As an artist in the digital age I find myself with problems I did not face 25 years ago. The biggest, I am beginning to think, is that Art has become under valued by an overabundance of access to imagery, and a lack of knowledge in how to look at it.
I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.
This tired cliche is a detriment to what we know and like. I attend the Art Museum frequently and the more I learn about art, the more I like. We know an image by Georgia O’Keefe is considered art even if we don’t like it. How do we know this? Because Georgia O’Keefe is a famous artist, and we can see her work hanging in a well respected Art Museum. How else can we know? Without the right vocabulary and understanding of the elements and principles of design we are not equipped with an understanding of how to judge what we see. Even with this knowledge it is so interesting to learn what motivated artists to new ways of seeing as O’Keefe did with her flowers.
We may be able to say we like it because it has nice colors and feels soft, and we love roses, but what makes it good Art? There is no shame in not knowing these things. The system does not support the teaching in many places, but wouldn’t it be nice if it did.
I have been wondering how much this lack of understanding of art, coupled with such an abundance of available art, is hurting my sales?
If it is, how much responsibility do I have to educate my audience? According to Art Biz Coach Alyson B. Stanfield, artist as aducator is a critical piece of the job. She says:
Part of your job in promoting your art is to give viewers a pathway to your work — to show them how to look at and appreciate it.
If you want to reach the widest possible audience, it’s critical that you accept your role as primary educator for your art.
Most artists think of educating about the media, but I’d like for you to teach people how to look.
Showing people how to view your art empowers them. It gives them skills they’ll use forever.
This is good news in my book. I love to talk about what makes art appealing and meaningful. Most of my art has a story beyond the image as well and these are things people seem to like knowing. Since we internet artists blog anyhow we may as well put our knowledge to work for the good of the customer and our business.
Does this apply to craft and DIY sites as well? Absolutely. The more people know about a service or product the more likely they are to want it. Of course there are the cases of instant love, must have it now, but even there it can further enhance the work if you let the customer understand more. Additionally, with so much art to compete with (on Etsy for instance) it is critical to stand out in some way. Why not let your big brain help you and spill the goods!
I do happen to like Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and it no doubt influenced this piece I did last winter. The rose was part of the arrangements at My Aunt Nancy’s 80th birthday. I was taken with the delicate color and went in close with my camera to crop the surroundings out and feature only the rose. This creates a more design-like image focusing on line, color, and form rather than space as in the whole bouquet. As a painter I look beyond what is captured with the camera and strive to bring out the cool tones reflected in the shadows and enhance the texture to create a more painterly quality. I chose to let a bit of the roses behind this one stay in the composition while being sure it remained balanced.
While flower art is not normally my thing, I believe I succeeded in creating a good piece here.