Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Lost In The Fog
I don't know about you, but every Monday night at the Mizner household is a special night. After the supper dishes have been cleaned, popcorn is popped, our favorite beverages poured, we gather around the TV in great anticipation for the greatest show on television-- Antiques Roadshow! As a history buff, and a lover of antiques, I find the show great fun to watch. They used to show the type of people who thought their solid gold asp from King Tut's tomb that was purchased for 300 bucks at a Flea Market, was really plastic and made in Taiwan. But now it's all about "little gems" purchased for ten bucks at a yard sale that turn out to be worth big bucks. One of my favorite segments though, are old paintings. Quite often, the appraiser will say something like, "Oh, this is a painting by the renowned 19th century painter, Kneelan Keester. He's well known for his winter scenes of garden gnomes that have got millions of dollars at auction! This, however is a summer scene, and not as desirable by collectors. Since we know it's a Keester, it's worth $210. 00, but if it wasn't signed, it would have no value."
And that brings me to my biggest fear as a painter: Becoming typecast. Of course, to be typecast, first one needs to be successful. And I'm not against that. I'm also not against the concept of my paintings having a distinctive style. What worries me is becoming known as the "painter of _____" That's a condition I call "Sailboat in the fog." Let me explain.
Artists are known for painting many works on a theme, be they haystacks, or the Adirondacks. So, let's say there's an artist out there who paints beautiful scenes of a sailboat on its mooring in the fog. They are well done, with lovely colors and lively brushwork. They are high priced paintings sought after by wealthy collectors. The artist knows he's hit a rich vein, so to speak, so he paints more sailboats in the fog. Sure, they are all a little different; Maybe the sailboat is a different design, or the color of the fog changes, but basically, they are all sailboats in the fog. But now let's say he's grown tired of them and now wants to paint cows in a field. "Oh, no" his gallery tells him, "your collectors only want your boats in the fog". What to do? Paint what he knows will sell even if the challenge is gone, or paint what he wants, knowing they probably won't sell?
The opposite side to that coin is by painting different subjects all the time your work won't have a unity of vision. With each painting being totally different subjects and genres, it's more difficult for collectors to latch on to you. Now, that little dilemma is far removed from my current circumstances. As a matter of fact, on the list of things I worry about, being typecast is number 12,226.C, right behind my worry that in just five billion years from now, the sun will be in its death throes, leaving the Earth a darkened, lifeless rock floating aimlessly and alone in the black void of the Universe.
Who'll buy my paintings then?