Post from September, 2018

Maybe It’s Not All About Process

Monday, 24. September 2018 0:58

“It’s all about the process.” We hear that over and over again when we ask artists about process and product. When artists talk to each other, it’s all about the process. Want to discuss creativity? Plan to talk about process. It’s almost as if the product is forgotten when we talk about art and creativity. I have written about it before (here, here, here, and here, for example). And if we are involved in teaching any of the arts, what we teach is process—how to develop it, how to solidify it, how to refine it. It’s almost as if all art is about is process.

This, however, is not the case. The audience could care less about the process. What the audience is interested in is the product, the artifact. Here I must acknowledge that some art processes do not produce artifacts, but these are limited to live performing arts, and while they do not produce physical artifacts, there is a sort of product in the performance experience—that which the audience will (hopefully) talk about when the production is over.

The audience cares only that the product of whatever our processes might be speaks to them, that the artifact somehow enhances their existence. What they do not care about is what we went through to make the product happen, to produce the artifact they can see and touch and appreciate.

Arts marketers might disagree and say that the story of the process is of great interests to potential buyers and will often help make a sale. That is only partially true. What really makes a sale of an artifact is a story. It doesn’t matter whether the story is about the creative process, or about how the artist came to write, sculpt, paint, photograph the subject and produce the artifact in question. And it doesn’t matter whether the story is true or not. The fact is that some kind of story about the artifact came to be is a very useful sales tool because it provides more insight into the work and somehow connects the artist and the audience member and personalizes the work for the potential collector, thus improving sales potential.

This is certainly not to say that process is unimportant. Rather it is to force us to look at process from a different point of view, that of the audience. If we do that we find that there is far less interest in process and far more interest in artifact. This might lead us to think differently about our approach to the work. From that altered viewpoint, it is clear that process is simply a means to realizing the artifact, and perhaps can be completely invisible to the audience. Looking at the process/product dichotomy in this fashion helps us realize that process is nothing more than the methodology we use to create the product, and, as such, might deserve less emphasis in our minds than the artifact.

My point is that while it seems that “it’s all about the process,” perhaps it shouldn’t be. Certainly the process is enjoyable, absorbing, and even addictive, but it is, after all, just a creative methodology. Without the target of a product, an artifact, process is pointless. Perhaps it’s time that we shifted our emphasis a bit more away from process and a bit more toward product.

Category:Audience, Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

Art—It’s not for the Weak

Monday, 10. September 2018 2:08

You Don’t Choose Art; It Chooses You” is the title of a post from several years ago. In it are several supporting quotes and a number of very brief case histories. All of these come to much the same thing: most artists had no choice in selecting their vocations.  For example, author Paul Auster says, “Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.

First, what Auster says not only applies to writers but to other artists as well. Second, the last part of his statement warrants a bit more discussion: that long hard road that the chosen have to walk for the rest of their days. (For discussion purposes, we will divide artists into three categories: “professional” artists are those who make over 50% of their income from their art. “Semi-pros” who charge for their work but make less than 50% of their income from art. “Amateurs” are people who make art but do not regularly offer it for sale.)

No matter which category an artist happens to be in, the road is long and hard. For example, Actor’s Equity Association, the union which represents stage actors, estimates that the unemployment rate for actors “hovers around 90 percent.” These are professional actors who have invested the time and money to join a union (and it’s not cheap). Statistics are much the same for those in other arts, except very few professional artist have unions to join. The fact is that while  non-union professional artists work a lot, sales are sporadic and the artist has to spend a good deal of time marketing his/her work. Income is similar to the union artist who is unemployed a good deal of the time. And for that tiny percentage who are wildly successful, who become stars in whatever areas they work, there are a whole set of other difficulties.

The semi-pro artist’s path is no less hard, just different: this artist has a day job, but would rather be making a living from art. S/he thinks it is more realistic to use the day job for primary income and probably use any income from art to purchase more art materials and tools. This is definitely a person with divided loyalties, and that creates its own special kinds of problems, the chief of which is finding enough time in the schedule to make art sufficient to enter into significant shows and offer pieces for sale.

The amateur artist shares the problem of time. Since this artist is not necessarily making art to sell, s/he still has to find the time to create his/her art. This means taking time away from the family and friends, finding enough quiet time to write or paint or sculpt, or dealing with the demands of evening rehearsals at a community, or other non-paying theatre. Just because there is no money involved doesn’t mean that the conflicts and difficulties are less significant.

Regardless of the level at which an artist works, s/he does have a long, hard road. S/he has a life of erratic artistic income (if any) as well as an ongoing gluttonous need for materials, time, and energy, all coupled with an obsession for creation. Once art chooses a person, and that person accepts the choice, his/her life becomes tough—because art is hard. Most artists, however, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Category:Creativity, Productivity, Uncategorized | Comment (0) | Author:

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