Oh god, The Journey. How many times have we heard that a young artist is just beginning their journey or that a mature artist is at a difficult stage in their journey? Yes, we are all on a journey of realizing self and community through our art. Or are we? I do believe that everybody is developing (or at least able to develop if they have half a mind to be open to developing) and that there is no consistency to each person's development. The stages of development I experience most likely will not be in the same order or at the same intensity as you. But there is this unwritten expectation that we all will end in a similar place. I can have experiences A, B, C. D, etc. and you can have experiences D, C, A, B, etc. and when we are both done we will have both experienced the whole alphabet of experiences. My actual life experience is that the further we each go down our own paths the further we get away from each other and that there is not a set of experiences we all get to work our way through. I believe this idea of a set of experiences developed out of the Industrial Revolution in which we began to plasticize and standardize life and all of its aspects.
Of course, artists are on a journey -- or are they? Everybody goes through development. By shear repetition we gain skills and abilities to create art differently than we had before. There are periods wherein we mature to a new level, but often, we don't mature much beyond a level or two over the course of our lives. Often, what seems like a deepening and maturing in the work is simply the fact that the audience is now seeing one hundred and fifty paintings about the same subject matter, whereas before they had only seen twenty. Sometimes the audience is the one that needs to come to see the place where the artist has been living for years.
I think we have some great artists in van Gogh and Gauguin, and others, who struggled to find the great Meaning in their lives and tried to find it through art. Yet, while trying to find this inner state of perfection and expression, came to depend on the opinions of others (art buyers and fellow artists) for their sense of self. Sorry, Vinnie and Paulie, you can't have it both ways. But that seemed to be the way of the world back then: people yearning to have their own personal experiences become the standard for the rest of the world. I think the Western world is moving into a new stage of understanding wherein each individual has a unique experience and using an individual experience to extrapolate across a population or a species just doesn't work. Art cannot save the world, or even individuals. Art is not Christ, and I don't even believe Christ, Bodhisattva, et al. can save us. We will get exactly what we bring about. If there is any Meaning to be found it is in the things that resonate with our own self. For some that is family, faith and community, for others it is an activity, ability and audience. Most people, once discovering these things, develop to one or two stages of resonance and then glide on through life slowly coming to rest at the end.
Is the journey about acceptance of self? Again, that is an end goal to the journey that obviously many people fail. If it is about "being what you will become" then how is that a journey? It just is. You will be what you bring about no matter what you believe. I do not mean this to seem flip about anybody's "journey," it just seems so obvious to me that the metaphor is poor and often creates false expectations.
Alright, enough negative talk, because this week I conversed with the very positive and pleasant Nan Jahnke. Nan has spent many years taking art classes and has considered herself a student of art, but she has recently begun to create and sell her own work identifying herself as an artist. We talk about Nan's pottery and paintings and her journey to identifying herself as an artist.
I've been working hard in the studio this week and I have been
thinking about what an odd thing it is to paint. When I was younger, I
never thought anyone would be interested in what I had to say. Now that
I'm older, I understand that saying what you want to say is the only
reason to paint. Now that I am older, I also understand that if I sell
or not is not a barometer as to whether I am getting to my own truth.
great revelation there, but an important thing to experience. There is
so much advice out there about how to be a successful artist. You can
know the many different lists of what to do to be successful, but none
of that knowledge matters until you actually experience it in action. I
read an article today, alright I glanced through it, about the 5 e's of
selling your art: empathy, ... and four other words that start with e.
Really, it's all kinda bullshit. It's partly bullshit because many
artists don't really want to do what it takes to sell a lot of work,
because it is not in their personality to be that way. Other artists
define success different than selling, and not just because they haven't been
successful at selling. They just define success different than selling.
All of this advice is kinda like religion and your horoscope, so much
advice is out there that something is going to resonate with you. That
doesn't mean it's any more correct or worthy than any other advice -- it's just timing and personal experience.
My guest this week, Justin
Terlecki, and we talk alot about sharing personal experience as part of
our creating art. Give it a listen and let me know how you share your
personal experience through your art and let me know how you define
success as an artist?
