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Embrace the Metaphor

Monday, 7. January 2019 1:41

When you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel significant or symbolic. It just seems like a chore that needs doing because … well, because it’s time. And then you realize that it is symbolic and so then you have to deal with that and decide what it means to you. No matter how routine you think it is or no matter how many times you’ve done it, the taking down of winter holiday decorations marks a passage.

This weekend I took down what in my case was a six foot Christmas tree, a kitchen counter-top tree, and a few cards—not so much in the way of winter holiday decorations, but enough, and I restored the decoration-free arrangement of the spaces. I discovered that it was difficult to determine whether it was the end of something or the beginning or something or both or whether it was a really a restoration of the previous state or the establishment of a new, less-cluttered space.

In my case it was all of the above. It was the end of the celebration of winter, marked by the decorations, which, in turn mark the end of the calendar year. Now that celebration was over and it was time to put the decorations away and restore the room to its previous state, except that because of the clutter of decorations, even minimal ones, the new look is not one of restoration, but one of newness and cleanness. The space has become less cluttered, and this seems to mark a beginning.

That’s a whole lot of (symbolic/metaphorical) meaning for one chore. But once the transition is complete, it’s all those things: an ending, a beginning, a marker on the path. And it becomes time to tackle that carryover list of to-do’s that didn’t get accomplished during the holidays, time to let go of the past, time to move on. Time to embrace the metaphor.

Given such a charged situation, it’s difficult not to start making pledges of doing this or that or the other thing better, smarter, faster in the coming months. And artists it seems, for whatever reasons, are very susceptible to these feelings. Often, however, the propensity to make New Year’s resolutions is not accompanied by the effort to follow through. Perhaps it’s better not to make specific resolutions; perhaps it better just to go with the symbolism of taking down the decorations: let go of the past state; move on to the next.

Sometimes moving, artistically or otherwise is difficult. You have to let go, you at least have to stick your toe out of your comfort zone. That is hard to do; yet not to do it leaves you where you have been, perhaps more comfortable, but not doing what you could do, not moving forward. Nevertheless, if we are to progress as artists, it’s what we must do.

We must pack up old ideas along with the seasonal decorations and put them in the attic. Then we must look around at the cleaner, less-cluttered space and see what that suggests. It might be something radical, but more than likely, it will be just a new way of looking at things, a new approach to an old problem, a gentle letting-go and moving on. Then, as artists, we  end celebrating the status quo and begin celebrating the passage.

Happy New Year!

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Advice to the Artist

Sunday, 23. December 2018 22:39

Every once in a while there occurs that happy accident when there is a confluence of ideas that arrive from different sources at the same time. For me, this very thing happened this week. First, I read Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a short little book illustrated by Chris Riddell. Then I had a very interesting and informative conversation with a university art teacher who works primarily in sculpture and print-making. Finally, I ran across Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist: 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)” which appeared on the Vulture.com’s web site and which originally appeared in the November 26, 2018 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

Saltz advises would-be artists to tell their own stories and to do so with their own voices and to not worry about being understood; he compares making art to “getting naked in front of someone else for the first time.” He goes on to tell artists to put ideas and emotions into their work, to spend lots of time practicing skills and producing and to be ready for failure. He suggests that real art is done for love, not money. He has a number of very specific suggestions and very interesting exercises.

The conversation with the art teacher was about whether in teaching art one concentrates on the abstract aspects of art, i.e. that art can give meaning to people’s lives, that artists can influence people, that art can, in fact, change the world, or concentrates on the craft aspects of making a print or brush technique or skills in handling a camera or sculpting practice. He said that he tries to combine the two in that the artist has to have the craft in order to put forward the artist’s ideas. He went on to say that one of the most difficult things he had encountered lately was getting students to use their own voices and tell their own unique stories with their art rather than relying on making “safe” work that keeps them snug in their comfort zone.

