Andy Warhol to re-become Andrew Warhola - to look at himself and to us for inspiration rather than to movie stars and to the socialite “elite”. I would wager he would have found all of us more fascinating than the celluloid crowd. Ours is a titillating anxious lot. We are serious worriers. Our dramas are real, not made-up. We fear (made to?) aplenty. We are more depressed than any other peoples at any other period in history - even when compared to times of all out war. We nurture depression as a kindred spirit and seemingly encourage the very thought of ending it all. We more easily submit to musing on how ever much time we have left - possibly based on however long our Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac or Lexapro prescriptions will last. And so, as a people of a numbed era, should we return to cell phones and iPad screen soothers to reflect upon the more palatable virtual realities defining our existence? Or should we ponder the relativity of our concomitant creative élans gone mad?
That being said, are selfies the images Warhol would throw in our faces today? AW would have a field day if he were around. . . Even though he was used to being a star and having “stars” as subjects, he nonetheless represented the reality that is us - the absurdity and/or superficiality of “their” reality in the 60s, so much like ours today; where we embrace the superciliousness of "our truths" rather than the truth.
Through his magical screen print “figurines” with overdone lipstick, and theatrical faces, Andy spoke of them in a pliable plastic way - without emotion. What would he do with the lot of us today? Could he do anything? Would he feel anything? Would he fit in or be frightened off by the danger within our times which seems ever more ominous than that ever felt during the peace movement vs mid cold war travails of his era?
Safe? Secure? Fugget-about-it!!!
Warhol, had he stayed around, would have had to deal with our “agitated contemporariness”. He would have had to deal with the environment of it, the ambiance of a normalized OCD uncertainty where an eerie ambiguity allows us, on one hand, the “freedom” to choose anything we wish to choose. . . and on the other, the distress; the fear that we will not choose well. Melodramatic or what!?
Our times demand we react to either one extreme or another. And to feel whole, we tend to react to both at the same time. - be it of the right or of the left. In our quest to trust, we find ourselves needing to believe so deeply we can’t but adhere to specifically promoted illusions, while abandoning our own capacity to decipher what is or is not real, good, bad, correct or false.
Basically, we are become “sectual” - of a cult. In our desperate cry to exist, we more often than not wade safely in the shallows rather than dive into our ideological wanderings and wonderings. We constantly return to the only surety we think we know - the self - the “moi” - that vessel which, before the mirror, is always both horribly incredible and incredibly horrible in its capacity to decipher what is. Ours has become a "victims R us" world.
The Compensatory Art Of Our Times
And so we paint puppy dogs and flowers and abstracted sentiments. We struggle to emulate, to copy, to make our scribbling real - to be the same as what we hope we are “correctly” looking at and taking in - as if that is what matters and has always mattered to “artists” since the beginning of time. I can only think of one contemporary film script which comes closest to such “fatefully bizarre realism” : (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - by the Coen Brothers). That we are lost in our losings and even in our findings is an understatement of weird Warholian proportions - within which I am sure Warhol would have thrived. Or would he have?. . .
The Present Is nothing more than the offspring of its past and the parent of its future. And the more shallow the times passed, the shallower our upcoming seconds and hours and years become.
Andy Warhol was well aware of the increasing vapidity and fragility of his time. He grew within the environment of that era as the King of it all - knowing full well what his work was saying and about whom. He knew even more that he was not Hans Christian Andersen forging a tale of overbearing royalty. In fact, his tale reminds us that we all seem to crave to be that self-same royalty - “emperors, each displaying our very own unclothedness". . .
Warhol’s work identified and expressed who we were as a collective within a specific time frame. He did not pretend his work was otherwise. His statements were clear, highlighting as they did, how evermore vulnerable “we were becoming” to manipulation, to vapidity, to flag waving allegiances, to the pointing of a finger at an "other", lest we one day become that "other". In essence, his recognition of the branded "nothing" we have come to embrace is the prequel to an ever increasing acceptance of evaporating freedoms. But then, what Warhol did was what an artist does. He or she speaks to the truth of matters “that are” - whether recognized or not - and of the consequences that will emerge from that ever constant becoming.
As an a artist, Andy showed us who we were and yet “we did not know of what he spoke”. We simply saw his “artsy activities” as simple elements of yet another “art movement” in which self-deprecation was nothing more than a new and improved "entertainment" which was yet again nothing more than the side-show freakism we now seek through reality-TV finger-pointing - and that, in order to feel better about ourselves.
Warhol's time was ever more than even he could fathom at the time. It was a forecasting of things to come - a harbinger of the same yet different vapidities and fragilities increased ten-fold in order to meet the ever-exaggerated needs of our “new and improved”, advertised, promoted and sought after "well beingness". In the analysis of that which was Warhol, what he has become is much more than the sum of his works.
Today, our cry is to be recognized as more than our efforts merit, to be seen to be more and, through instant gratification, to achieve the nirvana of a “superficial happiness” no human can actually afford to want or be able to deal with.
And so, from being mesmerized by John Singer Sargent watercolours and the sculpted wonders of Michelangelo, to the enigmas of Hopper, Hokusai, Riopelle and Wyeth, we have grown (?) to venerate a soup can from which can only emerge the art form of our present needs: the emptiness, the vacuum, the space in which we seem to hide our marinating anxious spirits. Dare we open the Pandorra's Box that holds them close?
Warhol’s genius was his mind, not his output.
Putting it all in historic perspective is not a put down of the artworks created by Andy Warhol and his collective of “Factory” adherents. Warhol knew that artworks, when great, are the deepest “reflection” of an era - not of its creator (as insipid as those reflections may on the surface appear to be). Artists have always done their job well when they knew what their jobs were. But then, as we don't really know what an artist is today, can we know what our role is? As with all Masters before him, Warhol didn’t play at being guru or leader. He did what masters have done since the beginning of time. He presented his observations, stepped back and let us read into them. . . Or not.
In the end, all which has been written here boils down to "nothing exists in a vacuum" - not even an idea or a perception - and this goes for everyone, including A.W. This was true in the mid to late 60s, and in the ember ashes of it all in the Warhol 70s, as it remains true to this day. The artists of a time simply meet our collective and individual need to constantly re-introduce ourselves to ourselves - if we would only look deeper. And if Warhol were alive today, he would be striving to create the ever more intense complexity of the mirror-reflections we know as selfies - the very selfies we have become; that we have been transmogrified into being. In fact, he would have found a way to represent our actual “becoming” within the addictive electro-luminescence into which we now “normally” stare and click for hours on end. This because why? To rediscover the who or what that we have become, and that we are continuously becoming? The who, we have lost and daily, desperately search for?
But then, would even Warhol know of the level of symbolic superciliousness required to represent the listlessness of these times, the consumerist inducement of joyless happiness, the increasing anorexic disappearance of the self, the feelings of “feeling less than” simultaneously coupled with an equal and opposite growing narcissistic search for greatness? Probably. . . Andrew Warhola “was” Andy Warhol. . .
To Summarize. . .
As THE Pop King, Warhol understood crowd-pleasing, mob elation and the serious consideration of that which is “popular” - as in : "suited to ordinary people" (this, from English references dating back to the 1570s). And in our populist era, popular tends to define itself as : therefore legitimate, therefore professional, therefore authentic - therefore marketable, therefore sellable - rather than the actual *artifice that it so often is.
Seinfeld once warned us about “nothing” wishing itself be “something”. The comedic reference was funny then, but is it still? Possibly it’s now too real to be funny. As there are always icons to represent who humans are during the various phases in their evolution, there must also be a recognition that we eventually “are” the icon, the rising Barbie - and, in turn, the sinking Botticelli Venus.
Venus Rising - Digital Creation - 11" x 10" - (28cm x 25.5cm) - Ed: 50 - 2008
With lowered expectations and feelings of “less-than” often come a much more easily acquired aggrandizement, a self-reverence and the arrogance of an acquired taste for ignorance. Warhol profited from these growing needs within an environment of less - especially of freedom. He was a predictor of who we would become because of what will have happened to us - and because of what we will have allowed to happen to us.
Andrew Warhola, Andy Warhol, marketed his wares as reflections of us - his fawning admirers. And in so doing, he impertinently and astutely wielded the hot iron which “branded” us then and continues to brand us now. . . “his cattle” to this day; whilst he, the elegant creative cowboy atop a bonny steed, "has rid off" into the proverbial sunset.
*artifice : (see “Reclaiming Art In The Age Of Artifice” - J.F. Martel - Evolver Editions, North Atlantic Books)
Esoterism aside, I thank Rob Frazer (psychoanalytic psychotherapist) for presenting for comment an admittedly convoluted segment of an article re narcissism. Despite the focus on esoterism and "convolutability", narcissism is nonetheless a topic "du jour". To respond, I have reverted back to my home base blog since LinkedIn does not allow me enough space to "get into" a topic. My thoughts tend to stretch as elastics do. . .
