Tag Archives: artist

Does Our Culture Value Celebrity Over Skill, Talent, Or Truth?

In 2013 two self portraits painted by George W. Bush were discovered on his private computer when it was hacked. They were ridiculed and spread quickly around the internet. Learning to paint or painting as a hobby can be very relaxing and everyone paints awkward work when they start. The problem is, when you are famous, bad work can be marketed as something other than what it is.

In the case of G.W. Bush, we have bad beginner’s art, without drawing or painting skills from someone that happens to be a former US President. How do publicists handle a situation like this? Publishing an art book is the first step to give bad art credibility and keep people from ridiculing it. Then you get the man an art teacher fast and arrange an art exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time where celebrity name recognition “trumps” skill, quality, or intellect. There is an enchantment of fame that makes the eyes of people glass over. It’s as if by merely being near it they are special in their own right. San Francisco Art Institute Professor, Mark Van Proyen in a candid interview with Alex Max about celebrities and their art had this to say:

“A celebrity is essentially a manufactured entity, with behind the scenes teams of ‘celebrity makers, from agents, producers, to networks of marketers, etc…celebrities are avatars of their own packaging.

New York Magazine Senior Art Critic, Jerry Saltz, in an interview with Today.com reflected, “Usually, celebrities make bad paintings insofar as they are amateurish in terms of color, surface, skill-set, subject-matter,Most of it is either kitsch or ersatz art.”

Consider the list of art marketed on the name recognition of celebrities and nothing else:

  • Red Skelton’s clown paintings. (Pictures of himself with the clown face he made famous, over and over).
  • Anthony Quinn’s thousand versions of himself as Zorba the Greek.
  • Sylvester Stallone‘s expressionist paintings that incorporate a “Rocky” or boxing theme. They will not knock you out but you will wish they had if you see them in person. He has managed to spin his work into exhibits around the world and sell some in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Jane Seymor’s derivitive and overly sentimental paintings. So sweet you’ll get cavities just looking.
  • Sir Paul McCartney’s paintings are painful on every level to look at. I just don’t know how to put this politely, but his ex-wife probably chewed her own leg off just looking at them.
  • Lucy Liu’s black puddles of dismal. I love Lucy Liu as an actress but her art influence seems to come from the wtf school of calligraphy.

Add to this list actor James Franco (great actor, terrible painter), singer Stevie Nicks (who paints her William Blake-ish paintings for charity), Rosie O’Donnell, Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan & Johnny Depp & David Bowie. There is also Tony Bennett, Tony Curtis, & Sir Anthony Hopkins. There are many others. Usually their art fades away in value and our minds after they have passed from the world and from the spotlight.

There have been some performers that actually have painting talent beyond their name recognition. Dennis Hopper, Joni Mitchell, Martin Mull and Soprano’s actor Federico Castelluccio come to mind.

So how did we get to this place where celebrity rules, and opinions are based on feelings, not facts? Was it the “No Child Left Behind” policy that made schools be less about learning and more about coaching for test results? Was it the black mirror of shiny screens that make our lives as virtual avatars better than our real worlds? What about reality shows that support the belief that fame and fortune are a mere sex tape away? (Sometimes it takes someone like fashion expert Tim Gunn to step in and awaken the trance. His advice for dressing well? What ever the Kardashians are doing, don’t).

To bring this back to art, I believe it is our removal of the arts from schools that has brought us to this crisis. The part of our brains that help us create is also the part of our brains that help us creatively solve problems. Without developing the total brain, you get a population of people incredibly easy to manipulate through the media. This allows enless possibilities for corporations and politicians to create an eating machine of consumerism. You have the perfect creation of consumers, slaves to debt, and the system.

Featured Image: Paparazzi trying to shoot the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

What’s the Difference Between an Artist, an Artiste, and an Artisan?

Someone asked me recently what the difference was between an artist, an artiste, and an artisan. It made me wonder how many people may or not know what the difference is? Here is the Dick and Jane version:

An artist paints, draws, sculpts, makes a film or is skilled with something involving perception and the use of their hands. Because writing used to be done by longhand, writers and poets are also known as artists.

An artiste is a professional entertainer, especially a singer or dancer: cabaret artistes.

An artisan is a skilled worker that uses his hands to make something often functional or that will enhance something else; furniture, gold leafing, decorative arts (like faux finishes), jewelers, upholstery, embroidery, glassblowers, leather workers (like shoemakers), potters, weavers.

Bakers are also included and pushing the limits of the term are cheesemakers and beer makers.

Women In the Arts: Drawing New Boundaries

© Uriél Dana 2017

When I began my painting career artists did not have the luxury of the Internet. We sent slides to galleries and publishers, waiting weeks for our precious and expensive images to be returned in our self addressed and stamped return envelopes.

