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Go Ahead, Be Daring

by Rick Rotante on 12/9/2011 10:17:37 AM

This post is by guest author, Rick Rotante. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.  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 theFineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 16,000+ 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.


I read many artists’ blog entries that suggest ways an artist can get ahead and be recognized by trying to break away from the pack. Be different. Be daring. Stand out from the crowd. I find that these statements might just be at the root of the trouble with art in general today. Artists hope that what we currently paint IS daring and different. After all, we don’t see OUR work in the work of others. Or do we? It takes years of painting and living life to find your true voice. And some may never find a voice no matter what they do.


I don’t believe there is a genre that has not been painted to death; landscapes for instance. If you are honest and separate your ego from the process, you’d find nothing new or different is being painted in landscapes today. I know you certainly can disagree. This may sound negative and unsupportive of landscape painters; but think about it, everyone is trying to paint what sells and, in so doing, is virtually painting the same scenes.


Some use the traditional approach, some tonalism; some impressionism or whatever. But if you were to set these paintings next to one another, my guess is you wouldn’t see much difference. Sure they would show some individuality of some sort, some color differences or angle or point of view in composition. Some will be quite good. But overall, it would be a sea of empty landscapes of redundant scenes of trees, rivers, lakes and mountains at various times of the day. Now this isn’t to say that one cannot paint a startling landscape. I’m sure it can be done because it has been done in the past.


Current landscape painters travel to some remote spot or mountaintop or maybe some street scene or locale and record what he or she sees, some with more or less skill than another. What is the purpose? If shear beauty is the motive, we’ve seen it and probably done better by someone else. In some cases, we’ve traveled to some of these spots ourselves and have seen it first hand. And let’s not forget about photography. Most of us have photos of these spots.


So why paint another landscape if not to render something new about it or interpret it through our individual bias and say something different than what we’ve seen before; something with a fresh point of view? If you are going to take the time and trouble, why not go all the way and say something different? Paint it in a way no one has ever seen before. Call on your talent and expertise and paint a magnificent scene like no other ever painted. Impossible you say? Maybe not! To do this you would have to use parts of your brain you haven’t used. Pull from the depths of your being something never seen in your previous works. You might surprise yourself and paint a work completely new. Try it.


The other genre that currently shows no sign of originality is still life. I know flowers and teapots and grapes and bowls lend themselves to still life, but can anyone be creative enough to use something other than these sophomoric, banal items? Everything lying before us is a potential still life. Can’t we take a risk and paint these things without regard to the perceived beauty inherent in the object? After all, anything that isn’t moving can be a still life.


The other genre is portrait painting. I haven’t seen a great portrait painting except for John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase. Portraits seem stiff, unnatural, the sitter out of place, uneasy - generally in a costume they pulled out for the painter to paint but would hardly ever wear on the street.


What I like to see is personality not just a pretty image. There are some artists doing some fine portraits today, but overall the same portrait is being painted again and again. This subject may be harder to find nuance. Personality is a very elusive thing to paint and difficult to elicit from a sitter much less capture on canvas. Add to the mix the artist has to please the sitter, we can’t always paint what we see or think.


Can’t we re-think the whole genre? Find a new way to say an old thing. Isn’t this our true goal as artists? Artists need to stand up and not paint the same ole’ same ole’ paintings. We need to stop copying what works and push the envelope. Our purpose is to create art first and sell second. And if we were to create something wonderful, it would move beyond the same old artwork being produced again and again.


Artists are pigeonholed by the “market” and as such produce mediocre work that only rises to that market level. It doesn’t move art up, out and over the top to new heights. Every work we create- or should I say show, should be better than the last. When an artist finds his/her niche, that artist is as good as done. The work will be the same over and over. The curse to any artist is success. Success is a dead knell to a true artist.


If anyone reads this and wants to debate it so be it. We are awash in mediocrity and we all need to raise the bar and the customers will follow us as opposed to us pandering to a market. This market is starved for something new and different and better than what we offer. We have to challenge ourselves and raise the level of the market. After all, the market is taking what we give it. If we give it better, innovative art, it will demand better innovative art.


Think about it the next time you start to paint. Think about your work making a statement. Be profound. Be daring. Stand out in this way.



Editor's Note:  You can view Rick's original post here.