I'm a professional, if not an obsessive observer. For more than a decade, a specialist in the realm of mental health. For the past 50 years a "painter". Over time, my social environment observations have led me to conclude that narcissism is not only on the rise, its very presence in our contemporary societies has become a significant marker, if not a trigger, to the instabilities at the root of our collective psychological discomforts. On one end of the mental health spectrum narcissism highlights more than the uncertainty we feel reacting to it or, for that matter, “being it(?)”. In essence, narcissism has become a much too common "trait" eating away at the structure of collectivities.
Our incessant contemporary cravings for recognition; increasing whining to have our desperate cries for attention sated, our need for the "special that we are" recognized say more about our cell phone toting and clicking selves than we care to admit.
That being said. . . we are a population which continuously selfies our image into a Pandora's Box of digitized mirror forms - thereby both imprisoning those images and ourselves. Why? Are we desperately trying to see "moi" as more (at least virtually) than the lesser somethings we (actually?) seem to feel we are?
We live in a time which is conflicted both within us and without and neither the twain shall meet. Regardless, that cult of moi is nigh on this embattled ground where a concomitant revitalized fascism feeds (encourages?) our fears and insecurities in order to rule rather than lead the anxious mobs that we are increasingly becoming.
In 1976 I discovered that the west was not well when participants returning from the Vietnam War were handed over the responsibility for that far off turmoil - this to assuage the guilt of those (at home) who, in fact, had led us into the fray in the first place. We collectively (in solidarity with our "authorities"?) chose to spit on the returnees even before they had set one foot back on their unwelcoming home soil. This is not to say that this feral event and its consequences are at the root of our present times being f. . ed up. I’m just saying that this is when I discovered (for myself) that there was something “there” to be looked at and even scanned more closely - both as a person of conscience and a painter wondering about the world. At 31 years old I began worrying about what was happening to “us” all. At 74 I am still wondering and worrying and analyzing and incessantly observing and knowing that I wasn’t wrong then and am not wrong now. And so I record.
Birth of a male narcissist is simply one of the many artworks which have been created during the years I have been involved in this process of "analysis". I know it will one day be interesting to exhibit my cohort of "direct" reflections which speak to a never-ending “wonderings about”.
Born in the year the Second World War ended seems to have fashioned my focus on our western society’s penchant to delude and denude itself of any consequence for which it should rightly accept responsibility - but never seems to. Such is the fate of a world which pretends itself great when in fact it is waning in both favour and ecological and societal mental health. But then, I digress. My apologies Mr. Frazer.
Below, I present a 2007 reflection entitled: "Birth Of A Male Narcissist" - Oil - 30" x 36" - 2007.
Neither swift nor slow, good nor bad, time passes. . .
It is, was and always will be. . . time.
No matter the qualities attributed to it,
time is neither friend nor foe, helpful nor hindering
And as it passes over, under, around and through us;
unseeing and unseen.
Time’s goal is to pass... and it does,
regardless of any and all efforts
to clock it, worship it, suppress it, ignore it, use it or abuse it.
Oh but how we try to analyze time,
encompass it, relegate it, consume it.
Yet, for all our efforts, time ignores our neurotic cravings
to control it, manage it, equate it, subjugate it.
Though we try to buy time, rent it, sell it,
stop it, watch it, conserve it... all is for nought.
Though we take “time off” or believe we “make time”
or think we make "good use of time" . . .
All is irrelevant. All is in vain,
for time ignores the existence of all things, all plans, all beings.
Time does not tell. It never has and never will.
Time is amoral. It communicates with no one and,
even as we speak of it, time shamelessly ignores us.
Neither acknowledging our quaking demise
or giving value to life’s quivering breaths.
The “times” we hold dear pass unsympathetically,
even as our fantasies concoct warm memories of their passing. . .
We do not, in the end, “have” time. It is not ours to hold.
To live is to pass through it as it passes through us. . .
And to exist at all is to worry over it.
But time. . . cares not whether we do or not; are or are not.
Time is its own void, its own universe, its own reason for being,
the creator of its own potential, denial or disappearance,
the master of its own eventual recreation. . . or not.
And as it is what it is, time will always be that most famous of accused;
blamed as the source of our ineptitude, our fears of solitude,
our griefs and angst and paranoias.
Yet, how can we put down time when we fail to see it
for what it has always been and forever will be...
(late 60s thought)
Detail - The Censor / La censure - Graphite - 28" x 12" - 1984 - Private Collection
In the 21st century, we cannot get enough of heroic victimhood. It seems to enhance the sharing we do on Facebook with our stranger-friends. - a meting out which, at times, appears to be more tantalizing than our daily fare of anniversaries and accomplishments. But If social media is our new forum for the sharing of pain and sadness, among pics of kitties and kids, we are nonetheless selective : a bit of our own mental health issues and a lot of that of others. And the victims we most love to hate and hate to love appear to be those we consider "above" our station - i.e. : those who tend to be seen to be "more" than we are.
A reflection of this evident "obsession du jour", is the infatuated romanticizing of the mental health of “creatives”. How is it that the lives of movie stars, painters and writers so fascinate us? Is it part of our contemporary love-hate relationship with the “elitist” cohort - those who shine - and, in so doing, make us feel small because they are, (in our minds, at least), so much bigger - which triggers either extreme left or right "idées fixes" in their regard?
A prime example of our disproportionate interest in the lives and foibles of the notorious are the numerous headline grabbing online discussions, readings, videos and now recent movies on Van Gogh. In their quest to illuminate, they all show a tendency to mainly focus on his "disturbances" - what with his ear slicing flirtations and his "surely", "must have been", "possibly and probably was" suicide. Add to this a rusty gun's been found and displayed in a museum as "most probably" THE gun. . . And we now know his purported bar-maid girl-friend's name and the "kid's" name who "may or may not" have shot him in the field where he was painting.
That being said. . . Is there a hint in the wind that we consumer's have had our fill with Vincent? Is it all getting a bit stale? After so many years regaling in his popularity, are we tiring of him? Seems so. . . Public reactions to the latest offerings are slim. Maybe, as with Doritos regular, we're bored and need a new and improved spicy brand. . .
In essence, we now know more of nothing about Vincent Van Gogh than we did before we got all hot and bothered with his mental health issues eons ago. Had we remained entranced with his artworks rather than his sliced ear, possibly we would have learned of compassion and empathy rather than sympathizing and identifying. Possibly we would have discovered the wondrousness of his soothing colours and the calming effects of his landscape compositions and the inspiring pathos of feelings he displayed in his human subjects. Possibly we could have integrated within our own souls the strengths inherent in Vincent Van Gogh's actual "beingness" : achievement despite the pain. Possibly we would have learned more of the heroic combatant that he was than so much innuendo about the submissive sufferer that he purportedly was.
But then, maybe we prefer our illusions, our romantic notions to the truth. Focusing on what was known to be and are real : his genius in paint and story-telling - would only lead us to shockingly surmise that he might have been saner than we are - more prone to fighting his demons than submitting to them. What Vincent did best was paint. And through his paintings he told the truth both about himself and of the world. But then, such considerations are not entertainment fodder. And so we've preferred eviscerating most of him, And now, with so very little left to stab at, we move on, it seems.
So, where to now?
Instant gratification times demand instant gratification variations. . . On the heels of our increasingly lessening interest in Van Gogh, conveniently rises yet another (even greater?) bad boy. His name is Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - and to his multi-million new friends that we all will be soon, he's simply called : Caravaggio. His artwork is super powerful and was considered shocking in its time. It's even spotlit in its precocious presentation of reality. The drama within is blatantly in our face and the compositions and subjects earthy and even crass to those habituated to the saccharin holiness and purity of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
We definitely could learn to hate to love Caravaggio for sure! . . Why? Because this new attraction on the titillation horizon has secrets and behaviours not in keeping with a painter of spiritual symbolism and religiosity. His is a mercurial connection with the world. He's perfect as a Van Gogh romantic hero replacement. He seems to have been more strong willed, more deliberate in his actions. His life teamed with sin and suffering. He was a self-serving aggressive figure - a subject for both reviling and admiration. And so, as a new and improved obsession, he fits the mold to a T.
New side-show freaks must always provide an increased tension, an exponential component to them in order to fill the space left vacant by a former fixation.
Caravaggio is known to have been a murderous hot head, was he not? Yet, he painted oh so sensually! Did he also kill sensually? Did one provoke the other? Did he paint to arouse or was his work his own arousal mechanism? Ooooh! Titillating! . . .
Tell us more! No, no, no! Not about his paintings!!! (We've seen one, we've seen them all!) What of his "tendencies"!
Let's make him (at least for now) our latest victim of "maybes", "possiblys", "could bes" and mythical circumstances and propensities. Why not? He's just another dead man from far off times and places to denigrate for our discussing pleasure?. . . Oh my! He had a really rough childhood too!!!!!!. That is such a fun beginning!!! And so it is as articles begin appearing in "art mags" and online blogs :
More savage than Caravaggio: the woman who took revenge in oil - Jonathan Jones - 05- 10-16 - The Guardian
Caravaggio's ‘assassin’ finally revealed four centuries after his mysterious death at 38
Published time: 20 Sep, 2018 - RT
Renaissance Master Caravaggio Didn't Die of Syphilis, but of Sepsis - By Laura Geggel - September 28, 2018 - Live Science
Sometimes our fascinations say more about us than about those at whom we point a finger. And so, I repeat, Caravaggio, is fast becoming "our novelty du jour". Oddly, with imaginations easily gone wild as our world is wont to do, it's a wonder most of us are not the renowned anointed "artists" and these poor schmucks we dig into the recalcitrant nobodies.