Women artists were not welcomed as they are today. Luckily, few knew if I was a male or female by my first name. It was a great advantage. By the time my work was accepted, galleries could not decline the art if they discovered I was a woman. It may seem ridiculous, but they were different times.

There has always been an underlying and widespread belief that women were not as good as men in the arts or there would be more of them in the history books. People often mistake the lack of visibility of women in the arts with women not being great artists.

Only now with restoration techniques and the global access of diligent art historians are we finding treasures created by women in the vaults of museums and churches. We are learning just how many creations of famous artists were in fact made by their wives and daughters. It is even believed that the ancient cave paintings around the world were likely painted by women.

Women in the past were rarely allowed to train in the arts. They were allowed to do pottery, weaving, and textile arts such as needlepoint but they were limited to still lifes or florals. They were also allowed to “create for love”, the original meaning of the world amateur.

These restrictions were because women were not allowed to look at the human body. (This was also a hurdle with women trying to become medical doctors). Drawing a man’s genitalia would quite literally make her an outcast for life.

When tight boundaries for women are removed they excel in all of the arts. Artemisia Gentileschi, the daughter of a painter, became the first woman member of the Accademia dell’Arte. (Unfortunately, she did so before her artist husband. We can imagine how much fun that was…)

Elisabeth Vigée LeBrun was the daughter of two artists and had royal patronage by the time she was 14. She painted royalty across Europe and Russia but became most known for painting Marie Antoinette and the French aristocracy. It was no picnic. She complains in her autobiography about having to work like a slave to pay for herself, her daughter, her teachers, the maid, a domestic, a carriage, a cook, a household, travel expenses and a husband fond of fancy dress.

In Holland, Judith Leyster was only allowed to study painting after her banker father went bankrupt. She not only bailed her father out financially with her talent, but she supported her whole family. To add insult to injury nearly every painting she did was misattributed to Frans Hals. The list goes on and on.

I was very fortunate to have an extended apprenticeship with one of the six originators of what came to known as California Visionary Art. Years later I married him. However, much like Elizabeth Gardner Bouguereau, I had established my own art career before risking being in the shadow of another. Owning our own voice as an artist will keep us out of the shadows. We have the pens, the pencils, and the brushes to draw our own boundaries when it comes to being a woman in the arts.

Boundaries are rarely designed with a straight edge; they have nooks and crannies and soft areas. Each time I was able to get my foot in the door as a woman I left a shoe there to keep it open for another. Artists, male and female, need to nurture one another, not compete. Creativity does not flourish with a closed heart or mind.

It is said, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heals”. Being a woman artist in the 21st century is very much the same.


Featured Image: Academy of Realist Art (ARA), Toronto, Canada.

How To Sign A Fine Art Print

Fine art prints are created in editions as small as 10 and up to 250. (Sometimes you will see a higher number but serious print collectors rarely will buy an edition over this number). This will read as 1/100, 2/100, 3/100 etc.

All prints are signed “in pencil” at the bottom of each print. Your name goes on the right, the number on the left, and the title in the center.

In addition to the printed edition, there are often a few artist proofs. These are the prints that are used to get the color right. The printer will use these later for the continuity of the edition. When the artist approves the print we call that an “Artists Proof.”

As a rule of thumb, A/P’s should not exceed more than 10% of the edition size. For example, an edition of 100 would not have more than ten artists proofs. These are also sometimes known as E.A.’s from the French, “ épreuve d’artiste” or as a BAT, from bon â tirer, the French for “good to print”. European printers and printers used to working in the atelier tradition usually use the French terms.

Artists Proofs are often numbered in Roman numerals. Once again, sign at the bottom. If there are 5 Artists Proofs they would be signed I/V, II/V, III/V etc. Roman numeral on the left, title in the middle, signature on the right. Artists Proofs are often considered more valuable because of the artists involvement in the process.

Prints that are not up to the quality the artist wanted are signed NFS (not for sale) or with the initials “H.C.” It is the French acronym for “Hors Commerce” or “not good to sell.” These prints are not sold.

The Printers Proof PP is a complementary copy given to the printer.

Offset prints are the equivalent of a photocopy to a print collector. They are created by a machine and not by an artist. They are signed but not numbered unless they are somehow “remarqued” (a little sketch in the corner for example) by the artist.

Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn self portrait, etching

Making Money As An Artist: To Have Talent Once Meant You Were Wealthy

Did you know the original word for money was talent? In Classical Latin, talents referred to “balance, weight; a sum of money. In Medieval Latin, talent referred not only to money, but had also come to mean having a special natural ability, aptitude, or gifts that one was committed to use and would always strive for improvement.