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Topics: advice for artists | art appreciation | art collectors | art education | creativity | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration | originality 

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cliff kearns
My sentiments exactly Rick. That's why I moved to abstract after 40 years of painting a tree that looked somewhat like a tree in every discernible style under the sun. It doesn't seem to be every artist's evolutionary path though, and I find that interesting and a bit puzzling. I know that some are able to develop that wonderfully magic style that resonates with the buying public and financial need and success keep them on that path. And that is OK too, but I believe the true artist is always pushing the envelope of personal visual expression.

Barbara Reich
Rick - I believe as you do that artists should always try to raise the bar (or as I like to say, "dig deeper"), but the rest of your article I found to be very sad. Your comments concerning the skill and originality of almost every living artist and genre were both negative and unfounded. As one artist to another, may I suggest you open your eyes and truly see some of the amazing offerings in the art world today. I would also suggest that you re-examine the word "different". Different, for the sake of being different, isn't necessarily better. Great art will always be great art. And even the masters weren't masters in the beginning! As for me, I will keep trying to paint BETTER paintings each and every time, and will gladly look to other more experienced artists for inspiration, as I believe creating fine art is a continuous learning experience. A little success ain't bad either!

Barb Reich

I agree with you. I'm extraordinarily bored with art done by some phenomenally skilled painters that look like they were done by candlelight. We don't live in a candle-lit world anymore.

I am a daring artist, putting paint on the canvas only just the way I feel like it with hardly a consideration for anything else. Some may find a painting of mine 'ugly,' while others find the same one heart-wretchingly beautiful... hasn't landed me on the covers of any magazine yet but it will.

Brady Allen
While I like the spirit of your article and I agree that we should push our art as far as we can, I disagree with being different for difference's sake.

That's the idea that gave us the garbage of the main stream 20th century art. "Who cares if it's good, as long as it's different!" was the battle cry.

I used to be an abstractionist, and abstract expressionist, a minimalist, and a post minimalist, and I found that path to be an extremely short road.

Those styles are no longer innovative or new, and there is a reason why they are now considered the mainstream today.

The mainstream has never been the path to originality.

The true hoax of the art world is that there is not much that is really new that can be done, except one-off gimmicks. Look at Damian Hirst. If someone tells me that putting stickers on a canvas is exciting or original then I know they've been guzzling the Koolaid.

Seriously, how many times can you put an animal in a tank before we are bored to tears.

If you want something new, I can come up with new crap all day long.

For example, a flayed arm of a dead orangutang that has been dipped in pink latex and has been laid out as a feast for a colony of rats in a black box so that the audience has to guess what is inside.

Being different is easy, being great is not.

Brian Sherwin
So we are going to turn this into a 'this direction in art is more valid' debate? Or 'this is art -- and this is not' debate? Should Damien Hirst be where he is at today? Now that you can argue. As for the art... it is art regardless if you appreciate it or not. (That said, I'm not a fan of Hirst just so you know)

Julia Bright
Dear Rick, I totally agree with you that we are awash in mediocrity, but I do disagree on the reason. Part of the reason for this mediocrity, is specifically because people try to paint "things" instead of thinking about their subject abstractly. It does not matter whether you are painting an apple or a head, the challenges in painting are numerous, and their solutions are uniquely individual. I, too, paint still lifes, and yes, they are the same objects that have been around for years, and that many people have painted before, but they hold a special challenge to me, which has nothing to do with rendering them, it has to do with a concept for the overall painting, such as edges, composition, color, etc. I could use landscape, or portraiture,etc. to convey the same concept, but I choose to do it with still life, for a myriad of reasons, which has nothing to do with public approval. Being different for the sake of being different only leads to bad paintings, and sets art back about 50-60 years, and diminishes it to the point of all objects being called "art". If one calls everything art, then nothing is art. We should be striving to improve our work, etc., instead of striving to be different. By the way, no matter how good an artist you are, you cannot portray anyone's personality in a portrait. "Personality" is foistered upon the work of art according to the viewer's personal history, nervous system and outlook. Yes, even Rembrandt did not imbue his portraits with personality - all he was doing was putting paint on canvas with brushstrokes. The rest is your interpretation.

