Friday, October 12, 2012


In one of the recent Robert Genn newsletters
which focuses on the lowering of standards in the art world, a comment was made by artist, Rick Rotante.  It hit home with me and my insecurity about my art and where I stand when compared to others. 

Mr. Rotante says,
"Being self-delusional to an extent is necessary for a successful career. But you also have to back it up with quality work and inventory. You also have to dedicate yourself to a life of strife and turmoil and understand that even when you produce a "work of art," you may still go unnoticed. When do you throw in the towel and surrender? Today we are told to follow our dreams, keep at it and we will get there. Not so! It helps if you have talent, but talent alone will not keep your boat afloat. Too many waste their lives thinking they can do anything they put their mind to; again, it will probably not happen. Self help books help only one person - the author. Will we ever stop believing we are the greatest? Probably not!"

I know there are many people painting out there who really think they are great, but I find many more who are humble about their talent and skill, fearful of calling themselves artists.  I look at the time spent by the artists who are successful, active and pro-active about their artwork and I haven't spent a tenth of that time at my work. 

And I tend to post everything I do here - good, bad or truly ugly.  That's not for my ego but to get feedback on the bad stuff so I can try to make it better the next time.  Perhaps I should be able to work it out myself if I can learn to step back and see what's wrong with something and do something about it. 

I think I know good art when I see it.  There is a lot of it around.  There is also a lot of the other stuff - not so good but done enthusiastically (and often said to be done intuitively - which means they've had to formal training but just feel what they are doing - or that they are self-taught, as if they've never had a class or a workshop or watched a DVD or looked at a book by another artist).

Where do you stand? 
Do we need more formal training grounds for our artists? 
Do we all need Lower Expectations so we can be happy about our work and the work of others?

I could sit down and name 100 living, working artists right now who are great.  I don't have to wait until they die to know their work is worth a lot.  But I think the newsletter is stating that there are 100 x 100 more "artists" who haven't done the work to claim the title "artist".  I wonder - am I one of those 10,000?


Judith Farnworth Art said...

What a great post Rhonda.... I am in there as well!! For me though my desire to paint thankfully overwhelms everything and far from thinking I am talented, accomplished, skilled or whatever I am always left thinking there is so much to learn and improve upon... I start every painting with a renewed sense of optimism that it will be "the one" and guess what, it never is... but the journey is so much more important than the destination... all that I discover and enjoy along the way means I hope I will never get there!! The destination varies from me getting close to being light years away but remains constantly out of reach and that's where I'm happy for it to stay!!!

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Rhonda - this is an interesting post - I think I rely on the fact that if we do art we are artists...if I read I am a reader...if I play the piano I am a pianist...I think the real question is my art the best I can make it, same with piano, or anything else we creative folks do. Just because I do not always sell a painting doesn't not make me an artist - (LOL) it just might mean I am not a good one and then again by whose standard mine or someone elses!! Certainly a lot of food for thought but Rhonda in my humble opinion you are certainly a wonderful artist. Take care and God Bless.

Mick Carney said...

Interesting post and it poses the inevitable question for everyone who practises art. I satisfy the dilemma by differentiating between my response to what I produce and how the world then views it. We are all probably the worst judges of the artistic merit of our own output, so maybe best to leave that to others.

CrimsonLeaves said...

I am one of those 10,000 for sure. I believe talent is inherent, one is born with it. I believe it is necessary for art. I believe self-help books don't do much for anyone but the author as well. Training? One can take a thousand classes but if that inherent talent is missing, it does no good. One can love art and know all there is to know in the head and still not be able to put out good work. I don't think I'm being negative. I guess I feel I am being realistic as the only ruler I hold myself up to is my own sense of standards. Lower them? Never. Finding the good in other artists' works? Easy for me.

renate said...

Dear Mr. Rotante,

Is it a problem that I have no talent?
Is it a problem that I also show less beautiful paintings?
Is it a problem that I feel myself a painter?
Is a problem that I never sell anything?
Is it a problem that in mind I think I'm an artist?
Is it a problem that I never read books about painting?
Is it a problem that I never buy Dvds about painting?

Is it a problem that I just LIKE to paint?

Studio at the Farm said...

A most provocative post, Rhonda! I must admit I have seen "art" created by horses, elephants and monkeys [really!] that I would consider having more artistic merit than that of some people. But beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Art is one of those nebulous subjects that one can judge only by one's own preference and discernment.

Carol Blackburn said...