That being said. . . Caravaggio, so it is recorded, was brought to trial more than 11 times (mostly for silly stuff). But then who cares. He actually got arrested!!!! We like that. John Ruskin, the art critic - sounding like one of us, sneered at Caravaggio's "vulgarity, dullness, and impiety". He stabbed at him with impunity only 200 or so years after Caravaggio's death. How daring! How sad he was without the wide-afield capacities of Facebook! Fast forward into the 21st century. . . :
"Not a month goes by without a sensational discovery about Caravaggio appearing in yet another headline." (The Art Tribune - Didier Rykner, 2010)
And so the story "grows".
A field of intrigue, discredit and envy
In the arts, it is the "fate" of those who dare be "in it" to be celebrated in the beginning of one century, and not a decade after, be castigated. Limited "lovability" in the visual arts is par for the course. Ironically, this more often than not occurs as a result of the unpredictability of our ever "newer and improved" populist hate-love contentions and not because of the quality of an artist's work. But then, amateurs investigating "this one's" propensity to blow up, that one's gender-bending, that other's inversions or his/her anti-social behaviour doesn't help matters in the area of objective "historic" considerations.
Ironically, it's not the paradox of the likes of Caravaggio which should intrigue us but rather the miracle of the enigmas and mesmerizing compositions in the artworks presented by him and the likes of him. But then, again, who cares about artworks after discovering the juicy bits?
The value of disassociation - the creator is not the artwork
When “visiting” a painter, I personally need to comfortably disassociate myself form his/her creator persona. I want the man/woman to step away - to let me read the book before me in peace, to scan the painting, to feel the sculpture without interference. I want the work to be “served up” on a silver platter- alone in all its want-to-be lusciousness and glory. That is a viewer's role - to receive artwork and to be mesmerized by it, or not.
But for that to be, artwork must be “mature” - ripe, ready for the tasting. Professionals are aware of this. They know that beyond the last brush stroke they have nothing else to say - though they may want to. But at that point in the game, the only role a creator has is to be the silent servant, the "bowing to a viewer and 2 step back” presenter of artwork to be scrutinized for its ultimate gift of "art" - if art be within at all. In the end, it is always up to the completed work to start the conversation by simply standing before the critical eye of an observer - where silence and nothing more emanating from a product presented is an assured death knell.
The fading of notoriety
Why would I even need to consider the creator of an artwork when I am scanning for the mystery hopefully to be found within a newly created artwork? Hell. If I want superficial thrills; if I need gawk at the artist more than I need look at his/her work, I should take a tour of homes in Hollywood and get my envious voyeur kicks there amidst a busload of "likes" (no pun intended).
Basically, an artist's role (if one is lucky enough to reach such a status in a contemporary arena filled mainly with visual art technicians) is grandiose but fleeting. Success is not in the doing (except for the practitioner). For the rest of us, it's in the "fact" of all of that creative élan - the "product" of it. And for an ever more limited fewer, the essence within it which calls out to us - the art emerging from that product which seeks to speak, to reach out, to touch and move us.
But then, that discovery is after the fact of conceptualization and process. Beyond that, notoriety stands (maybe) shines (possibly) and fades (always). And those in the field know it. Their role, despite it all, is simply to create, nothing more. And if history and social media are kind, those makers of artworks may "eventually" be recalled from their imposed purgatory and, just maybe, remembered as the wondrous enigma magicians of timeless time that they should always have been considered to be from day one.
But what about me, the all important viewer?
As a viewer and appreciator of artwork it isn't in my purview to tell others what they should do, could do, might do, possibly can do sitting before an artwork's possibilities. I can only say what I do.
As an amateur (in the classical sense of the word), I want to see the paint and texture and composition and design and the whole structure of the piece. I want to discover the composition through its blending of elements. In the end, the artwork must be open to telling me the story it has been created to tell - be it representational, abstract or non-representational. I want the painting to speak and the creator of it to shut up. In that position of “exigeance” I may rediscover the author - or not. Therein lies the possibility of knowing the essence of the creative soul of the artist; the cells making up his/her genius. But I don’t want to see those cells physically, mentally or emotionally human in my mind’s eye. They must be part of the mystery of the creation I am taking in, or they are not. I want to see the mastery, the miracle, the enigma in/of the work, not the foibles which cause populist inflections such as : “How in hell can this type of crazy guy do this type of wondrous work?”
In essence, we don’t have to like or to understand the personality or persona of a painter in order to be mesmerized or to be awed by their work. It's a bit like acting. The best acting is done by those who in the process of presenting their character - disappear. They become the character who obliterates the act of acting - since, at this point, the character's exponential presence annuls the presence of the artist. . . THAT is acting, that is painting, that is sculpting and dance and writing and singing. All we should want to see in artwork before us is the statement made, a presentation of itself in all of its blatant nude, glorious, sensual, aggressive and/or gentle powers. Creating is the art of a process which elevates a virtual reality to reality. Creating is a concept come to life as a mystery, an enigma. Art therefore is felt. It is sensual, not logical. It is tactile, appealing to the gut. As artwork is the product - the vessel, Art is the contained mystery to be revealed from within.
Speak, or forever. . . .
That it SPEAK is what I want form artwork - to tell me that it is worthy of bearing the “art” which (if it is there) will emerge to mesmerize me. Yet, for this to be, we must accept that Art is an extreme rarity - no matter that we call everything art today. Art, as a consequence of excellence and enigma, is the greatest symbol of man's capacity to shine and, as such, it is therefore above and beyond the person creating the work from which it may emerge and the "made container" in which it can be found.
For example, The most recent adaptation of Madama Butterfly was recently presented at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. Expecting nothing special (it being a contemporary version of the original), the discovery of it was stunning, astonishing, overwhelming. What a wondrous production! Did I want to know who designed the set, the costumes and the adapted story line? Yes! Did I want to dissect their personas? No! I got what I wanted: the awe-inspiring nature of the beast - the artwork become art. If tears are any matter of proof, they flowed freely.
In essence, I have never stood before artwork wanting it to be less than it is - i.e. : yet another of the billions of “artworks” out there - efforts striving so intensely to be more than simply paint and canvas, stone, wood, dance, music or sketch. In the end, some make it. Some don’t. But by that time of discovery or non-discovery, the artist (if he or she is so) is already back in the studio creating yet another "stab" at a statement - because an artist never tries to outshine the vessel from which art may emerge or the art that eventually does. And an artist never assumes, never presumes that everything he or she "makes" is art.
But what of the wondrousness of the heart and soul and mental angst and emotional status in being an artist?
For all intents and purposes (and I am repeating myself) I don’t give a sweet damn what the mental health issues were/are of a painter - or what their perceived flaws purportedly are - or posthumously are deemed to have been. Artworks - as they relate to the visual arts universal mandate of sharing - are created despite pain and suffering and not because of it - Their purposeful possibilities lie in the "to be shared with the world" universal mandate we impose upon ourselves in that realm.
(Note: This does not preclude the value of art therapy wherein individuals create artworks for their own personal needs - where they are speaking to themselves therapeutically and not to the world. This is a highly legitimate and valued healing practice. But even art therapy is not always limited to a sole purpose - wherein the message conveyed may not only be a healing consideration for the "self". When artwork reaches beyond the self in a display of universal therapeutic messaging, it is no longer only therapeutic - it takes on a perspective which reaches beyond the pain and suffering expressed in a single soul and renders itself open to the understanding of that ache as universal. In essence, some art therapy expressions, due to the talented intervention of their creator, are of value not only to the individual but to the world. Prime examples of personal angst of universal consequence works are those of Munch and Egon Schiele - among others.)
Insinuations vs analysis
But to link an "insinuated flaw" or mental health issue as muse or catalyst to genius is ludicrous. There is a sober difference between the perception that someone is "a mentally unhealthy artist" and an artist who happens to suffer from mental health issues. The former predetermines the artwork created is dependent on the issues themselves and the latter despite those issues.
Reading Dr. Judith Schlesinger's well documented book: "The Insanity Hoax" is to become seriously informed and less emotional and reaction-laden on this misleading assumption of "mad artistry". Dr. Schlesinger's latest presentation at a symposium of experts at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (2016) was so well received that the final determination re Van Gogh's mental heath was certainly in part based on her research. The finding? : Van Gogh was NOT crazy! Despite emotional cries to the heavens by some who need him to be so, experts at a 2016 symposium at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam determined otherwise. A good read summary is available at this address :
Demon speculations and determinations
In Venice, my wife and I spent 4 and a half hours visiting with Tintoretto, Bosch and Veronese masterpieces. We so enjoyed our visit, we forgot about ourselves, about time, about the purported personalities of the creators and only focused on the creative genius before us, which - when not interfered with via our own thoughts on the artist, was most evident and not in need of redefining, explaining or revisioning. Why? Because the evidence of what was there before us was enough to open the door to whatever it was of the artist that either of us needed to know. The rest, if pretending to be of any concern, related more to an errant need to pry than to any truth or fact.
