This is our 10th post of the Getting to Know FASO's Awesome Support Team series, and today, we're learning more about art critic and contributing writer, Brian Sherwin.
FASO's support team is made up (mostly) of artists who work out of their homes on an independent contract basis; many of them also FASO customers. This works out great as it allows our awesome independent agents the flexibility to pursue their own art career, pursue other opportunities, supplement their income, while also connecting with other artists via their contract with FASO. If you'd like to learn more about this, you can read more details here.
Tell us how you got started at FASO:
I was one of the original team members at Myartspace.com -- having served as a site consultant and Senior Editor of the blog. Long story short, the Founders of Myartspace decided to pull the plug. I had acquired useful skills that I did not want to put to waste. I started researching various online art ventures with the goal of finding new work. I’m very selective about who I work with. I took a close look at FASO, reached out to Clint Watson, and the rest is history.
What attracted you to FASO?
I was floored by the talent and skill that I observed while perusing the directory of FASO artist websites. I recognized the names of several notable artists while searching the directory. Furthermore, the quality of debate on the FineArtViews blog impressed me.
I was also extremely impressed when I discovered that Clint Watson, the Founder of FASO, actually has a background within the art world. Clint is a former gallery owner, a collector of art, and FASO is clearly his baby. He truly cares about art and artists.
Is it rare for an online art venture like FASO to be founded by someone who is directly involved with art?
My experience dictates that it is extremely rare. I’ve been in this game in one form or another since 1998. Having worked in this industry, I can tell you that a good chunk of the online art ventures that exist today were founded by people with minimal direct experience with the art world -- that includes some of the BIG ones. Frankly, a lot of these services are little more than an umbrella project for print and frame companies OR they were created as a potential money maker for investors who desire to see the service sold once it takes off. FASO is more than a mere pet project for Clint… FASO is his passion.
Can you tell us about your art background?
I studied art at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. I focused on oil painting. However, I also focused a great deal on sculpture and printmaking. It was a wonderful program. There was a lot of freedom to explore materials.
While there I learned a lot about art history and art criticism under the watchful eye of Randy Norris. Randy could critically break you one moment and offer a smile that put everything at ease the next. I suppose you could say that he was highly skilled at dishing out tough love. He did his best to push students… he forced you to develop your inner strength. Anyone who studied with him knows exactly of what I speak. Sadly, Randy is no longer with us.
I assume you created art if you studied art at college. Can you tell us about your art?
I rarely talk about my art due to my role as a writer. My goal is to serve other artists. I’m not here to serve myself. I know that other artist/writers discuss their own work frequently... which is OK for them… but for me, personally, I would feel as if I’m taking advantage of my position. This is the way I view it: I’m here to serve -- it is my duty to help other artists gain acknowledgement. Clint has offered me the opportunity to serve others… in my mind it would be a violation of that trust if I focused on spotlighting my own art 24/7. I just think, at least in my case, that it would be counterproductive to make my art the focus of my writing.
What are some of the things you’ve seen change the most since you started with FASO?
I think we are starting to see a big push towards galleries embracing the Internet -- specifically aspects of eCommerce. Generally speaking, brick & mortar art galleries have moved at a snail pace with regards to embracing online business trends and technological advances. I can remember when it was common for art dealers and other gallery professionals to scoff at the idea of utilizing the Internet for exposure and marketing. The ‘landscape’ is changing though -- attitudes are changing. For example, galleries seem to be paying more attention to the online following that an artist has. Hopefully it is not too late for them.
I have long said that the art collectors of tomorrow will expect artists and galleries to be highly visible online. Children are ‘wired’ today at an early age. The future art collector will expect art galleries to sell art online… anything less will seem backward, old hat. The artist of tomorrow will be of the same opinion if he or she stumbles upon an art gallery that has yet to adapt.
Do you think more artists will consider self-representation due to these advances even if the galleries catch up?
I believe so. Why would an artist want to work with a space that is behind the times? Art gallery owners need to think about that before time passes them by. The Internet has changed the way we conduct business as a society. It has also changed the way we view things. Those directions will no doubt continue to expand. The art world is not ‘immune’ to these changes. Artists and galleries must be prepared by starting today. It is more important than ever to be serious about having an online presence and following. The online art world, if you will, is not a trend.
Given your opinion about artists staying with the times, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give FASO members?
If you are a FASO member you likely have a blog and newsletter. Use them! I think documentation is vital… sharing information about your art and life serves as a form of documentation. I think it is important to remember that we live in a Wikipedia Age. People are hungry for information. You don’t have to wait to be written about in order to provide information about your art… you can do it today by utilizing your blog and newsletter.
