03 February 2006

Everything's Alpacas

HELP!!! I'm stuck in alpaca mode! Since I have this large commission involving lots of alpaca art, all I seem to be doing is alpacas! Now, I don't mind doing them as they are kind of funky looking, and the money is good, but....

I know some artists do one subject for years and are very happy doing it. In the art world, this is often viewed as a sign of a mature artist. The reasoning goes like this: a mature (deep thinking) artist will want to explore all the nuances of a subject and then capture the transedent message so the public can understand the deeper meanings of the subject. An amateur, on the other hand, will flit from one topic to another and never adequately explore a subject.

So, is this true? Yes and no. I suppose there are some artists who are doing this type of work, but, honestly, I have never met one. Many artists will stumble onto a subject and style that pleases the public (i.e., the paintings sell), so the artist does more of that kind of work. If the artist does enough of this kind of work, the work becomes almost automatic and, to me, it becomes production artwork and not really original artwork. For example, P. Buckley Moss did some original work when she first did her paintings with stylized Amish children. 20+ years later, she's still doing the same thing. The freshness in her work is gone. She has totally explored her subject and there's nothing more to say.

Other artists, like myself, paint or draw whatever subject seems most interesting at the time. For us (and I'll speak for this group), it's the painting/drawing that is important and not the subject. If you were to come to my house and I lined up a bunch of my work, you could easily see that not only was it done by one person, but there does seem to be a progression from one piece to another, even if the subject is radically different. In some people's mind, this makes me a lesser artist, but I'm in good company. Both Picasso and Michelangelo did more than one subect, and they aren't 'minor' artists.

So why is this idea -- explore one subject -- out there? I personally believe it's all because of marketing by galleries. It's so much easier to say, "Here's Mary, she does floral still lifes" than to say, "Here's Linda, she explores textures in a variety of settings, from still lifes to sculptures to alpaca drawings." The problem is if one wants to be 'successful' in a certain part of the art world, one must play this game and only explore one subject.

For years, I have fought against being 'forced' to doing only one subject. But for the next week or so, I will be content with doing only alpacas. Drawings of alpacas. Sketches of alpacas. Pastels of alpacas. Maybe even an oil painting of alpacas.

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