Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Talk With an Art Consultant, or to quote my husband - "you did not hear what you wanted to hear".

Euan Uglow, Ali

Jacob Collins, Reclining Nude

  In the last year I have felt like a fish swimming in a bowl that is running out of oxygen. Exhibitions and galleries for figurative artists are hard to come by. So I consulted  and paid a well known art consultant to discuss my options and fees- sadly lower them- a lot.
There are a few good realist galleries he told me, but I needed a bigger body of work to keep them interested . I simply have to turn out more work and faster. I felt my heart race, if ever there was an art world turtle it would be me.

Also I would have to change my focus- he told me I would make a great portraitist. He said my as my skill level was top level ( so far the only positive news)- I could make a fortune in portraiture. I said  portraiture today is all done with photographs and most off them are traced and I had been there and done that. He saw no problem with that- he said for the really good amount of money I had been paid I should be able to get through it.

If any of you are irritated by now- remember this blog is called "Painting From Life".

He said my work was too concentrated on portraiture or faces- make my stuff more outrageous and fun- jazz it up as it were. Do satirical portraits of rich people.  Put people in outlandish costumes. He showed me an artist who did Rococo animal portraits who was making a fortune.They are painted cartoons I told him- it is easy to criticize society- it's done a lot.  He said do more narrative stuff- that is all the rage. Fill it up with fun and crazy stuff. Another gallery owner told me this as well. I squeaked- but what about exquisitely painted work- the art of the sublime? What about art that moves you- like a room full of Monet's waterlilies? My consultant replied- the only reason people go to see Monet's waterlilies is that they feel that they should. Few clients know anything about art and don't appreciate it like you do.   Besides- he painted too many variations of the waterlilies- how many could one do? I thought- I could die surrounded by them.

Today's art is all about the artist as huckster- through words- convincing, entertaining and explaining their work to buyers and galleries.  Apparently the dreaded 'artist statement' is really the bomb, sales-wise in the jaded and impenetrable art world. (I was thinking of renting a clown suit at this point.) The artist must cater to the galleries and the elusive clients. A sad truth he presented- was the fact that the galleries are flooded with artists- there is much more art out there that the galleries can possibly sell. Forget nudes unless they are from the back.  Personal vision is useless unless it is marketable. Your art, is of course is what is most important- unless it is not important because the market is not interested in that particular area at this moment. He was right about one thing though- the artist has to be more pro-active in promoting their work- no art caves to hide away in. Drat!

I asked and he told me the truth about the marketplace and my position in it. He was knowledgeable, direct and surprisingly kind. A good art consultant costs about $150 per hour and if you are confused as to the direction you are going in or its marketabilty, and you are interested in the market, this might be a good option, He can give you a fair idea where you stand on the talent spectrum, and where best to focus it. He is also great at giving you ideas on how best to approach galleries and whether or not you are ready. I'm more of the art cave type of person.

Droopy and depressed I sat in my studio and pondered my fate late into the night. Then I thought of Jacob Collins and Euan Uglow. Their output is small and exquisite, Their work is  exclusively from life.  I am NOT Jacob Collins nor Euan Uglow. I am not fortunate enough to have their training- it was scarcely available when I was an art student- but I do believe in the power of the exquisite and the finely wrought-the sublime. Uglow could take over a year to do one figure. I do not nor could not paint like either of them, nor would I care to.

Here is an interview with Jacob Collins that is stiffening my backbone if not my wallet.

However, there were some good points he made in regards to my website, pricing, useful organizations and approaching to art galleries in the future. He also said that websites are useful tools for sales-true.

I must say, this was rather like biking into a cement block wall, falling off and hitting my head on the pavement. There was a certain pain in the beginning- an anxiety- should I follow his prescription for success in the art world or listen deeply to myself?

Pondering the obstinate and perfectionist bent of my nature I realized that I can only paint what I love. Damn.

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