Tag archive for » Seth Godin «

I Can’t Get No. . .

Sunday, 24. September 2017 23:46

As I was mulling over my dissatisfaction with my latest photo shoot, I realized that dissatisfaction is something I experience with every photo shoot—and every play I direct, and everything I design, and every image I make. Then I realized that dissatisfaction is nearly a constant state with me; insofar as it applies to art, I’m never satisfied.

It’s not about perfection. I gave up on that a long time ago. I came to believe, as Seth Godin preaches, that the search for perfection is a fool’s errand that prevents the artist from getting anything out the door. It’s the reason that paintings (and all other artifacts) are never finished.

Those of us who have given up on perfection, however, still have standards, and often those standards are expressed as satisfaction. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about being as good as it can be. I realize that that is a very fine distinction, but still the distinctions exists. Satisfaction means being happy—or at least content—with all aspects of the final project; it denotes a relationship between artist and artifact. Perfection, on the other, indicates that there is absolutely no way to improve the final project; this is a quality of the artifact only. And this, of course is virtually impossible; any artist who attempts perfection is not likely to have a significant output.

Even though satisfaction seems to represent a lesser standard—as compared to perfection—it’s still difficult. Most artists set the bar very high. And therein lies the problem. When the bar is high, the artist sometimes fails to reach it. There is always something that could have been done better, something that could be clearer, or cleaner, or more imbued with meaning.

There are three ways to deal with this situation: (1) set the bar lower; (2) improve the quality of your work; (3) learn to accept dissatisfaction.

Some artists opt for setting the bar lower or redefining the bar. The result is that their work, which was never “good enough,” now is. Dissatisfaction dissolves. If the bar was sufficiently high to begin with, this is just a matter of labeling. The artist’s output will remain the same, both in terms of quality and quantity, and the artist will feel better. This should be the choice particularly of those artists whose standard is unrealistically high, like those who are really looking for perfection.

Improvement would be the choice, I think, of most artists. The problem becomes one of deciding what to improve. General improvement might not get to the source of the dissatisfaction. So a bit of analysis is required. The artist must answer questions like: does the dissatisfaction arise from the same issue in each project? What aspect of the project causes the dissatisfaction? Is the level of dissatisfaction consistent with each project or does it vary project to project? Of course with the answers to these questions there will be follow-up questions. Once answered, the artist can see where and what s/he needs to improve.

Dealing with dissatisfaction can mean just getting used to it, or it could mean undergoing psychoanalysis, or it could mean anything in between. This approach acknowledges the persistent existence of dissatisfaction and attempts to find ways for the artist to come to terms with it without modifying the work.

Most artists I know experience dissatisfaction with their work to some extent, and most of those artists have chosen some combination of these three methods to deal with it, with greater and lesser success. How do you deal with your artistic dissatisfaction?

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The Importance of Venue

Sunday, 5. January 2014 23:56

In a recent blog, Seth Godin makes the point that if we think we are supposed to like something, we probably will. He uses the examples of laughing more at a comedy club, liking the food better at fancy restaurants, and feeling like we have a bargain if we buy it at an outlet store. In other words, the venue influences the perceived value of the experience.

Reinforcing this idea is the Washington Post experiment instigated by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Gene Weingarten and implemented by Grammy Award-winning violinist and conductor Joshua Bell. Bell, lightly disguised, played as a street performer for 45 minutes at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington DC on January 12, 2007. Only seven people stopped to listen and he collected a total of $32.17. Earlier the same week, he had played the same concert to a sold-out $100-per-seat house.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet once compared New York and Chicago theatre audiences in what seems to be a comment on the same phenomenon, “In Chicago, we just presume that the best theatre is going to be in somebody’s garage.”

This about more than the environment in which an art work exists, it is about the perception of value (the qualitative portion of audience expectation) based strictly on venue. Because of the prices we pay, and the location of the theatres, we expect New York theatre to be the best in the world, and consequently we like it more. As we move away from Manhattan, our expectations shrink and we expect to like what we see less; we are hardly ever disappointed. We look at the environment and adjust our expectations. Is it a union house? Are the actors professional? Are they students? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we modify our expectations according to the venue. We expect less and like it less.

