March-April 2018 Newsletter
The Fluvanna Art Association News is published bi-monthly and is written and edited by Page H. Gifford.
Why Do Some Paintings Sell and Others Don’t? And Does it Matter?
It’s an age old question, that if you’re an artist who wants to sell your work but hasn’t sold much or if anything then the question becomes why? Critics may slam the landscape labeling it not fit for any venue but Motel 6 and yet the public shuns the Avant-garde work with the modernist Paul Klee influence. Andy Warhole’s classic rows of Campbell’s tomato soup cans garnered him favor back in the 60’s when artists broke away from convention and he became a pioneer in pop art. Seen by those with the right vision and in times of change, artists with experimental ideas can rise from mediocrity by creating a new art movement but the average artist who wants to create art and maybe even sell it, their vision may not reach far out beyond the boundaries.
The whole idea is to create art and it may find a niche and you might even sell a few pieces. But going forward with the idea that if you find the right subject every time will guarantee you a sale, that is not the right approach. Artists create with the love of art in mind and soul not the idea it will sell. Because the problem is art is hard to sell; ask any artist and any gallery owner. Art is subjective and personal to the onlooker and assembly line cookie cutter approach will not work and rob the artist of creative edge and style.
For example, in America, these are the best selling subjects for paintings and drawings:
- Traditional landscapes
- Local views
- Modern or semi-abstract landscapes
In the U.K, similar to our tastes, the following is popular:
- Traditional landscapes
- Local views
- Figure studies (excluding nudes)
- Seascapes, harbor, and beach scenes
- Impressionistic landscapes
Interesting that still life does not appear anywhere in those lists. The most popular media was prints made from original paintings since they are less expensive. For original works, oil, acrylic and watercolor topped the list for preferred media.
This should only be considered if you are trying to sell work. If you are an artist who doesn’t care about making a living from it then you do what pleases you and in the end that is what is important in becoming an accomplished artist. Most art dealers and gallery owners say that if your work is being seen, shared and talked about then you have made an impression on the public and a contribution to culture.
As an artist you will eventually find your voice, your style and that will take you farther and give you more joy and satisfaction than creating something for a fickle marketplace. For example, I consider most of my artistic friends masters of the landscape. I am not and most of my landscapes are total disasters. I was trained in figures, pattern and color so I have found my own style and it gives me joy and satisfaction. I have sold a few pieces as well, much to my surprise and all of them with figures.
However, I learned it was a personal choice of the buyer and I heard may interesting reasons for the why they chose my work. As with judges, who may follow the strict criteria for a good composition and color combo, they too subconsciously gravitate toward those artists they are attracted to.
Therefore, selling should not take precedence over the creation otherwise you have lost the soul and the spirit of the work no matter what the subject happens to be.
Jackson Pollock: Beyond the Splash
As a child growing up in New York in the 1960’s, I was often taken to museums and MOMA had some offbeat things and one of them was Jackson Pollock, who was all the rage among the artsy set; tagged a genius for his paint splatters. Yet some found him Avant-garde, and misunderstood his abstract expressionism. How could anyone drip paint on a canvas and expect patrons of the arts and gallery owners to accept it. It was the beginning of the abstract expressionist movement and Pollock was a crucial part of it.
Certainly a pioneer in the art world, most of Pollock’s work was inventive. Even his teacher at the Art Student’s League in New York City, the famous painter, Thomas Harte Benton, was asked if he could explain Pollack’s work. Even he was unable to define it by any known standards and stated he had no idea what Pollock was doing.
An alcoholic most of his life, one would have thought he was drunk when he threw paint all over a large canvas on the floor but whatever it was, this phenomenon took hold and he became an icon of his generation, influencing American culture. Yet when more was learned about him one begins to understand the purpose behind the crazy tangles and splashes seen his paintings.
Born in 1912, in Cody, Wyoming, he came from a simple farming family and later grew up mostly in California until he moved to New York in the early 30’s, attending the Arts Student League with his brother Charles, where he studied under Benton. One can see the early influence of Benton in Pollock’s early work with the sculpted flowing figures Benton was famous for in his work.
Pollock was introduced to the use of liquid paint in 1936 at an experimental workshop in New York City by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. He later used paint pouring as one of several techniques on canvases of the early 1940s. After his move to Springs,N.Y. he began painting with his canvases laid out on the studio floor, and he developed what was later called his “drip” technique.
From 1938 to 1942 Pollock worked for the WPA Federal Art Project. During this time Pollock was trying to deal with his alcoholism. and underwent Jungian psychotherapy. Dr. Joseph Henderson encouraged Pollock to make psychoanalytic drawings which led to the Abstract Expressionist art he became known for in later years. Some of his paintings resemble large Rorschach ink blots often use in psychoanalysis.
