Thursday, 26 March 2015

Landscape or Figurative?

I visited the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, UK. Sargent really is amazing in his portraiture and brushwork. The two images here are two of my favourites from the show. He depicts his Parisian art teacher, the French portraitist, Carolus-Duran, and Eleonor Duse, an Italian actress who found international fame.

My great love is for figurative painting. It is what I specialised in during my training, love to paint most, and is what I follow in other artists. Strangely, it is my landscapes which seem to sell and make me a living from my art. This has led to a practise that has not gone in the direction I would most like. 

Selling a style of art that is not what you are most excited about but allows you to make a living definitely makes things tricky as an artist. It has been over 10 years since this happened to me and I find that my figurative work, although it still exists, has suffered. The following are two examples of my landscapes that do really well commercially.

These landscapes are quick for me to paint. It does take some time to find new subject matter, build the stretcher frame and canvas, but I can put together a body of work in a couple of weeks from nothing. I initially started doing these as a relaxation from the figurative work that would take longer before pieces were finished. It was nice to finish something in one sitting and be able to not go back to it.

These two paintings came from my first body of work called "Water" which I submitted to get excepted into my masters program in London, UK. I love doing the large figures.

Then I did this piece, "Self-Portrait: My 3 Plates". It was to be the first of my "Metalhead" series which would then lead to my "Liberia" series. So why is it that the landscapes sell so well and although I get good feedback for my figurative, they don't sell as well?

I understand a landscape is a pretty picture to put on a wall. People like my tranquil scenes. It is easy art, easy to access, easy to live with, easy to look at. But what about more interesting work? I made the decision to keep my landscapes exclusively within Canada, where a gallery carries them and sales seem easier to come by. I could then focus on my figurative work in the UK and Europe, where edgier work seems more accepted. But recently another artist in my London studio, who sells extremely well, suggested I market my landscapes in her London gallery. Now I am in a dilemma. I have always thought I was a fast and prolific enough painter to be able to carry both off, but my mind doesn't seem to want to pour as much into the figurative when there is more money to be made.

I met a lovely artist, several decades older than me, who also straddles landscape and figurative as well as two countries (Canada and Mexico). She also sells more landscape work. But when the recession hit she sold nothing and said to herself "I might as well paint the most monumental work I can imagine". She painted large scale figurative work that I spotted through her studio window when I met her. I think it is by far the better work.

Part of me wants to still do some landscape, but most of my work should focus on the figurative to bring it up to that higher calibre feel that my landscapes seem to be. But I have to not "churn" out my landscapes. All my work should be of a calibre that I am really proud of. I have not always bothered to achieve this. The other problem is too much variety on my website…but that is another post.

Having just read over a few old blogs and comments on WITWIM about my art dilemmas I am reminded that honesty in my work and what I strive to achieve and create is the most important goal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Previous Art Thoughts

Here are links (and some encouraging comments) to my previous art struggles on my WITWIM blog:

Technical Skills - June 30, 2009
A Revolutionary Road - June 8, 2009

Hello Old Friend, 

My hope for you is threefold: be honest with yourself and your passions; in your art speak the truth as best as you can understand it; and, finally I hope you are able to show patience and compassion for yourself as you seek to figure all this out. 

Friar TuckAnonymous
 Friar Tuck said...
I'm not talking about being constantly innovative in technique. Despite what you may have heard it is okay to paint in a style that is your own and stay with it. Do you think Shakespeare arbitrarily ripped up drafts of MacBeth because the English words had already been used? Or that Beethoven never composed his Fifth Symphony because everybody's heard a French horn before? They wrote and composed using commonly understood techniques. But what they said, the truth they were trying to communicate, was sometimes provocative. However, the goal wasn't to be provocative for innovation's sake. It was a byproduct of their search of honesty. One could say the same of Picasso. We have become so distrustful of anything resembling truth in the 20th century--and I understand why--but Craft seems to have entirely replaced Message. If you want to paint, paint honestly. Style and technique are the means not the end.
Hi Michal,
This segment reminded me of the times you would torment us with your angst about some decision or direction for yourself. You would solicit everyone's opinions, and then do what you felt was right to do. I found this segment and the responses deeply moving, as the issues you struggle with apply to us all in some way. As a note of encouragement, a couple of days ago I was sitting next to J.H. at Ryan's play, and he told me how he was profoundly moved by your series called 'The Human Right'. He said the effect stayed with him for a long time after. You recalled to me how important it was for you to treat the people you encountered in Africa with dignity...and I think you captured that truth in your presentation.
Careers - May 6, 2009
Friar Tuck said:
Great questions. I trust your ability to discern and be truthful with yourself.

All the Good Things - June 8, 2008

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Over 13 entries on artists: Click here.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Beginning of Artist Archive

In my original WITWIM blog I wrote an honest post about struggling to be an artist whose work often lacked integrity. I was shocked to see a few years later how many hits it had received compared to my other posts. Artist Archive is my honest blog on the daily struggles of being an artist.