I have been thinking a lot recently about all that's required of artists today. I know that it's never been easy to be an artist throughout history, but it seems that artists today have to wear more hats than before. A standard artist today has to utilize a large array of digital capabilities in order to make a name for himself or herself.
The advantage that we all have nowadays is that we can connect with a huge number of other artists or other avenues for opportunity. I have personally taken great advantage of this in order to network with some brilliant people and to build my career. But that ease of communication has disadvantages also. I, personally, have a few email accounts and I have a number of communications going on all the time: students to communicate with alongside junk mail, advertisements, etc. An important email from someone could easily slip through the cracks and the prospect of that disturbs me. When I really want to say something important, I either make a phone call or send a letter.
But what can you do to alleviate some pressure? Well, I have taken steps to find a middle path to allow myself some quiet to work on my own projects. I don't do social media because I personally think it's an addictive waste of time and causes depression; social media and other such sites never gave me any distinct results. The only real results that I've gotten have been through directly reaching out to individuals and asking for help. Personally, I also don't enjoy being on the computer a lot and I don't like texting because it feels like a very cheap form of communication. BUT, even if you're the most skilled painter on earth, you'll never be successful if you live like a hermit in a cave. I guess there's also different definitions of what is "successful".
I needed to adapt to also teach online and it's been a fun and educational transition, but it wasn't easy. I needed to learn about how to use Zoom and how to do virtual critiques. I really spent (and continue to spend) a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to teach online. I'm definitely not a luddite, but I like to have a more humanist approach to teaching, art and life.
I recently went through my entire site and reorganized things in order to remove old work and unnecessary information. I now have examples of my best work and basic information on here. I was feeling a pressure to keep a digital catalogue of my work, which started to become a real headache. I honestly don't enjoy digital photography and photographing my work because I feel like it doesn't do justice to my original paintings and drawings; I discussed some of the reasons why in my last post. I let all of that digital baggage go and now I feel way better.
The problem is that it's no longer enough to just be a painter; maybe it has never been enough to be just a painter. The truth is that unless you hire someone to handle your digital work, then you'll need to figure out how to handle it yourself. That's not a bad thing either (I had a lot of fun figuring out how to build my own website). I still enjoy writing on this blog and I've had students, patrons and fans find me through this site so I see the benefits of it. I guess it's all a balance like everything in the world.
As an artist and a teacher, I now feel the need to devote myself to work entirely from life. It's a choice based on quality and it's an important decision to make my work as strong and non-derivative as possible. For commissions, this can be especially troublesome, but I want to create truly original works of art that have a feeling of life in them. I want to create art that is as close to the source of nature as possible; And as a teacher, to encourage my students to do the same.
As a society we are now overwhelmed by digital photography. For paintings, this is particularly hazardous because many viewer's only relation to great works of art is through a screen. I see certain benefits, but the downsides are numerous.
Imagine if we lived with only recordings of music and no live music. What are the benefits of a recording? Well, most prominently, we have a greater access to the art and an ease of access. One of the advantages that I see is being able to catalogue my own work. the images on my site are meant as a visual record, but they're definitely not meant to replace the actual painting or drawing. Then we can ask, what are the limitations? Is ease of access always a good thing?
For me, a huge part of making art is about making a memory and to have an experience while painting. For a portrait, it's about being with the person and sharing a conversation. If I'm painting en plein air, I will remember trekking up the mountain until I reach the point where I set up my easel. Maybe I meet someone along the way and they comment on my painting. All of that is what I love about painting. Another thing to remember is that these experiences may not always be pleasant. I have a friend who said to me one time, "In hindsight, things will either be fun or funny." I try to remember this when I'm experiencing something that is real, but not enjoyable.
When paintings get boiled down to a photo-realistic image, it becomes devoid of life. I often say that I'm very impressed with photo-realism as a trick and demonstration of pure technical ability. In the same way I would be impressed by someone who had memorized the dictionary; I'd say, "Wow, impressive." But would I ever want to do that myself? Absolutely not. What's the point of that?
As I turn 30 this year, I want real world experiences. To look at things through my own eyes and develop more of my own style. To listen to live music. To take a hike through a beautiful area. To play a sport, instead of watching it on tv. To be in the game, instead of on the sidelines. To ride my motorcycle and skateboard. To make a pilgrimage to a museum and stand fact-to-face with a painting, in the same spot the artist stood before nature. To be sweating outside, battling the wind and bugs in order to create a painting. That's what makes me happy.
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I recorded a class demo from my watercolor class. Enjoy!