Thursday, February 3, 2011

References, Please...

Many years ago I got to do something I always wanted to do.  I was an FM radio jock.  You know, I love music.  When I was growing up I didn't watch television, I was glued to the sound coming from the the little white radio on my nightstand.  I would sketch and listen to the top 40.  I remember thinking of how cool it would be to someday be the voice coming out of that small speaker.  Well, fast forward a few decades, and I got a spot at a Portland, Maine radio station.  I didn't have a lick of experience, but I knew a person who had a friend who knew someone at a station that needed someone quick.  At first, I was just a behind-the- scenes technical guy, but before long, I got my own shift on-air.  The boss liked my voice, and thought I had a future in the business.  Pretty soon, I would occasionally fill in for his morning shift, or do a mid-day slot when needed.  I never went full-time, but I stayed there for about two years, and I had a blast.  I was friendly with the staff, and enjoyed everyone's company--except one.  The overnight guy.  He hated me.

The truth was, he was jealous of me.  You see, I strolled in off the street and landed a gig while he went to Broadcasting School.  I filled in during highly rated time slots.  He toiled in overnight obscurity.  But I had a good radio voice.  (And a face made for radio too...)  For confidentiality, I'll call him Dale-- even though his name was Adam-- but his voice was God-awful!  It was so bad, you'd long to hear someone's nails on a chalk-board for it's soothing effect.  After listening to Dale's voice, squeaking balloons sounded like a heavenly choir in comparison.  The sad truth was that Dale just didn't have it.  Radio was a talent-driven business back then.  It didn't matter that maybe you graduated from Broadcasting School with high honors; if you had the voice of a choking herring, you didn't get the prime slots.

Isn't art something like that, too?  Art is a talent driven business, isn't it?  Yes, you can certainly be schooled to learn the craft.  You can even be a straight A student at the local College Of Art.  But when a patron walks into a gallery to purchase some art, the only thing that grabs their attention is the painting.  If they are torn between two pictures, do they ask to see the artists references as a tie-breaker?  Well...maybe-- if they are purchasing an investment.  But not if they just want to enjoy owning a painting.  It's talent that's the deciding factor.  Of course, there is no universal yardstick to measure talent, and reams of paper (and endless blog space) have been wasted trying to explain taste.  But we all can recognize something we like.  Does it matter if the artist was self taught, or the ace of the class?  Does it matter if a painting was done in the dining room after the artist got home from her day job, as opposed to being done in a lavish studio?  The artists long list of honors, education and accomplishments mean nothing if you don't like the picture.

So, if you fear you're lacking in the proper credentials to be considered seriously, cheer up!  The alternative isn't all it's cracked up to be, either.  Right, Dale?



Karla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Roux said...

I'm sure your sense of humor got you some of those day gigs. But I agree, bad voice, bad jockey. For me it's my laugh. People always tell me I have a great laugh, so I try to use it as much as I can.

Painting on the other hand... Well I try to use my brushes as much as I can.

Stay warm! Stay out of the chicken coop today!

Kay said...

wonderful story!

Patty Meglio said...

You are right, if the customer likes the painting, he or she will buy it, even without knowing the artist. However, if the artist is trying to sell it and he or she offends the customer in some way or is less than helpful, it could make or break the sale.

Virginia Floyd said...

Fun story, Kevin. I always enjoy reading your blog.