I maintain that art is language and artists need to use the art language form that best expresses what they want to express. The thing about art as language is that--like written or spoken language--people can refer to events of the past, the present and the future, as well as communicate about the imaginary. Humans retain what works in language and invent language when needed. Aren't these all attributes of art? With art defined as language, there should be no more conflict between advocates of traditional and non-traditional forms of art. It's all language, and if it's being ”˜spoken' (used) then it's still viable and legitimate.

Debra Heard
I wanted to puke in Art History Class when an art teacher said that Pablo Picasso's “Les Domoiselles d' Avignon” was charming! What is so charming about defacing women? Picasso had talent to do anything he wanted, and he (not on everything he did) used that talent to do crude ugly things to mock women. Just to be different!
My generation is after the hippy generation, and as artist and teacher I'm so tired of the crap they created (to be different). The hippy generation is the main reason kids still do drugs today!
Why not improve quality instead of quantity. There are a lot of good paintings, but I'm also tried of seeing a lot of bad ones. There are a lot of artists that jump into painting with bad drawing skills. Maybe going back to the basics of developing good skills is the best way to produce art that is worth the time, effort and money.

Brian Sherwin
I suppose my point is that you can see tired artwork in any gallery you visit no matter what city you are in... or what direction of art is embraced. It is not a 'this side is getting boring' issue. The 'us vs. them' type of arguments add nothing new to the issue. ALL directions of the art world have those who cling to a comfortable art... an art that is tested... and dare I say, marketable. That is not to suggest that innovation does not exist.

You also have to factor in the goal of the artwork -- and thus, the artist. After all, those who paint a setting of bottles in order to fool the eye as if the bottle can be picked up off the canvas are likely not out to make the viewer ponder the workings of the world. The artist who paints that same group of bottles -- shattered with what is left of a burned photograph near the shards might be -- or not. Which is more interesting? The individual viewer will decide.

Now with that in mind -- is originality in the image itself... or the message behind the image? Is it found in the methods or in the meaning? I'd suggest that even the most tame of images can have great meaning depending on the context. What is the artist saying? In what setting was the painting created for display? Who is the artist attempting to connect with? The image does not have to be fantastic to be ground-breaking if thought of on those terms.

True, we do recycle from one generation to the next -- you see that in literature and music as well. The experiences are key. That may be where originality is found. After all, the artist living today has had very different experiences than the artist living just 50 years ago. Individuals take those experiences in differently and thus handle them on canvas differently.

That said, there are experiences that span the ages... we are all connected by experience in some way. For example, the experience of love or hate can be felt just as strongly today as in the past.

Debra, drug use has been with our society long before the "hippy generation!" Victorians had their opium dens, pot was beiong used in the early decades of the 20th century, and who knows what was in use before all that. Yep, there was a lot of questionable work done in the 20th century, but there was a lot that was fantastic, as is true of every era in art even before the 20th century. I know Bouguereau is the Big Deal within some comtemporary art circles these days, but his work just doesn't reach me, in spite of the technical brilliance. It's shmaltzy, sentimental goo. I do agree that art students need a solid foundation from which they can with confidence develop their own direction.

Brian Sherwin
Debra -- but denying -- or perhaps I should say containing? -- the technical skills that one has learned can be powerful. Do you dislike the work of Picasso because of what you know of his personal life? Would you appreciate those marks -- those bold gestures -- if the life choices were not known?

As for the historic breakdown of painting... the embrace of crude forms and the denial of academic standards... it advanced with bullets and bayonets. Most of the major changes supporting that direction came during war years. Artists wanted to capture what it felt like... what it felt like to be introduced to the brutality of war and social/economic instability in general.

Look at how brutal some of the paintings in the decades leading up to -- and after -- WWI are... and WWII as well. I'd suggest that war has shaped art as much as anything else -- if not more so. Who knows what horrors await for us on canvas as the impact of the wars of recent years catch up to artists in the studio. Can it be brutal? Yes... and beautiful as well.

Even the ugly side of who we are -- as in all peoples -- can have a degree of beauty about it no matter how crude... no matter how broken down. That is my opinion at least.

Donna Robillard
I think any artist could do any kind of art just to be 'different.' However, we have been given a talent, and it is up to each of us to develop it - which is an ongoing quest. We are at different stages in our development. One artist may be a master at a particular type of art, but another may be just be in the beginning stages. Also, we all do not enjoy the same type of art, but as long as it is done with integrity and the best of our ability, we should be happy with that.