This way of thinking does not apply only to theatre. We base our expectation of the quality of any art on the venue and the location of the venue. So when we walk into the hole-in-the-wall club in Tennessee, we do not expect to hear world class music.  When we visit an outdoor art fair in Texas, we do not anticipate seeing mature, masterful work. We do not really expect world-class anything outside of the “proper” context.

Like many of the passersby in the Washington Post experiment, many of us are so locked into the idea of how we are supposed to respond (according to location and situation) that we cannot hear the actual quality of the music or see the real quality of the art.

An earlier installment of this blog, “Context Matters” said, “The ambiance surrounding works of art, seeps into the work, and fuses with it. It impacts the work and cannot do otherwise. It’s part of the art transaction that cannot be avoided. The trick then is to be able to mentally decontextualize the work, so that you can be sure that you are actually appreciating the piece, not the context in which you find it.” Although certainly a desirable ideal, the more I learn, the less sure I am that decontextualization is a real possibility—at least for most people.

And although we know very well that quality is not related to venue, as artists we need to be aware of this phenomenon and realize that where we show our work does indeed matter to the majority of our audience. We may not like it, but we had better learn to deal with it.

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Don’t Let Perfection Get in the Way

Sunday, 28. July 2013 23:32

“I’m a perfectionist; I can’t help it. My work isn’t finished until it’s perfect.” How many times have you heard an artist say that? It doesn’t matter what his/her art is, the result is the same: it will never be finished—because it will never be perfect.

Many of us have learned to seek perfection. Whether we have been taught this, or just happened to confuse working to a very high qualitative standard with trying to achieve perfection is an open question. Many of us were pushed to do better and achieve more as we were growing up; others of us figured out that that was the way to succeed in our culture.  Reasoning as children will do, we decided that if excellence was a goal, perfection must be a higher goal, so we became obsessed with making things perfect.

So now when we try to make art, we set an impossibly high standard for ourselves: perfection.  Never mind that it’s unachievable, we still try to get there. This is one of the excuses for much of the bad behavior for which artists are notorious. We even romanticize it; the striving for perfection becomes part of the mythology of what it means to be a real Artiste.

What really happens is that perfection itself becomes the goal rather than creating excellent, meaningful art. So those of us who are still aiming for that perfect performance, or painting, or photograph, or film or whatever have our eye on the wrong thing. We should be concerned for our work, not for some abstract concept that we mistakenly learned to seek as youngsters.

But many artists, as well as non-artists, have this affliction. And it is an affliction. Brené Brown, sociologist, psychologist, and educator, has said, “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

But what about the famous perfectionists, the ones who, because they are always striving toward that abstract goal, generate huge successes? What about Steve Jobs? Actually, some writers credit Apple’s success not to Steve Jobs’ legendary perfectionism, but to his learning to loosen his rigid stance.

How then are we to proceed—those of us who believe in excellence? We must supplant the concept of “perfection” with the notion of “good enough.” Now, before you raise the cry of mediocrity, let me say that “good enough” means just that—good enough to satisfy you and to exceed your standard of excellence. You can set the “good enough” bar just as high as you would like—just short of perfection.

According to Seth Godin, “Good enough, for those that seek perfection, is what we call it when it’s sufficient to surpass the standards we’ve set.Godin goes on to say, “Anything beyond good enough is called stalling and a waste of time.” So the time that we spend trying to move past the excellence of our highest standards to perfect amounts to running in place.

Voltaire was another who was not a fan of perfection, and Voltaire was a man who knew something about making art and getting it out the door, having written over 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He said it very plainly: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Maybe it’s time we quit worrying about making perfect art and instead make good art.

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Forget the Formulas

Monday, 1. April 2013 0:07

There has been very little sales and marketing activity in my world of late. A friend with whom I was discussing this advised, “Don’t worry about it; you’re producing now.” And it’s true—I have not concerned myself with anything other than creating art since the beginning of the year. Well, I did enter a couple of shows, but that hardly qualifies. Now, if I were a savvy marketer—at least according to what I read—I would have in place a system that sold for me all the time: gallery representation, sales web site, membership in one of the internet art store sites, or all of that. I do not.

Obviously, this means that I need to come up with a plan. I need to develop, in Seth Godin’s terminology, a tribe. (I have commented on this idea before).  But exactly how to go about that is still elusive. Like you, I have researched and discovered articles, posts, webinars, workshops, and a mountain of other pathways to financial success in art. And I have read and listened and participated in a number of these. And I have come to several conclusions.

