SFAU #33 was based on #30, as you can see in this morph. I’m hoping sharing morph pairs helps people get into the series, though usually I’ll share them on IG rather than here. Just a little thing I can do to help people get into my work.
Unless you’re interested in some of my self-reflection on how to move forward with my fledgling art career, in which case proceed.
Being a profoundly unpopular artist is kind of a good thing, but I have to learn to milk it into not being entirely invisible.
He wasn’t being a dick, and it’s a legit question. Sometimes it’s more of a friend that takes you aside at work and informs you your breath is special today. I’m a long, long way off from being well known.
I’ve resisted, but in order to be a successful artist — assuming one wasn’t in the right place at the right time — one needs to be an entrepreneur as well as an artist. That’s IF you are trying to do it on your own. If you were picked up by a gallery out of grad school, or one way or another, the gallery would take care of all that for you in a way you could never hope to compete with.
My marketing is rather minimal and shoddy, and I haven’t produced a body of work that is really appropriate for either the contemporary fine art world or smaller venues that still cater to skilled, painted images. I think what I have produced, in the aggregate, is more interesting than had I stuck to one marketable signature style, but it’s a goodly proportion of career suicide in exchange for unlimited artistic freedom.
I think the golden era for being able to start a career on the internet might be over for most of us. There’s way too much competition, and search engines and social media platforms are throttling non-paid content, and independant content. No matter how good anything I share is on my own blog, it’s likely to fizzle out within days. The only way to get a real audience is through representation in venues that have a real audience to begin with. If one works in an already popular style, does fan art, or sexual content, they might stand a chance, but if ones are is more esoteric, fuhgeddaboudit.
I don’t give the people what they want, and I don’t cater to the fine art world, which would probably have nothing to do with me anyway. I know of precisely zero digital painters who are recognized in the fine art world, unless you include works by David Hockney, which are only recognized because they are by him. I don’t want to get into the ugly politics, but with my DNA, there are a lot of venues where I seriously need not apply. I’ve done a wide array of digital art, but I’ve definitely moved more into digital painting.
My greater hope is with the smaller venues that like painting and will accept digital painting if it’s good enough, though one is always going to make less money because one can only sell prints, as opposed to originals AND prints. For this arena, I’d still need to do an extended series in a signature style. [I will try to plug this series, — though it’s in multiple styles around one theme — once it’s finished, but I don’t think anyone is likely to bite.]
I’ve already created several styles that might work for me, but if I’m going to dedicate myself to one framework, I want it to allow as much of my strengths, and as much content, as I can. And there’s no cheating or gimmicks really when competing in the more painterly spectrum of the art world. In the blue-chip conceptual contemporary art world, you can get away with a bullshit banana taped to a wall. The gimmick IS the art, and you spend a lot of time trying to come up with what your gimmick is. It’s as if you are watching a baseball game, and rather than competing on the field, someone is going to do something in the stands or on the field that attracts all the all the attention. Streaking across the field is to playing baseball what some contemporary art is to painting.
When it comes to painting and illustration, a gimmick won’t do the trick. You’ve got to have serious skills. My SFAU series is a work of contemporary art, but is DOA in the art world, partly because, while I deal with the mutability of identity, I don’t have the correct perceived fixed identity with which to make such observations or work. I am disqualified to do this body of images.
What will my (perhaps temporary) signature style look like? I”ll save that for later, but for now, it will be: representational; digital painting; obviously incorporate the imagination; and demonstrate competent skill.
As for my art criticism and other articles, that should remain pretty much as is, mostly because I don’t plan on pitching it to any publishers.
I don’t want people to think I’m feeling sorry for myself or complaining in this post. I’m tring to come to grips with the situation and make practical adjustments to my strategies, practices, and even habits. I’ve received some good input from other artists here and privately. This is something I wrote in an email to an artist friend:
There’s an old Yiddish joke where a man complains to God that he asked God repeatedly to win the lottery, and yet, despite his entreaties, he never won. God replied that he should go buy a ticket.
So, I think I need to do a concerted body of work within a recognizable style, and — since I work digitally — which is obviously NOT done by the computer. Then, once I’ve actually submitted it to various venues, and they’ve bounced it, I can complain about being overlooked. But what I’m doing now is little more than the equivalent of displaying paintings in the windows of my home.”
That about sums it up, except that I’d add that if I’m not doing my very best, I can’t complain if I am not successful. Though, in my defense, I wasn’t complaining, I was answering someone else’s query about why I’m not a “known” artist. I do believe in free will, hard work, and taking responsibility. If others are far more successful with less work, that’s their game, and their work may reflect that as well. I can only play in the game that I find myself in. I’ll let you know when I feel like I really deserve something that I’m not getting.
And if you like my art or criticism, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). See how it works here. Or go directly to my account.
Or you can make a one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).
8 replies on “SFAU 30 & 33 morphed, and why I’m a profoundly unpopular artist”
Insightful and helpful post. I love your exploration though I don’t always like your work. One of the conclusions in my upcoming book is that an important part of our human evolution is that artists explore and contribute their insights and discoveries. Artists that compromise to get commissions, or adapt to become popular are aesthetically worthless. So wear it as a badge of honor.
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About prints and originals. I’m not so sure you do more money with traditional media. Especially nowadays. Traditionally painted and drawn stuff is harder to get good quality prints of, because of the photo/scanning process. Unless you’re very famous of course. Most people request digital art nowadays. It costs less to do, it’s faster, there’s less converting trouble.