Gaiman’s book is really a collection of four short pieces about the how and why of making art. Interestingly, he says some of the same things as Saltz and the art teacher. For example, he thinks that art is about putting forward ideas, and that those ideas, whether they are true are not, have the right to exist and can (sometimes) change the world. He discusses the power of imagination. Gaiman notes that the artist should expect to fail, but should keep working; he believes that the best art is not done for money. He also discusses finding one’s own voice and telling one’s own story. He notes that “the moment you may be starting to get it right” is “the moment that you feel, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked…showing too much of yourself.”

From these three encounters, I have derived seven pieces of art advice which seem valid no matter where someone is in his/her art journey:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Be prepared to fail.
  3. Tell your own story with your own voice.
  4. Put ideas and emotions into your work.
  5. Keep producing no matter what anyone says.
  6. Understand that your work exposes you to your audience.
  7. Make art because you want or need to, not because you expect payment.

There are certainly more, but these seven seemed to be the most important. I would encourage you to read these articles and others for yourself and talk with as many art teachers as you can; then develop your own list.

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Business as Art?

Monday, 12. November 2018 0:33

Writing for the New York Times, Blake Gonik  posits that one of Andy Warhol’s most important contributions to the world of art was a thing called Art Business. Art Business is, according to Warhol, “the step that comes after art” and lumps together everything that the artist does as “publisher, publicist or salesman” into “one boundless art work: part performance art, part conceptual art and part picture of the market world he lived in.” Gonik goes on to establish that other writers and museums share this view.  Further, he brings into the discussion such artists as Jeff Coons, Damien Hirst, and Banksy as examples of artists who followed Warhol’s example.

The notion that the marketing and sale of art, or anything else for that matter, constitutes an art in and of itself is certainly stretching the definition of art. Still, Gonik says that Warhol’s Business Art is as important to the art world as was Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. And he may well be right, although the idea does not seem to have caught on among artists in general, or perhaps, those artists feel that they do not possess the right set of qualities and skills to make their business operations into “artistic” endeavors.

The former choice is, I think, the most representative of the reality of most artists. Many got into the world of art in order to express themselves, to say something that they thought needed to be said. These artists are not necessarily concerned with theories on what does and what does not constitute art; they only know that the things they are making fall under that umbrella. They view the marketing and selling, not as another art, but as an ancillary to art. These artist would consider promotion and sales as art only metaphorically, as in “that marketing effort was a work of art.” They would never consider business operations as art itself. Indeed, some would say that business as art opens the door to “everything as art,” a concept which is ultimately devalues art.

Perhaps these artists just don’t get it. Writer and curator Jack Bankowsky has said that Business Art is the backstory behind “any sophisticated artistic practice.” And it is a sophisticated idea that the promotion and sale of artworks can be “about” something. It is easily understood that Duchamp’s Fountain was a comment on the art business; Banksy’s self-destructing sale may have been a critique of the art market. It seems, however, a far stretch to say that marketing and sales, in addition to being marketing and sales are also art works about some aspect of the promotion and distribution of art. That’s a bit too sophisticated and perhaps self-serving for some people, and again smacks of the everything-is-art-ism.

Personally, I have trouble with everything-is-art-ism. Certainly, any activity can be taken to heights that transcend normal execution. Any activity can be made elegant and well-formed, “art-like” if you will. That doesn’t make it art, at least under any definition that I know of art, the ideas of the critics and curators quoted notwithstanding. It may be that Duchamp’s declaration “that artists alone get to define what is art” is correct, but in my experience, declaring something to be this or that does not make it so. That requires an acceptance from the audience. What is art is, after all, determined by the culture of which it is a part, and that culture is developed and maintained by members of that culture, in other words, the audience. And despite what critics say, today’s general art audience as well as artists do not see business as art.

Please feel free to disagree. If you have thoughts on this subject, I would be very interested in hearing them.

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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.

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So What Are You Doing About It?