The Greek word “talanton” was used to describe anything weighed for balance, and in later times for a sum of money. It was also used by the Germanic languages and the Celts for “a sum of money, specifically 57.7 lbs of silver.”

It is interesting to note that Leonardo DaVinci sold the Mona Lisa for today’s equivalent of nearly a million dollars and made his client (The King of France, King Francois I) pay him in silver bars!

Jan Van Eyck charged his paintings by their actual weight in gold. (This would have been substantial as he painted on heavy wooden panels).

Painters and sculptors (i.e. fine artists vs commercial artists) often start earning money by entering competitions. Sometimes they win prize money and once in a while brings attention to their work to gallery owners. If it does, a gallery owner may invite an artist to exhibit in a group show in the future.

Some galleries have competitions for group shows. Competitions often charge artists a fee for each work submitted to enter. These fees help fund the purse for the winners as well as cover expenses for the gallery. If the artist is lucky enough to be accepted into a group show, galleries will generally exhibit 2–3 paintings or sculptures by the artist if it fits the theme of the exhibit.

If the artist and gallery are both lucky, those art pieces will sell at the group show. If they sell fast, they are priced well. The gallery will usually take a 50% commission. This is quite fair as the gallery is paying for rent, insurance, telephone, advertising, commissions, staff, electric bills, and perhaps some cheap wine and cheese for the opening night.

If all of the art pieces in the group show sell, the gallery owner may offer you a one person show in the coming year and raise your prices. If the paintings sell well in the one person exhibit, there is a demand for your work. The gallery may choose to represent you. It’s really about finding whether your art is a good fit with their client’s tastes.

Remember, a gallery represents many artists and there are only 12 months in the year. Wall space is real estate. You may not be offered a one person show until you have enough collectors to warrant the risk and expense the owner must take. You will be asked to provide enough work to fill the space and the work will be consigned by you to the gallery. Art is one of the few businesses in the world where the business owner often gets their stock for free. Ironically, artists that are rude, needy, or narcissistic will find themselves without a gallery fast. The art world can be small and bad behavior can cost you a career.

Artists make money from their art in addition to selling through galleries. There can be competition money, grant money (that the artist has applied for), corporate art sales through an agent or sold through your gallery, licensing of work (for a book covers, etc). There are also print sales, commissions (someone hires you to paint something specific). Commissions often comes through your gallery or an agent and yes, they will take a cut. If you have a lot of social media followers of your work, you can receive financial support off a Patreon account.

Fine art is a skill that takes a long time to acquire and out of pocket costs are expensive. If you are disciplined and always honor that it is a business, it can treat you well.

For more information on what galleries look for in artists and about art agents, art brokers and art dealers, please visit the following links:

Featured Image: Alma Tadema exhibit at Leighton House Museum, London. Photo by Kevin Moran Photography, London.

Four Things That Made Impressionism Possible

The motivating force of the Impressionists was the “truth to nature” philosophy of the Barbizon School (A group of painters working around Barbizon, France roughly around 1830).

There was a real division between realism and naturalism at the time. The academies had become very tight; exhibiting work that had become extremely idealized & manipulated. The Barbizon believed in drawing quickly and painting on site. They were interested in capturing movement of light and atmosphere.(Example: Camille Corot).

To put it today’s context, the Academy would be like a modern day photo corrected with Photoshop; no wrinkles, altered skin and weight, etc. Using the photo analogy, the Barbizon School would be like looking at a real photo taken on film in real time.

Like the Barbizons, the Impressionists were obsessed with light but they had an advantage. At this time we see the introduction of gesso to prime a canvas. This gave a white surface to paint on instead of the brown rabbit skin glue foundation. (Painters today have started to use non white palettes because it brightens the colors too much. Imagine how paint on white looked like in the 19th century with this revelation).

Another big change was the invention of ready made paints. Tubes could be purchased for easy transport.This was life altering for an artist that liked to paint outdoors.

Another invention that made the Impressionists possible was the invention of the “flat brush”. Unlike the former “round brushes, flats were stiff hog-hair and allowed for the thick application of paint. Short and long flats helped invent a broad, long stroke called the “tache”. Flat brushes also allowed them to use what is called broken color techniques to capture light by laying individual brush strokes side by side.

Impressionist art was hated during its time. Without the marketing skills of French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) we may never have heard of Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, Sisley and Manet. The exaggerated color temperatures were seen as garish and the technique messy. It was akin to how psychedelic colors look on the internet today. We have forgotten what natural color looks like because everything is so “tweaked” by eyes made lazy by film and effects.

Impressionism was to the classically trained painter what porn is to sex.

Featured Image: Will Kemp Art School