I love this: “Streaking across the field is to playing baseball what some contemporary art is to painting.” And I agree, taping a banana to a wall, or placing a moose head in a bed, or filling a sandbox with sponges isn’t art. It’s, at best, a fun idea qualified for a few laughs, but never real art. Art is like diamonds and rubies and crystals. They’re something else than the common granite rock in the gravel. It’s rare, and therefore precious. It’s not something anyone can do. Anyone can tape a banana to a wall. It’s literally worth nothing, and if you pay for something you can do yourself, you’re an idiot in my opinion. It doesn’t matter WHO taped the darned fruit on the wall. It’s still nothing!
That said, I read about becoming a famous artist maybe a year ago and what all famous artists had in common. It was quantity! They produced more art than the average artist, thus enabling them to be seen more often and therefore more recognized over time. It had nothing to do with style, medium, or even quality. Just produce a lot, and show it in many places, and eventually, you’ll get famous enough to get by on it. I realized I cannot do this because I’m way too slow as an artist. 😛
Anyway, good post. I enjoyed reading it as usual. 🙂
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Thanks for the tips.
I’m still thinking about the gimmick factor in contemporary art, and I’m aware of this because it’s the background I come out of – educationally speaking – and as I switch to a more popular, painting-based paradigm, I realize I no longer have the handy crutch of gimmicks to bolster me. There is always a gimmicky – one-upmanship over visual art proper – trick that conceptual forms of contemporary art employ. It allows them to posture that what they are doing is as or more important than how well they do it, and what they do is anything other than get in the arena with the history of painting and try to make an offering that isn’t a waste of space. If one abandons that breezy superpower, which is never tested (in the way that hair-brained pseudo-scientific theories can be, and can be discredited), than it’s a lot harder to compete. Bullshit is no longer ones secret weapon.
You might be right about plastering your art everywhere being a road to a sustainable amount of “success”. Though I can think of a couple solid artists that post all the time on IG and still get 20-40 likes on their average post, which is also what I get, which is also what I got the very first time I posted anything there. If you audience could fit in a teacup, it doesn’t matter how often you share your work.
There are things you can do and are supposed to do, which I don’t bother with. But at this point, I’ve made enough work (and written over 700 posts on my blog), while making very little ground, that I am aware I need to change something if I want to have better results, to, as you put it, “get famous enough to get by on it”.
I wonder if the people who make so much art are recognized because of it, or if they are able to, and pressured to, make more art because they have a gallery or audience demanding their “product”. My working theory is that, these days, one has to be picked up by a venue with a substantial audience, in which case AUTHORITY approval is also conferred to one’s work.
However, as much as all that is true, and I have to learn and be smarter about promotion, I still believe the only thing that really matters is the work itself, and, additionally, it only takes one painting or other image (think Munch’s “Scream”) to establish an artist. Everything else is bullshit, but may be very necessary bullshit that’s better than working some other job.
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You’re welcome. 🙂
I only have a gymnasium level of art education and most of my art is self taught. And I’m not currently showing it off here as I want to focus my blog around writing. But I have always had this view on art and installations as being two very separate things. I refuse to call it art to put fabric over a house or whatever. They haven’t actually created anything, only put things in a pile or something. I’m not too fond of modern art either as a lot of it can be equally well done by children and monkeys. And if you cannot tell the difference, is it worth more than a five year old’s drawing? But some modern art are can be nice. And at least it’s something you can put on the wall. I wouldn’t want a rotten banana forever taped to my wall. XD Lol, secret weapon: Bullshit! XD
Yeah, I realize that not everyone who plasters their art everywhere becomes famous. But I think it does increase the chance a lot. If you never try you’ll never get anywhere. If you try you at least have a chance. Sort of. 🙂 But it is frustrating when you do try and nothing happens. But sometimes it’s also about finding the right place to show you art, and find the right audience.
Wow, that’s a lot of posts! :O I’m such a blog noob. XD
I think it could be both. Everyone is certainly not in the same boat. 🙂 Some will do art because there’s a demand and it’s their job. Others because they truly just love it.
Haha, me too. XD I’m trying to promote my book and I have no idea if I’m doing it in the right way or in the right place. But heck, in the worst case, I’ve still learned a thing or two. 🙂
Yeah, sometimes it’s just luck and good timing with something that makes a person famous. Sadly, most people seem to get famous after they’re dead. XD Let’s hope it’ll go a tad better than that, eh? 😀
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You are right, IMHO, that talent, however defined, has little effect re: success, however defined. To become rich and famous from your art, again however defined, is more a function of connections and luck and your talents at marketing than of art making.
Art world sucks. It’s Wall Street w/ pictures. Zero sum. Winner take all. Do you really want to go there? The streaker image is an accurate one. Naked v. nude?
I know some talented digital artists who seem to have a style that suits both them and their paying audience. It’s a job that pays the bills and they are OK w/that. I’m jealous, sometimes.
Love the morph.
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I’m not looking to be rich and famous, just pay the bills and have the simple amenities that make a decent life possible. And unless thing improve a lot in the States, I’m talking about doing that in the developing world where I can live on a fraction of what it costs to live in my own country.
I could do fine on $12,000 a year, and yet even that seems far off, nigh impossible. However, as little as I make from my creative enterprises, it’s more than I make from my day job during COVID.
There are so many talented artists in the world, most don’t make money or get their due credit. You, Eric, are extremely talented and I want you to know that I appreciate your talent and skills, and I always learn something from your posts!
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Thanks, Tiffany. Glad to hear it. I’ve got an interesting article coming up soon. I just need to figure out how to reach more of the kinds of individuals who appreciate my content.