What needs be universal is that creators "make" despite and not because of their supposed blemishes. And if this be so. . . What, then, becomes the purpose of our arousals at discussing someone else's demons?
If a logical sociological and/or psychological premise is that all of us are, in one form or another, flawed" what is the purpose of populist speculation on an individual's "pointed at zits" other than to "bring those individuals back "down" to "our level" of feeling lesser?
When someone offers up the best they can be today and that best seems to be over and above any best possible anywhere else at that time - this is enough to know about a creator and even of the world. If we knew what it was to be an artist we would know that the maker never competes with his/her creation for attention. Only a fool would do that.
Artwork becomes art when the artist takes 2 steps back to allow the creation to speak on its own - to independently do what it was created to do : reach out and touch and move and take viewers in. There is no more “knowing” than that required when it comes to a creator of artworks. If we need more, we are either historians on the take for a story or voyeurs in need of a populist fix. Only we can determine the facts of that statement.
Generalized narcissism in need of a fix
Contemporary narcissism has fixated us on Van Gogh’s mental health - not Van Gogh the man and even less the phenomenal incredibleness of his artwork - from which so much ART has emerged - and this from the soul of one individual. No. . . From awe-inspiring creator of wondrously bright and engaging images, he has become for our century nothing more than "a thing", a side-show subject bandied about in an era of nothingness wishing itself to be something - and finding no other solution than to belittle in order to rise up from the muck we so often wallow in.
And because he became a fixation, we lost "him" and his genius in the process - as we will eventually lose Caravaggio. When we begin to see artworks as nothing more than results of expressed turmoil - rather than a powerful stance against the demons that assailed their creator, we are the ones who fail in our status as human beings. Fixating on Vincent the depressive became a lucrative industry which turned this brave man (admittedly with issues) into a side-show freak. Ours will be remembered as the time which ripped from him his essence - the genius of it - the genius of him. And this for the simple purpose of meeting the needs of our own obsessions and the reality TV drama we believe to be "the very truth" of our own lives?
In summary, I can only ask myself 2 questions: Is our interest in artists of the ilk of Van Gogh and Caravaggio simply a craving to have those who succeed served up on an altar of sacrifice - for their daring to be great? Or/And. . . Is our incessant scrutiny of their mental health a reflection of the denials we hold up before our own mirrors?
Oldsmobile-88 - 1952 - My baby "tank". Drove her everywhere and had great runs down the highway to cottage country.
Searching for new archiving/cataloguing software is NOT EASY!. . . There’s lots to peruse out there - and they’re all different one from the other - if not equally as useful as they say they are. I therefore leave you with a 2018 (pre-Xmas) parting gift. . . one which may make your life easier if and when you too are in the market for software which can efficiently and easily catalogue everything we have done over years of creating artwork.
So. . .
What’s out there that calls itself Art Studio or Artist Management and/or Artwork Cataloguing software? Do we even need it?
All of the info presented stems from the fact I am old (er) and am therefore interested in making sure I can track or (at least) try to remember all of the artworks I have created over the past 50 years. Why? In essence we, in the visual art world, still recognize that what we do (did) is who we are (were) and what we will be remembered for (if at all). :)
Inventory, management, archiving, provenance. . . All of these things mean something to a visual artist when suddenly they discover (remember) that they are finite and their artwork is, possibly, not. . . But for me archiving is about archiving - not promotion, advertising, sales, business practices, taxation or invoicing. It’s not about the multi millions we are collecting every month from the immense number of sales we are experiencing. There are small business apps and concomitant accountants for those. I need a clean list of all of the artwork I have ever created along with all of the pertinent and even intimate information regarding those artworks. That there be sections in which a basic overseeing of sales and contacts are presented in a software is par for the course. But that additional information should be more in keeping with documentation than marketing.
That being said, there is a lot of software (apps or programs) out there which purports to offer a lot for your money in the area of artwork inventory management. And it more often than not is exactly that : inventory management software. . . And that means some programs are good, some bad, some iffy, some amateurish and a few professional. It’s up to us to make up our mind as to what category we attach any of these products of ours to. What others (critics, historians and loved-ones alike) will do with all of this gathered information in the future is their business. We won’t be around to worry about our legacy or how it will be (mis)handled. . . (For that we may need a hard-a. . . lawyer!) Ha!
Nonetheless, what we leave behind should at least be presented in a professional rather than amateur manner. Our lives lived are only as valuable as how well we choose to present our “catalogue raisonné” to the world after we are gone.
That being said, when we have more than 3000 artworks in our lifetime to catalogue. losing the ability to access or add to the information we need (during our lifetime) is serious business. Anomalies and/or falsehoods are difficult to correct after the fact.
Past idiocies. . .
Being more obsessed now than I was in my 20s and 30s (when I simply ignored cataloguing and sorting or even photographing (!!!!) my works. . .) I’ve come to realize that growing up is often a series of procrastinations gone wild leading to a hectic race to the end for “order” And so. . . . about 20 years ago I finally began cataloguing in earnest.
But how do we catalogue?
Well, there is software out there - for the Mac, for the PC. A pencil with pink pearl eraser or a smudgy ball-point pen sketching out our life-lines in a “scribbler” is passé. There are downloadable apps now along with cloud based services available. But as usual in this marketing frenzy world, some of these offerings are excellent, some Are serious tries at being of value, some are amateurish and some ridiculous or overly complex in their tries to be professional. From what I have discovered, the really “good stuff” is rather simple, logical, and informative. Like a good wall, they disappear into the background when you insert our work into them - allowing our work to shine. Some of today’s offerings are over-zealous in the design element category - often “over window-dressed” as in : they wear “too much make-up” and display too little legitimate content to be of any archival value.
I’ve reviewed a few programs over the years - tested several, used some and dumped others immediately. The following is a personal commentary on what I have looked at, used and finally ended up with (most recently). I’m not out to knock any “rejected” or ignored software as much as I am out to select the right one for me. And after 50+ years in this business, “me thinks my opinions are worthy of some consideration”. And when did I ever back down anyway? :)
Why did I change software along the way? What with the trouble of transferring everything to a new archival venue? (1) I’m fussy. . . If you can’t serve my needs, I’m gone. (2) Unlike pencils and ball-points, some of the software offered “becomes” no longer functional because it is (for some reason or another) no longer updated or upgraded by its creators or owners. Therefore these apps simply stop working when they encounter an environment (operating system or OS) which, to stay pertinent itself, is always being updated and upgraded.
Note: Regardless of my choice, I’m more than agreeable to discuss or argue a point that needs to be made in regards to the archiving artworks provided in this comment piece.
So why catalogue?
The main purpose of art studio software should revolve around 2 critical points : (1) It must have organized “filing of concrete evidence of artworks created along with related information” storage capabilities. (2) It must provide a page (s) of varied fields covering the provenance (ongoing life history and “travelogue” of an artwork).
(1) Organization allows us to review and add to data re: the artwork we have created throughout our years spent as painters and sculptors, etc.
(2) Provenance legitimizes our work and provides information which proves the artwork created is ours and not someone else’s. We live in a world of fake news. So let’s make sure our artworks are not perceived to be or have been “fake”.
ALSO : An artwork catalogue worth its weight in gold will have room for note-taking which, for all intents and purposes, speaks to our life and history as the creators that we have been and continue to be. That being said, archiving is also about you and “moi” along with it being about our artworks. It describes the “what and who” that went into the “what” that we have created.
Nonetheless, not all that is available out there as artwork cataloguing or archival software knows what it is supposed to be. . . Most seem too intently designed to be everything to everyone and, other than being pretty, end up being pretty useless as a respectable recognition of our passing through the “art” world. Some are more inventory-control and selling list oriented apps. Too many offer too much“bells and whistly” stuff & end up being annoying & time consuming wastes.
Personal biases. Cloud versus downloadable app :
Cloud : I remain seriously wary of cloud based services. If anything screws up in the area of information gathering and “holding”. . . I need to remain the most responsible person for a “disappearance” screw-up. In the cloud, I am not. Losing control of who and what manages the content whereabouts and details of the “stuff” I have created and worked on all of my life is a non sequitur to the deep personal involvement of creating it. And so, for now, I’ll leave cloud recognition to perceiving puppydog faces and rabbit ears as misty clouds float by while I chew on a blade of grass in a farmer’s field whilst looking up to a cobalt blue sky. (Lord I am no poet. . . .)
Desktop Based Applications: That I have the data on my computer makes me responsible (stuck with) the quality of my care-giving abilities. Is it more complex to handle? Certainly! Life is not a series of fun and easy wishings, despite what advertisers sell us.
Do I back up regularly? That should be my concern - not that of some faceless cloud service where everything we “own” can and may evaporate - at least as it relates to our own personal paranoia. Again, being professional demands we be responsible - not numbed or dumbed down by some virtual reality app that promises me it will take care of business - and NEVER lose “my stuff” somewhere in the stratosphere of some pixelated parameter.