It should also be understood that Picasso's Les Domoiselles d' Avignon was, according to the hard evidence provided by the many preparatory drawings he made, originally intended to depict the scourge of syphilis derived from rampant prostitution. Several figures that he later deleted were apparently medical personnel, and the scene early on appeared to depict a medical exam. Yes, the painting was certainly a showy, competitive response to what Matisse was doing, and Picasso ultimately removed the serious narrative element on the way to the final form of the painting, but I don't believe it was intended to mock or demean women.

Rick Rotante
Thank you for all your comments. All are appreciated.
I am encouraged when artists dialogue together. It's the reason I write my blog and make the comments I do.
First let me say I don't encourage difference for difference sake. Also I didn't say the skill levels of artists today are lacking. What is true today is artists are paint what has already been painted. What I mean by this is many "copy" a style or method for several reasons. One is to show they match what is being painted in order to "qualify" for approval, Second reason is trying to fit into the "community" of artists they know or respect. Thirdly, lack of imagination. There are more but my point is take your talent and ability and paint the same themes from your point of view. Someone above said what I believe to be absolutely true. Don't paint things, paint your soul. This will be more different and original than most works seen today. Instead of looking at what is being done and re-doing the popular view, take a risk and re-think it. Artists are unique in that we get an opportunity to show life in ways others can't see. Don't waste the opportunity. I personally am not a devote of contemporary art, but it has it's place and the same qualities in art should apply. If you do this strictly as a money making scheme or to please your family and friends, I feel you are missing the message of art in general.
Lastly, Rembrandt painted personality. You just didn't recognize it.

Julia Bright
Wow, Rick, interpreting Rembrandt and me in one fell swoop - that takes some talent! Bravo!

Now we're really gettin' deep and philosophical! Did Rembrandt actually paint personality or did he put pigment on a canvas in a way that our human brains perceive as containing personality? Either way, he's one of my heroes!

Julia Bright
Hi Kim, agree - Rembrandt is one of my heroes, and I maintain that no one can put "personality", or for that matter "emotion" on canvas. One can only lay down paint on canvas with brushstrokes. Whatever other attributes people perceive a canvas to have, they interpret that through their own lens of background, experiences, emotions and mood. And each one will have a different interpretation based on their individual experience.

Jim Springett
Hi Rick,

Good story and you are to be praised for stciking to your story, and all of us fill in, our stories and intreptation. That is a gift, sort of like a catylst, enters the reaction but does not become a part of the finished product, yet prompts the reaction to completion.

When I paint my wild life paintings I put a lot of emotion into each painting and others can read this quite clearly and some see even more than I was originally thinking about, yet that is our gift to humanity by doing our daily painting.I love sandhill cranes and wolves and bear and dogs and cats, and every kind of animal because they are a part of our daily lives if we spend time in the wild, and away from the tv or computer. The mysteries of all life are held within the animal kingdom.

Thanks Rick, keep up your brillant works, we are much better for readin them, and your good begets good.

Jim Springett-wildlife painter

jack white

I did paint something so different and way out there no one had ever attempted such a style in the past. It was about as original as one can get in art that sells. Was I bold? No I was trying to feed my family. I sold a few million dollars worth of that extreme style. I gave up the money tree in at the end of 1978 to try and learn to paint in oils. A money tree I'm sure I that would still be bearing fruit today.

That shows how smart I am. (smile)

Artist normally don't jump too far from the nest. There may be nothing to land on. Is it being bold, audacious or cowardly to fail to compete with the normal genera? I've seen bold end up destroying rather successful careers. If I had not been an exceptional salesperson, my leaving my gold leaf on glass could have been a disaster. I'm also thankful I began in oils when litho prints were big. They gave me time to learn a little about the craft.

If what an artist is making work that connects with their base then be very cautious about a bold change. Art galleries will tell you to change direction when your art is selling can kill your chances of earning a living making and selling art. Galleries hate it when artist leave a successful style.

I like your courage to speak out, but I don't agree with you.


