05/12/2006: "Rodin in His Studio (after the starvation years)"
by Paul Dorrell
Published May 2006 at absolutearts.com Blog section
Replies: 3 Comments
on Friday, May 12th, jose
freitas cruz said
I couldn’t agree more Paul, no artist should feel guilt
or shame for promoting his work himself or managing his own career. In the
21st century this doesn't make any sense any more. What Walt commented is
pretty much common practice here [Portugal] and only helps to deepen the
divide between the few who can afford the luxury of being represented and
promoted and those of us who battle on our own terms to make our work known:
we are frowned upon [by the establishment and its chosen stars] for being
diligent, and belittled when we speak of the achievements that have allowed us
to make a living so far. As you very well say Paul, so many of those who have
found others to handle the nitty-gritties display so little generosity.
on Friday, May 12th, hyacinthebaron
As a successful artist/owner of a very elegant gallery
showing my own works exclusively I sometimes liked to drop in to college art
classes. I did so by forgetting my career and personna and just letting it all
I draw very well, especially from life and I can capture images quickly while
the model is moving.
Many of my best drawings are in museums and private collections. The long
standing art professor came by to critique my drawings. Everyone gathered
round as they all recognized me and appreciated my drawing skills.
The professor had no idea. "Hmm, not bad. You almost draw as well as
After all,as a tenured professor he was given regular shows, critiqued by an
inner circle of academicians and part of an insular world where success
remained within that circle.
I did not complete some task he set ( I wasn't there for the credit really)
and so he failed me in his course for not meeting his criteria. And thisafter
a quite successful professional career.
I may have been one of the lucky ones who got away and out on my own very
on Friday, May 12th, walt said
this mindset is one that goes back to the late 30's and early 40's and is
based in Marxist ideology. A little reading about the Spanish Civil War,
Picasso's Guernica and various communist groups in the U.S. is an enlightening
bit of research. There was a great controversy just before and after the 2nd
world war that began to divide the fine arts from the commercial arts. The
fine arts were defined as "pure" while the commercial arts were
"prostituted" and therefore "impure". I had a number of
professors who held to this mindset. I was an Illustration major at the time
and often recall hearing crits in which work was labeled "mere
illustration" because the imagery was too much about making an object
look like that object...a slavish copy hence an illustration during a time
when abstraction and pecifically non-objective abstraction reined supreme. I
was a student in the 70's but had been up on what was going on through the
late 60's before going to art school and was very sensitive to both sides of
the issue. To have ones work labeled "mere illustration" was a
dibilitating insult. Once a professor felt that way about your work it was
quite hard to regain their respect. You were simply not a serious artist
anymore no matter how passionet you may be, no matter how skilled you may be
no matter how interesting your ideas...you were out.
But as each new generation of students came through, some becoming professors
themselves, the underlying politics became more and more vague. The history of
the terminology was lost and then it simply became the rules of the game that
one did not question.
It took me quite some time to avoid teaching those ways of thinking (even
though I had been a working illustrator and designer before getting my first
teaching job.)which had come to stand for excellence in my mind. And
excellence is the basis of teaching art. If you shoot for anything less then
you are teaching mediocrity or worse. So it became a circular trap that became
quite hard to break.
I now teach illustration. For 7 years I was the chair of the department. I
realized that our students were not prepared to get jobs in what has become an
extremely competitive field. Not unprepared artistically but professionally.
They didn't know how to market themselves, they didn't understand that they'd
have to pay taxes on their sales, they didn't understand that they had
copyrights that could be worth more than the actual piece of art they had
created. So our department built a Professional Practices course that not only
began to direct students towards these professional issues but it also
influenced other departments to do the same, including the Fine Arts dept. Now
the entire art college mixes marketing and professional issues with concepts
and techniques. And we're not alone. Many of the independent colleges of art
in this country have been moving in that same direction in recent years. Often
beginning in the commercial areas then spreading out through the fine art
However I can't say the same about University programs who often still hold to
what they consider to be a more intellectual way of proceeding...that to spend
too much time on anything but the intellectual content of the work their
students do is somehow an impure way of thinking. But I would venture to
suggest that this mindset too will eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
There is absolutely no reason why an artist can't take themselves, their art
and the business of selling their art seriously. The changes are all around.
Even 'mere illustrators' are beign exhibited in serious galleries these days
and some are bringing down hefty sums for their work. Its a brave new world.