Now that my personal opinions have been clearly laid out. . . . . . . What have I seen and been mesmerized by (or not) over the past year?: And how do I judge what I have encountered? :
Review characteristics found within the table below :
(Note: I work on a PC therefore there is little info re Mac computers.)
• Cloud or download : Into which category does this product fit?
• Levels : Is this product for Pros or for Newbies? I am not being derogatory - comments are based on perceived purpose and design
• Support focus and availability : Comments pro and con
Note : Anywhere a question mark (?) is indicated it simply means I do not know. It does not mean the product is questionable
• Service Cost :
• $ indicates Inexpensive
• $$ = More expensive
• $$$ = Expensive BUT reasonable for the quality presented
• $$$$ - VERY expensive for what is being offered (in my estimation)
Cloud Based Services :
Downloadable Desktop Services :
For those of us with tons of money. . . additional offerings are not listed (whether cloud or desktop based). Why? They are simply in the $$$$$$$ range and are irrelevant to us who are simply seeking a catalogue or archiving service.
For 10+ years I used Working Artist. It was a VERY professional software with the “artistic” interests of the information gatherer in mind more than that of the “sales gatherer’s” perspective. Yet Working Artist did cover all of the bases and more in all areas and more. Why did I abandon it?
It abandoned me. . . All of a sudden, its website disappeared - simply indicating that it was moving to another service provider. That info is still up and running as we speak - after a year and more. . . The support service no longer responds to queries or other emails and updates and upgrades have not been forthcoming. What with the new Windows 10. . . That is not acceptable. And since, the program on my main computer has stopped working completely - despite the best efforts of my tech specialist. Luckily it still works (for now) on my laptop. I need it to still function. As it is the template from which I am trying to transfer 50 + years of artwork info to a new (compatible with Windows 10) archiving software.
And so. . . I present to you the latest and greatest 2 discoveries “for me” : Artist Organizer Pro and Chaos Intellect. They both have superb qualities as apps.
t may not seem like much to the naked eye. But let's take a deeper look: Chaos Intellect offers up a full page of adaptable options - 17 to be exact Each of these options (fields) allows us to create our own personalized archiving system - including usual single subject, editable drop down lists & others to be used for sales and discounts, currency variations, % and calendars for sale dates and donation dates, etc. Every aspect of archiving is possible with Intellect. It has a notes section which permits client, artwork and provenance information- everything we need to archive data on our artwork. See chart 2 below which displays my choices for the 17 editable fields and how they were applied to one specific artwork.:
I chose to stick with the basics and clarity. The main project page (now changed to the "Archive" page) - (because that is also adaptable to individual taste and needs) has the editable fields on its main page. Included in the top list of services are: also "categories" which means that different aspects of the fields displayed can be categorized for easy search and classification. File shortcuts means each artwork can be connected with the image files and folders and other data which visually define the artworks described on the page. Then there is the appointments tab which describes activities related to the artwork and the buyer or client, tasks can be anything we want them to be -especially in relation to exhibitions and consignments, etc. E-mail shows the easily accessible emails related to the artwork in question and finally the most incredible aspect of Chaos and Intellect used as archiving software: "linked contacts". These are the names linked with the artwork in whatever form we need them to be involved - for advertising, sales, announcements, etc. This means we have ALL of the information AND contact possibilities related to clients, patrons, agents, galleries, etc, etc, etc. Anyone related to this specific artwork can be contacted directly WITHOUT having to leave this software and go to another App to connect with (or connect information to) a related client or potential client. IT'S ALL THERE at our finger tips. Below, check out the artworks list of each page.
Additionally, I cannot say enough about the search on this little bit of wondrous software. Basically, what we have is software I have never had difficulty talking about because it always does more than it sets out to do.
I could keep talking on and on about this archiving gem (that was not created to be so) but I'll let you discover it when you visit the site "Chaos Intellect" and download it for yourself.
Last but not least. The cost of Chaos Intellect - for its management, contact and other business aspect expertise (and so much more) it becomes the file cabinet of our whole creative output. . . As usual I can't stop thinking of ways it is phenomenal. . . the support services and the solid and constant updating. . . What you get is a small miracle which prices itself at less than any software which prides itself at being "archiving" software . . . . . . $59.95 US. . . . .
Note: I have no connection with Chaos Intellect except in the area of having purchased the software many years ago when it was just called "Chaos" and having updated it since. Intellect constantly strives to become better than it is and that is incredible in this day and age of fast sell and quicker get-away which so many of us experience in the purchase of efficiency products.
Hope you get to try it. So far I have archived over 2500 artworks with Intellect over the past 2 years. I am so enamoured with what Chaos Intellect offers me in the area of business and contact management (AND most especially Archiving) that I will be MOST pleased to help anyone out there who needs answers in getting Chaos Intellect to work them as archiving software.
Response to Uriel Dana's "What Is The Difference Between An Art Dealer, An Art Broker And An Art Agent."
Any way we look at it, a dime = 2 nickels.
Today, (if online definitions are to be believed) gallery owners are as much brokers as brokers are gallery owners. Few are in the category of those who deal in Monets or any other category of “valuable investment” works. And even fewer of us in the “awt world” will get to meet such high flying brokers/agents/gallery owners in our life time - despite the luring pledges of online connections, representation and exhibition spaces offered by the millions on their website pages.
My take on any of these categories of distributors of products deemed to be artworks is: “cave creator” (latin for : creator beware). ESPECIALLY if these art dealers and brokers purportedly function on “taste”. Because if they do, rather than on a “recognized” accredited expertise and professionalism, then what we get is a seller of pretty (or not) pictures which match "their" interests rather than respect for those of the buyer - or that buyer’s investment portfolio.
Cynically, as a collector, I would never bet my investment dollar on anyone who isn’t richer than I am and who does not have a track record based on knowledge and expertise in the creation of and with links to what constitutes artwork from which the impact of “art” will (may) actually emerge. And in that notion I am SERIOUSLY serious.
As for the last category : “Agent”, I am less categorical. This title at least implies authenticity from the start. An agent "represents" (by choice and/or contract) the work of a specific person and is out there to create or to answer to a link between an interested buyer and the represented creator. Either a specific piece of work is the attraction or a commission of a piece is being requested.
Over the past 50 years and more, agents have been my preferred reps. They are hired by me and accept (or not) the agent fees I pay. In essence I remain an independent agent (no pun intended) hiring a person to do my bidding - not create according to a specific (so-called) market demand. The best agents not only care about the style or genre of work they are promoting and selling, they care about the person creating that work. And the best of the best have a serious background (and credentials) in the field of the visual arts and/or in visual arts administration.
And so. . . As neither I, nor 99.99999999999% of any of us, are in the Monet or van Gogh category of creators in which so-called brokers and investors would be interested, it behooves us, in this online world of self-promotion and “SELLING”, to take the time to do “due diligence” in the area of those who promote themselves as promoters.
In the game of the arts, we stand to lose more money than our illusions and dreams warrant we will make.
“Pissing Figures, 1280–2014,” by Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, a French critic (published by David Zwirner Books & translated by Jeff Nagy)
First - As LinkedIn is notorious for not allowing adult discussions which "take up too much space" the following is a response to a post entitled : A Secret History of the Pissing Figure in Art - (written by Dan Piepenbring September 20, 2017 & published in the New Yorker Magazine.)
So why not write a book entitled “Pissing Figures, 1280–2014,”? As much as it will arouse (no pun intended) tut-tutting throughout the land, the author will make a killing - at least more money than he would on a full fledged research on the topic of “virgin” in the title Virgin Mary.
More to the point. It was once normal to urinate wherever it was possible and needed. Today “we hold it in” until we find a toilet - which in our times is a prim and proper thing to do. But when we discover someone “openly” urinating (pissing, to the more crude) we titter or groan or point or stare - or all of these. Such is the lot of the populist ignorant. So titillated and frightened by what we are and what we do, we can only react through infantilized giggling and nervous twitching rather than render a casual “Yeah! So?”
As for the high interest in putti and urinating, this has more to do with a contemporary obsession with sexual overtones - real or imagined - than on the fact that in times gone by boys were allowed much greater freedom than were allowed little and not so little girls. Boys with too much freedom could also be (and were) undisciplined brats who taunted and annoyed the populace with their brazen “freedoms” - including pissing on where, on what and on whom they damned well pleased - and this, at any time they saw fit. Left to their own devices that freedom often included a more innocent activity : swimming naked in local rivers and streams - with no one really paying much attention since families as a whole, at times, also bathed in those self same streams and rivers - and this without the benefit of Nike, Speedo or Lululemon. Basically, the body and its everyday functions have only, since the past 2 centuries, become naughty-naughty.
Nudity was not of particular concern in the mores section of a medieval and even later life. Based on established historical knowledge, it is possible to assume that the body unclothed was not of general interest or shame as it is today. The body revealed in those far off days often symbolically and religiously celebrated the greatness that humanity could be along with recording its evolving state of being - whether good or bad, young or old.
And so, the idea of writing a book about a specific activity through the microscope of a much more evolved (?) - or should I say more restrictive time is always intriguing if not proof that such a visual essay can be questioned from the start as to the veracity of its “observations” made & the reportage researched.