The main difference with art now and 50 years ago. When I started 40 years ago Austin had two galleries and Santa Fe about the same. There were a less than a dozen galleries in Taos. There are now many ways to sell art. The Internet has opened doors that were closed unless you could get in a gallery.

When my old friend AD Greer began in the 1930ies, he had to paint signs for a living. The master Robert Wood was selling 12x16 for a $1.00. He traded art for his paints. Only a few and almost no women painted for a living. Now well over half those on FASO are female. A Charles Russell sold for a $1,000 in the 1930. Russell had to illustrate magazines in order to survive. The railroad paid Bierstadt to do his large romantic painting to lure people west.


There are lots of "artists", and many of them jump into selling their works before they have spent sufficient time spent on learning their craft. So, some of those boring works you describe may be because the market is flooded with a lot of art done by anxious new artists. But, there are also some fantastic works being done, that are very impressive. The winners of the Boldbrush contest every monthy are a pleasure to look at, very innovative, fresh, exciting, work. If you're not impressed maybe you're becoming jaded. Sorry but I do not agree either.

cliff kearns
As someone who did support and raise a family of three children by freelance illustrating in a representational manner, and then began painting in a representational style, I had to get proficient and relatively competent to survive. And I agree with Jack White that a switch to the abstract can lower the income stream substantially.
But I find an interesting distinction in doing each is that in the first case, I had to tell the paint what to do and the result becomes somewhat predictable. In the second case, the paint and texture plays a big part in telling me where to go next. And that, I find exciting and the result not so predictable. Now if only to find a few more galleries and patrons to buy in.
I have a lot of respect for someone who can stick to his/her successful formula. I sometimes wish I could.

Rick Rotante
1- Rembrandt's portraits are filled with personality but are lost to history as will many good portraits painted today. All you have to do is look at his many, many self portraits to see personality.
2- Painting for sells isn't a crime. Many do it including myself. With is a crime is calling it Art.
3-Selling is another necessary part of who I am as well as being an artist today.
4-Whatever I choose to say is my art, wasn't made for sales, even though a sale many have taken place.
5-My art is my soul. It is who I am even though I paint other images; I am in every work I create weather for sale or not.
6- Those who paint only for justification, sales, personal recognition, or for the money tree, should be happy in their endeavors. What I say means nothing to you.
7- Painting in the hopes of selling for an eventual million dollars, after death, means little.
8- Whatever I paint, I paint for myself first and hope the public at large will enjoy it.
It will not be immediately apparent but when you paint for others (i.e gallery, ego,market etc) your work will lack personal vision, longevity and timeliness. Even if you never show the work, paint for yourself. Paint who you are. Leave a body of work behind that others will ponder on. Your personality will live on in the work for those interested enough to seek it out. And even that too is irrelevant.

jack white

I'm guilty of beginning art without any knowledge of the industry. I had only visited one gallery for two hours and thought that looked easy. My first sale was for ten dollars.
After I earned and saved a nice sum I gave up my money maker and spend three years painting throwing all I did away. I ran out of money or I'd taken five years practicing. I visited scored of museums and spent hours studying the masters. I wish I could have began art at 18 instead of almost 38. I lost 20 great years.

I also agree there are some amazing work posted on FASO.


I'm totally guilty of painting what sells. It's not enough to love what we do if we plan to earn a living. I know an artist I help who LOVES to paint, but he has not refined his skills enough sell at higher prices. In time that will also come to him. Love of work is not enough to make people buy our work.

I'm guilty of having my collectors call the things I paint art.

I'm guilty of earning money on my paintings.

I'm guilty of having no body of work. I have sold all I painted. Mikki has five of my pieces she refuses to sell or they would be gone.

My mate is guilty of selling all the art she can produce. She is guilty of making art people love. She is guilty of calling her work art. She even called the drawing for the 47 major medical text books she illustrated art. So did the doctors who purchased those books. Her drawing are studied today in the Medical College of Georgia. They call the samples a work of art.

What is art? I happen to think art is not judged on how skilled the artist, but their desire to create. I'm not very gifted, but no one worked harder or made a greater effort to learn. No one has loved to make art more than me. In my prime I worked at the easel 14 to 16 hours.

As for as sales after death. It's a myth that art increases in worth after we are gone. The vast majority of work left sells for very small amounts. After Van Gogh died his work didn't suddenly begin to sell. None of us will become a Van Gogh.