Hello Artsy Folk,
I have several thoughts rolling through my mind. I walked my dog, Delilah, through a cemetery by my house this morning. I saw an area of smooth brown dirt in the green grass. Obviously, the dirt was about coffin size. There at the foot of the dirt area was a tomb plaque, the kind that sits flush with the ground instead of standing upright. The plaque was out of the ground and had the woman's name and birth date. They had not yet put the date of death on the plaque. Just another reminder that we are only here for a short time. In light of this, I could throw my hands up in the air and figure art isn't worth making - after all, I can't take it with me and, fifty years after I'm dead, no one will even remember me. I should spend my time loving people instead of spending my time alone in my studio or on my computer.
A little despair sets in for a bit, but then my dog wants some food, or to play, or to eat. Eventually, I find myself wanting to paint or draw or write..., or something. And I think art is a way of loving. It is a way of loving others by communicating what is in my heart and brain. Hopefully, someone finds beauty in it like I do and we can begin a dialogue. Art is also a way to love myself. I have an inherent need to express these things that come into my heart and my head. To not would actually be hurtful to myself. Of course, you don't have to listen/read/view what I make... but I do have to make.
This week I talk with Ellie Kingsbury photographer, whose work deals with aging and fragility and inner beauty versus outer beauty. And it has a lot to do with food - so I LOVE it!
I sometimes wonder about our impact on people. What does it mean to be a good artist and a nice person? It seems that in history there were artists who were intense and difficult, but because of their genius, people would admire them and give them some slack. There is also this strange idea that artists are aloof, living in their own world. If they turn you off or seem rude, it's acceptable, because they are a man/woman-child who needs to be unsullied by the outside world. But what happens if you are a good artist and a good person? Do people even care about the artist's temperament when purchasing or admiring their work? Obviously, community artists are in a different boat, because they are creating an experience. If they make the experience unpleasant, they won't be making many community projects.
Most artists I know are concerned with what people think about them. I don't mean this in a bad way. Most artists want to leave a legacy of being helpful, being good to others. They value community and genuinely hope to engage with people in a positive manner. That said, what I like about these Artist's Brain Podcast interviews is that I am meeting genuinely good people who are concerned about this world. It is very affirming.
This week I have a conversation with Chris Faust, one of the good guys. We talk about his photography, transitions, working with youth and, of course, we talk some gear.
I have been thinking about community. Yes, I sit alone in my studio creating these odd paintings about food. You also sit alone in your studio making that crazy art about gas stations, death, birds and whatever else you think is important to life. But no artist who ever made a living from their own work, or became considered a good artist by the surrounding community, ever got anywhere on their own. It does take a community of people to help you get to a point of recognition, a place of artistic maturity, a parapet of accomplishment. Without interacting with others we simply become idealists lost in our own little world.
Really, do I have to get on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram, and...? No, but you do have to interact with people and the more diverse that group of people is, the better off you will be. When I say diverse I mean getting feedback on your work from as many different kinds of people involved with the art world as possible. Of course, ask the artists close to you for their honest opinion about your art. Ask gallery owners, ask art critiques, ask artists who work in a completely different medium, ask artists from a different culture than your own, ask people who buy art, ask people to exhibit their work with you and write proposals together, ask artists to ..., I think you get the idea. The more meaningful interaction you have with others, the more it will help your art.
Just make sure the interaction is meaningful. No, you don't have to get on social media and share your whole life. But you could get on there and share the work you are making. When you go to an art opening, you can ask people about their work and share a little about your own. In the business world its called networking. In the art world its called building your community. Whatever you do, you should realize that it takes a lot of people besides just the artist to get somewhere.
Do you know who your community is?
On the podcast this week I talk with Rogue Citizen. Rogue Citizen is a small collective of artists with backgrounds in printmaking,
design, graffiti, illustration and ruckus-making, founded 2009 in
Minneapolis. All five members work on the same artwork at the same time
or work on individual projects under the Rogue Citizen banner. I sat
down with three members of Rogue Citizen and talked about communal art
creation, non-political political art, the role of technology, and the
future of the world.