Rebellious and restless in his early life, it is no wonder he became an alcoholic but some art historians theorize that he had Bi-polar disorder. He turned his paintings into experiments. Alcoholism, Bi-polar Disorder and psychoanalysis would appear to be ingrained and was a contributing influence on his work and one would have a better sense of the inner turmoil in the genius of his work seen in the emotional entanglements. His confusion became his destiny and his art.
Pollock signed a gallery contract with Peggy Guggenheim (the Guggenheim Museum). He received the commission to create Mural (1943), which measured roughly 8 feet tall by 20 feet long for the entry to her new townhouse. At the suggestion of her friend and advisor, Marcel Duchamp, Pollock painted the work on canvas, rather than the wall, so that it would be portable. After seeing the big mural, the art critic Clement Greenberg wrote: “I took one look at
it and I thought, ‘Now that’s great art,’ and I knew Jackson was the greatest painter this country had produced.” The catalog introducing his first exhibition described Pollock’s talent as “…volcanic. It has fire. It is unpredictable. It is undisciplined. It spills out of itself in a mineral prodigality, not yet crystallized.” Obviously masking his inner torment and struggle for inner peace.
Pollock’s most famous paintings were made during the “drip period” between 1947 and 1950; similar to other artists who developed certain techniques utilized in their work and became signatures, like Picasso with his red and blue periods,. He rocketed to fame following four-page spread in Life magazine that asked, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” in 1949. At the peak of his fame, Pollock abruptly abandoned the drip style.
Pollock’s work after 1951 was darker in color, including a collection painted in black on unprimed canvases. These paintings have been referred to as his ‘Black pourings’ and when he exhibited them at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, none of them sold. Parsons later sold one to a friend at half the price. The departure from his earlier style wasn’t what his collectors wanted. The theory is these works show Pollock attempting to find a balance between abstraction and depictions of the figure.
He later returned to using color and continued with figurative elements and the demand for his work from collectors continued but his alcoholism worsened. In 1945 he married fellow abstract expressionist artist Lee Krasner, whose work was influenced by her husband’s frenzied tangles.
In 1955, Pollock painted his last two paintings. He did not paint at all in 1956, but was making sculptures, constructed of wire, gauze, and plaster. Shaped by sand-casting, they have heavily textured surfaces similar to what Pollock often created in his paintings.
Due to a combination of things, including his continuing alcoholism and infidelity with Ruth Kligman, his marriage to Krasner fell apart and on August 11, 1956, at 10:15 p.m.. Pollock was killed in a single car crash in his convertible caused by driving under the influence, killing Edith Metzger but his mistress Ruth Kligman survived.
Some may look at Pollock’s work on many levels, you think it’s genius, it’s crazy or how can it be compared with the great works of artists who painstakingly use brushes and pencils to create fine and memorable work. Because it can’t. It’s genius because no one else was bold enough to throw paint on a canvas but his manipulation speaks volumes about the tortured soul hidden beneath the tangles.
How to find your own style
Finding your own style when your subjects are no different than your fellow artists can be a challenge for some but rewarding when you discover what it is that makes your work unique. A different angle or perspective can make all the difference in a landscape. For example, why not look up into a tree instead of straight on which is usual stagnate response to creating a composition. Otherwise if straight on perspective is your choice then make it the best tree or make it different through abstraction, color or impressionism.
Look around at other contemporary artists and the different styles and see what attracts you about them. Can you learn more about their techniques but not to copy them but to inspire you in your own development. For example below are a comparison among great masters of art. Each has a bouquet of flowers and each is a different style, unique to the artist. See the difference? Try something new and always dare to experiment.
Wednesday, March 7, 10:00, Carol Fleurette will be discussing her children’s books and illustrations with the Friends of the Library.
Now through March 16, artist Judith Townsend’s Geometry of Light will be exhibited at The Purcell Gallery 212 Fredericksburg Ave.Louisa. For more information, visit www.louisaarts.org.
Friday, March 16, 9:30 a.m. Fluvanna County Public Library, artist Troy Weidenheimer will be presenting the first in a three-part workshop series for beginners entitled, “What to expect in Watercolor”
43rd Annual Show is coming soon and here is the schedule for the upcoming show:
- March 19 – Collect and Hang 2:00-6:00 pm
- March 23 – Judging
- March 24 – Reception and Awards 12:30-2:30 PM
- April 20 – Pick up Art 9:00-12:00 noon
Persimmon Tree Players will be featuring an art exhibit with works of two non-local artists during intermission for their upcoming performances of “Dearly Beloved” on April 21, 7:30 p.m., 22, 3:00 p.m. and 27, 28 at 7:30 p.m. and 29, 3:00 p.m. For more information and tickets visit www.carysbrook.org
March 23, 6 to 8 p.m. The Purcell Gallery 212 Fredericksburg Ave.Louisa. Will feature an exhibit of artists Julia Lesnichy and Peg Sheridan with an opening reception. Note, it is not the last Friday of the month due to the Easter holiday.
The next open show will be Pollock’s Influence. Drop off is May 19th from 9 to 11 a.m. Visit www.louisaarts.org for more information.