Monday, 16. July 2018 0:59

Some people said they felt weird about celebrating the Fourth of July this year, given the political situation in the country. I got emails about it; there were tweets about it. So I thought about it, and I revisited what I had written immediately after the 2016 election; at that time I said essentially that there was no “correct” response for artists. I still hold to that opinion, but find that two years down the road many in the artistic community feel more threatened and upset than they did even immediately after the election. So I thought about it some more and came up with this question: so what are you doing about it? There are many possible answers to that question, but here are few suggestions:

  • Talk to people. Nobody knows what you think as long as you keep it to yourself, but the fact is that we influence many more people than we think we do, so the more we open our mouths about what we see wrong with the country or what a better path might be, the more likely it is that we will influence someone.
  • Post on social media. I had no knowledge of how many in the artistic community felt about politics until I saw some of their posts of Facebook. And then I found that many of those posts were thoughtful, articulate, provocative—and well worth reading. Yours could be too.
  • Subscribe to and forward newsletters. Accurate and honest information can be nothing but good; pass it on to your friends who may need to hear some truth.
  • Create your own newsletter—for the same reasons as above. Use your editing and curating skills develop content and get the word out to those to whom it matters. It’s a more work, but it’s a worth-while project.
  • Write and call those legislators, even if they seem to be following the (other) party line. I’m not sure that petitions do much good, but if enough constituents call and write, it can and does sway all but the most hardline elected officials.
  • Give some money to those running for office who can make the changes you want made. Give to causes with whom you sympathize. Give to organizations who show that they can make a difference
  • Become politically active. Campaign for candidate you think will make a difference. Someone has to stuff the envelopes, run phone banks, deliver the yard signs, organize at the grass-roots level.
  • MAKE SOME ART! Use your artistic skills to give expression to your political or social feelings. I’m not suggesting that you make all your art political, like Michael Moore, or Pussy Riot or even Sacha Baron Cohen. You might, however, make a piece here and there that communicates your beliefs. Consider just a couple of examples: Matt Johnson created a series of satire photos of Trump and his allies that has become very popular on Facebook. Jason Isbell expanded his musical offerings to include an examination of his personal societal concerns, saying “I can’t stay completely silent.”

Maybe we, as artists, should follow suit and not stay completely silent ourselves. It seems to me that if all we are doing is acting fearful and complaining, we are all but encouraging the status quo. Is that what we really want to do?

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No, It Doesn’t Always Come Together

Monday, 20. February 2017 0:16

Just over a week ago I was sitting alone after a fairly trying rehearsal, thinking about what we had accomplished and where we ought to go next. Probably I was scowling, which seemed appropriate. It was then I heard someone say, “Don’t worry; it always comes together.” My first impulse was to give a really snarky reply, but I thought the better of it. What would be the point in abusing someone who was not really a theatre person and who was living in the happy delusion that shows always come together?

Then this week after a choreography rehearsal, during which much progress was made (choreography had been a bit behind schedule), the student assistant director made a statement that seemed to indicate that if all the pieces were caught up, the show would somehow mysteriously fall together. This was a little better, but not much.

The fact of the matter is that shows don’t always come together. And those that do, don’t come together by accident or magic.

In most cases there is a certain shared energy in a company that seems to grow as opening approaches, and this helps a production come together. But most directors know that that energy is not enough to build an artistically cohesive production.

Shows come together when someone makes them come together. Ideally it is the director who causes the show to come together, a director who guides/forces/coerces/manipulates the company into coming together, which may be more or less difficult depending on the cast, the designers, the production, and the interpretation.  I have even known directors who purposely initiated director-focused company ire in order to weld the performers into a unit. That works because shows can also come together if a cast, as a whole, is reacting to an incompetent/hateful/unbalanced/weak director. Failing one of these scenarios, the show will not come together, and the results will not be pretty.

A show not coming together can manifest in different ways: often the actors seem to be in different universes or all going in different directions artistically or thematically. The musical numbers may not fit seamlessly into the show. The lights or sound may not coordinate properly with the acting and staging. The costumes may not work with the rest of the show.

