Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There Are Only Artists

There is no art, only artists and we change with the times.  I don't think it is the burning desire within us to create that causes "great art", we play to an audience, do what is expected of us, create within a framework of what is allowed.  We are, after all, "for hire".
     It is generally accepted that the first art was the cave man's drawings, maybe a deer on the dirt wall etched with charcoal and its purpose is thought to be magic.  It is possible that these were the missives of an irresponsible teenager, but more likely put there by a powerful medicine man, conjuring up the spirits to create a great hunt.  An offering of sorts, maybe a prayer.
   It is even more likely that this was all story telling before words were invented, an image of a great hunt captured on the cave wall.  Cave man graffiti.  In the deepest regions of the Egyptian tombs, in obscure places away from site of the Pharaoh, you can find, carved in stone to last an eternity, the names of those who carried the stone.
     I think artists have an idea of mortality and a desire to leave something behind.  "Kilroy was here!" This is why we carve our initials in apple trees, save our drawings, put notes in bottles.  We want someone to know that we have been here.
     One theory of the cave man's drawings is that this wasn't the creation of those who inhabited the caves but the work of itinerant, wandering, skilled craftsmen who may have offered an embellishment in return for a meal.  At any rate, at some point the artist discovered that he could get paid for his skills, paid for his desire to be larger than life.  So before art was even established it was manipulated, defined and controlled.
     Can you even imagine the Sistine Chapel done in abstract?  For centuries to create art was to copy.
Because that is what you got paid for.  That was what being an apprentice was all about, learning to paint just like the master.
     So, what causes change?  Sometimes it is a very slow process.  We can go lifetimes and see not much difference.  I think there are three elements to change in art.
     The most powerful element to art is who is buying it, power to the consumer!  For centuries this would be the Church, the only element in society which could afford it.  This dictated art to the spiritual realm with stories from the Bible, the nature of man and his quest for redemption.
    As cities were created and governments established they became buyers of art too.  Statues of Caesar were bought and paid for!  Art is still story telling of the wealthy and powerful, those who could afford it.
Art is found in Churches, government buildings and homes of the wealthy.  They had an idea of what they wanted and patronized artists who would deliver it for them.
    The other thing that has had a tremendous influence on art is the ever changing development of materials that the artist has at his disposal.  For the longest time paints were made of tempura, your breakfast eggs
mixed with plants and minerals to achieve color.  This is a fast drying process that didn't allow for much mixing and shading or allowing much depth to a painting.  Oil paints had a huge influence in how a painting was created and allowing for more brilliant and mixed colors.  Later acrylics were invented, making painting easier, cleaner and less expensive.  Lots of changes between then and the computer age and now we can create "works of art" from the comfort of our desk and get copies with a click of the mouse.
    This all leads to the cheapening of art and allows more people to be able to buy it.  Art is no longer limited to the will of the Church nor the demands of the Government and not the dwellings of the rich.   Art is for "T"
shirts and posters and the faucets of your kitchen sink!  The power has shifted and we have it.
    In a way this is the dumbing down of art.  The standards have changed but the essential power over the artist remains the same:  who is paying for it?
    The third element to this altering of art over the centuries is the artist himself.  This is probably the least powerful of these three elements:  consumer of art, the materials availble and the artist himself.  Remember that most artists achieve their fame after they die!  Artists do make changes, alter their style and make discoveries "that sell".  This is probably more prevelant today than ever before because art has become instantaneous, quickly created, quickly popular and just as quickly forgotten.  We are waiting for the next best thing!
     Corporate Art has replaced Religious Art and Government Art.  But nothing has really changed; the artist produces what he is paid for.
The Art I am Paid to Produce is Here.


Asma said...

absolutely right...i went to art school to become an artist and the only thing i have learned is that i cant make much living out of it :P and hence everyone tells me that i have wasted myself...

stonepost said...

Never a waste, Asma, for you have seen another side, your horizon and spirit have been lifted and anything that you apply yourself to will be all that much better that you have exposed yourself to art.

Ralph said...

What a fabulous post Jerry. Only one thing you and I disagreea bout I often produce art not because I am paid but because I know somebody somewhere wants it.

stonepost said...

But, that IS my point, Ralph! You are painting for an audience! You may not know the customer but you are painting to make a sale. Not a criticism, that's what we do, and when tastes change we change our art to make that sale.

Kay said...

I like this post Jerry.

stonepost said...

Thank you Kay, I am runing out of things to talk about!!! I am always hunting for topics for discussion.

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AutumnLeaves said...

I've been worried about you Jer. Glad to see your post. I love your thoughts on art and the artist. There is admittedly something freeing about not being a good artist. What you ask? The fact that I can do whatever tickles my fancy and please me!

Barbra Joan said...

Lets face it ... we all do art in many different forms,, the bottom line for me is I have got to create! in some form or another. .. I've sold, taught and given away. Matters not.. I never could have fed myself on what I've made selling, but I still continue to this day.. I don't know of anyone who would paint strictly for selling,, something inside has to want you to do it. You might work as a waiter, or in a department store so you can pay the bills. But make art solely for money.? Good post today Jerry, I've read lots of Art History
and like yours . It refreshed my memory on a lot that I've forgotten .. bj