"Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money -- not even their time." --Clement Greenberg
Greenberg, the art critic and promoter of Jackson Pollock, wrote this in his famous essay back in 1939. What he wrote was true then and it remains true now. Kitsch relies on falsity, sentiment and a phony nostalgia to lure in the average art buyer. Kitsch isn't even memorable. The initial nostalgia wears off quickly and it becomes a forgettable and boring symbol of insincerity.
We've all seen kitsch. By its very nature it's ubiquitous. It replicates endlessly. Ask yourself, how many times have you seen the same red barn in a field or the well-crafted western art showing sun-dappled cowboys or Indians crossing a creek on horseback? How many times have you seen a realistic painting of a wolf in the winter moonlight? These things have been daubed thousands, if not millions of times over and over and yet they still sell like hotcakes. Too many artists have figured out that nostalgia and sentimentality helps open wallets.
People buy these things because they want to look at something familiar and comforting. They don't want to think or be challenged. It's the same way with music. Most people will not familiarize themselves with a great symphony by Shostakovich. No, that requires time and concentration. The payoff is great, but few are willing to invest the time to get that payoff. Kitsch is faster. Kitsch is easier. Kitsch makes no demands.
THOMAS KINKADE, "PAINTER OF LIGHT"
Kitsch is also cynical. Perhaps the biggest painter of kitsch was Thomas Kinkade, the "Painter of Light." Kinkade was a talented California artist who ultimately cared more about financial success than his art. He decided to develop a formula that would help him sell paintings. He succeeded. It was estimated that 1 in 20 American homes have a copy of one of his paintings. Kinkade made millions selling prints via mail order and in malls. He controlled a company that traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Media Arts Group, Inc., which was in the business of selling Kinkade's prints and collectibles, was for a while in the limelight. Plush galleries sprung up in malls and pushed his expensive prints on a gullible public. Some prints were given special added touches by Kinkade or his understudies, thus increasing the value of the products.
Kinkade's formula for success consisted of a mixture of nostalgia, phony religiosity and greed. People bought his work not just because they were attracted to kitsch, but also because they were persuaded by Kinkade's legion of mall salesmen that his prints would make a 'good investment.' As those prints saturated the market, buyers would find out otherwise.
A typical Kinkade painting features a lush landscape with a rustic path. There's a crystalline brook with a small footbridge. There are verdant trees and bushes, mind-numbingly bright flowers, a gorgeous sunset and a welcoming home or cottage. These homes usually come with stone fireplaces producing wisps of smoke. The windows of his dwellings are glowing brightly. Every single room is alive with warmth, so much so that it starts to look like the homes might be on fire. One critic remarked that it appeared something hellish was going on inside of them.
Pleasant things are ridiculously enhanced in Kinkade's work. Flowers are blindingly bright. Problem-causing things such as logic are left out. Never mind that a cabin is situated on top of a mountain peak, making it nearly impossible to get to. Don't worry about the high electric bills from having dozens of 100-watt bulbs left on in the house. Don't worry about the brook being too close to the house. There's no chance of flooding. There's no crime, racism or chance of sorrow in his work. Unpleasant things do not exist in Kinkaid's world. It's all harmony--no dissonance. If Kinkade had approached such saccharine subjects with a touch of satire, he might have been onto something, but no. He was adamantly sincere and considered his work to be a vanguard against the degeneracy of modern art.
Such paintings are designed to produce a sense of escapist nostalgia within the viewer. "Eternal Springtime" and "Away From It Alll" are typical titles. Most people have stress in their lives and Kinkade's work, for a few moments at least, transports them to a comfortable world without worry, strife or conflict. The problem is, that world has never existed. Ever. His fraudulent beauty rests on a rotten foundation of lies. To infuse more profundity and 'meaning' into his work, Kinkade claimed he was a 'Christian' painter who was out to return morality and family values into art. He claimed he wanted to counter the corruption in modern art and replace it with a Norman Rockwell-like goodness. He wanted to paint works that people could easily 'understand.' He would often add patriotic themes to his paintings along with the initials of his wife and children to prove that he was a good citizen, husband and father.
