Another change of horses September 7, 2021 20:14

Once again I thought I'd found just what I wanted to do in terms of my art, and I decided it totally isn't. 

I thought I had settled on painting opaque watercolor with aquapasto and aiming for texture and painting on watercolor ground on canvas and finishing my paintings with cold wax so they could be displayed without glass. And then I got to thinking.

Why was I letting someone's desire for less expensive framing determine how I paint? People who buy my paintings know that if they want cheap art, there are all sorts of places to find it. And if they want something that is more expensive, they can afford to get it framed, no?

I got to thinking about that, especially after reading a quote from a guy who was forming a new gallery with three other gallerists. He said that the days of 50/50 split with the artist were over. And it was clear that he did not mean he was going to ensure that his artists got more than 50%. On the contrary. The greed of the precious little parasite.

Galleries are a deforming force on art. I have thought this for a long time. I have looked at a lot of gallery art and have felt that way too much of it was only called "art" because money-laundering was involved.  Money-laundering art is pretty much crap. But it's not important what it looks like. It's important how much drug money it can launder.

Now sure. All galleries are not involved in this by any means. But there is also the issue of galleries not paying artists for what is sold and even not returning their work. This is the case with 30% of galleries, from what I've read in different sources over the years.

And then they have the balls to whine about how they're not making any money. They have the balls to demand that artists do the vast majority of the marketing, yet they won't share their collectors list with artists. They have the balls to switch frames on people's paintings, to store paintings without care, to not carry any insurance, to hire people who couldn't sell their grandma some chicken soup.

But to me the most deforming aspect is that they want the artist to create a brand--"consistency." Because in our industrial-product, chain-store, franchise-restaurant world, standardization is vital for sales. The art an artist produces has to be identifiable as their brand. If they paint Realist Rocky Mountain landscapes, they better keep on doing it. If they paint misty pictures of a vase of pink flowers. they can't decide to turn out some nightscapes or portraits with shredded faces. Stay in your lane!!!

I often have looked at my own art and known it is not consistent in terms of style or subject, which for a long time made me think I was a lousy artist. I've regularly weeded out my work on this website to impose some sort of consistency on my art, even though I know I deviate from consistency time and again. 

Thing is, this site doesn't get a lot of traffic. Not as much as I'd like, anyhow. And I thought it would help to widen my connection to collectors if my work was picked up by a gallery, even though I was well aware of all the many, many pitfalls. 

But reading that quote by that precious bitch of a gallerist who informs the world that the days of the 50/50 split with the artist are over because galleries have bills to pay made me absolutely despise the whole system far more than I ever did before. I wonder what the average gallerist makes compared to the average artist.

So, slowly I am going to populate my site with my paintings that don't contribute to my "brand." That are inconsistent. It's going to take me a while, because I have a lot of them.

Now to circle around back to my shift in painting technique and how it relates to galleries. I am not the first painter who tried to make their watercolors more of a brand, more marketable in a gallery. Even leaving aside 19th-century British watercolorists who did their best to make their paintings resemble oils so they could raise their prices, I know watercolorists today who attach their watercolors to stretched canvas with a gallery wrap and add a cold wax finish because galleries don't want to sell watercolors, especially displayed behind glass. These folks sell their paintings through galleries by doing this. I have nothing against them doing this. 

Obviously, because basically that's what I was building up to do by painting with aquapasto on watercolor ground on canvas and finishing it with cold wax. All about the marketing through galleries that don't know how to sell watercolors.

The only problem with that is that it changes what I can do with the paint. Watercolor ground is neat, but it's not paper. It has taught me that lifting can be a tool instead of a bug, which is fab, but it still allows for way too much inadvertent lifting. And you cannot really do a wash with it or the usual sort of watercolor glaze. And the paint just kind of sits there; it's difficult to get it to move. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of watercolor, so why use watercolor at all? Just use oils. Feh.

In contrast, the traditional tools of watercolor are right there when painting on paper. 

So if I think that I won't be selling through galleries in the future no matter how good of a painter I become. I would rather paint on paper. If I really get a hankering to paint on canvas, I can do it with my oil paints.

So here we are--back to my oldest painting practice: using transparent pigments to paint on paper with no mediums or cold wax finish. They will have to be framed behind glass (or that snazzy "museum"  glass/acrylic, which is so cool and so expensive).

Oddly enough, this has meant a return also to a pigment that was my favorite when I began art school in 1971--phthalocyanine blue red shade. I just loved that stuff, which can go from an intense indigo to a delicate peacock wash. But I dumped it decades later because it felt too synthetic. I got sucked into the Daniel Smith granulated rocks with fancy names. And they are beautiful. I still have a bunch.

But when I got my royalty check for The Witching Herbs back in August, I bought a ton of Winsor Newton transparent watercolors, which is what I began serious painting with way back when I started art school and got my first set of tube paints. Part of my switching to WN was nostalgia, but another was wanting to explore all those luscious colors I never got a chance to learn how to use years ago. I forgot how beautiful they are, how luminous, and their sense of stillness. They invite to dip into them, like a pool.

I need this stillness just as much now as I did back then, when I began serious painting. It's a very unstill world.