But a work of art not coming together is in no way limited to theatre. If the conductor cannot somehow bring together the separate elements of the orchestra, the score, and the interpretation of the score, the concert will fall flat. The same holds true for a choreographer and the dancers.  And a film director is very likely to produce a disjointed movie if he/she cannot bring all the various pieces together.

Nor is the problem limited to the collaborative performing arts. If a photographer and subject don’t somehow come together the result is probably a wasted photo session. The same is true of a painter or sculptor and his/her subject.

In fact, no good art “just comes together.” The disparate elements of any work of art—whether it is performing or visual or plastic or written, whether it is a script or a poem or a novel or a musical composition—must be cajoled, massaged, manipulated, orchestrated—and sometimes forced—to come together. This is the source of a great deal of an artist’s angst—knowing that all the parts must somehow coalesce into a unified whole—and having to work to make that happen. Sometimes, it is not intuitive, or even instinctual; sometimes it is the greatest challenge in making art. And it’s a challenge that we must meet repeatedly—every time we create.

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The Thing About Fantasy

Monday, 17. October 2016 0:43

Not long ago a tape was released wherein US Presidential candidate Donald Trump detailed the behavior toward women a man can exhibit if he is a celebrity. The backlash was quick and furious. The protest was not, as one popular meme suggests about “naughty words;” it was about the idea that a man does not need to seek consent from women for sexual engagement. One of the defenses of Trump’s words compared those words to the series of erotic romance novels that began with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Critics were quick to point out the false equivalency between Trump’s words and ideas and Fifty Shades of Grey. Trump’s words indicate a willingness to assault real women, with absolutely no concern for consent, whereas Fifty Shades of Grey is a work of fiction. It matters not a whit that an erotic fiction displays no concerns for consent; it’s fiction. And likely, it’s fantasy since all that is required to fall into the category of fantasy is to be “an illusion or a visionary idea.” There don’t have to be dragons, or giants, or magic rings; there just have to be fanciful ideas.

Fantasy is necessary, not only to those works what do have dragons and giants and magic rings, but to all art. The ideas and concepts that do not derive directly from reality, must come from the imagination. Even those stories taken from real life must be given imaginative treatment if they are to become art and not mere reportage.  Those who create are well aware that they are incorporating fantasy into their work. Their work would be lacking without it. So too, the consumers of that art understand that it is, at least in part, fantasy.

In fact, most humans above the age of 4 are really quite adept at discerning the difference between fantasy and reality, even though they may spend hours engaging in fantasy. It’s when that ability to differentiate breaks down that trouble ensues. People try to pattern their sex lives on internet porn. Television fans send messages to series characters warning them about other characters. Readers allow ideas and events in novels to infect their belief systems as though they were true.

Fortunately, such instances are rare. While a number of people play first-person shooter video games, most of those people own no real weapons and would not even consider stepping onto a real battlefield, no matter how heavily armed. Likewise some people enjoy erotic fiction, fully understanding that if the actions described in the fiction were to happen to them in real life, they would be afraid, appalled, and probably disgusted. People rabidly follow the Star Wars stories, knowing all the while that the Rebel Alliance is not a real organization they could join to fight the Empire. They may dress up and go to Comic Con, but they are aware that they are fans, not soldiers.

The thing about fantasy is that it’s fantasy; it is fictional. It is intended to entertain, to engage the imagination of the consumer, to transport that consumer into a world where pain and consequences are just as fictional as the situations, and the consumer suffers not at all. This stands decidedly in opposition to the real world where there are very real consequences to every action and where people are constantly hurt.

But time spent in a fantasy universe, whether it be a book or a film or a painting or a photograph or a play can be fun. It can be entertaining. It can be educational. It can enhance and enrich our daily lives. But, unless we experience a mental slippage, we always know and appreciate the differences between fantasy and reality.