Kinkade sacrificed artistic integrity to achieve fame and money. His campy art was a charade and he knew it. Everything about the man was imbued in falsity. Even his trademarked "Painter of Ligh" phrase was stolen from the English artist, Turner. A gaudy, over-large logo of an old fashioned streetlamp was stamped onto all of his prints. Kinkade's fame and money did not bring him happiness. He violated contracts with the gallery franchises by undercutting them on the price of prints. In once instance he had to pay $860,000 for defrauding the former owners of two galleries in Virginia. He began drinking heavily to escape his self-made plight. He got into altercations at bars. He frequented strip clubs. He was slapped with a DUI. He even urinated on a statue of Winnie the Poo while staying at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, apparently as a drunken tribute to the great man of Kitsch himself, Walt Disney. As he was relieving himself he was heard to say, "This one is for you, Walt."
Kinkade died at the age of 54 in 2012. He had been on a drinking binge while taking valium. He had left his wife and three daughters and was living in a multi-million dollar mansion with his large-breasted girlfriend. His wife and girlfriend eventually made a settlement and divided up the estate.
I feel sorry for Kinkade. His life was, in a way, Shakespearean in its tragedy. When it came to art, he did not adhere to the aphorism, 'to thine own self be true.' His art was a charade that epitomized falsity. He could not escape this truth. Artists need to pursue truth, otherwise they get lost. Kinkade was lost. Darkness caught up to the "Painter of Light."
PABLO PICASSO, GENIUS
I first became interested in Picasso late in high school. My one and only high school attempt at sculpture was a bust of the Spanish artist. I was attracted to his use of color and composition. In his youth he painted in an academic style and quickly saw it as a dead end. That avenue had been too well explored by 19th century academic painters.
When I attended college in the late 1970s, I was very fortunate to have had a terrific art professor: Dr. Otis Lumpkin. In one of his classes he encouraged his students to paint in various modern art styles including impressionism, pointillism, expressionism, abstract expressionism and cubism. Everyone loved his classes and his style of teaching. He was never pushy or overbearing. He had a deep knowledge of art and history. He had ready wit and inspired his students.
During WWII, he was a navigator in a bombing group based in England. His plane had been shot down twice. The first time his damaged bomber went down in the English Channel. He was a proud member of the "Duck Club." Later in the war, his plane was shot down over Germany. He was injured and German civilians gave him aid. His eyesight was also damaged and he was forced to wear thick glasses for the rest of his life. Dr. Lumpkin's life was filled with fascinating stories. Like my father, he was born in 1924 and had five kids, but unlike my father, he took a positive attitude about his war experiences.
Otis was always smiling and full of witticisms. His laughter could often be heard echoing the hallways at Angelo State University. His students loved him. He appreciated all kinds of art, but he himself painted meticulous and realistic images combined in a manner that could be called surrealism. He employed an old masters' style. Even with a large family and professorial duties, he somehow found the time to have a successful fine art career. He sold many paintings at a gallery in Houston. I met two of his kids who were also students about my age. They were smart, happy and well-adjusted people.
One assignment we had was to produce a cubist painting. It was one of my favorite assignments. I later sold the painting in a student art show. Dr. Lumpkin also helped his students understand each genre and the importance of combining emotions with intellect in artwork. He sparked within me a desire to improve and learn more about art. In college I took a lot of art history classes. I read a lot about art. One of my favorite books was a biography of Pablo Picasso.
I've never seen a Picasso painting that I didn't like. He's my favorite artist, along with DeKooning. I never stopped thinking about how fun it was to paint in the cubist style. I wanted to be painter even if it meant not having money. Instead, I got a job as a graphic artist at the local newspaper after graduating. Years later, in 1997, I became a self-employed commercial artist. I have Dr. Lumpkin to thank for my chance to become a commercial artist. He alerted me to the newspaper job and also gave me a recommendation.
