Sharing thoughts and ideas about art, be it my own art or in general -- Sharing my own work and experiences as a professional artist/illustrator/graphic designer, as well as answering any questions of same.... Is the general purpose here. Whether you are a fellow artist, an art appreciator, or a friend -- All are welcome.

My Gallery Website is --- http://www.wonderments.com/

About Me

College: * The prestigious Art Center College of Design'73 * BFA, Towards work in Art Direction, Illustration, Graphic Design, Fine Art. I pursued free-lance illustration for many years in the SF Bay Area, where my work was used by publishers and in advertising. During that time, I was asked to teach illustration at the SF Academy of Art, which I did part-time for five years. I was a member of the SF Society of Illustrators, participated on the board of directors, was a show juror, and a contributor to The US Air Force Art program where three of my resulting paintings were inducted into the Air Force Art Collection in Washington D.C. Throughout my years as an illustrator, I pursued my fine art painting as well, and in the late 80's began my switch fairly completely over into that field. I made my living exclusively as an artist for many years in both the commercial and fine art ends of it. Art, design, and the creative fields have been my passion in life with regards to work and study. My paintings have been sold to individuals both in the USA and some overseas.

*Note -- A busy-busy world, and where many people hesitate in reading much anymore. Yes… in order to offer more than just short generalizations on some of the topics, I’ve taken the time to delve into things more deeply than just doing “sound bites”.

Whether you are a pro, beginning artist, one who does it as a hobby, or simply a person who likes art even if you are just starting to learn about it -- Feel free to comment and/or ask questions.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sameness.. Or Variety in Art


Before I get into this issue, it is important to preface with a few points. First, I offer my thoughts and opinions on the subject only in so much as how they are pertinent to me as an individual artist. For other artists, or art in general, if my thoughts are able to prompt any constructiveness, then I'll be glad to have helped. However, I do not presume at all to be unique in what I have to say, nor do I wish to project the notion that what holds true for me is or ought to be the same for others. Second, I have a great appreciation for good art (my definition of it anyway) and a tremendous respect for those artists who can create it. There are, in fact, a fair number of these, where the art and the artist have been on a singular-oriented groove of "likeness" from piece to piece. When each piece, or a body of art is good -- it's good. When within the constraints of their means, an individual artist is doing whatever he/she needs to do in the endeavor at doing the very best of what they are or have the potential of doing -- it's good thing.

Assuming they are seriously interested, every artist will find his/her own orientation to make the above "it's good" scenario truly happen, be it the art and artist working in tight continuity from piece to piece, or those involved in doing varying degrees of variety. To deny or compromise either orientation, when the "it's good" scenarios are hanging in the balance -- is to lessen the best of what art and artists are or could have been.

Assuming that the art world (the appreciators, the collectors, the dealers, the cultural institutions, the artists themselves) is/are interested in seeing the very best come about in traditional painting/drawing -- then there can be no denial or compromises made to whatever particular ingredient(s) are needed to make it (and the artists) so.

On the issue of what defines 'good' art, that of course could be debated forever without agreement from one person to the next. All I can do as an individual, and artist, is have my own opinion, and making sure that I've given myself a reasonable basis for it. For the topic at hand here, I would say that while art done in the vein of repetitiveness (from one piece to the next) can be 'good', it all depends on if it has the elements that would make any art good. When such art isn't good (or likely to be), aside from reasons of lackings in such 'elements', it can be the case also, when the repetitiveness has become an end in itself, and/or as the primary purpose. Assembly line, mass produced, 'theme packaging' --- orientations of purpose, are in my opinion, not at all conducive to good art being produced. They are, more likely to condemn it to being shallow, synthetic, poor art.

As others have, through most of my lifetime doing art, doing it professionally as an illustrator and in the fine arts, I have developed the facility to work reasonably well in several different mediums. As an individual, I am interested in at least several, rather than only one thing/subject, which I feel compelled to include as subject matter in my art. Also, I enjoy pursuing several different techniques or ‘styles’ I'm capable in, which I choose to utilize for whatever particular art at hand. I work in oil, watercolor, gouache, and several dry mediums. I am interested in landscapes, 'western art', figurative and story oriented pictures. I vary in my style (or technique) within the bounds of a ‘tight and loose’ (at the same time) look -- some a little tighter, to others a little looser. There are in fact both limits and continuities to what I've done. The varieties that are there, have not been pursued for the sake of variety, but exist only because I've utilized what I've gathered into my toolbox to create art of different content /subjects which have or do interest me. Having the diversity is certainly not unique to me. Many artists do, and put it to use freely. Many have far greater parameters than I do, and feel the same that there is no logic to limiting their freedom, abilities, and needs as artists.

