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View Full Version : A Question: Do You Believe the Message You Convey With Your Art


M.L. Schaefer
05-17-2013, 01:08 AM
....and the beauty you create, is worth using terrible and/or damaging materials and techniques?

I recently bought a book by a watercolorist that made the most beautiful paintings! However, I had to keep a good grasp on myself because his materials and techniques made my stomach a bit upset! His work had been (is) displayed in museums: I mean it is breathtakingly beautiful! All through the book I worked out in my head how he could have done the same thing using good materials and non-damaging techniques.

His "palette" consisted of Markers (children's style markers from the grocery aisle, because they bleed), liquid watercolor paints or "inks" (I was okay with that) and bleach, a great deal of bleach, to lift color and recover whites.

But he stressed throughout the book that his vision and the art he created was worth more to himself, as the artist, and that not much of anything else mattered.

I felt that no matter how breathtaking his art, an artist has a "responsibility," as it were, to those who thought enough of the beauty he created to purchase that beauty for themselves. And, did he have the right to create a kind of beauty that would not stand the test of time (especially, if someone else bought it).

I carefully looked through this book, and, already I could see how he could have created some of those looks without using bleach, for instance! :eek:

What do you think?

The book is entitled "Color Transfer. Achieving Impressionistic Effects with Watercolor Markers and Inks," by Bill Senter. Copyright 1990.

D'Lady
05-17-2013, 02:21 AM
That's sad.

I'm in the camp that says anytime someone sells something they have a responsibility to their buyer to make sure it will perform as promised. A piece of art that sells should be expected to last; or the buyer should be made fully aware that it's temporary, and they might want to consider an archival print instead of the original.

For me, painting is just a hobby. I might someday like to sell some of my work, if I ever get that good. But for now, it's just for me. Nevertheless, I invest in the best materials I can afford. Why should spend hours of my precious life doing the best work I can do, only to do it with el cheapo stuff that will never be worth framing? Not that I don't do sketches and such on cheap materials or with cheap paint, but when I set out to do my best work, I want to know that if it turns out nicely I'll still be enjoying it years from now, not bitterly regretting that I didn't use my good supplies.

pjartwc
05-17-2013, 03:53 AM
It seems like he is trying to see what he can do with standard grocery-store items (except for the watercolor inks). It sounds to me like the stuff they teach in some art schools for promoting creativity.

Superturtle
05-17-2013, 08:36 AM
If he's a professional artist selling his work, then the "vision of it being only for himself" isn't quite true anymore. If he were creating this art and selling archival prints only, that would be one thing, but if he's selling original artwork, which IMO is unacceptable. It is possible, though, that he's unaware of archival qualities and their importance - many artists don't bother learning this stuff, and/or have no interest in doing so because they don't want their technique inhibited. Some artists can get surprisingly defensive on this topic.

Brindle
05-17-2013, 08:37 AM
I'm in the school of "doesn't matter what you use if the original is only consequential" meaning, the work is for reproduction only. But when we come to selling original works that people invest hard earned dollars in, then we have an ethical obligation to use the finest, most archival materials available. Failing that, then it's vital to inform the buying public about the non-archival aspects of the piece (and price it accordingly, I'd say).

Honesty, information sharing, and expectations management of prospective collectors is a professional artist's first obligation, in my opinion.

olliewood0702
05-17-2013, 08:47 AM
I totally agree with what CAROLE says ^^!:thumbsup:

painterbear
05-17-2013, 10:49 AM
I think this artist is being dishonest in selling his art unless he gives the buyers a disclaimer that the piece they are buying is a temporary work and may not look the way it does now in a few years. If they are willing to buy it under those conditions, then the onus is on them rather than him. Otherwise, he is basically a cheat. :rolleyes:

Ditto to what everyone ^^^ has said.

Sylvia

Undergoose
05-17-2013, 01:03 PM
I agree with the rest of you.

I get a little irritated when people say pretentious stuff like "worth more to me, as an artist, and nothing else really matters..." in a book that they're trying to sell for money and/or use to promote their art.

If the 'art' is worth more than anything, where's the freely-distributed copy of his book and artwork? Everywhere I look online, I have to pay for it.