Even though I wasn't a fine artist, I never stopped thinking and reading about art. I would often see paintings online, in art museums or in art galleries and I would know quickly what was right or wrong with what I was seeing. In 2009, my wife Tina and I moved from Seattle to Montana. Our son Ian attended Rocky Mountain College.
We now live in a gorgeous area that's close to Glacier National Park and Big Mountain, a world-class ski destination. Flathead Lake is popular in the summer. There are a lot of tourists‚Äîespecially from Canada. Many of the art galleries seem to cater to those tourists. What I saw in those galleries were mostly cliches. There was the same wildlife and western art that has been painted over and over for decades. One gallery featured realistic sculpture of bounding deer, grizzly bears and cowboys roping calves. I've seen the same things hundreds of times and it had become downright painful for me to look at it. C. M. Russell was an authentic cowboy who painted original western art. The problem is, many artists living in the 21st century are painting similar stuff over and over again and it‚Äôs no longer genuine. They'‚Äôre painting what sells. They're painting kitsch.
On a lark, I decided to paint a cubist version of what I was seeing in the western art genre. My first painting was titled "Cowboy Cubism." The painting was seen online and it soon sold. It was the first cubist painting I sold since college. Some time later it was made into a book cover for a novel. This success inspired me to paint more and I have. I was accepted into a gallery in Bigfork, and although my work stood out and generated a lot of buzz, only a couple of paintings were sold. The tourists still wanted 'officia' Montana souvenirs. They wanted lake trout, grizzly bears, huckleberries and mountain landscapes. They wanted Montana cliches. They wanted kitsch.
When my son was in college in Billings and although he was close to getting his geology degree, it was required that he take some liberal art classes. He took one that combined art history and painting. He had to choose one famous artist and style of art and try to replicate it. He chose Picasso. His professor was lecturing about the styles, including cubism. He was showing students work projected from his computer. He did a search for cubism and one of my paintings came up. It was my "Cowboy Cubism" painting. "My dad did that!" exclaimed Ian. His professor told him it was first-rate and that I should be able to get into a gallery in Billings.
Ian came home on a break and asked me to help him find a good cubist painting that he could copy. We chose Picasso‚Äôs painting of a bearded man licking an ice cream cone with a worm-like tongue. The intensely blue man was wearing a straw hat with rope-like swirls and textures. The ice cream was square at the top--not round. His ear looked like a tangled knot. His clump of bulging fingers had triangular nails and grasped the very bottom tip of the cone.
I explained to Ian how well the painting was designed. It was very well-thought out, but it didn't look planned. Everything in the painting had a purpose and it wouldn't work well if certain things weren't exactly the way they were. At the same time, there's a lot more substance to the painting than just color and design. For example, Ian asked me why he painted the ear as a swirling knot-like shape. It almost looked like a musical cleft from an alien world. Why didn't he paint the ear as it really appeared? I explained that this painting was not an example of realism. Although Picasso could easily draw the ear photographically, it would then contain very little 'art.' Art is not about drawing something photographically, even if it requires technical ability to do it. Drawing photographically becomes more about engineering than art. Instead, an artist shows his interpretation of reality or how he feels about it.
Picasso painted the ear the way he did because he wanted people to really SEE the ear and think about the ear as if they were little children again. Babies marvel at the newness of their experience and they observe things unfettered by past experience and ego. Picasso wanted us to see the ear as if it was being seen for the very first time again. We marvel at seeing such an ear. After people see that ear they may again see ears in reality as marvelous things. Every ear is different and new. Picasso's art is about helping us become more alive. Those who may resent life are able to again see it as something wonderful. It's about love. Similarly, the tongue darting on the square cone and the way the hand is holding the cone suggest a delicate delicacy. Picasso wanted us to 'see' tasting. The flowing tongue and fingers provide a nice contrast to the rigid triangular cone and square ice cream. It's an intricate balance of form and contrast. If this painting had been done realistically, it would be forgettable. Picasso makes a common event unforgettable.
