I know nothing about art, but…

I’ve been spending time with working artists and reading about art all week.

First, I put up one of Wil’s paintings that he loaned me, and hung out with Justin Stephens last night. Donald Browne, a friend and gallery owner, lent me the great book 7 Days in the Art World too.

So I’m feeling kind of immersed and, as a result, I think I’m figuring a few things out. Probably all wrong but whatever.

1. Art is extremely meta– it’s about so much more than the work itself. It’s about the context around which something has been created. So when I think of a painting and what it means, I have to consider all the time that went into it and the suffering that the artist went through to create it, not to mention what he’s inspired by and thinking about at the time. We lose so much if we just look at it and don’t think of what it’s (metaphysically) surrounded by, the lineage it comes from, etc.

2. Everything I do is commerce right now. It’s pretty disgusting. I need to start doing things which are about something else than business– it was never the person I intended to be. I dropped out of art school in 2000 or so (who knows what would have come of me then), and I need to start working on that side of me more. Very important.

3. All this stuff is so political. It’s all about networking and meeting/being seen with the right people, just like it is with us at TED and SXSW. I think many artists probably renounce it officially but are masters at it behind closed doors. (Like content producers on the web, they have to be in order to survive.)

4. As a result of #3, artists need to become good at the web very badly. Hugh Macleod has become pretty famous as a result of the work he’s done online, as have a few other artists (1000 paintings comes to mind) but man, there are so many people that need these skills that so many people on social web takes for granted. It’s amazing what would happen if we all decided to do something useful with our lives instead of being social media experts.

About point #4: We’ve said this so many times in the past but it bears repeating. Dilbert creator Scott Adams said “Cross two things together that you’re good at, and you’ll have a great career.” We need to take the skills we’ve learned here in this space and bring them elsewhere. Only then can we be remarkable.






10 responses to “I know nothing about art, but…”

  1. Martyn Chamberlin Avatar

    Yes, point 3 is entirely correct. As artists we end up getting political – it’s inevitable. And I agree totally with point 4. Many really good artists haven’t realized it yet, but it’s time we got heavily involved with the web. And yes, true artists don’t prostitute their work – rather, it comes from their heart. To a great extent, people like Thomas Kinkade have forgotten this sadly.

    Quick mention – your Hugh Macleod link is messed up. You’ve directed it to http://inoveryourhead.net/i-know-nothing-about-art-but/gapingvoid.com and I think you just want http://gapingvoid.com

    1. Julien Avatar

      Woops! Thanks Martyn. 🙂

  2. Deborah Avatar

    Heh Julien. Think you’ll love this new blog by a client/friend of mine Steffen Bodekker @ El Tercer Brazo [http://www.el-tercer-brazo.com/when-in-la-0]. Mixes up two things you love. And, has taken me to places I’ve never been – inside artist studios in NYC, curator’s office at the MOMA, etc. Enjoy!

  3. John McLachlan Avatar

    What a heart-felt post, Julien and thanks for being so vulnerable in saying what you said (I sound like a self-help teacher – sorry. 🙂

    In a past life (well, 15-20 years ago) I was a singer/songwriter of mediocre, but well-intentioned talent. I recorded several albums in the late 80s/early 90s and just two days ago, I listed to three of them and it made me very nostalgic for that time in my life when art was number one for me. I miss it, though I do still bring that outlook to the work I do now.

    What doing art taught me about living life is that it’s all about the process, not the end result. This goes so against much in “business” where shareholder value and profit is the whole point. It’s why I’ve never been a cog in a wheel (employee at a big company). I’d die inside if I did.

    Now, I need to shut up and get my guitar out of its case and start playing again, even if just for myself. Thanks for inspiring me and reminding me.

  4. Ric Dragon Avatar

    Oh, boy…. for me, I am a painter who started a web dev company, then later a search marketing company – both to make a living. If you read 7 Days, you can appreciate that there are parallel art worlds – many outside of Chelsea. Then there is the need to make a living. I have struggled with reconciling these two parts of my life. Its difficult. Perhaps there is no reconciliation. But I take comfort in the fact that one of my favorite painters, Thomas Nozkowski, was a marketing director for years, until he retired from that world – all the while, making great paintings.

    By the way; regarding being “social media experts” – I advocate for the term “wonk” instead of “expert”. It means, yes, we are pretty well versed in this stuff – probably more so than most – but at the same time, we’re still all students.

  5. Jennifer Boyd Avatar

    Recently, went to a preview at an MCASD- La Jolla. I agree, about #1. Some of the pieces I saw I walked away and went huh? And I did this to famous artists too. But then after thinking about the process the artist went through, I got it. The artist spent hours painting or doing a installation. Perfecting their art, exposing themselves for everyone to see. That is an art. I think #2 is about making time for yourself. I find myself occasionally taking out the supplies and dabbling, but lots of my pieces are unfinished because of the other “productive” things in my life. #3- I have only been to Blogworld but found it fascinating to make the connections or just to see how they are formed. Hopefully, the intention is about collaborating and sharing ideas. That is why they have the TED’s and SXSW of the world. Be seen and be heard. #4 Really fine line there. Sometimes artists don’t want to be out there. I don’t think an artist realizes the importance of the web to get their work shown to masses. People tend to concentrate on what they know the best and if they don’t know what the web can do, then they don’t do it.

  6. Lisa Yallamas Avatar
    Lisa Yallamas

    Art subsidies raise the ire of many people – artists in Australia (theatre companies, opera companies etc) have been forced to make a profit and pay for their art or die over the past decade. Often when people say “it’s art” they mean it has no value, no market value. I even heard someone last week say that if it has no interface it’s art. That blew me away. Art is the most exquisite interface of all – better than the iPhone!

  7. Taylor Davidson Avatar

    Kinda similar to the debate about product v. marketing (i.e. which is more important? can a great product be all the marketing that’s needed? etc.); we can all create content, but matching that content to the right context (audience, timing, meaning, connections, etc.) is what’s hard to do and incredibly valuable.

  8. Donald Browne Avatar

    Art is a process not only for the artist but for the consumer. Great art evolves with the viewers over time. We are confronted and define ourselves living with these objects and ideas.

    Content over context is one of the most contentious issues in Art today. General Idea is a art collective whose vision following Marshal McCluhan remains pertinent. Enjoy the Death of the Mauve Bat from their infamous video. Shut the fuck up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2gVJ1IRxA0

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