Grand children are forced to burn art left in attics.

My question to you. How do you earn a living to make a body of work and stack the paintings back until you are dead? You must be wealthy.

I suspect the majority of those reading these posts will tell you they make art. Some are more gifted, but that applies in everything. There are not many Jordan's in basketballs. Not many Paton Manning's in football. Only a few leaders become president. A tiny group of authors become successful. Less than 1 percent of artist net $50,000 a year selling their work.

I'm not going to feel bad that people spent their money to buy Mikki and my work. We count ourselves among the lucky.

We simply cannot agree that only a few make art.


Rick Rotante
Jack - Congratulations and more power to you.

Virginia Giordano
I don't especially like surrealism or profess to understand it. Today I read something about Man Ray's "La Fortune" and it got me thinking about my own work and what I'm about as a person and artist; "His vision of a pool table stretching out in the landscape below rainbow-colored clouds is a testament not only to his fascination with the landscape of the mind, but also to his belief in the primacy of game playing in the creative process"

Really enjoyed your article Rick and hope to read more from you.

Nicole Hyde
Interesting convo! I appreciate the thoughtfulness and energy in all the replies. My two cents (and probably all they are worth)...

WHAT I HEAR -- an endless rain of exhortations and near commandments on how and why what I'm doing is subpar to almost criminal (LOL). That includes everything (and more): artmaking, marketing, networking, blogging, technique, subjects, style, personality, dress, collector and gallery issues, color choice, conversation style, influences, art philosophy, etc.

WHAT I KNOW -- that the only thing that makes sense for me to do while all those opinions swirl around me is to get to the easel.

WHAT I DO -- just paint.

Rick Rotante
Richard Hall - Richard- I went to your site and was very pleased to see you taking an old idea and
reinventing it. This is what I've been saying all along. You've taken unusual items and painted
them in a new and interesting way,

I appreciate you comments. Thank you.

Phil Kendall
Making artworks that only add to the sameness of portraits...still life [err? posed dead things]...landscapes...cityscapes is only an art based job.

An artist is the person who creates something exceptional out of the ordinary.

Kay Rideout
I have heard it said that it is easy to be a critic, but to be a master at "XYZ", often takes a lifetime of dedication. Being a critic comes natural to everyone, but I believe this is key: strive to be an honest critic of your own work to advance in your art.

Subject matter is usually what appeals to art buyers, even though as an artist my interest is in the design, edges, color, texture, etc. It is not surprising that objects which lend themselves to pleasing images have appealed to artists before me. I could look for new subject matter, but unless I truly have an attraction to the novel motif, it just seems contrived.

Just like an elementary student learns reading, spelling and grammar before they are able to skillfully communicate their ideas through mature writing, artists are better equipped to express themselves if they have learned the foundational skills in their craft to make it art.

Zorn comes to mind. His palette consisted of four colors and he painted in a traditional manner, but you can't say his work suffered from it.

Rick Rotante
Kay - thank you for you comments. I have heard many misconstrue the word 'critic'. Generally it's thought of as a negative thing. Be that as it may. My article is not meant to criticize in the manor you imply; nor to criticize ar all. My intention, based on what i've seen and experinced, was to awaken an inner spirit that many artists seem to ignore in their quest for gallery representation and sales. Life as well as art can become dull and mundane for an artist as they pursue perfection on their road to mastery of their art. Too many are satisfied to repeat what has been done. We lose that childhood reason for being an artist in the first place. If you intention is only to make pretty picture that sell, I am happy for you and truly wish you the best life has to offer. I feel art has more to offer. We only have to express it and elevate a public that has been weened off art. If what I say makes sense to only one person, I feel I've added to a world that misunderstood and has been meligned as a bunch of gook and nuts who don't want to get a real job. You don't have to look very far to see the place art holds on America. Even when in a good economy, for me. art should raise us up. challange our beliefs and understandings--not necessarily in a monumental way. Niche said "...the big crisis in our lives come not with thunder and lightening, but on the footsteps of doves. Art can do the same.

Rick Rotante
Kay- Zorn happens to be one of my idols. I painted a series of works for over a year;on my website, where I used his pallet. You have to agree his works are unique, uplifting and very personal. And as you stated - tradional.
He used no grandiose subject matter, no sharks; he used his unique voice to create works that will stand the test of time.