DeKOONING: "THE KING"
Humans are programmed to process information quickly and efficiently. Things we see every day are boiled down to equations and formulas and prioritized. They become symbols that are recognized on autopilot. For example, learning to type is a process requiring brain and finger coordination. This is learned by struggling and rote practice, but after a while it becomes effortless. The 'robo' inside takes over enabling us to think of the words, rather than getting bogged down in a hunt for individual letters. The same goes for many tasks in life including driving, brushing our teeth, playing a musical instrument and so on. The problem is, many of us learn to go through life on autopilot. Everything is done by rote and we end up sleepwalking through life. P.D. Ouspensky, a Russian journalist, traveler and philosopher once said, "When one realizes one is asleep, at that moment one is already half awake."
Ouspensky realized that too many of us start living their lives mostly in robotic mode. We are put to sleep by day-to-day repetition. It's easy to drift into a hypnotic state due to cell phones, the Internet, TV and the mundane routine of life. How many times have you automatically picked up your cell phone to check it for no reason without even being aware that you're doing it?
We are often punished for taking risks and so we choose the easiest course. People are more comfortable with playing it safe. This happens with art too, when the same predictable paintings are cranked out endlessly by rote.
Willem DeKooning was a Dutch artist who was able to draw photographically. After he graduated from art school he stowed away on a steamer headed for New York City. In the late 1920s, he got a much sought-after job as a commercial artist for a department store. His work stood out. Years later he was offered an even more prestigious position, but he turned it down. He wanted to be a fine artist and so he quit his job and started to paint. In the 1940s he struggled. He rented a run-down studio that was under-heated in the winter. His first one-man show consisted of black and white paintings because he could not afford color paints. His work didn't sell. People thought DeKooning was a bum. He couldn‚Äôt afford new clothes. Sometimes he went hungry and ate ketchup soup, but he never gave up on his vision. Finally, in 1951, he was persuaded to enter a prestigious contest in Chicago and won. The painting was one of his masterpieces titled "Excavation," and it was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago for $4,000. It was a lot of money in the early 1950s. DeKooning did not have a bank account and had to wait several days before the check cleared. His poverty was over. Eventually he became a multi-millionaire and was one of the most brilliant artists of the 20th Century. With fame and success also came severe alcoholic binges. Apparently too much money and fame can sometimes have a deleterious effect on artists.
I first saw "Excavation" in an art history textbook. I was mesmerized. I never got tired of looking at it. DeKooning spent weeks or even months building up the paint and scraping it down to achieve unique effects. The painting is complex and simple at the same time. The colors are brilliant. If anyone could surpass Picasso with color, it was DeKooning.
DeKooning could paint realistically and could have eked out a success early on as a fine artst. He could have made a nice living as a commercial artist. Instead, he stubbornly pursued a new path and at first it was definitely not a comfortable one. He experimented and took risks, and his great talent eventually brought him fame and money. His paintings are well thought out. His compositions are always sound and interesting. His colors are fabulous.
DeKooning was also the master of brushwork. He used a thinned down paint to achieve some of his effects, which can be seen applied on his landmark "Woman" series. These paintings redefine beauty and prompt the viewer to rethink the female form in the modern era. Each are a perfect combination of form, line and color. Like Picasso, his work doesn't tire easily. This is key.
MY PHILOSOPHY OF ART
I have a desire to paint memorable images that do not tire easily. The problem with that is most people will not 'get' my work quickly, unlike kitsch. It takes time and effort. People who say they've looked at my work a long time really start to love them because they see something different each time. They are putting themselves into the work. It is an active, not passive engagement of the viewer. That is my intention. The human mind is wired to see patterns where none exist. People who look at my paintings long enough begin to see patterns that I have put down intentionally. They also may see things that I had not intended. That is good, too. It means they are putting themselves into the art and when that occurs, the viewer invests emotional energy into the painting. They are engaged in looking at art.
One of my main goals is to allow the viewer to provide their own meaning to what they're seeing. The universe created us, and if some find it completely meaningless, then perhaps it's up to us to provide that meaning. Maybe that's why we're here--so the universe can know itself. Art and music provide a lot of meaning for me. When we can't find meaning, we often turn to destructive things such as alcohol or other harmful activities that bring about pain to ourselves and to others. Those things may provide temporary escape, but they do no not bring about any lasting meaning.
