Friday, November 2, 2012

Worth Reading

Recently, my friend and fellow Mississippi artist Ron Lindsey introduced me to a twice-weekly newsletter by the artist Robert Genn . I wanted to read the newsletter for a month or so before recommending myself, and have found that there are some very accessible insights in his writing.  It is worth reading.  Here is his most recent write-up...

Two artists

November 2, 2012

Because this is a bit personal, I'm not using their real names. They're both about 
40 years old.

"Jack" got a BFA and then an MFA from a Midwestern University. He's visited 
many of the major contemporary art museums and follows the work of several
 "important" contemporary painters. He's written articles on Philip Guston and 
others. He subscribes to several art magazines and is "the most knowledgeable 
art-guy in any discussion." After university he worked for a while in a commercial 
art gallery. He sometimes writes me long, well-informed letters. He's painted 
eleven large paintings (two unfinished) since leaving school. He's not represented
by any gallery. He thinks you need to move to New York and "get lucky" with a 
dealer who  "really represents you."

"Jill" took two years of art school and then quit. She pays little attention to other 
artists. She subscribes to no art magazines but has taken several workshops. Her 
hobbies include bowling and travelling. At one time she also worked in a 
commercial art gallery. On two or three occasions she's written to me. She's 
painted "approximately two thousand paintings" since leaving school. She's
 represented by four commercial galleries in four, well-separated mid-sized 

There's a great story in David Bayles and Ted Orland's Art and Fear. Here it is: 

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class 
into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded 
solely on the quantity of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on 
its quality. His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in 
his bathroom scales and weigh the work in the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of 
pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B" and so on. Those being graded on "quality,
" however, needed to produce only one pot--albeit a perfect one--to get an "A". 
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest 
quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that
 while the "quantity" group was busy turning out piles of work--and learning from 
their mistakes--the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the 
end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of
dead clay."

Best regards,


PS: "Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they 
get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work." (David Bayles 
and Ted Orland)

Esoterica: Both subscribers Jack and Jill are thoughtful and enthusiastic artists. 
Art is central to their lives. And while success and "being able to function as a
full time artist" may not be important to some of us, their current situations are 
quite different. Jack rents an apartment and makes $2150 per month (plus tips 
and benefits) as an airport porter. Jill works daily in her converted garage in a 
home she now owns. These days she's averaging $18,000 per month. She has "no 
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