 

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Why that Artist’s Method Won’t Work for You

Wednesday, 10. August 2016 1:03

It seems that almost everyone who is beginning in the arts wants a prepackaged process. This is easily seen in arts classrooms where potential actors, painters, photographers, sculptors, writers eagerly await how-to prescriptions of how to warm up, how to approach the material, how to get results. They are looking for the magic path that will take them from the classroom/studio to producing acclaimed work one project after another.

Acting students have heard, after all, that there is a Method, and if they follow the procedures of The Method, they will certainly produce good work. What they don’t realize is that the method which originated with Stanislavski, has been modified by his innumerable students, so there are now multiple methods, each claiming to be the True Path to great acting. The same is more-or-less true for all the arts. For example, some photographers think that if they follow Ansel’s process, their pictures will rival his; some writers believe that if they use the same methodology as [insert name of famous writer here], their work will be just as good.

And this seeking of the magic process is not limited to novice artists. There is a constant parade of articles, workshops, classes, all telling the seeker what might be wrong with his/her process and why the one that the writer/presenter is offering will make the seeker a better actor, painter, photographer, writer. The fact that the workshops and classes are full and the articles have readers indicates that even practicing artists are still looking for the Holy Grail of artistic process.

The narrator in Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance blames this on technology: “Technology presumes there’s just one right way to do things and there never is.” That sentence was published in 1974; it’s an even stronger statement now when technology has pervaded every area of our lives. And his point is well taken; it seems that every piece of technology comes with instructions which imply that there is only one right way to use whatever the tool happens to be. So it becomes ingrained in our thinking. Pirsig’s narrator goes on to say that there are, in fact, an infinite number of ways to do things. He says of a true craftsman or artist: “He isn’t following a set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right.”

Stella Adler in The Art of Acting says much the same thing. She says, “Mr. Stanislavsky had his Method.” Continuing, she says that what worked for Stanislavsky will not work for contemporary actors simply because they do not live in Stanislavsky’s culture or have his experiences and influences. The proper goal for the actor, she says, is to be independent of The Method, of any instructor, and to reformulate it the actor’s method in his/her own way.

Just as there is no one warm-up that will serve all dancers or actors, or any other performer, there is no one way of approaching whatever our art is. The best we can do is study various methodologies, try them out, and, adopt those techniques that, when we apply them, are not necessarily the easiest for us, but that yield the best results.

Studying the processes of successful artists is one of the ways to acquire ideas that we can adopt or adapt. But we must remember not follow the processes of others blindly, but to pull out those ideas, methods, and procedures that will lead us to our best results. Thus we develop our own working procedures and our own process. And once we have a base process, what we may find is that we will have more success if we modify it, as Pirsig suggests, to fit the material of a given project.  Then we will be masters of our own unique, flexible process, and our work will be the better for it.

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The Case for Quality

Monday, 14. December 2015 1:38

In the last post I used a quote from Penn Jillette’s Every Day is an Atheist Holiday in which Jillette says, paraphrasing Billy West, that there is only one show business, and all artists and performers are in it. In the next couple of sentences he postulates a hierarchy within this one world of arts/entertainment, noting that “a magician has to be a damn sight lower than a poet. We’re above ventriloquists, but not near poets.”

Although this would seem to suggest that there are classifications within art and some sort of hierarchy, nowhere in this book does Jillette offer any criteria for making judgements about which arts go where. He just sets forth the notion that some arts are inherently more valuable than others. As I acknowledged in the last post, “there is art that is more sophisticated than other art. There is art that encompasses what it means to be human in a much more profound way than other art. There is art that is more expensive than other art.” This would suggest that value of a work of art is not a characteristic of the art itself, but is actually assigned by critical audience members.

Taking that into account along with the notion that all arts/entertainment is one thing, we must, when we are making value judgements (rarely done without some sort of comparison or at least an implied comparison) about any art or artist, be sure that we are comparing kumquats with kumquats and not disparate kinds of things. Comparing musical theatre to legit theatre makes no more real sense than comparing stage magicians to ventriloquists.

Likewise, it should be obvious that comparing a sculpture by Praxiteles to a piece of sculpture by John Chamberlain is invalid except in a very restricted academic sense.

