Monday, April 05, 2010

Out in Public without any Pants!

Spring Storm on the LI Sound, watercolor sketch, 7x10

I am so glad to see that I had zero visitors to my blog on Easter Sunday! This tells me that all of my dear readers had the sense to turn their attention away from the Internet (as wonderful as it is!) and focus on matters more lofty and spiritual and to enjoy the riches of family, friends and the delightful spring weather!

Now it is Monday and we are back into the swing of things after a long, lovely weekend.

As many of you do , I subscribe to the Fine Art Views Newsletter, and today's article brought up an important matter that I have wanted to write about for a very long time.
If you haven't seen the article yet it's called The Wiper, written by Keith Bond, and you may want to take a few minutes and do so before you read any further. While you're there you may also want to subscribe to the newsletter, there's always plenty of food for thought in its well written articles.

The gist of the article is that truly successful painters maintain their integrity (and create an ever increasing value/price for their work) by only ever exhibiting and selling their very best work, the rest they "wipe" and no one ever sees them. This is contrasted to the less discriminating artists (who may also be in denial about their skill, or lack there of) who show and try to sell everything that, as Keith puts it, "falls off their easel".

I have had uneasy feelings about this subject for a long, long time. Partly because I've heard this sentiment echoed by several very, well known and successful painters, some of whom I know personally.

The reason I have such troubled feelings is blogs, websites, twitter, facebook, et al. Do artists, do I, share waaaay too much by posting my rough sketches, quick plein airs, experiments gone bad, every painting in progress and completed?

Do I do myself a disservice by allowing paintings from five years ago to remain in my blog archive? I know that my work has improved in five years, so what if someone does a google search and comes up with a blog post from way back when I was painting in a different style and with much less skill, is that what I want them to see?

When the daily painting movement began it was about doing a small painting each day as a way to hone skills, to improve and to warm up before moving on in the day to tackle larger more serious work. Just so happens that Duane Keiser, who began the movement is one heck of a painter and his little post card size studies priced at just $100 were very appealing to collectors who knew a great deal and great art when the saw it.

But that mindset, that you would post your day's study good or bad, to document your progress has some interesting implications if you're trying to build your reputation as a serious artist who produces quality work.

Having been part of the first generation of daily painters, featured in the Domino Magazine article in March 2006, and painting and posting from 2005 through the end of 2009 has often left me feeling like you do in those dreams folks have when you suddenly realize you're out in public without your pants!

I sometimes regret sharing with the entire world via the Internet my paintings that are less than my best. Today's little watercolor sketch is a prime example. During last week's heavy rainstorms I had the opportunity to be on the coast at Mercy by the Sea for a day of silent retreat. The silent meditation rooms overlook the Long Island sound and have huge floor to ceiling windows. In the afternoon the wind really kicked up and the sound turned from choppy to turbulent and there were actually waves! I had a small sketch kit with me so in about 15 minutes I did this little study. It's not a great painting by any means. I won't be framing it or entering it in a show or offering it for sale, but I am sharing it here for the whole world to see.

So is that a mistake or does it help people better understand all that goes into being an artist? The observations, the small studies, the failures that line the studio walls but pave the way for the truly masterful pieces that spring forth occasionally are all part of an artist's life.

I know that personally I have been pruning what's on my website, winnowing out what's less than "best" and after reading Keith's article I feel like it's time to do that again.

So do I share too much information, am I guilty of airing my dirty laundry, have I found myself in public without any pants? I really don't have any good answers to this. I know that I only enter my best work into shows and that I send galleries my best work, but until recently my website has been a little more inclusive and my blog has no secrets! Twitter and Facebook also get a real time glimpse into what I am currently doing, the good , the bad and the ugly.

What do you think, is it too much information? Should an artist only share with the world at large their best work or is their some value in sharing the just OK pieces and the "wipers" too?

Please share your thoughts I really want to know what you think.


K. Henderson Art said...

I take images off my website when they have sold so no 5 year old paintings are there.
I have several blogs. My paintings go on the blogs when I am finished and happy with the painting. The only exception is when I am doing a demo, but even then, I finish the painting before I publish demo pics.
I have one blog where I write about the art world, painting, marketing etc. But even there only finished paintings appear.
Of course, I'm not a Painting a Day person so maybe that's the difference.

Jan Blencowe said...

Thanks for the response! This has become a bigger issue for me since leaving the "painting a day" movement at the end of last year.

Of course doing "a painting a day" has created a lot of inventory and I still have some from five years ago that haven't sold. They have long since been pulled from my website but remain archived and searchable on the blog.

Hoping for more artists to chime in here. Is there any value to other artists or collectors in sharing, work in progress, and pretty much every painting/sketch/drawing you do, Or should we be much more discriminating in what we put out there for all to see?

AutumnLeaves said...

Gosh, Jan. I guess this is a tough question to answer because the answers really lie within you and your own views and values. I don't sell anything, never tried, never believe I have anything anyone would want to buy. Does that make me a less serious artist? Maybe so, but I don't kid myself either. At the same time, I like seeing what good and serious artists do do, seeing what they see and hearing what they think on their pieces. I love that you posted your quick watercolor up there and I personally really like it! I love the motion of the ocean so to speak that you've captured on a somewhat stormy day, the churning and the beautiful colors brought to the surface in the process. I love thinking that a good, fabulous, and serious artist takes the time to be real and personable and personal. Makes me feel like someone famous deems me worthy enough to talk to, if that makes sense. (Yes, I do think off the beaten path! LOL)

Jan Blencowe said...

Based on the early responses to this(which I also posted at Facebook) Most are echoing your thoughts, that people like to see that an artist is "real" that they work hard, have struggles, have paintings that don't work out and also have skills and successes.

Of course most of these comments are from other artists, which makes sense. We all want to encourage one another and share our processes and paintigns, discuss and learn together.

I'm wondering what collectors, gallery owners and other professional movers and shakers in the art world think though. Do they also appreciate the humble openness of "sharing it all", or do they think that in unwise from a "career" standpoint.

I certainly would only put my best in my portfolio etc. But I don't know if I would be that exacting about every single work I make as to destroy it if it's not my absolute best.

The comments on Keith Bond's original article show a variety of opinions and many of the commentors make excellent points both for and against this idea.

I'm still mulling the pros and cons over.

Jeanette said...

This is an interesting question and one I've considered lately too. I'm an 'all or nothing' artist, sharing what I do, progress, works in progress, experiments, mistakes as well as the good.

As my blog is also my showcase it can have more benefits than drawbacks - I hope. I like to see the struggles and breakthroughs of other artists and know I am not alone. I think it helps demystify the myth that artists are some sort of being with extraordinary talent for producing art instead of simply working like dogs to get where we want to go.

But society often only wants to see perfection, not the ugly side of life. They don't want the illusion shattered. And neither do some artists. Or galleries. Part of the appeal is in the mystery for some. Part of the appeal is in the technique for others.

As I teach drawing also, I think I automatically share process without even thinking about it. But lately, I've considered pulling back.

I put my sale pieces on a separate blog page and sift through them from time to time so the page doesn't go on forever, making me look like a complete loser if I have a sales slump! :)

Ann said...

My first thought when I saw this post was that I really like this stormy sea painting! I find the color and movement very appealing. Your question is interesting and so are the responses. I guess my question would be are we the best judges of our own work? Personally, I agree with Jeanette and like to see it all as it is part of the entire process that helps me appreciate what that artist is trying to do.