When people tell me they had to look one of my paintings for 15 minutes before they 'figured it out,' it's a high compliment. Kitsch is understood instantaneously. After that, boredom sets in quickly. My paintings may confuse and irritate some people, but at least in that state they're not bored.
I want to walk down roads that are not well trodden. The realistic road is crowded and always has been. I sometimes admire the energy spent painting realistic things, but to me the more realistic something appears, the less art is in it. I feel sorry for artists who spent endless hours just to make things appear 'real,' without knowing that, in the end, they only produced something painful to look at. I can‚Äôt look at realistic animal sculpture, for example. I've seen the galloping horse and bounding deer too many times to admire the time spent on such things.
The impressionist road has also been well explored. Thousands if not millions of artists have painted in that style and while the original impressionists still inspire, there is nothing really new that can be produced in that genre. Too often, beginner impressionists mistake sloppiness for looseness. Monet had to develop a high sensibility to make his paintings appear 'loose.' In reality, there was nothing about his work that was an accident. I know impressionism remains popular, but to me it is not satisfying to look at for very long.
I love abstract expressionism, but it can also be unsatisfying because it leaves out a certain amount of reason. It is strictly right-brained stuff. Cubism, on the other hand, appeals to logic and emotion and it has not been well explored. Many side paths remain. I‚Äôve chosen to go down those paths. I've combined elements of 'futurism' (passage of time) into my own work. It can be called "Cubo-Futurism."
Cubism shows many angles of the subject at the same time. It shows that reality isn't just one perfunctory view laid down on a canvas. There are many angles and ways of viewing the subject. That appeals to me. I want to paint the different angles and motion. I want to paint the passage of time. Reality is never static. In one painting, "Sioux Chief," I portrayed an Indian as a young man, middle-aged and then in old age all at once. On another called "Gold Panner," the pick ax and shovel can be seen woven into the background. A bearded man is looking down for color as he pans while he simultaneously looks over his shoulder for a claim jumper. He is at one with the gold-bearing creek. The smoke from his campfire is one with the forest.
These are the kinds of the paintings I enjoy doing the most even though they're not exactly popular with the general public, I have begun to sell more and more of them to discerning collectors. I realize the general public has not looked at as many images as I have and they are not art experts. It is no surprise that the public prefers comfort and escape. Something difficult to do is seen as even more impressive. It's almost as if the art buyers want to buy detail and technical tricks by the pound. They want the familiar, but rendered in excruciating detail. The more detail the better. Detail in ultra high definition combined with nostalgia is best. That way they can be assured they're "getting their money's worth." Most people don‚Äôt want to have to think about what they're seeing. They want to be told what they're seeing, like watching TV.
In the Internet era, people want the reward with little effort. They want it now. Kitsch delivers that. I don't.
ADVICE TO YOUNG ARTISTS
It's my theory that kids aren't drawing as much as they did when I was a youngster. My generation didn‚Äôt grow up with video games. We played sports outside in the summer. We went fishing. We entertained ourselves. If it was raining, we stayed inside and read books or played board games. Many of us played music or worked on art projects.
The ones who do want to become artists or musicians as a profession are going to encounter a lot of resistance in life. There is no shortage of artists or musicians.
My son grew up playing the violin and by the time he was a senior in high school he was concertmaster. He aced a lot of recitals and won many major music awards. He was an All-State violinist. He won a national music award. He was offered several music scholarships including one from Washington State University. I told him if it made him happy he should pursue a music career. He could not expect to make any money at it, though. He would also have to teach music to make a living. The odds of him becoming a violinist at a major orchestra were slim. There are thousands of violinists and music school graduates are endless. He decided to give up music as a profession. He majored in geology instead. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and he now has a well-paying job in North Dakota as a field geologist. He still plays the violin for fun.