Everyone has different, often conflicting advice, so you have to choose whose advice to follow. Since you don’t know very much about marketing and sales to begin with, exactly how do you make an intelligent choice? Should you listen to the sales pitch? There will be one—every time. Should you pay money to read the book, participate in the webinar, go to the workshop, learn the secrets? Should you believe the success stories? If you knew how to evaluate these approaches to marketing and sales, you might well already know what you need to do.

And, of course, everyone assures you that if you only follow this formula, you too will achieve success in the sale of your art. Never mind that the mentor in question has no knowledge of you or your art—or even which medium you work in. How one can predict success with such a lack of knowledge is a mystery, but they manage somehow. This has worked for this guy and that guy; surely it will work for you. Again, should you believe them? Is this plan relevant to you and your art?

Some of these schemes require that you devote x hours per day to the tasks required. Given the other demands on your time, you may not have that much time available—then what? Some are remarkably difficult to implement. Some seem not just counter-intuitive, but completely foreign.

In all fairness, there are some specializing in marketing art who recognize that art marketing has to meet individual needs and so will have to be an individual undertaking. These advisors will simply say, “Here is a resource; some people have found it useful. You may want to give it a try,” or “here’s an idea that some people have used and found successful.” These advisors have my gratitude; I have found some of the ideas that they presented to be quite useful.

The fact is, of course, that there is no single formula that will work for everyone and everyone’s art. What works for one person may be impossible for someone else. Each artist is as different as the art he/she produces. Likewise, the approach to the problems of marketing and selling has to fit the individual.

As you tackle the problem of developing a tribe of those who appreciate and want to purchase your art, remember that any method that you use to get your art out there has to resonate with you and fit your style and personality. Just as making art is a very individual undertaking, so is the marketing of that art. You will have to develop it yourself.

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“Make It Work” Does Not Mean “Produce Substandard Quality”

Monday, 18. February 2013 0:20

An actor whose name I don’t remember once said on Inside the Actor’s Studio that the phrase he hated most was “That works.” Although he did not elaborate, I think to him the phrase represented something less than excellence, or perhaps a willingness to accept a product that was not planned in advance. In another television show, Tim Gunn has made the phrase “Make it work” a rule to live by, although that phrase also raises questions in some people’s minds about excellence and certainly about meeting deadlines.

I suspect we all, in the best tradition of the reality “skills” shows, have had to “make it work” on some project or another—or maybe every project. In most cases, this has to do with meeting a deadline of some sort, whether it is imposed by a client, a show, a pre-existing schedule or ourselves. Most of us have learned that if we allow ourselves the luxury of not finishing a piece because it presents challenges, we would never get anything done. We would never, in Seth Godin’s words, “ship.” And if we are to be productive, we must ship.

This necessity forces us into a “make it work” mentality. Sometimes, the time constraints that we place upon ourselves cause us to find a solution that works—at least for the moment. Developing this mental attitude, in turn, provides the pressure we need to overcome some the difficulties that we were having in realizing the work.  What “works” is probably what we would have done if we had had more time with the project. Having to make it work in order to meet a deadline just made us find that solution sooner.

That done, we may have a varying set of responses to our own work. We may be quite satisfied, so shipping feels good and right. However, we may have had the very common experience of creating something that works but is still not satisfying. What we then do about that turn of events varies. In some instances, we ship and forget it; after all, we gave it our best effort, and that is all that can be expected of anyone in any situation.

Other times, however, our dissatisfaction nags at us. That shape in the corner just isn’t what we want, or that color is not precisely what it should be, or this paragraph doesn’t quite reflect the feelings we want to convey. It works, but it doesn’t work as well as we would like, or exactly the way we want it to. In that case, it might be well to revisit the work with a little perspective —if we still have access. If it is a work that allows us to “correct” future copies (photography, prints, writing) or it has not shipped, and we have figured out what to do to make it better, we should do it by all means—if for no other reason than to ease our minds about it. This, of course, is the reason there exist multiple versions of many books and poems. Those are easily modifiable—even if thousands of copies have already shipped.