Why do you think artists hesitate to market themselves? Is it a fear of the technology, a fear of putting themselves out there, or a combination of the two?
I think it is a combination of the two -- in addition to other factors. Many artists are plagued by art market myths that hold them back. For example, some of them assume that they will be labeled as an ‘amateur’ if they don’t let a brick and mortar gallery focus on marketing efforts… OR they fear that the gallery world, if you will, will hold self-representation against them later down the road. These fears may have a hint of truth depending on the mentality of the gallery owner… but it is no excuse for waiting to market ones work online AND offline.
The issue of time is often mentioned. Many artists feel that they simply don’t have time to focus on art marketing. Thus, they don’t bother to learn how to use technology to their advantage. They wait for someone else to do all the marketing work -- it may be a very LONG wait. I understand the time issue IF the artist spends every waking hour in his or her studio. How many artists honestly do that? I’m willing to bet that most of them could make time for marketing efforts. If you have time to follow a sitcom religiously… you should have time to do some of the marketing end of your business.
Do you think some artists still cling to the “I’ll be discovered” fantasy? With the advent of shows like American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, and Bravo's Work of Art, do you think that some artists feel like they’re somehow going to be magically discovered and thus, get to bypass the hard work/drudgery of making it for themselves? In your opinion, how often does this really happen?
Unfortunately, that fantasy is still alive and well – the idea tends to pop up with younger artists. I think the fantasy will always exist. That said, it is extremely rare for an artist to become a sensation after being ‘discovered’ by an influential art dealer, collector, or critic. Heck, you can be ‘discovered’ by a power collector like Charles Saatchi only to end up forgotten by those same circles in less than a year. I’ve seen it happen.
You would be better off buying lottery tickets. It is best to drop the fantasy… and get to work! People forget that BANKSY started out offering prints from the trunk of a car… they forget that Shepard Fairey had worked extremely hard to establish himself long before the Obama HOPE poster… they both had a HUGE fan and collector base before being propelled to sensation status. Ha.
Definitely something worth remembering... So, when you're not helping artist shift their focus in the right direction, what do you for fun?
I’m a student of psychology and history. It is common to find me with a book about ancient civilizations or psychological theories in hand. I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and social developments. I suppose you could say that learning about the past is a major part of my life. I’m also a HUGE video game nerd and fan of horror films.
What attracts you to the study of ancient civilizations?
It is just fun, at least for me, to learn about how people lived ‘way back when’, and to know what they believed in. Viking folklore, the religious views of ancient China, the rise of the Aztec, the architectural and spiritual strength of the Egyptians, the jaw-dropping fortitude of various tribes that existed in the past -- all of these things attract me. We can learn a lot from the past.
I know you don’t watch much TV, but, drama and plot lines aside, do you find the new onslaught of shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings to be interesting or do they deviate too much from fact to be interesting to you?
I’ve actually watched the first season of Game of Thrones and Vikings on DVD with my wife. Granted, I missed a lot of both… I just can’t sit that long. As you know, Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy world, but the sword play and battle formations are solidly based in fact. The author, like most great authors, borrowed a lot from history in order to create his world… so it was fun to see all of that come together.
The props and buildings used in Vikings are simply mind-blowing for a history nut to observe. They certainly did not slack on detail. I also like that they have made aspects of the mythology a vital element of the show… the clash between their way of life and the way of life of English Christians was thought provoking, as well.
You mentioned that you are a video game and horror movie nerd. Can you tell us more about that?
I should stress that I strive to be as productive as I can be with my time. That said, when I need a burst of pure entertainment I almost always go the video game or horror movie route. I like playing open world games that have a fantasy theme -- games like Skyrim or Fable II. The games that interest me most tend to draw upon mythology and folklore of the past.
As for horror movies, I’m really into foreign horror films that explore supernatural themes -- movies such as Ju-on and Ladda Land. The movies I’m thinking of are often far more psychologically engaging than American horror films. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy American horror as well… but I’m drawn to films that are a bit more than just a slasher flick or bare-bones ghost story.
Earlier you mentioned being a student of psychology and just now you mentioned how horror films tend to be more “psychologically engaging”… is this related to the area you like to study or is there another topic you prefer?
I’m interested in the human condition. I really enjoy reading Carl Jung’s theories about the exploration and structure of the psyche -- specifically the concept of the shadow self. In my opinion, movies like Ladda Land tap into that source. Ladda Land is not just a ghost story... it is also an exploration of the family unit and other social factors.
It can almost be interpreted as a social study that is injected with supernatural elements. It is not just a ‘let’s run away from the scary ghost’ type of story. The characters are also running away -- or at least trying to run away -- from who they are as individuals… what they are capable of doing if the conditions are right.
You will see the difference if you watch Ju-on and the US remake, The Grudge, back-to-back. US based ghost / horror movies rarely explore the human condition on the same level… I suppose The Conjuring, which I enjoyed, comes close to what I’m talking about as far as US based films go.
You said that foreign horror films and American horror films are vastly different in their focus. Do you think this is purposeful? As in, are "they" (film industry leaders) deciding we, as Americans, are too shallow to understand or want the deeper levels of meaning? If so, are they right?
I don’t think Americans are shallow-minded. I think that we just crave ‘fun horror’ more, if you will. Freddy, Jason, the Wishmaster… that roster is great for eating popcorn or downing a beer. I don’t know… perhaps I just don’t scare easily? That said, you also have to remember that most US based horror films are created with teens in mind. That is where the money is. If you are 17 or 18, you likely don’t want to get into a philosophical debate after watching a horror film with your girlfriend or boyfriend… you want to talk about how awesome Tom Savini is. Ha.
Based on my previous question, do you see any similarities with art? Some would say that movies/movie making is an art, in itself, and if we’re potentially a vapid viewing audience (whether by choice or by the decision being made for us), then is that being reflected in more traditional forms of art? Are we potentially missing out because “they” are controlling what we see?
Well, some of the BIG art museums are spending time, resources, and I imagine tax dollars (in some cases) trying to convince the public that video games should be viewed as art. They did the same thing with film in the past. Can they be art? Certainly -- BUT that does not automatically mean that they are ALL good examples of art.
I’ll put it this way, I don’t think the creators of Super Mario Bros. thought about art when creating the game… they thought in terms of pure entertainment. Yet, we see major institutions championing that classic game as a prime example of art and design game-wise. Why? I think the answer goes back to the teen factor I mentioned concerning the horror film industry in the US… they want to bring in younger visitors.
I imagine the ‘powers that be’ think it will make museums more inviting… perhaps it will – BUT I personally think that our museums have dropped the ball concerning the exploration, documentation, and preservation of art created in the US, specifically painting and sculpture, and I find it absurd that some of the biggest fish in the pond are suddenly going the video game route. Frankly, it is insulting.
I suppose that is one downside of living in a consumer driven society. I guess you could say that the youth -- or the need to attract the youth -- is controlling what we see. I must sound like an old man. O’ well.
It's a heavy topic of discussion, for sure. To lighten things back up a bit, what else can you tell us about your life outside of FASO?
Family is important to me. Quality time is a must in our house. My wife and I play board games together often, work on crafts together, and so on. When my young daughter is home, we focus on doing family art projects and other bond building projects. My daughter loves to go eagle watching… so it is not uncommon for us to take nature trips. I think it is extremely important to actually do things together as a family.
When you and your wife play board games, do you go the traditional route or do you follow along with your video tastes and play mythological/role playing games?
I’d say we go the traditional route, for the most part: Scrabble, Racko, Life, Clue, etc. We are also fans of the Zombies! board game. I never did the whole Dungeons & Dragons thing… too much number crunching. Ha.
I know that your daughter is a bit younger now, but since you place value on spending time together as a family, what traditions do you think you'll want to pass along to her?
We already have several traditions started. For example, at Christmas time we have her create a decoration for the tree. Around Christmas time we also have A Christmas Carol movie marathon -- my daughter and I watch several film versions back-to-back. My wife and daughter also help me each year with making a Halloween decoration from scratch. I’m sure that family traditions like that will live on.
That's awesome, Brian. I want to say thank you for taking the time to let us glimpse into your life.
If you'd like to learn more about Brian's views on the art world, please visit his site.
3 Responses to Getting to Know FASO's Awesome Support Team - Art Critic and Contributing Writer, Brian Sherwin
|Rizwana A.Mundewadi |
|52 months ago|
This is such a nice way to share, and Brian is a wonderful human being, point blank sharing and great information shared, Thank You, and Brian please keep up the good work for artists, your daughter is the cutest, may God grant her with great health and lots of love and happiness to your family, Take Care and All the Best!
|Brian Sherwin |
|52 months ago|
Rizwana -- I'm glad that you enjoy my articles. Thank you for your kind words.
|Bob Ragland |
|52 months ago|
I am big on art business mechanics.
How an artist got their first financial break?
How artists handle rejection?
What are their daily, weekly rituals?
How they handle business?
Are they able to save any money from art sales?
How do they fiance their art lives?
How they pay for travel and workshops?
How often are they in touch with people.
Do they use USPS?
How often do they sell their work?
How many art works they produce in a given time?
Have they had a patron or sponsor for a time.
Nuts and bolts data matters.