Artists have a slight advantage over musicians when it comes to making money. Humans are visual creatures and there will always be a need for designers, illustrators, typographers, information graphic experts and animators. Nowadays it's imperative to know programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign as well as web coding. There will always be a need for commercial artists.
Fine artists are more like musicians. It's not easy to make a living in the fine arts. It can be done, but few can. I would like to, but I chose commercial art so I could support my family. DeKooning chucked his career to become a fine artist. He lived in poverty and dressed in rags. He sometimes went hungry. He was devoted to his vision and so for him it was worth it. The fact that he later became a multi-millionaire was a rare occurrence. The vast majority of fine artists aren't going to get rich.
So if you want to become a fine artist, it's best to have some kind of job that will put a roof over your head and keep you from getting hungry. Jobs that pay well are difficult to come by these days, but even a low-paying job will work if you can learn to cut costs and go without. Art supplies aren‚Äôt cheap, but you can look for good deals. Living simply will be worth it if you love art enough.
There are some notions that I recommend you discard. Forget about becoming rich and famous. You probably won't become either as a fine artist. The quest for fame in particular is especially deceptive. If you insist on becoming famous, you'll most likely lose your vision. Pursuing fame often requires becoming someone else. You'll end up producing the art of others in order to gain notoriety. It's a fool's errand, so forget about it. Fame may either show up or it won't. Don't go on an ego trip to try to obtain it. Produce art that is meaningful for you and forget getting famous and worrying what others think. If you can't sell anything, at least you'll still have that job to support yourself. The desire for fame can extinguish your artistic spark. The desire for money can also kill art. Art is more about meaning than money. If you paint for money only, you will lose meaning. Kinkaide found this out and ended up hitting the booze to at least bring about an illusory meaning.
Stop worrying about 'being the best.' Most artists will find out that there will always be someone better. Don't let that fact deter you from being an artist. Jealousy is another distraction that leads nowhere. Expect negative thoughts and inertia to try to talk you out of producing your art because it‚Äôs "a waste of time." Do it anyway. It's not a waste of your time. You're doing something positive in life. Expect harsh criticism to rain down upon you from all angles. If you love what you're doing, don‚Äôt let it deter you. Be happy with your talent and what you can do. Respect yourself and your abilities and realize that you will improve if you put in the effort.
Don't fret that "it has all been done before." There are plenty of relatively untraveled avenues in art. Even if it has been done before, you have yet to do it. Put your own stamp and your own original mark on it. Take the attitude that you're an explorer and try painting in different styles to see what you prefer. See what country in which you'd like to live.
Study art history. Knowing where art has been can help point you in the right direction. Nearly all artists in the past have experienced struggle and conflict. Even Rembrandt was poor. His students liked to paint coins on the floor and laughed when he attempted to pick them up.
Do not give your art away. When someone buys your art it's a huge compliment, especially if that someone is not well off. There are thousands of other things that people would consider more "useful." Art is not useful except for one thing: It brings meaning to life. A price tag can‚Äôt really be put on that, so if you are going to sell your art, do not give it away. Respect your art and yourself. Offer your work at a respectable price commensurate with your experience. If your works sells, do not shower the buyer with too many words of thanks and appreciation. Instead, "congratulate" them for having the insight and good taste to buy one of your best pieces.
Your work should be uniformly excellent. Therefore, the prices should be roughly commensurate with size. Small paintings will fetch less and large paintings more. Often higher prices for your work will bring you more respect. Much of it is about perception. Consider this: A painting with a $50 price tag will be off-putting. People will think it must be bad somehow. Something is wrong. Now think about that exact same painting with a $5,000 price tag. Even if the painting is mediocre, most people will start thinking it must possess great quality somehow.
I once saw a very good artist put her work in a "bargain box" at a gallery. I cringed. I could see her plein air paintings were superior. She was an excellent artist, but apparently she was desperate to sell her work. Nobody was buying it even at bargain basement fire sale prices. They probably thought something was wrong with it. There was nothing wrong except the artist's erroneous thinking. If you can't get an equitable price for your work, do not sell it. Remember, you have that job! If you don't have the job, then that becomes the priority.
