Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mine Doesn't Look Like That

Back before the dawn of time, you know-- when I was starting to paint-- finding contemporary art to look at wasn't that easy.  By "Contemporary" I mean stuff done by living artists, not necessarily a style. ( Of course, the interweb didn't exist-- heck, TV only had four channels.  And no remote!)  In search of art, one had to view art magazines like American Artist, or try to find art books in the library.  Going to art galleries was out of the question for a kid growing up out in the sticks like me, and museums weren't exactly located just down the road from me, either.  But when I did manage to look at art, one thought kept occurring to me:

My stuff doesn't look like that!

What I was seeing was work done by more modernist types, or if they showed realism, it was by artists at the top of their craft.  As a fledgling artist wannabee, it gave me pause, but also a conviction to get better.

Nowadays, of course, not only is it far easier to see art, it's almost inescapable.  Web sites, social media, along with tried and true print methods mean I can spend hours and hours looking at what's out there in art land.  What do I notice the most?

My stuff doesn't look like that!

To be perfectly honest, there are times when that thought keeps me up at night.  Usually when I've spent time looking at art gallery web sites. Like you, I check out galleries for a couple of reasons.  One, to view some good art and gauge how I stand with my stuff.  Second, to see if my work might fit in for future representation by that gallery.  What I see is almost always depressing.  Not that the work I see is so good, and mine is so bad (Although unfortunately, that's not all that rare...) But mine is... different. So I question if the gallery would be interested in my depiction of things.

Then again, there are times when I view my style and voice as a good thing.  After all, aren't we trying to be different?  Aren't we supposed to try and stand out from the crowd?  I remind me of the kid who shaves half his head, and dyes the other half ultra-violet, has a fire-breathing dragon tattoo scrawled on his neck, then has assorted pins and chains dangling from his eye-brow, nose and lip-- and complains when people look at him.  It isn't lost on me that my choice of subjects done in a realistic manner has been done to death.  So, isn't using my own voice in trying a different slant on the tried and true a sign of maturity as an artist?  So yeah,  there are times when I inwardly puff my chest out and say to myself with pride:

My stuff doesn't look like that!

Then, with renewed confidence in myself, I go back to looking at gallery websites.  And begin the cycle all over again...

Because isn't it a double edge sword?  If you paint like the crowd, why would any gallery notice you?  After all-- they already have what you do.  If you are going to paint scenes like everyone else, you better be tons better than the average artist.  And that, I am not.  But then again, human nature being what it is, some galleries want the tried and true.  Why risk it- especially in this economy? So, they probably won't look at anything new either.

Now, I will say right here that I am blessed to be with the galleries I am currently in.  They have exhibited a willingness to try something new by taking me on, and for that I am truly grateful.  And truth be told, I'm usually too busy painting my latest, or coming up with ideas for my next to stop and care about where I stand in the grand scheme of art.

So, what's one to do?  Put the blinders on and paint with the conviction that I am doing what I believe in.  And for those occasions when that nagging bit of doubt creeps in to make me stop and say, "My stuff doesn't look like that!"  I guess what I should do is smile and remind myself, "Yeah--

My stuff doesn't look like that!"

1 comment:

Jim Serrett said...

I see more work online than I ever thought I would be able to. It is a amazing media and essential to a visual artists, for the good and bad of it. I also see more and more work that is identically painted in some brushy homogenous standard of loose but descriptive, “I painted this from a photograph but with expressive brushwork” approach. Sadly people begin to think that that is realism or representational art or successful and it becomes the status qou. But yes technology has change the way we view art, but really the more things change, the more they stay the same. I just keep reminding myself art is not a group activity. And paint the best work I can. And hey your stuff doesn't look like that, may be the best compliment anyone could pay you.