Pieces that are already in the hands of collectors are more problematic. For those, the best solution is to leave them alone; they have a home, and modifications can only disturb an already-satisfied collector.

So, if you find yourself in what you consider a “make it work” situation, make it work. If your work does not reach your quality threshold, set it aside and make something else that does; if it meets all your criteria, ship it. If you need to revisit the subject later, do so. “Making it work” does not mean that your work will be less than it should be. “Make it work,” simply means using everything we have, our experience and skills and insight and creativity (and all the serendipity our individual karmas can gather) to make the best work we can, given the constraints of the situation. In other words, make our art the way we do normally.


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New Beginnings

Sunday, 6. January 2013 23:47

This time of the year we hear a lot about new beginnings and modifying our lives, our businesses, our art. It seems that it’s a time to evaluate where we’ve been and adjusting so that the next year will be better. Some will create lengthy lists of resolutions, but most of us realize that, with a few exceptions, resolutions fail. Other pundits, Like Seth Godin, suggest that we make an inventory, as “a way to keep track of what you’re building.” What is curious to me is that you never hear about this sort of thing at other times of the year.

Why is this time of year the season for appraisal and adjustment? Certainly, nowhere on the planet are we even near the rebirth phase of the natural biological cycle. We are, in fact—at least those of us in the northern hemisphere—just about to step into the depths of winter. Perhaps that is it; this could well be considered “dead time.” Several artists I’ve talked with recently regard January, and perhaps February as “creative time,” which, so far as I can determine, means that they choose to spend this time making art—perhaps because of the unfriendly weather and lack of other activities. This means, of course, that they have already done their evaluation and path-setting, so now they are able to move forward.

Still there exists the question of why the majority of people use January as the marker for judging past performance and setting standards and goals for the coming year. The answer is simple. Most people’s lives are not segmented, but continuous.  They go to work, come home, eat, sleep, relax a little, and do it all again. The cycle is the work week, with months overlaid and seasons providing a sort of background. But almost all cultures celebrate winter holidays of some sort, and these holidays seem to last a little longer than others. So things slow down, and in slowing down there is time for reflection. And then there is that event called the “New Year.” Yes, just another day, but a day when we get to hang a brand new calendar on the wall—which looks for all the world like a fresh start, a new blank page. A new beginning.

And that is something we all crave. Humans, at least those in western society, seem to need to fresh starts. And as artists, we have more of them than most people, because we—and it does not matter what kind of artist—work on different schedules from the majority of the population. Each artist may be a little different, but we all work on projects, and projects have ends. Dancers, choreographers, actors, directors, scenic and costume designers work on “the show.” The production is conceived, rehearsed, performed, and closed. The painter or photographer or sculptor works on a piece or a series, which also has a completion arc. Writers work on the book, the poem, the short story, the essay, the blog entry. None of these conform to the calendar year.

And even though many of us (if we’re lucky) move from project to project, there is usually a point at which we can look back and evaluate what we’ve done, and perhaps discover ways to improve our working procedure or efficiency or whatever might need adjustment to improve our output. Performing arts production teams often hold “post-mortems” to evaluate procedures and approaches. Individual artists rarely do anything so formal, but we do have an opportunity not available to all: evaluating our work and adjusting on a per-project basis rather than once a year. It’s up to us to take advantage of those opportunities.

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Collectors, Clients, Customers, Fans

Monday, 31. December 2012 1:15

Not long ago I bought a painting from an artist whose work I appreciate. In the course of the post-purchase conversation, he turned to someone and said, “I have a new collector.” Never before had I thought of myself as a collector, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the new title. But I thought about it, and I thought about the other names that could be given to our relationship and decided that collector was probably the most accurate.

This, of course, led me to wonder what other artists call persons who buy their work. It’s curious but I don’t think I ever gave a name to that relationship. I would, like a number of artists I know, just say “sold a piece” without reference to the person who bought it. When I write, I have most often referred to those people in the collective, as the audience, but that word is a little awkward for those who are not someway involved with performance.