Today, there is less balance in our perceptions and assumptions. We impose views and feelings rather than logically and objectively debate in order to reassure our anxieties. Today we seem to fear and even loath, whilst being attracted to, “that revealed body” - ours and anyone else’s. We tend to be rendered “senseless” by the touching of it, the being touched, the seeing of it and most especially the good or bad perceived in it. . . cause. . . let’s face it. . . It is sinful. . . .
But what we hate the most about our bodies is what they do : they defecate and “pee”! (How dare they (we) be so crass as to do such things). We find such “obligatory” (rather than necessary) things so disgusting - so much so - a whole area of products is marketed to make it all “fun”, “easy” and “enjoyable” for us poor souls. That being said, it is rather odd that the illusions, titillations and fears of the 21st century have the gall to promote themselves as enlightened revisionist considerations in regards to the pre and 19th century times.
Artists have always played a major role in the elucidation of "what is". Why? Through their creative output life and how we live it are often presented to us in the most vivid of terms. Though whatever is presented is often distorted by those who come along later to criticize rather than critique previous eras. But undeniably, great painters and sculptors were and are extraordinary observers of “what was and is”. As fantasmagorical as some artistic works are considered to be, many of the subjects and themes portrayed have been nothing more than the ordinary everyday activities of the everyday lives of ordinary peoples. In essence, artists have always wanted to portray what makes men, women, children and oldsters tick - even if that means scrutinizing the "hidden features" and essence of our physical as well as psychological existence.
So observant were artists of the past, they rarely needed or wished to sacharinize their subjects - i.e. : make them superficial and virtual rather than real. Instead, they chose truth - they elevated the who and what of the individuals they studied - seeking to discover the universal from the unique - rendering that which was generic symbolic of humanity. In those recordings they integrated what made humans human - accentuating, at times, both their and their subjects’ sense of humour which, in turn, gave both gravitas and thigh slapping power to an existence which was trying at the best of times.
Artists have always seen wondrousness in the struggles and accomplishments of those who “lived until they died”. To this day, they observe and sketch the onerous weights people carry on their shoulders - those self-same weights which temper the innate asceticism of their existence. Basically, artists were and are here to see and feel the extraordinariness of the ordinary in what and who we really are - i.e.: frightened children of a parental universe, and this since the beginning of time. For that is the job of painters and sculptors - to record all of this for posterity - no matter how erroneously later generations revise what was in the past.
And though we more often than not sneer rather than try to understand, the artist’s job will always remain the same - to record a time, to present us with both “the holiest we can be” and the banal and at times brutal ordinary that we are”. In essence the arts have always been a link - one which connects the wondrous and the absurd of one time with the wondrousness and absurdity of a so-called more modern time staring at the past and, sadly, judging it.
But today, our self-righteouness and political correctness trips us up. These pretend to protect us from ourselves for fear that we will be seen to be odd and inconsequential and. . . the fools that we are in the grand scheme of things. But they fail. Our foibles and habits and necessities - whether seen to be normal or weird are never hidden from tomorrow’s scrutiny.
Our times have uncluttered the closets of our minds only to reveal that, often, there is nothing there when there is nothing there. And because there is nothing there in our revisionist views of the past, we tend look back on history and our ancestors and gloat. Being so much more enlightened and greater at thinking and being than our shallower predecessors, we look down and criticize.
Basically, if there is anything risible about a book on pissing in the 21st century, it is “us”. What else is there to do in a time which can’t make up its mind (over the latest latté concoction) about whether we should accept world destruction as a detractor from our smart phones and ear plugs or simply say “whatever”?
Rwanda - Oil/huile - 24" 72" ( 61cm x 182.9cm) - 2011-2016 Collection of the Canadian War Museum /Le musée de guerre du Canada
In 1994, the commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire anticipated a disaster - a disaster that no world authority wished to acknowledge let alone get involved in. And because none did, the Lt General’s pleas for assistance were ignored. No one came to rescue the people of Rwanda. And because no one did, 800,000 people died.
On his watch, Lt General Dallaire witnessed the largest slaughter of human beings since the Holocaust - all because the rest of us on this planet had better things to do.
During 100 days no one bothered to “know” what was happening. . .
“The genocide was brutal, criminal and disgusting and continued for 100 days under the eyes of the international community.” - Roméo Dallaire
To this day Lt General and retired Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire continues to suffer the endless onslaught of PTSD associated nightmares. The horrors which were allowed to happen to the people of Rwanda do not leave his soul.
After a silent yet heavy deliberation, “my” Lt General accepted that I could speak, in my visual way, to his suffering and to his ongoing quest to save as many child soldiers as he possibly can. The painting : “Portrait of Roméo Dallaire - Rwanda”, begun in 2011, was finally completed in 2016 and is now unveiled and delivered.
I am no longer of any use to it. If it can, this work must now speak on its own - a reminder of what we do not want to remember - a symbol of the world once again at its weakest. If there is art in artwork, the story from within will emerge, will reach out, will touch and move us. If not, it will simply sit there, festering as the forgotten infected scars of “not wanting to remember” do .
I would hope by looking at and taking in this story we can see - see and hear the images speak; speak to us in order that “next time” we will listen; that next time we will be reminded once again that we should not forget and that next time we will be encouraged to do better in our tomorrows than we have in our yesterdays’ flawed bests. For there should never again be a next time - lest we end up having to not only hear of them but suffer the consequence of having to also smell and taste and feel what our ignoring of reality causes.
And yet, despite the bleakness portrayed in the horror at the beginning of this story, this painting wishes to also be a blessing. Though this imagery recalls a horrendous eating away of Lt Gen Dallaire’s soul by the demon eyes he still encounters in nightmares, it is also a story of redemption of all of our souls. Despite the ensuing PTSD which assails him daily, Lt General and retired Canadian Senator Dallaire remains the courageous man that he is - as he remonds us of the best we can all be if given a chance.
Through his “Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, the Lt General fights on - to take away the stolen from their families children, to steal them away from captors who impose upon them a “life of death” - a life which which eats away at their childhoods.
And so, in the heart and soul of Romé Dallaire their remains hope and better tomorrows despite his never-ending pain. And it is up to us to, once again, not forget.
“I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God.” - Roméo Dallaire
Dévoilé, un tableau qui depuis 5 ans m’accapare, se rend "chez lui : au Musée de la guerre à Ottawa. Ce résultat de mes coups de pinceau parle non pas de fleurs et d’arcs-en-ciel, mais plutôt d’horreurs et d’espoirs - des horreurs à ne pas oublier et des espoirs nous rappelant que la quête de l’excellence permet toujours, d’améliorer nos demains, malgré les piètres efforts de nos hiers.
Débuté en 2011, je la signe enfin en 2016. Elle se veut portrait d’un moment historique, d’un moment horrifique tout en demeurant le portrait d’un homme qui s’est débattu, de peine et de misère, pour sauver la vie de tout un peuple. Le tableau se veut donc un rappel - un “n’oublions pas”. . . C’est une toile qui cherche à nous rappeler qu’au Rwanda en 1994, comme en Europe en 1933, le monde avait d’autres chats à fouetter. . .
Malgré le fait qu’il a supplié la terre entière d’intervenir, le Lieutenant général Roméo Dallaire en est resté quasi seul à faire face à un massacre imminent. Et. . . trop vite, le possible impossible s’est dévoilé. 800,000 hommes, femmes et enfants rwandais sont morts. Et aujourd’hui, ce même Lieutenant général affronte toujours les “démons du vrai”; ces démons qui crachent sur sa vie de témoin - sur cette vie qui a osé voir, ressentir, toucher, goûter et entendre les cris d’effrois et le désespoir final d’un peuple en son entier.
“Le génocide était brutal, criminel et dégoûtant et s’est éternisé pendant 100 jours aux yeux de la communauté internationale.” - Roméo Dallaire
Depuis, le corps, le coeur et l’âme de Roméo Dallaire souffrent des conséquences de l’obscénité de cette pièce de théâtre morbide qui continue à se rejouer en lui - et ça, durant ses jours et pendant le sommeil de ses nuits bouleversées. Comment se fait-il qu’un homme doive toujours porter sur ses épaules et dans son âme un poids dévastateur qui, en toute conscience, se veut le nôtre?
Et nous. . . comment pouvons-nous refuser de reconnaître, de souligner, de nous rappeler. . . Comment peut-on continuer à effacer de nos esprits les horreurs d’un mal “vrai” qui se veut le pire depuis l’Holocauste de la 2e guerre?
Malgré tout. Autant qu’elle est réflexion d’horreurs vécues, autant cette toile se veut positive - en soulignant aussi les démarches héroïques de cet homme qu’est Roméo Dallaire - celui qui pendant tous ses aujourd’huis et ses demains n’oublie pas - celui qui cherche toujours à rendre meilleur ce monde qui a ignoré une tuerie de 800,000 personnes.
Par son “Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative” il cherche maintenant à sauver l’âme des enfants volés par les diables qui sont nôtres - même si les sauver veut dire le faire “un à la fois”.
