Back in my twenties I realized that the career I had set my sights on was a shallow and empty thing. Inspired by the movie “Point Break” I decided that I should take up surfing as a form of social protest. But I really didn’t want to move to California.
Instead I took up painting as a serious pursuit. However, my schooling had not included much in the way of art history. I knew who Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Picasso were, and that da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, but not much else. So I started doing some serious reading about art and I’ve never stopped.
Truth is I love a good art quote. The words of some artist from the past inspire me and point me toward interesting conceptual experiments. I often use quotes in my artist statements for exhibitions. They serve to relate my work back to the history that inspired it.
Take these words by Claude Monet, “The effect of sincerity is to give one’s work the character of a protest. The painter being concerned only with conveying his impression simply seeks to be himself and no one else.”
These few words are loaded with concepts to inspire an artist. Seek your own voice. Don’t be like anyone else. Art can be a form of protest. Be sincere in your work.
But as inspiring as all this is, we have to remember that what we read does not always tell the whole story. When we look only at the well-crafted statement about art, we run the risk of simplifying and over-romanticizing the artists of the past.
The fact is that most of those artists were as dedicated to promoting their work as they were to creating it. Monet claimed that, “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” But he took some time off from his obsession to push sales, as evidenced in a letter he wrote to art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who was on a business trip to the United States. Monet writes, “It has now been a month since you left and I’ve had no word from you, or any money from your son. I have no idea how you imagine I survive, and your indifference continues to amaze me and is more than worrying, for assuming that you are successful over there, what would happen if, back in Paris, I were forced to revert to the practice of selling my work for next to nothing? What a waste of all the time and effort!”
These words also inspire. Protect the value of your work. It takes time and effort to establish your art. Follow up with your dealers. Don’t undersell yourself.
When you offer your artwork for sale you become a small business owner. If you can separate the roles of inspired creator and practical businessperson and cultivate an instinct for acting in the right role at the right time, you will increase your chances for success.
Craig Kittner, arts marketing program director