To suggest that a straight play is better than a musical just because it is a straight play or that a sculpture by Praxiteles is superior to a sculpture by Chamberlain simply because the Praxiteles work is figurative is the worst kind of snobbery.

And while snobbery is never justified, some people genuinely believe that there is a hierarchy and some arts are more sophisticated, or more profound or just “higher” than others. Others think that there are only subdivisions: ventriloquism and stage magic and poetry and sculpture are all subgenres of the whole arts/entertainment thing, with one subgenre having much the same value as another.

But more important than whether stage magic is superior in some way to ventriloquism is whether the stage magic that is being performed is of quality. It is not a matter of subject matter or where the particular subgenre stands in the hierarchy. It’s about how good it is. There is good stage magic and not-so-good stage magic. There is good ventriloquism and not-so-good ventriloquism. There is good musical theatre and not-so-good musical theatre. There is good legitimate theatre and not-so-good legitimate theatre. There is good pornography and not-so-good pornography. There is good abstract expressionism and not-so-good abstract expressionism. There is good minimalism and not-so-good minimalism. There is good sculpture and not-so-good sculpture.

If we must make distinctions, and we seem to be inclined to do that, then properly those distinctions should not be about the level of the work in terms of subject matter or degree of sophistication or profundity, i.e. the relative “value” of the work. Rather they should be about the quality of the work—and that is a whole other discussion.

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Want to Work? Consider Arts Other than Fine

Sunday, 8. March 2015 22:56

“I want to be a Broadway star,” and “I want my work to be shown at the Tate” are phrases that one hears often from young artists. What those phrases really mean is, “I want to be famous.” That’s a much different thing from “I want to be a great artist.” Being a star in any of the arts requires quite a different set of skills from those required to be a great artist. Sadly, many great artists remain “undiscovered,” precisely due to the lack of those (networking) skills or choosing to work in the wrong branch of the arts.

By “wrong branch” I mean one of the branches that is not considered “fine art” within a contemporary time frame. Those who have studied the history of the arts realize that the division between “fine art” and all the other stuff is fairly modern and completely artificial. This is not to say that everything that is produced within a particular genre has artistic merit; there is some truly atrocious work out there, but there is some very good work as well. This has always been the case; we just have different labels for it.

As mentioned in a post last month, beginning artists in schools, particularly in the visual arts, are cautioned to make their work non-commercial. This is the case with some, but not all, performing arts as well.

As a result of this kind of thinking, we spend enormous amounts of time and money trying to get into this show or that show or this showcase or that showcase or this gallery or that gallery, all so we can take the next step and be accepted in the upper tier: The Armory Show, Art Basel, select off-Broadway theatres, and then be represented by a name gallery and/or agent in New York, London, Miami.

It is my feeling that this approach does a serious disservice to the beginning artist, or any artist for that matter. There are many paths other than “fine” art that will offer satisfying careers, and perhaps, more importantly, an income. Consider poster art, calendar art, book cover art, industrial shows, theme park performance and design, voice acting, advertising art and performance, and commercial arts in general.

And in addition to satisfaction and money, there may be galleries and showcases in those areas that were not available even 20 years ago. For example, there is growing recognition of (and museum/gallery shows and auctions featuring the work of) Maxfield Parrish, Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran, Bunny Yeager, Peter Gowland, Norman Rockwell, Peter Max, and Jack Vettriano. There are now exhibits of pulp book cover art and even graphic art. And with the exhibitions and sales come artistic vindication, a measure of fame, and more money.

So in discussing futures with theatre students, the phrases that are most pleasing are “I just want to work,” or “I want to do good work.” Those statements come from only one type of student—the one who is driven, the one who must do the work in order to survive, the one that art has chosen. Those statements comes from a person whose sole interest is in making art, in creating.

And like those students, we may not be able to find our way directly to London’s West End or MoMA, but regardless of the current “fine art” fad, we can create and show good work that says what we want it to say. And that is worth doing.

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