C’est tout de même mieux que d’oublier qu’on oublie trop vite - et trop souvent - et que le monde n’est pas tout simplement une belle boule bleue romantique. Mais, de dire Roméo Dallaire :
"Je sais que Dieu existe parce qu’au Rwanda, j'ai serré la main du diable. Je l'ai vu, je l'ai senti et je l'ai touché. Je sais que le diable existe et donc je sais qu'il y a un dieu." - Roméo Dallaire
Putin's Response to Being Told To Get Out of Dodge (Ukraine) - Oil - 40" x 55" - 2014
For those of you who don't know me, I am a curmudgeon. I often express this "beingness" when any part of the visual arts profession is being infantilized or associated with whining. That being said. . .
As I could not respond to the essay : Things I’ve Learnt About Pricing Creative Work (Published on February 10, 2017 in Linked In) in the usual way, i.e. : in the comment section (my comments being too long and too many) I have posted them in the following essay entitled. “Is getting over ourselves ever a sure thing?
And so. . .
Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work presents us with 16 points of reference to the topic of pricing. Or does it?
(Note : To make things clearer, the content from the original essay (to which I am referring) is in italics. My reactions are in regular font.)
And so. . . :
1. There’s no perfect price list.
Agreed. (See! When not prodded with a stick, I am quite an amenable fellow. . . )
But. . .from what I can gather, this presentation is not about actually selecting a price point. It is more about normalized hesitation and "them". . . . Obsessing about price points, as a subject of concern in our times, seems to be a norm in the visual arts (illustration or otherwise). Not because it should be, but because we live in anxious, hesitant, worried, OCD times. Expecting perfection rather than excellence seems to be a given. And then, there's this apparent acceptance of treating clients as generically impossible or difficult. . .
Though the arts, as they relate to creative thought, are based on trial, analysis and failure - and trial and failure again - and growing and growing some more (despite trial and failure), we have somehow homogenized it into being something about 'our" purported genius and “expected” success - especially where selfie-styled recognition and finances are concerned. But, it seems, that “out there” there are "people", often called "they" who seem to not understand the greaterness of us who strive so vehemently to impress them artistically. Let me elaborate on these topics emanating from the essay: Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work
As to the rarely dealt with price point considerations in the aforementioned essay, I can only state :
CHOOSE one and get on with life for god’s sake!!
At 9 I wanted to be a portrait painter - i.e. : make a living at painting portraits. My father made me realize that this decision involved time and expense and hard work in order for me to eventually get to where my resulting efforts would be worthy of somebody’s undivided attention, let alone hard earned money. So. . . . I practiced and concentrated on bettering myself every day - and this without thinking (or earning) “money”.
But once there - once arrived at the level of professional work - whether fine or illustrative arts - (I have practiced both) - I tried to stay focused. Concentration on the essentials (creating) was (is) more important than concentration on the obvious (the product). Therefore, selecting a most practical price list rather than a complex one did help get me back to thinking about what is more important - otherwise, it is obvious that dithering about prices would have made me look like a mercenary bastard who was simply looking for (a) $, £, € and/or (b) recognition based on the $, £, € I could get rather than the work I could produce.
Coming from a “labour” background, I simply chose the least intrusive price point list in my quest to work as a “working painter” : i.e. : I selected square inches (cm) of my smallest work = $50. (35.92 Euro or 30.61 BP). Naturally, this does not take in the “illustrator’s” complex point of view (from which this article stems) but the concept remains the same. Simplify and clarify. More in keeping with illustration, at the end of my article I have submitted an address all illustrators should visit to solve their price point problems - once and for all.
(Note how generous of me this is. I could have made all of you read every snarly word of this essay before allowing you to head straight to the good bits. . . :) )
That being said. To those obsessed with adding up the costs incurred during our oh so special creative "me-time”. . . I say : get over yourself. We rarely get our “money back” in hours or materials spent. That’s the nature of artwork creation. And unless we are Warhol, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, H. R. Geiger, Maurice Sendak or Richard Corben (which we are NOT!) the artwork creating process will get us a sizable income (eventually) but rarely the amounts realized by the greats before and during our life times. If that's a bother, better to change professions and get over the whining.
2. No one wants to talk about money.
So! don’t talk about it!
The idea is to hang our work for display and try our hand at letting it say what “it” has to say. If it says nothing (to anybody). . . people will move on to looking at someone else's work. The selling game is the same - whether it’s cars or mobiles, book covers, posters or fine art landscapes. If we haven’t learned from a “rejection” exercise then what we need to understand is that, possibly : (a) the work is not good enough yet (b) the work is too expensive for what it is, (c) the work is not what people are looking for or (d) maybe. . . we’re not made for this gig. . .
As to being queried about money value for our work - that’s par for the course when we are manning the sales booth or visiting a client. If that’s not our bag, we should get someone else to handle the oh so “not lovely” client base. We should also consider finding a gallery or agency (that wants us) where it’s the sales person’s job, and not ours, to discuss with bright and not so bright potential clients.
3. Everyone has a budget.
Certainly! And that budget may or may not wish to fit our presence within its specific plan spectrum. But then, what has that to do with our price point? There will always be those who will not buy and those who do - and at its jittery worst "might, maybe, perhaps will buy" are the times when we get our most antsy - and. again, so what! It's part and parcel of the "art game" Take it or leave!
5. People like bargains.
When I want a bargain, I don’t go to a gallery. I go to a thrift shop or second-hand store. I don’t go to regular shops where sales are on because that usually means they’re trying to flog something they haven’t been able to get rid of in the past year. BUT, in dealing with people who nonetheless are looking for bargains, I smile and grit my teeth. We all need such consternation in our lives. It builds grit, stamina and maturity. As for handing out bargains, I don't. I'd rather starve. Only my regulars get a discount and I only give away to charities I truly and honestly believe in. Otherwise, everyone pays the price indicated - or they don't. . .
By the way MANY “lovely” clients do not have the budget for “our work”. That they don’t doesn’t make them any less lovely. AND. . . if they nonetheless have a yen for our “turtle that looks like a dove making love to a horse”, it behooves us to organize a payment schedule which would fit both our needs and theirs. Better to get $5 per month for the next 50 years (with no interest on the balance) than get $0 at all.
By the way if the selling part of our “I’m an artist” illusion doesn’t pay the bills, it’s possibly time to look for a job that does, so we can go home to painting in our spare time - thus honing our skills to a level which would "eventually" get us enough money to pay our bills painting on a full time basis. If a client’s (considered not up to par on the sophistication bell curve) banter and bartering and haggling “gets us down” - better to learn that from the beginning. It proves, (a) we’re not grown up enough to be in this business and (b) with not too much time wasted, we’ve discovered that maybe weeding a garden, with only weevils to deal with, is more in keeping with our strengths.
6. Working out quotations is a job in itself.
What? You haven't budgeted for a secretary!!! Sheesh! (Again, my take on sarcasm., . . )
Quotations are part and parcel of the job we are to do - or not. Why highlight this aspect as a "don't you understand?" reference. Quoting is part of our profession. It's not our potential client’s problem. If working out quotations is cause for dizzy spells, we should head back to our basement flat (paid for by a full time job which does not require hanging things on the wall, meeting with "those people" and begging for sales). In essence, it is NOT an insult to be seen to be working full time “elsewhere” than in our studios - unless contemporary self esteem issues happen to be more important to us than self respect. Check out some of the top people in the arts in general. Many have had to and some still do work elsewhere in order to pay the bills. This does not make them any less in the (real) visual arts and so why is this concept so beneath so many of us today?
7. People only want to pay you for the time your pencil hits the paper (hand hits the mouse....*insert relevant creative skill here*).
Really!!! How horrible these “people” are!
Quite a generalization! On the other hand, are we dealing with the correct demographic or is it that we are "slightly" too enamoured with ourselves and our talents?
“We want to use an illustration from your website for a national advertising campaign,” he enquired, but when money was mentioned he said “why should we pay you, you’ve already done the work.”
First off. Such a person does not require an answer. What they need is to see our backside “politely and smilingly” walking away from their “offer”. No more than that. Not worth discussing. Not worth thinking about. Such an individual is a boor who has not yet achieved a level of evolution which permits them to recognize artwork, let alone “art”. Now, if our work is deserving of better, then maybe encountering someone like this, once in awhile, is par for the course and undeserving of anything more from ourselves than a loud “pshaw!”.
But then, let’s not display equal and opposite “self-grandeur" behaviour. Even at our best we will have our detractors, and anyway. . . we are never going to be god's gift to the world no matter how many times we look in the mirror. Selfie attitudes do not make a biography legitimate.
The rest of this (#7) makes me cringe as it implies that (a) our work is at such a high level only a mindless twit would recognize it as less. (b) it generalizes the world (note : words such as “people”, "they", "them" and "clients" were used more than 25 times in the aforementioned essay in ways a client base should never be referred to by someone trying to earn a living soliciting "these people".
When "people" feel that they are being looked upon as part of the great unwashed - just maybe, "they" don't want to deal with us. . . And an “us” and “them” mentality never a financially successful combination makes.
“ ‘People’ only want to pay you for physically creating and they sometimes don't understand that saving a pdf file or writing out emails takes up a hell of a lot of time.”. . . . .