But I do know that how we label things (and people) will sometimes govern our relationships and attitudes toward them, so maybe this is a topic that deserves a little thought. Once we get past those who are “just looking,” there are four categories of people that you might find in your audience:

  1. Fans are those who are interested in what you do, and sometimes in all that you do, but are not necessarily interested in buying anything. They want to stay informed about what you are doing, but they might be content to do that from a distance without ever actually interacting with you. Sports teams have fans, as do movie stars, and celebrities of all sorts. Fans are those who follow us, and, as we all know, some of us are interested in acquiring as many as possible. The very popular crime novelist Mickey Spillane, on the other hand, once said, “I have no fans. You know what I got? Customers. And customers are your friends.
  2.  Customers are people to whom you sell things. Some may become your friends as Spillane suggests, but mostly they are interested in purchasing your wares. You must presume that there is something in your work that they like, but you may never know what that is. Often you meet them only once and never again. The interaction can be as simple as the exchange of money for art or a complex ongoing relationship that does indeed turn into a friendship of sorts. Customers buy commodities.
  3.  Clients are repeat customers, or at least there is a connotation of repeat business in the word. There is also the connotation of work for hire. Commercial photographers have clients, as do designers, doctors, and lawyers. But there are two important things about clients that differentiate them from other categories: they have input, no matter how small or insignificant, into the work, and they themselves are the ultimate judge of whether the work is satisfactory.
  4.  Collectors are those people who want to possess your work enough to give you money for it. They appreciate what you do and so want to own it. They differ from customers in that they are less about buying a commodity and more about purchasing a representation of how the creative side of your mind works. Sometimes, like customers, they are only interested in purchasing only one piece; other times you find that what you produce speaks to them in such a way that they will want multiple pieces. And you will probably find that relationships with collectors are well worth nurturing—for more than financial reasons.

There are probably more than four categories of audience members. But I suspect that you will find that these four make up the bulk of your audience. Remember though that fans can turn into customers can turn into collectors. So we need to learn to address them all—and build a tribe.

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To Make Great Art You have to be Fearless

Sunday, 1. April 2012 23:29

One of the biggest problems for any artist is fear. Fear goes by a lot of names: self-doubt, insecurity, hesitancy, self-protection, risk-aversion, being realistic. And it has many consequences: we procrastinate, we revise rather than release, we decline to enter shows, we don’t send manuscripts to publishers, we refuse to consider marketing, and then we spend our time rationalizing why our work is not getting out there.

In its more severe forms this syndrome can result in the work never even getting done. After all, what is the point of making art if no one is going to see it, rather, what is the point of making art if we’re not going to show it to anyone? So digital images don’t get printed or even taken, stories don’t get written, that piece of sculpture in our heads never advances beyond the sketch stage, the movie exists only in a partial screenplay. The list goes on.

All of this is natural. We want to protect our art. It is, after all, ours, and we know it is fragile. It’s much easier to think this way than to admit the truth: we are fragile and we are so bound up to our work that we often can’t tell the difference. We must protect ourselves. And the two easiest methods of protecting ourselves is to show our work to a very limited set of viewers who will say nice things, or to not show our work to anyone at all. We can just look at it ourselves, or, sometimes, just think about what it would be like if we actually made it.

There are very few artists who have not experienced at least one form of this fear; some have experienced it in all its forms. It is what keeps visual artists entering the same local juried shows and not attempting regional or national opportunities; it is what prevents actors from fully realizing the characters they are trying to create; it is what stops the screenwriter from pitching his/her latest work to anyone other than the friend who wants to produce; it is what causes the composer to play his latest creation only for family and a few friends.

This is a very real, serious problem for a lot of artists. Fear, in one or more of its incarnations, has been the occasion for a number of articles, blog posts, and even books. Writers from Julia Cameron to Seth Godin have discussed it and have offered solutions. Just this past week two articles appeared online. One on Virtual Photography Studio is called “Is the ‘F’ Word Creeping Into Your Business and Personal Life?” which discusses the impact of fear on both your work and your life. The other is “Overcoming Doubt and Fear” on Empty Easel. In this article, Aniko Makay discusses her way of dealing with artistic doubts and fears.

If these articles or the authors mentioned don’t tell you what you need to know, there are plenty of others out there. Just google “overcoming fear” or “overcoming insecurity.” You might consider the following method; it may seem a bit simplistic upon first reading, but it can, in fact, help.

  • Name the risk. This sometimes is not as easy as it sounds.
  • Imagine the worst case scenario of taking the risk.
  • Decide if you can live with that.
  • Imagine the best case scenario of taking the risk.
  • Decide if you can live with that.
  • If you can live with both outcomes, you can live with anything in between. Take the risk.