Develop a thick skin. You can't please everyone. Don't even try. Please yourself. Critics can be harsh and even cruel, but it's worth listening to them at times. Take any advice you see as helpful and discard the rest. That goes for art instruction as well. Life can bring a lot of outrageous slings and arrows your way. If you can't laugh such things off, then develop a healthy contempt for it. You will encounter a lot of resistance externally and internally. Doubt and despair are almost prerequisites for being an artist. Suffer if you must, but don't let it stop you.
Be proud to be an artist. You are bringing creativity and meaning into a world that perpetuates conflict and ugliness.
ADVICE TO ART BUYERS
Think twice about buying art because it's inexpensive. Do you really want that cheap motel painting for your living room? Be careful about buying nostalgic kitsch. You'll be looking at it a long time. Nostalgia wears thin quickly. Pretty pictures can easily become cloying. Some artists consider themselves to be magicians. They know painterly magic tricks that will get you to buy their work. Once you figure out the tricks that are used over and over again, that 'magic' doesn't work as well and the images become tiresome.
If you're the kind who likes factory-produced Bob Ross spinoffs, it's unlikely you're even reading this. Ross stole his shtick from a German artist named William Alexander. "Bill" Alexander painted without pretense, whereas Ross was in it for the money. Alexander's work at least maintained a sincere, amateurish charm, while Bob Ross taught thousands to buy his custom paint and stab it onto canvasses to create landscapes in a short amount of time. People remember Ross because he was less threatening than Alexander, who had a thick German accent and talked about using "mighty" brushes and "showing no mercy!" Ross was soft spoken and sported an afro. He was better at marketing himself. Regardless, don't buy this kind of art. Art is better than that. You're better than that. This kind of trite mawkishness is now seen everywhere and it's bad.
There are many people with excellent taste who would love to buy quality original art, but they can't afford it. Don't buy original works in that case. Making a living comes first. Buy a print instead. There are many places online where you can buy posters. I bought a nice print of a Winslow Homer watercolor and got an inexpensive frame and mat for it. If you buy expensive art that you know is good, you might become resentful over time if you can't make ends meet. Don't expect the artist to buy it back. Artists are trying to make ends meet themselves. Art should not cause resentment.
Forget about buying art as an "investment." It's another illusion unless you're a multi-millionaire who can afford to buy the art of famous dead artists. I once met millionaire who had many well-framed paintings on his walls. Although I didn't care for much of what I saw, I knew they were works done by artists of some repute. He liked having expensive works by "famous" artists in his home, but he knew very little about art. He saw framed dollar signs. Don't be that guy. Buy the art because you love it and like having it around for its own sake. If you're a dog lover, you keep your dog as part of the family. You don't see your dog as an investment. Art is the same way. Enjoy art in the present moment, not because you think it might be worth millions of bucks sometime in the future. If it does happen a hundred years from now, who cares?
If you're shocked at how much a painting at your local art gallery may cost, consider this: Most artists in that gallery have probably spent a lifetime honing their skill. They've spent a lot of money on art materials and frames. Do they deserve to make a pittance for their efforts? Remember also that the gallery makes a large chunk of any sale and deservedly so. Artists need galleries to help bring in a large volume of traffic. Nobody sees the paintings I have in my studio and seeing them on a website isn't the same experience.
ART AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
Nearly everything penned by man whether it be religion or philosophy can be refuted in one manner or another. Not so with great art and music. The latter two convey the meaning of life in an intangible, irrefutable manner. Someone once commented that Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto conveyed the meaning of life. Others hear it in Chopin. We can see it in art. Artists should be truth tellers who convey meaning that helps us to persevere in an unfair, unjust world filled with war and suffering. Artists and musicians play a very valuable role for mankind. --Ben Garrison, 2015
I am seeking a new gallery to represent my paintings in the distinctive "western cubism" style that has become my signature. I have sold a good many of my paintings and my popularity is growing. Please contact me if you're interested in representing my work. Thank you! --Ben Garrison