Monday, October 30, 2006

My vote.

"The Birches" 48 x 60" acrylic on canvas 2006

Dennis Hopper once once said in an interview on collecting painitngs "I don't care what the artist's intentions were. If I see something I like, I buy it." This from a man who has an extensive collection of contemporary work from artists known and unknown.

I love the honesty in his statement. It's absolutely true. People either feel something or they don't and no amount of convincing is really going to make a difference. So why do I worry about trying to explain myself here and elsewhere?

At the opening of my October show at Tag, I was asked several of those questions that artists hear frequently. One in particular keeps replaying in my mind, the dreaded "what is your favorite?". In this case, the couple was genuine and warm. I liked them. Only, how am I supposed to answer a question like that?

I spent nearly 4 months continuously working to create that show of 20 paintings. Everything was there for a reason. Nothing wasted. How am I supposed to pick one above the others? Any answer I give is going to be subjective. Any answer I give is a condemnation of the other 19 paintings. So what did I say?

I told the truth. "I can't say which is my favorite. It changes on different days. Somedays it's "The Birches" or "Hillside" get the idea. It's not as if I'm going to lie. I ended with a question of my own "does that help?"

It's funny that some people want and need an additional vote of assurance from me personally to buy one of my paintings. Even if I had a definitive answer, why would I want to rob them of the chance to make their own unique decision? How much should one say about what they do? I'm not, after all, a writer.

I've always loved to watch people work, using their hands, making things. I think we all want to see the process revealed. It's why reality television and blogs are so popular. I like to talk about what I'm doing and why. I don't mind trying to deconstruct the process. I'm passionate about what I do! .....but though it pains me to say so, it's not a sound basis for buying a specific work of art.

A painting should move you. If you feel that, don't ignore it. It's real enough without me or anyone else substantiating it. It's no more complicated than buying what you like.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Oct 18 2006

Episode 1

"What are you prepared to do?"
That line from "The Untouchables" is on my mind this week. I suppose the sudden cold turn here has me in a reflective mood. I think back on the last year and all the not-so-little successes that added up to one of my most creative (and most publicly promoted) years as an artist. It's also been a year that has tested me financially and spiritually.

Let's see, I had some great press - the national Blick Studio cover, a full page ad in The Artists Magazine sponsored by Blick, a wonderful critical review by a national journalist who has been published in Art in America and a couple of interviews. Creatively, I've had two major shows - a beautiful spring show in Boise and the current new show at Tag, many new works, new commissions. Finish that off with a lot of teaching, new friends and several new galleries representing my work. All great stuff! If there's been a downside, it's been struggling to find a balance between being percieved as an ebay artist and respected as a gallery artist. Sometimes I feel like I'm juggling quite well, only to find out later that I've been neglecting one for the other.

When Donna and I decided to sell and promote my artwork online in 1999, Ebay was relatively new. We began with a few auction listings and no website. Soon, we discovered a very supportive online community of artists trying to sell work through Ebay. We joined a group of them called EBSQ when there was something like 50 members. There are too many groups to count now and EBSQ is huge.

Artists selling their work online isn't a novelty seven years later. It's an established fact that artists can and should maintain an online presence to better reach other artists and collectors. It's been an evolutionary step for those of us outside the metropolitan centers. I'm not sure I would have been able to get started without the internet and ebay. I'm grateful, honored, flattered and still, I know I have to keep reaching for the next level.

See, our goal was never to short-circuit the brick & mortar gallery system with direct sales. True, many internet artists are completely fed up with the gallery system but I believe it's possible and even necessary to find a path that incorporates both. My partners in this have been my wife, Donna and Jerry Dale McFadden at Tag Art Gallery.

Jerry Dale and I began working very closely together about 5 years ago. We've grown successful with each other and it's been wonderful. In the last couple of years, I've prioritized JD by giving him first shot at all my new canvas paintings. It's worked very well in most ways.

1 Jerry Dale McFadden is ethical. I trust him.
2 I've found a community in Nashville that loves and supports what I do.
3 My canvas paintings are selling closer to the average price of other emerging national artists.
4 I can visit frequently and get inspired.
5 I get immediate feedback on new work.

So everything is moving along pretty darn well, right? Yes and no.

Tag has never looked better. Jerry Dale has the best and best looking gallery downtown. It's everything he deserves. The problem is that I still need to sell online for some of my income and, hopefully to gain more exposure ie: a wider (national) audience. The challenge is substantial as online auctions tend to drive original art prices down, putting the squeeze on galleries and....artists. How do I balance both?

I am an ethical person too and selling work through these very different and competitive systems can leave me feeling frustrated and a little confused. Auction pricing will never be equal to Gallery pricing. There will always be a stigma attached to ebay artists. There will always be a bottleneck in limiting yourself to galleries. Many of my good friends never go to galleries at all...and that's sad because....

Like it or not, galleries are not going to be replaced by the internet. There is nothing like the experience of going to a show, seeing the work in person, talking with the artists and enjoying a great evening with friends. Furthermore, some collectors will never purchase work they can't see in person. Why should they? Galleries facilitate a tangible, kinetic conduit that is central to visual art of all kinds. Finally, galleries also are still the only established way to create a sustainable career as an artist.

That final point is the one that sticks. I just want to keep painting! As I see it, that means continuing to search for the right balance between selling work directly and through honest, creative gallery owners like Jerry Dale McFadden.

James Pearson