Given the individual artist, some risks may not worth taking, but many are. We just need to recognize that. Often we get into a cycle of worrying about potential outcomes and not moving forward with our work. It’s an easy cycle to fall into. But taking risks is something that we have to learn to do. To make art we have to be fearless.




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Want to Do Better Art? Develop Discipline

Sunday, 18. March 2012 22:52

No matter how much imagination and creativity and talent you have, it’s of little use unless it is applied. And often the application requires something that many in the arts tend to avoid: discipline. From experience I know that discipline is a trait lacking in many theatre arts students, and I can think of no reason that students of any other art would be different. These students, like most of us, get into the arts because it satisfies a felt need, or we have talent, or we find it really appealing. Then to succeed, we have to figure out how to take it to the next level, and the level after that, and the level after that.

And that takes imagination. It also takes discipline. This is an idea that comes up again and again when artists talk about what it takes to make art. Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner says:

There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. You are embarking on this incredibly exciting journey, and you’re going to write your first novel, you’re going to write a book. Until you’re about 50 pages into it, and that romance wears off, and then you’re left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing. […] A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline … You have to be more stubborn than the manuscript, and you have to punch in and punch out every day, regardless of whether it’s going well, regardless of whether it’s going badly. […] It’s largely an act of perseverance […] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story.

A number of artists have commented on the relationship between discipline and inspiration. Douglas Eby in a post on “The Creative Mind” quotes Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love in a TED talk, “Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it. If your job is to dance, then do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius [muse] assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment for your efforts, then Ole. And if not, do your dance anyhow. Ole to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”

Notice that Gilbert is not just talking about writing, but about any art. Painter and photographer Chuck Close advises:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.

To paraphrase Seth Godin, the first rule of doing work that matters, no matter what it is, is to “go to work on a regular basis.” To be brilliant, we must not only go to extremes with our imaginations, we must do so on a regular basis. Discipline is also a requirement.

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Making Your Art Accessible Is Making a Mistake

Monday, 13. February 2012 0:01

The question of art accessibility is one of those topics that are always under discussion somewhere. It came up again recently in a piece on Empty Easel. In “If Art is a Language, How Well do you Communicate?Niki Hilsabeck says that artists who “want to resonate more with the buying public should learn the buyers’ ‘language’ and adjust their artwork accordingly.”

In other words, if your potential buyers don’t get your work, perhaps you should modify your work so that it expresses your intent in a way they can understand.  This would seem to reduce the artist to either a manufacturer of commodities on one hand or little more than a teacher on the other. And perhaps some artists are both of those things, but to say that an artist is no more than that is a gross oversimplification of the art experience.

Hilsabeck asserts that art is a conversation. I disagree; art is an expression, perhaps an assertion itself, and sometimes it starts conversations, but often the artist is not involved in those, nor should he/she be; that’s not his/her job.

Hilsabeck’s rationale seems to be that since art is communication, anything you can do to aid that communication is a good thing. It’s a concept I have trouble with. Much of what art is about, much of the very complicated way that art communicates is tied up with how the work communicates. Good art is multi-layered and complex, and out of the reach for some people. Because of the interconnectedness of form and content, modifying how an artwork speaks to its audience must, in turn, modify what is communicated. So in trying to make your art more accessible, you can’t help but change your message as well.

You have to decide whether having another sale is worth changing what you are saying. It’s very much like politics: you can get the support you want if you will change your message to be what those supporters want to hear. The real question is: is what they want to hear what you want to say?

To put this whole argument into perspective, think for a minute about Jackson Pollock trying to make his mature work more accessible. It becomes completely different work. I, for one, am very glad that he did not attempt to make it easy for us.

So what is the artist to do? There is a natural desire to sell your work; at the same time you need to say what you need to say in the way you need to say it. The process is far more complex that the mere need to communicate. You don’t need to modify what you are doing; you need to connect with those who get what you do. There is really no “public” that you have to appease; rather there are people who, if they knew your work, would like it, and perhaps purchase it. The marketing part of your job is to connect with them, or facilitate their discovering you. You need to, in the terminology of Seth Godin, find your tribe.

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