While I, and others thankfully, have been complemented on diversity, secondary to the quality, there are those who would be critical of it. To me, the 'live and let live' cutoff line in the difference of opinion comes, when it is construed that diversity runs contrary to good art being created. The cliche of "jack of all trades, master of none" is brought to bear as an absolute -- which it is not at all, in this application. The notion that diversity is necessarily disadvantageous to marketability is also projected as an absolute by some, but this idea is only supported through repetitive/sameness having been hyped and sold into its' own self-fueling 'in--concrete' scenario. One can on occasion even hear another artist or two (whose own work is in the more repetitive orientation) who can be critical of other artists whose work follows a path of some variety. From most I believe, the thinking is well intended, but I often wonder if the positions may come from having been channeled there themselves. And perhaps as a result, they're forgetting that the most important thing ought to be assessing and creating good art. When art is good, then it simply is, regardless if it is sameness or variety oriented to the body of other works. Others can have opinions on the issue driven by agendas that are frankly, either silly or steeped in contrivances. For example, you may have an artist who thinks 'since I only can or get to do one thing, other artists shouldn't get to do any more either'. Or, in agendas pursuant to what can be the viciousness in competition and marketing, another thought projected can be, 'if one of the diversities you have is what I do, you shouldn't be so diverse' -- the old 'I own this territory' routine. I have heard and read this kind of line pushed to incredible absurdities in efforts to promote the notion of exclusivity’s, which have no basis in truth or logic.

When I decided to become an artist (and most particularly in the fine arts), I don't recall making any agreement requiring that I should not be able to fully explore my potentials doing anything I could do within those potentials, to make my work the best it could be, or that I could not fulfill in my art what I am interested in. I don't recall agreeing to restrictions such as: that since I do oils that it would not be 'OK' for me to do watercolors, etc., etc.

As an artist trained also as an art director for advertising and graphic design, I fully understand the importance of such things as product identity. However, there are certain product instances (with givens connected to them) whereas identity to the point of rubber-stamp sameness, can in fact do far more damage than what good is generated, than what those ‘expert’ marketer’s/salesmen wanting the products on the shelf (or wall) in a 'product line' of replicative identity, believe they are accomplishing. I believe that the 'packagers' insisting on only replicative sameness where it concerns fine art, regardless of what can be their good intent, have not only lessened the potential of art and artists in many cases, in the process of such tunnel vision, they've also lessened their own returns.

I've had it suggested that I should only produce one kind of art. The same medium, the same subject, and the same colors -- it can go on to even putting the same frames on them all! This suggestion has come almost exclusively from either individuals having good intentions, but unfortunately don't understand the process, the ramifications, or me as an individual artist. Or it can be from others who do understand, but whose own interests in different ways are put to run contrary to my best interests. I believe much of this comes from what is taught and practiced in the business and marketing world, based on what has worked in our economic system of producing/selling products. It also comes as a part of our culture, in so much as the above has conditioned perceptions widely that continuity sameness (to the extent of duplication) is always good and correct, which it most certainly isn't.

In short, if I were to limit myself and my art to create a 'product line' of the body of my works -- say . . . only oil paintings, of landscapes, in three basic colors, only drawn or painted in a same formula style -- etc., etc., etc. -- I will have become a machine producing a 'product line' to suit perhaps the ease or mind-set of a marketing persons' job, or the ease of a sameness-oriented personality to look at my work. But . . . I will also have destroyed a major part of the essence of what I, as an individual artist and person am about, as well as that I will have thrown away skills I've worked hard to acquire and do enjoy utilizing.
Like other artists, I am not an individual whose best potentials can be served by being typecast. Some artists are served that way, such as some actors -- mine cannot be, at least for now as I see it. If someone must typecast me, then I would prefer to simply be cast as one who endeavors to do good work and strives to make it better. The importance of identity and consistency is served by this, by my signature on each piece, and that there is only one me who created them.

It could be that I will edit down to only doing one thing at some point. If I do so it would be only for something constructive to my work and myself. It will not be to suit any misconceived or handicapping ideas. The fact is anyway, that for anyone viewing my work at any one showing, it is likely they will see more sameness oriented continuities than any huge array of variety, assuming they have some fair experience in looking at art.
When producing, marketing, and looking at soup or shoes, do it as apropos to the products. When creating, marketing, and looking at art (at least where it concerns me and mine) do it as apropos to it, vis-a-vis the extraordinarily different inputs and givens (from soup, shoes, soap, cars, etc.) it takes to make it good and keep it vibrantly growing better.

I don't hold myself above anyone whose good endeavors or work is different than art, nor do I believe that my work is at the level of many artists whose work I so greatly admire. What I do hold up to at least an equal footing with anyone else, is my desire to produce good and always better work with what I have, the importance of my freedom, and lastly -- the value (to myself anyway) of living / working as the individual that I am.
That is my 'packaging'.

Washington State 1995

No comments: