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How To Manage Fearless Artistic Growth

by Barry Koplowitz on 6/15/2017 9:18:48 AM

This post is by guest author Barry Koplowitz, This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 48,000 subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.





Artistic growth and managing the changes that come with that growth.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, ~edited~ Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.”

Much has been written about the pros and cons of style or subject changes regarding their impact on sales and how to slowly make changes and work with galleries.  That isn’t what I’m writing about. This blog entry is about artistic growth and managing the changes that come with that growth.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you paint?
  • Why do you paint the subjects you choose?
  • Is there something you might enjoy creating—possibly even more than what you are doing now—that you do not do out of fear?
  • In fact, does fear have anything at all to do with your choices regarding subject, style, or materials?

I push my boundaries, yet for the longest time it had a very deleterious affect on my work.  It is best described with an example of a critique I received from a NYC Soho gallery owner in the ‘80s.  He said, and I quote—(yes I remember it word for word), “You have a facility with paint but I don’t see any commitment.”  That critique was spot on--and at the same time totally destructive.

In actuality, that period was one of my first big creative leaps.  I was exploring lots of new approaches.  But--the critique was only destructive because I received it from someone who expected me to be a finished product--and I was anything but that.  I was in the middle of a major growth spurt and shouldn’t have been showing those experiments to galleries.

When in such a growth period don’t seek input from someone that is looking at your stuff as if it were a body of work.  It isn’t one.  It may be the beginning of a new direction--or just a short detour where you work out new ideas.  Keep such things to yourself and a circle of friends. Show it to your collectors or galleries in a manner that lets them know that you are not asking them to buy it or show it...just to give you feedback.  Then take that feedback as information only, and not a verdict.

Grow and change.  If it’s going to be a major change you will develop a body of work that you can bring to the world--eventually.  Similarly, if it is a phase where you work out ideas, you can do it with boldness and gusto without concern for salability.  I wipe off or paint over nearly half of these.  (Linen is expensive!)   The ones I keep may be salable in the future--if only as studies--or not.  It doesn't matter.

In my opinion, my “facility” with paint is helpful but it is the desire to explore that informs my work.  At this point, if you see a number of my pieces hanging together the commitment is clear.  Yet, each is very different from the other.  My goal is for each painting to be an individual. My style is like my handwriting now.  I couldn't change it if I tried.  (I know because I have tried!) No matter what palette, subject or manner of handling the materials, my “handwriting” is there.  It looks like one of my paintings.  But so far, no two paintings are interchangeable. I’m kind of happy with the way things are turning out! 



You can view Barry's original post here.




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Topics: advice for artists | creativity | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration 

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Mark Brockman
Just my opinion, but galleries and buyers don't get it. It is expected that an artist find their style/subject matter and stick with it, but for how long? Artists are not producing mattresses or any other product that you expect consistency or 'commitment'. Because I work in pastels and watercolors my paintings can look different from one painting to the next for no other reason then the texture of the paper I use, and I use a number of different textures, it has nothing to do with technique, but some, even galleries, don't understand that. The only commitment an artist should adhere to is doing their very best and using the best materials they can for a given artwork. Again just my opinion.

Your advice is spot on Barry about your handwriting, I've used that example many times. My signature is mine, but from check to check, document to document, it is never quite the same, plus it is unreadable. So why would my art from work to work look the same? Yes there will be similarities but that is the glue that holds numerous works together.

In terms of fear, it holds us back, always. I would tell my students that their canvas (or whatever support they are working on) is like a dog, show fear and it will bite you.

A truly creative person cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again. We evolve

Barry Koplowitz
Thanks Mark. My comments regarding galleries and collectors was intended to point out that we might be best off developing new things freely and "offline" without the intent of expecting a warm reception until we have finished transitions. I believe it's better that way because it removes our concerns and our gallery's concerns about it selling and allows more freedom to grow. --Barry

Barry Koplowitz
Right Linda. We need to en-courage ourselves to do so.

Nancy Hughes
I am in total agreement with you Linda.

Mark, you had a lot of interesting things to say, such as "...The only commitment an artist should adhere to is doing their very best and using the best materials they can for a given artwork"...and also Mark, I've enjoyed your comments on a lot of past posts.

Diane Leonard
Barry -- thank you for this article. I thought you were talking about me! My work is undergoing great changes, and quite honestly it has been frustrating, painful and stressful -- and galleries are waiting for my work. During the past year I have worked over, sanded down with a power sander, and then finally after months of work, destroyed about 20 paintings. Needless to say, the "new" work is finally arriving -- finally. After years of being a top selling artist, I reached the point where I was even wondering if I could ever paint again. And slowly, the door opened -- thank you so much for letting me know that I am not alone in my quest to be a great artist. With gratitude, Diane Leonard

Michele Tisdale
Thank you for your insightful post. There are often two voices going on when I paint, one is the creative, free voice that allows for play and experimentation, the other criticizes or distracts me from the work. I use a variety of surfaces and techniques. The one current that flows through all of my work is strong emotion and a love of surface. Sometimes surfaces are built up with texture other times I'm working in a method similar to Titian and the 1500's. The smooth glowing paintings might appear very different but the love and obsession with texture or lack or surface texture are linked.
You are right about not sharing your play paintings to the wrong people. Again, Thank you.