How dare “they” be so rude! - (Note : extreme sarcasm. . .)
“The client can sometimes turn into the equivalent of a five year old child on a trip to Skegness “Are we nearly there yet?” “Are we nearly there yet?”
In expressing this sentiment, are we failing to realize that "possibly" we are describing the self-important artist rather than the client?. . . Just saying. . .
It would be good to note that competition is rife in this 1st half of the 21st century. 90% of us will never make our living in the visual or illustrative arts. But that does not mean we are not good nor does it mean we should “quit while we’re ahead”. It simply means that we must deal with reality by being real - and be DEFINITELY less emotively attached to the obsession that is the idea of “being seen to be” an artist, à la 19th century fantasy. Better to be a damned good half-time painter, sculptor or illustrator, enjoying the creative process (as we should), than pretending to be a so-called artist drinking our lives away at the prospect of always having to deal with yet another boor client who fails to see our "specialness".
8. Some clients can be a little disrespectful
I’m only at #8 and already I am rhythmically banging my head on the desk. . .
The “we” and “them” mentality in this essay is, among other determinants, not in keeping with the intent of the title : “Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work”.
A merchant, producer or distributor does not pick and choose its client base! The name of the game is produce, display, present for sale. The whole process says nothing about “guaranteed sales”.
“Being talked to like this on a regular basis is easy to make you lose confidence”
Ah yes, such micro-aggressing on the part of the dastardly beyond the realm of the arts.
Before we end up spending all our hard-earned “sale of artwork” money on self-indulgent therapy, maybe it would be best to change professions. . .
9. Talk to other creatives
Having each others backs is fine at a peer level. This is where we can allow ourselves to rant and rave and order another bottle. On the other hand, getting advice and assistance in understanding marketplace foibles is best achieved through consultation with the more experienced than we. Once an individual has been in the field for awhile, they generally (and generously) do share their tricks of the trade and their "been there, done that" experiences with up and comers. Times may have changed but personality connections and confrontations have not.
All this being said, throughout time the most successful people in the visual arts have been those with gumption. Successful artists are a tough lot. Often, they have started out with nothing and their goal has always been creating excellence, not achieving greatness. Artists are those who dared greatly and did and do whatever is required to get a job done, and this DESPITE. They are those who forged ahead at a pace which would knock all opposition aside - and this without negative attacks on either their competitors or their buyer base. They did not, do not, whine or cry or say woe is me throughout their careers. Like Van Gogh, they were (are) constantly challenged and took (take) the next difficult step DESPITE any and all opposition, rejection or pressures to fail, or superficial anxieties over "what not".
We live in a time which has sadly normalized and defined obsession as passion, victimhood as beingness and pseudo honesty, authenticity and entitlement as confirmation of our self worth. We fear failure because our need for self esteem is more important than our quest for self respect.
But the world we live in is ironically one of ecological survival not of Renaissance. It is more in need of refuse collectors and recyclers than yet another so-called, self-defined artist. So, let's stop the whining. We in the arts are privileged!!!! We see and feel things no others do. Our job is to create work which “says something” - not to define those who cannot appreciate it as lesser. We are owed nothing and should not expect to be recognized simply because we say so. Those who in centuries past thought in this vein (prior to the introduction of art galleries and agents) simply ended up being apprentices to those who actually were artists. Better they would have spent their time being positive in order to lift themselves above and beyond even their own best estimates. But then, that is a choice made. . . or not, isn’t it?
10. Underpricing work doesn’t do anyone any favours
“Remember those lovely creatives you just got moral support from? You don’t want to be undercutting them.”
Under-cutting someone?. . . Pricing our own work has nothing to do with others in the field or their work.
“Nor do you want them to do that to you, right?”
What is this?!!!! Working in any visual art field is not an extension of being in secondary school. Neither does being a creative mean being “college friends true”. Life as a painter, sculptor, dancer, writer, conceptualizer, composer or illustrator is beyond adolescence. It is not based on a frat school agreement over a secret hand-shake! It’s real life. It’s being out there ON OUR OWN - whether we like it or not.
Succeeding is on the minds of all of our peers. And when the time cones for them to go for it, the rest of us had better get going - or get out of their way.
Pricing means establishing a realistic (professional)base which recognizes “our” level of expertise and recognition - not anyone else’s and most especially not based (today) on what we dream we should get.
11. Everyone views money differently
In our studios, we are (more often than not) dreamy wanna-bes who have a talent which craves to be expressed. Super!!! In the studio, that is exactly how things can be. But the minute we walk out of that special place with artwork under our arm is the moment we become producer/distributor/seller/merchant - not an “arteest”.
At this stage of the game, we are nothing more, nothing less, than pitchmen/women hawking our wares. Artwork is a thing; a physical product which at its most extraordinary is called “art”. What's the difference? Artwork is exactly what it is : a product of our efforts. At its ultimate best it allows itself to speak on its own, over and above its creator. It is a painting or sculpture or something else which rises above and beyond the physicality of the artwork created. At this level of excellence it is an enigmatic extra-ordinariness which speaks, reaches out and touches viewers - whether they buy the “thing” presented or not. And that is when it is called "art" - that which not only touches us deeply and requires no purchase whatsoever, but elevates us along with it to a higher plane of understanding.
12. Being upfront is good.
Finally! Something valuable.
Being prepared before a meeting with a client is essential. Handed out at the appropriate time, printed parameters save time and effort in explaining and re-explaining obvious and not so obvious facts about a "dealing". It almost always eliminates the worst of having to deal with those we don't really want to.
Oh lord. . . Setting a price base is not an experiment. It is not a question of re-calibrating how the world turns. It is an organized, efficient activity which has as its goal to be the well ensconced cornerstone of our financial survival.
Once we establish a solid price list (based on reality, recommendations of prominent gallery owners, collectors and comparing with other “like work”) no further consideration, worry, anxiety or anything else should be agonizing our souls. Second guessing is for amateurs who don't take the time to "do it right". Establishing a price list worthy of the level at which we are (not at a level of our wishing) allows us to get back to what we (purportedly) do best : creating artwork. Playing around and being indecisive can mean experimenting ourselves (literally) to a professional death. Doing the pricing job right more often than not demands counsel from more than we.
14. Don’t compare.
Too much dithering with feelings rather than reality in this section. I can’t comment on the content or legitimize it.
“Give ourselves permission. . ." “ Sheesh! On to number 15. . .
15. Get it in writing
Good! Number 15 says it all. I have nothing more to say about this. . . (Surprised?)
16. You’re not an arse for placing value on what you do
“Placing value on yourself feels incredibly egocentric, but you need to stop thinking about it as something personal, and view it as a service that helps to solve people's problems.”
What is this with “artists” so in need to see themselves as the “product”, the brand? When we create a price list it has nothing to do with “us”. Price lists are simply established guides related to the monetary value of a physical thing that we are trying to sell. Nothing more. As we grow and become more well known and our work is considered of greater value, our price list will evolve in total - in a consistent and structured manner. That’s it. That’s all. No more complicated than that if it has been properly set up from the start.
“I've learnt that people can often react quite badly to freelance creatives who ask for a decent fee.”
Who cares!!!! How others react and feel is not under the purview of our power to alter.
“It's as though we creatives turn into blood sucking vampires behind our easels, just waiting to pounce on the next corporate professional victim who won't comply with our rigid demands. We're a right cocky bunch, us illustrators, always showing off about how much money we made from that picture book we got published in 2003 that earns us £10 in royalties a year. I know what you're thinking "who do you bloody think you are?”
Really??? This actually goes through our minds? We see our clients and our potential clients' minds in this light??? Not good. . . Definitely not good. . .
“Many of us have been led to believe from day one that art and creativity isn’t valued as highly as ‘academia,’ whether that’s from anxious family members who worry about whether we can actually make a living from it, or whether that’s being scoffed at by other professionals for ‘not having a proper job’, as though we all sit around colouring in all day. Society still has a long way to go in seeing the value of creativity, despite the fact it may well have just persuaded them to buy one brand of shampoo over another, or influenced them to donate to charity through an ad campaign, or enabled them to enjoy the film they’re watching whilst sat on their nicely designed couch.”
This adds nothing to the essay except to say the author is pissed off.
“I actually do think design is changing the world all the time - it influences people to make very important decisions and it helps to sell huge amounts of products and services. It boosts the economy. It adds colour and life. It creates connection. It builds community. It changes people’s minds.”
True. The rest in this section is nothing more than a whine. So I shall pass.
(So good of me - but then, maybe I am (a) simply exhausted by all of this or (b) getting mellow in my old age. . . )
“Got any helpful tips you’ve learned about pricing creative work?”
(a) Take your time. Build your price list solidly. Get it done and get it right and let it do its job so you can get on with yours : creating and (b) STOP second guessing this damned list. Give it and your work time to impress.
Otherwise, my only recommendation - as this essay is more in keeping (despite its negativity) with illustrators - is to suggest we all read, from cover to cover : The Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, available as either hard-copy or digital format at the following address.
Bernard Poulin. . . I paint, I draw, I write