Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ramblings about direction

I have been thinking lately about the artistic direction I want to move in.  I have worked on many subjects for the last few years and while they all appeal to me at various times, what I always fall back to are portraits as my comfort.  There is something exceptionally challenging and satisfying about creating a human face - or an animal - out of a blank sheet of paper or canvas.

So where is the push off point that makes me decide to devote the bulk of my time to portraiture?  I'm not quite sure yet.  Maybe I need to think more about my goals.  Portraiture can take many forms from commissioned pieces to a less personal range of portraits that appeal to a wider audience.  From a financial point of view, portraiture is a hard sell.  It is very much a luxury item and often thought narcissistic by those commissioning works for themselves or a confusing option for those thinking of portraits of family members for gifts or remembrances. 

During the current recession, can portraits still sell? I know in Newfoundland, where they say the recession hasn't hit hard, selling any kind of art can be challenging.  A small population with less disposable income makes it difficult to consider luxuries like commissioned art.  Of course, I do have access to the world through the internet and that increases my options.

There are those who say that it doesn't matter if art sells or not, it is in the process and creation.  Yes, to a degree.  But we create pieces so they can be shared with the world and to be compensated for time and effort to share that product with the world.  I know commissions can get old when they are subjects that don't hold your interest intently and you look upon them as a chore.  But if the subject is one you love, then there shouldn't be a problem.  Each one is a new challenge and pleasure to produce and learn from.

So I sit and think about whether to push into an area that is more speciality or to continue to work on a broader range of subject matter. Meanwhile this little 4 x 12 capelin print, a left over from Saturday's workshop, has received its final washes of colour, ready to swim off to a new home.


Teresa Mallen said...

I think most artists struggle with this sort of issue. As you say, there is gratification in focusing on one type of art and there is also pleasure in working within a broader range. I guess it is a good dilemma to have...

sue said...

I agree--I'm sure it's a universal conundrum. I really like all of your art, but I do think your portraits are exquisite.

Niall young said...

The eternal conumdrum for most artists it is true...and one I have struggled with.But having found myself in the possisition and with the opportunity to make my art my full time job, I realise that I have to balance what I produce. Firstly I have a responsibility to my family, my mortgage and other bills, so I produce wirk which is commercially more likely to sell as prints (landscapes,local views etc...) tjen I allow myself to do something that is exclusively for my own satisfaction. Three years down the line, I now have a good stock of ;commercial type pictures which sell as prints. This allows me more time to spend on things that stimulate me .There's no hard and fast answer I work takes many weeks to complete a piece..

If I had my way, I'd only produce the things I want to produce, but in a sort of ironic way, woirking on the landscapes etc is a discipline and has honed my technique.

Incidentally, I love your fish paintings, your use of water is stunning.I wish we lived closer then I could invite you round for a cuppa!

Jeanette said...

Thanks for listening to (reading) my rambling thoughts Teresa. I'm sure I'll find a happy medium (pardon the pun :) )

Thanks for the support Sue.

Niall, your words make sense and beneath my ramblings I know I need to do similar things. As you say, bills need to be paid, etc.

With all types jobs there are aspects that you don't enjoy quite as much as others and perhaps I'm selfish in wanting it all to be something I like.

I know your work is so time consuming but produces such exquisite results it does demand a higher price and that prints are a good way to go. I need to explore that aspect more and buckle down to some serious marketing.

And I'd love to come round for a cuppa, I'm sure we'd have so much to talk about. Next time I'm in the UK I'll take you up on the offer.

Anita said...

Something that challenges me all the time - which direction to go in. I have come to the conclusion that you need to go where your heart leads you when it comes to art. If your heart is not into what you are producing it really shows in your work - passion is what brings it alive.

Gary said...

Wow - great discussion. When you teach art you get the chance to talk about this kinda stuff a lot. And the market is changing all the time it seems - so it takes folks like all yall to keep up with new/possible opportunities. Like you Jeanette and with Niall, I work in catagories or series. I usually have a series going that I consider to be my "serious" art and in other work I am doing on a commission basis and yet in others for possible general sales. I just kinda accept it as our world. I need to get into the print on demand world, etc. etc. but just haven't taken that step yet.

Gary said...

Oops! Your paintings of the fish Jeanette is just stunning - stunning.

Jeanette said...

I agree Anita, that if your heart is in the art it does shine through. But there are also parts that must be done if you look on it as 'making a living' too. And those parts aren't always as enjoyable but necessary all the same.

I was hoping you'd wade in on this Gary as you're in the thick of it when it comes to discussions around similar topics.

You're right, its down to the individual to keep up with trends and sales opportunities wherever they lie. I think if we want sales out of art, there have to be two, or more, paths of production. Just as we diversify on the farm here in what is produced, the same applies to producing art. You produce to appeal to a larger audience.

Glad you like the fish. :)

Jo Castillo said...

Interesting and challenging to read about the decisions we make as artists. It seems to help settle the mind to know others have the same discussions with themselves. :)

Thanks for sharing and thanks for the beautiful fish!

RHCarpenter said...

Balancing your needs with the needs of making a living are not easy for any creative person. This has been a good discussion and I always learn when artists talk about this aspect of art - what to paint and when and how to market that art and still have time to paint something they really want to do just for themselves. I read Donna Zagotta's blog all the time and she has some great info and questions one should ask...
Good Luck! I, too, like all your work, but there is something extra in the portraits that shines through.