Thanks for sharing this, Rhonda. I believe art is like the human race. It comes in many sizes, shapes, colors, styles, and just as I find my husband to be handsome and kind others perceive him as ordinary and goofy. As they say, to each his own. As for calling myself an artist; it took me a long time to do that and I still struggle with it when I simply copy from a photograph. It is when I see a scene that brings to mind a feeling that translates into a title or statement that I feel like a true artist if I can then transfer that image onto the canvas or paper in such a way that someone else gets the message. I am hoping to be in that very "zone" sometime soon and remain there for the rest of my life no matter what others think.

Dee Doyle said...

Rhonda, What a juicy thoughtful topic! I hadn't responded before now, because I had to think ...

I paint because I have to paint. I have my Gallery in the Closet and my Gallery under the Bed. Yes, i am concerned about the quality of my work. Some folks say it's good, and, I'm sure that others [although they don't say it, don't think much of my work.

I have learned to not worry [too much] about what others think, but I am my strongest critic.

I believe that we have to paint the piece before us before we can paint the next one. I look over the work I have done in the past years, and some of it makes me wince, but there are other pieces that I will not part with because I like them.

When Robert Burridge was here [in La Conner ... a VERY rural place]for a workshop last year, I invited him and the workshop students to the opening of our spring show. A couple of the workshop students were a tad uppity and from Seattle, which made them more "sophisitcated," and more "knowledgeable" than the rest of us country bumpkins, and they came to our show to see what we country folks were up to. The next morning of the workshop these sophisticates asked Bob what he thought of the show. I was MORTIFIED, not knowig what he would say. He said he gets invited to a lot of these shows, and he thought ours was one of the better ones.

The sophisticates pushed and asked what he thought of the quality of the work, and without missing a beat, Bob said he could tell those who painted with passion, and those who were social painters! What a classy response!

I am not a social painter. I teach, and I do my best work [for myself, not class] at home. Yes, I am passionate about painting and improving, but as with everything I am a work in progess. Progress is not a straight line ... up a couple of steps and back one.

I used to say when peole asked "Are you an artist?" I would say, "Yes, I am ... an artist with a small "a." Not any more. I filed my income tax as an artist, because I AM an artist capital "A."

Very thoughtful discussion. Don't know if I made any sense, but I liked speaking ot the issue. Thanks, Rhonda!

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks so much to everyone who thought about this and gave their opinions on it. I like it when a post generates some good information and more grain for the thresher - we need to THINK about our work at times to see where we are and where we want to be - and perhaps learn why some of us truly must paint :) Can we learn to distance ourselves enough to honestly critique our work and see it's good and bad? Maybe. Maybe not! Of course, we all can tell when someone is just blowing smoke and not being sincere (whether it's with too much praise or too much criticism), right? Maybe that's all we need as a gauge?

Renate, nothing wrong with just being in love with painting!

Dee, loved your story about Robert Burridge - and, yes, that was a classy way to sort out the passionate artists vs the hobby painters :) Perhaps that's enough of a difference to make, when judging work at any show. And we do make our best work when we do it for ourselves, alone, with our ideas and thoughts to guide us.

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

I have been pondering how to answer this post all over the weekend. I think we are always dissatisfied with the work we have done it's what keeps us painting - that's certainly the case for me. I think if you can answer that yes, hand on heart honestly, that the next half dozen or more pieces are percolating around in your sketchbook, in your mind or in any other form, that other things pass you by because of the selfish obsession with getting the image down and communicating your message then you are by default on the way to being an artist.
The craftsmanship and technical skill of the chosen medium comes with hard graft and practice and certainly makes up an important component for me in my definition of an artist. I think it is the craftsmanship that is lacking in a lot of formal education and it puts many people at a disadvantage. By the same token the willingness of individuals to invest their time and energy in self-study and repetition learning the skills they need shouldn’t be underestimated.
Everything hinges on our own definitions of ‘worth’ ‘success’ and ‘art’ and will be as individual as the images that we make. It is the standards that we set for ourselves as much as those imposed by others that will tell us if we are successful or not. One thing I am sure of is that the artists that we think of as ‘The Greats’ have also battled their own little voices of self-doubt at one time or another. A little self-doubt is a very healthy thing in pushing us forward onto better work.
Thank you for this thought provoking post.

RH Carpenter said...

Thank you, Lisa, for such a thoughtful response!

hw (hallie) farber said...

I recently discovered a wonderful Artist named Shelly Canton (found a couple of her prints at a thrift shop). She also wrote poetry:

"Something within me bids me, come.
Say your piece before you're done.
Add your line to the countless other ones."

I have to say my piece; no one else can do that.

RH Carpenter said...

Hallie, perhaps that's what it's all about - our saying something and hoping it means something to someone along the line :)