Michele Tisdale
Write another comment . . .

Walter Paul Bebirian
I would imagine that like anything else in life - that each and every individual grows differently than ay other person and that the best way to find out what works for you is to live life and be conscious of how things go for you -

Thank you Barry for writing this spot on article " How to Manage Fearless Artistic Growth". I am in the process of exploring new approaches of my art right now. This exploring period confuses, frustrates, excites and scars me at the same time.

Your article came in time to re-enforced my desire to be bold and fearlessly to explore the unknown with certain comfort. Believe it or not. :)

Barry Koplowitz
Diane, Thank you for your response. I think it takes more courage the greater your success. You are not alone and you sound very courageous. I'm very glad your collectors and galleries are catching up to you! --Barry

Barry Koplowitz
Hi Michele, I understand what you're saying about both surfaces, despite being virtual opposites, expressing the same love of surface. Textural or glass-like they reflect a love of paint and how it sits on a surface. As for the two voices, they exist in everyone and chatter about everything in life, so why should Art be any different? Thanks for your comments!

Barry Koplowitz
Wow Christina! Thank you for letting me know my blog helped you. Sometimes words come at the right time and even if they are only a little bit close--they can give us what we need. I'm very glad to be a part of that. Trust yourself! --Barry

Hana Sawyer
It is so wonderful to see how much agreement there is on this issue. It has always been a source of annoyance that some people think you should work in only one media or one style forever. As for continuity, no one can run away from themselves even if they try. I experiment a great deal. Its what thrills me; taking learning risks, being adventurous, exploring the unknown. Yet, I am able to look at work done 50 yrs ago and still recognize me.

Barry Koplowitz
Hana, I love your statement that no one can run away from themselves. So true. We can ignore ourselves though and then...we suffer and stagnate. I too see work from decades ago and see myself there. Sometimes I look just to remind me of what I once wanted. Deep down I know I still want that and should take it out for a drive from time to time. --Barry

Patricia Stafford
Love this post and all the comments. Good points about creating fearlessly, giving it your best shot, growing over time, showing yourself in your work, and showing your best work.

Currently transitioning from fine art photography to painting. I still love photography by the way, it's just that it seems God is closing the door on that medium and its opportunities for me, at least for right now, in favor of doing something different.

When I took the first step years ago from photography as a hobbyist to photography as an artist, I was inspired to sell my work ... and have done so. I also ended up getting my photos accepted into juried exhibits at art galleries and museums, which was lots of fun.

Taking the first step last year to painting, I was merely inspired to paint. With no expectations as to how good or bad the results would be, beyond giving it my best effort. With no expectations of selling anything (as of now, I've sold one painting). With no expectations of getting into art galleries (though I hoped for and really wanted this, and did end up winning Best of Show in a juried gallery exhibit ... for the painting that sold).

Anyways, my reason for painting is that it feels like God wants me to, so as long as I get paint onto the canvas and sincerely make the best use of the creative ability I've been given, it's all good.

Diane Brody
I really needed this. After 25 years, I am going through another much needed growth spurt. I've had to mature as an artist to recognize that I had something to say and not just the production of another scenic landscape. The anxiety of "will it sell" chokes me so I work smaller than I would like. Change and growth is good. Stagnation sucks.
Diane Brody

Barry Koplowitz
Thanks for letting me know it was helpful Diane Brody! Let me add that I am not saying to jump ship and stop doing what pays the bills. Rather, I'm saying that growth takes energy and you have to do both. Work the new stuff as large as you like and work the selling stuff too. Save the new work until it reaches that place where you know it's ready and then blast it out to the world. Then you can stand behind it with confidence. But one does need to pay the bills. Bottomline is you work twice as hard...but get a lot back for it once the new work is ready to come out of the cocoon. --Barry

Marc Schimsky
Hi Barry,
I very much enjoyed reading your article in FineArtViews. I especially agree with your statement: "... don't seek input from someone that is looking at your stuff as if it were a body of work {and something that will attract sales}. It isn't one. It may be the beginning of a new direction--or just a short detour where you work out new ideas." I am forever exploring and experimenting and find it difficult to stay cemented to just one style of expression or just one technique. I often look at those artists in galleries whose works are consistently the same in content and technique and say: "How do they do it?"

Barry Koplowitz
Hi Marc, thanks for the comment! As for those artists, maybe they are doing exactly what we're talking about and developing new things we just don't see yet. Or not... --Barry

Walter Paul Bebirian
here is an idea - this fellow Jay Abraham is a specialist in marketing so it may make some sense to listen to some of the ideas that he talks about - here:


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