Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Watering the Lawn"

8x10" oil on canvas panel

Here's another one hour study. I'm finding these 8x10's rather small but I've had limited time lately so they'll have to do until I can afford to spend more time at the easel.

I'm currently rereading "The Moon and Sixpence" by W. Somerset Maugham. It's about a fictional English painter named Charles Strickland. The story, inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin, is about a man who leaves his family and career as a stockbroker in order to become a painter. He's forty years old, has no painting experience and in the view of most people, no talent. Naturally everyone thinks he's mad, and perhaps he is.

The fascinating thing is, he doesn't care at all what people think of his work or his seemingly insane decision to reject his comfortable life. He paints what he wants in a primitive style with no thought or hope of selling anything. As a result he's broke and often hungry. After he dies however, he is appreciated as a great artist and prices for his paintings skyrocket.

What I think Maugham is suggesting here is, in order to achieve greatness an artist must create without the influence of the marketplace or the thought of pleasing an audience. They must follow their creative instinct without thought of fame or financial success.

Obviously this is not easy to do. In some ways artists like Strickland who face technical challenges are at an advantage. The artistic direction of a painter with "talent" will often be determined by the marketplace. It's very hard not to paint what buyers want when they're at the door, money in hand. The technically challenged painter, with little hope of financial success, is potentially free from this temptation.

I find this subject fascinating for obvious reasons. I think all artists who sell their work are faced with this challenge. I've watched "talented" artists churn out variations on the same painting over and over in order to maintain sales. I've also watched their financial success fade as the marketplace eventually deems their work passe and moves on. Any artist that doesn't evolve will eventually find their work out of style.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the book. Strickland is hardly someone to model yourself after, he's pretty horrible, but the book is an entertaining and thought provoking read.


Nancy Colella said...

Thanks for that book review I always love a good book recommendation. I also saw your video about your frames and I am really impressed. I've been using those boxed frames for a while now and they are VERY EXPENSIVE! Yours look fabulous. Great paintings lately too! Loved the food series.

Lavon said...

I like your quick paintings. they come out very clear.

Marian Morris (Marks) said...

I've also noticed the phenomenon of artists becoming trapped in the expectations of buyers. Sometimes it seems that the artist's resulting frustration becomes visible in their work, too.

Interesting dilemma- one that I don't have! It's great that you are experimenting, and choosing freedom. It will be fun to follow your journey. Thanks for sharing it.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

He certainly is multi-tasking :D

Thanks for the book review, I always wanted to read something of Maugham's.
I am slogging through "The Sun Also Rises", which I expected to like, but has too much dialogue and is a bumpy read. My first Hemingway may be my last :(

Kanna said...

How funny, just read this blog entry and it's pretty much what I was trying to say (not very clearly) in the comments on a later post of yours. (Regarding an artists progress or not).

I'm guessing you've read Robert Henri's The Art Spirit? I need to read that again.