Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Global or Local Artist?

Victoria Lake by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, acrylic, 30x40, copyright The Artist

I am sure that no one could have predicted the extent of success of the social media that took place over the past few decades. It’s been a while that art has been present on the internet, so we have enough experience to take a look back at what has transpired in the art world, from a perspective of an average aspiring artist. I am far from being an expert in sociology, but I have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

Psychologist and popular science writer Steven Pinker has an interesting theory about globalization of today’s societies. Basically we are witnessing the struggle between the old tribal and new cosmopolitan model. Traditional tribal model encourages promotion inside a tribe, which can be a village, an art club, a celebrity fan base, or even a small country. The goal of an individual in this model is to gain respect of a group, from which point the job of staying afloat is a bit easier, thanks to the favorable status label (think Picasso).

This model is difficult to maintain in today’s world where the tribe constantly gets influenced and mixed up with other tribes, and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of artists that have their works in the Smithsonian, and nobody I know has ever heard of them. I feel quite silly when I list my local awards and titles on my web site – nobody cares except my family and friends (and very few of them too). Only a small number of artists can keep up with the expense (time and money) of a global promotion.

In the new cosmopolitan, or global model where the tribe has been mostly dissolved, becoming a top gun has lost its  value, and nobody is guaranteed to stay afloat for a long without peddling. One good strategy is to size ourselves against our peers, and work to improve in that order. So instead of aiming to impress a group, the value is in improving quality of our work by a verifiably achievable increment. The math-lover in me clicks with this idea. If there is a race worth running, it’s against our yesterday’s self.

How does this work for art collectors? In the tribal model, a collector listens to the local buzz, and finds out who is a “hot” artist to have. In the new model, a collector from anyplace has access to any artist on the planet, and any artist has access to virtual promotion anywhere. There is way too much buzz going around, so the collector has more incentive to just simply look for quality art instead.

Interesting thing is that we are out of the tribal model with one foot only – we are neither here nor there, and we may stay like that for a very long time. Both models work somewhat, and we are fortunate that we can make choices. Unfortunately, too many choices are not always a good thing. One can go crazy wasting time at myriads of those international art shows all around the globe and not really getting ahead at all, or schmoozing the local collector base which keeps moving around and losing focus, overwhelmed with what’s offered all over the internet.

I’d say, pick your game and make sure you play it with likeminded people, and of course, good luck with that! Who knows how the world will look like in a  few years, but I sure hope I’ll be around to see it.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Two Artist Show

With all the amazing art available on-line, one may forget the joy of seeing paintings in the real life. Paintings have texture, they take space, smell of paint - they have presence. They can't wait to meet you!

Come and join  Patricia and me at the opening of our two-artist show. Our styles are different, so this is an exciting mix to see.

The show takes place in the most beautiful setting - the Hycroft Gallery. Please come to the opening if you can, to share stories about art and to admire this gorgeous building. Of course, all paintings will be for sale.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
1489 McRae Avenue, Vancouver
(Just East of 16th and Granville)

If you don't catch the opening, access to the gallery can be arranged per request, but we'd love to see you at the reception!

Hoping to see you in the gallery!


Monday, 5 January 2015

Why Do Most Critiques Suck?

Mountain Sunset, acrylic, 24x30

I've always found it difficult to critique art. The longer I look at anything, the more doubts i have about the artist's intention. How do I know what the creator has envisioned? Should a piece or art stand on it's own? 

On the other side of the table, how do I know that the teacher, or the mentor knows my vision? Unless we are facing someone very experienced in providing feedback, we can get quite confused. 

Here are some tips about experiencing an art critique.

1.       Be familiar with the work of the person who provides the feedback. The more familiar I am with what they do, I find it easier to understand what they say.

2.       Take notes. We are not always ready to absorb feedback. The light bulb sometimes takes months or years to ignite.

3.       I know that the popular advice is to ask questions if something isn’t clear, but I prefer not to. Trying to seek out more before I have fully digested what was initially served, tends to make me dangerously nauseous.

4.       Do some research about the feedback. It’s easy nowadays to find information related to any possible aspect of art. For example, if the feedback refers to strengthening composition, learn everything there is to learn about composition.

5.       Try not to get too influenced with just one mentor. Just like getting a suspect diagnosis, try to get a few opinions before making conclusions.

Keep in mind that unless the person providing feedback or teaching is very good at that, they are likely to attempt to shoehorn a talented beginner into their own shoe, or into a shoe familiar to them. For example, if you are painting expressive portraits, try not to get upset when you are harped at for painting the lacrimal caruncle too pink. If the eye anatomy isn't your main concern, file that feedback under “irrelevant”, and move on. 

Remember that many ingenious inventions are results of overcoming a lack of skill, or lack of interest in applying skills. Picasso is a prime example of the latter. If a critic had never heard of Picasso, and was presented with his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at the time they were created, what would they say? Maybe they would have understood Picasso’s vision and acknowledged the skill that the artist possessed, but the first critics who saw it, did not. 

The urge to bring something new to the table is not as rare as geniuses like Picasso. It happens all the time, and we should be careful not to stifle it.

It’s also important to understand that not everyone is focused on having their work graded or rated. Some people approach the teacher with hope of sharing a vision, and some artists are better at communicating this than others. Picasso would probably have received a different critique if he’d said he was learning to realistically draw a female figure, or exploring new grounds. So we go back to the fundamental difficulty of critiquing – understanding the person’s vision. It takes an extraordinary teacher to do this. We know them when we meet them.

What would I say to Picasso about his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon? I’d like to think that I’d have bought it!