As for his choice of mediums...meh...I've seen my mom create some amazing stuff on a junk mail envelope. Her pile of sketches and studies from over the years is a pretty impressive stack of things jotted down on whatever was handy at the moment. She doesn't try to sell them (they matter more to her as an artist, you know. :P ). She doesn't try to sell a book about how she uses pizza box lids, envelopes and the cover of the phone book to 'express herself as an artist'. She knows they're just doodles used for reference, not art that should be hung in a museum.

I can build a Ferrari out of paper mache and park it in my driveway...it will look just like a real Ferrari, and my neighbors will be amazed. I could write a book on how amazing my paper mache Ferrari is, detailing how I built it. I can paint an authentic looking calligraphic character that says "Power" on the door, real 'Fast and Furious' like.

In the end, all I have is a well-executed and documented elementary school-level craft project that says "Potato" on the side. And there's nothing wrong with any of that...right up until I put an ad on Craigslist trying to sell a Ferrari. If I manage to fool the potential buyer into believing that what I have is a real car, and they purchase it, it's not going to end well.

Wow...that turned into a borderline rant. Sorry :eek:

M.L. Schaefer
05-17-2013, 04:23 PM
The saddest thing about this is Mr. Senter was an associate professor of art, had studied art and has a B.A and an M.A. in art, and had been teaching art for twenty five years (book was published in 1990). He does understand the fugitive nature of his techniques.

He said that paintings he has in his home remain unfaded after 12 years..so, yes, he does know the lack of longevity of his paintings. Either he, seeing it day by day, is unable to discern fading or unable to admit fading....but the bleach, come on now, I see crumbling and all kinds of bad things happening to the paper!

He has sold to museums, and was Vice President of the Watercolor Honor Society. He had the most wonderful comprehension and knowledge of composition and had he worked on developing a different technique to express his vision, I would not have started this Thread. But, he saw it, he liked it, and used it, without further thought to the outcomes. Even, novice me, could see how he could have done some of his work without the bleach and children's markers. But, alas, a most gifted artist chose the personal path of his own preferences to express his "vision," and eventually his work will be lost.

So sad!

:heart: Margarete

bigskycountry
05-17-2013, 06:25 PM
I haven't seen the book, but if the pictures were "breathtaking", the title of the book indicates that it's about creating impressions with markers, and the artist mentioned in the book that it was worth more to him as an artist to do it, then I respect that and his use of whatever tools and products that brought that out and his willingness to share the results in a book, even though others wouldn't approve of his methods. Imagine where "art" would be if no one risked doing art that didn't conform to the latest technology and science of creating more permanency. There would be no ice sculptures to feast our eyes on. No sand art. No stunningly beautiful paintings using frosting and food coloring on a sheet cake canvas. And art by the Creator? -- forget it, it fades faster than any of those non-permanent pigments. No flowers -- they don't last. For sure, no sunsets. My point is that while I appreciate the quest for permanency to a point and agree that when offering paintings for sale as a fairly permanent work of art, supplies that are used should conform to that goal, I disagree that it's irresponsible for artists to create art, including using markers to create art, that doesn't conform to that goal. Just my two cents worth.

Superturtle
05-18-2013, 12:18 AM
I haven't seen the book, but if the pictures were "breathtaking", the title of the book indicates that it's about creating impressions with markers, and the artist mentioned in the book that it was worth more to him as an artist to do it, then I respect that and his use of whatever tools and products that brought that out and his willingness to share the results in a book, even though others wouldn't approve of his methods. Imagine where "art" would be if no one risked doing art that didn't conform to the latest technology and science of creating more permanency. There would be no ice sculptures to feast our eyes on. No sand art. No stunningly beautiful paintings using frosting and food coloring on a sheet cake canvas. And art by the Creator? -- forget it, it fades faster than any of those non-permanent pigments. No flowers -- they don't last. For sure, no sunsets. My point is that while I appreciate the quest for permanency to a point and agree that when offering paintings for sale as a fairly permanent work of art, supplies that are used should conform to that goal, I disagree that it's irresponsible for artists to create art, including using markers to create art, that doesn't conform to that goal. Just my two cents worth.

I don't think anyone's saying that it's not ok to do this sort of impermanent art. The techniques are ok for playing around - artists should channel their creativity and figure out new ways to do things. And if the results are beautiful, selling archival prints is totally fine. Most of us are taking issue with the fact that some of these artists can sell their work for thousands of dollars, and the buyer's lucky if they get a few good years out of it.