Kay Rideout
Rick, I appreciate you bringing up these topics. They are thought provoking. Like painting, communicating through writing can be a challenge. I apologize if I came across as criticizing you directly. I was just voicing some ideas and am still pondering others on art, marketing, etc.

I understand what you are saying in regards to "paintings looking similar" and wanting to break free with a fresh vision. How does an artist go about that though? Their actions could lead to exceptional unique work, or gimicky works. Are there guiding principles?

Rick Rotante
Kay I went to your site and enjoyed your work very much. You have a free flowing style that is appealing in and of itself. Subject matter is normal stuff. (not a criticism)
I noticed you paint small works. I assume this is for sales. I advise you do that as I do the same. Many of my big works (36x48 and up)sit in a corner waiting for the time when I can exhibit them again.
The overriding principle is before you start, check search your soul and motives and ask if you've seen this before. Chances are good you have. Not much hasn't been painted. If you proceed think if your are saying something fresh or just rehashing the norm. I don't say this is easy but the personal rewards are greater. I am also not advocating being extreme or specatacular. Paint who you are not what is expected.
I would venture to say, and you set me straight, you have not done a very large piece for yourself.
We are too comfortable doing the same thing. No one is challanging us, so we have to challange ourselves.

Kay Rideout
Rick, I am still getting my feet wet, still learning as a painter. My subject matter is connected to being a long time gardener and just enjoying nature. I paint what I want to paint and though some may view a still life as a worn out concept, to me it is fresh partly because I am relatively new to painting. At some point I may seek out other subjects. You are farther down the path with 40 years of painting experience, so understandably you have a different outlook.

Nicole Hyde
"Paint who you are not what is expected."

Rick, I like that quote a lot.

That was a most negative view of the exercise of painting. Frankly, it was enough to make me throw in the towel! I haven't been painting long, so I do not find subjects so mundane as you do. I am sorry that you have this jaded attitude because I think it must surely sour your experience. I just hope you don't jury an exhibit I try for entry. Please!

jack white

It hurts me to see you upset. I know your passion for painting. I know your desire to keep getting better. That's all any of us can do. Skill is acquired over much time and effort. I know you will get there. In truth you are already doing some very nice work.

I'm sure Rick didn't mean to sound so negative. He was trying to make a point about his love for art and wants us to all have his desire for greatness. The sad part is only a very few can reach that star. The rest of us make art and love living. We don't have room for negative things.

I have confidence in you. I'm not going to let you throw in the towel even if I have to come sit in your studio. Giving up is not an option.

Here's a big Texas HUG, Jack

Rick Rotante
While I appreciate all your comments and feedback, you have to remember this is only my opinion. It is how see the world. I don't set myself up as an authority or expert on what or how or who should create art. We all have to travel our own road and along the way we form ideas and opinions about life in general and art in particular. No matter what endeavor one chooses to make ones life's work, one must engage themselves in all aspects of it.

jim Springett
Rick good point and on this 3Rd day of Advent before Christmas it reminds of when I first started paintng and just enjoying the artistic process. I have seen so much wonderful and very beautiful art on faso reminds me of a time when i was only 5 and viewing the world's best art in the Toldeo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio, brings back those very special memories. Just from your expresiion and care to share your view gives us a better view ourselves and I know I am better for reading your story, thank you, have a blessed day, and I hope your inspirations are always the sweetest as you paint and share your beauty in a sometimes not so kind world. Whenever I get the cart in front of the horse with my sales , I just give some of my painting to a dear one, who works hard and struggles the same way we all do, all the feet are a different size but walk the same path, ever noticed how that works?

Jim Springett-wildlife painter

I agree with Bonnie. I almost put all my art stuff away and gave up. I love doing well as other subjects that many artists have done before me. I am also just starting out and still learning techniques. I do think we all have something to offer depending on our life experiences. Many artists could do the same landscape or still life or a tree for that matter and each is going to bring something different to it and there will be people who will connect with that. Why else does one go to an art exhibit or art museum and each of us will be drawn to something different there? And that is partly because of our experiences and how we perceive those experiences. Since I am still at that new, vulnerable, "am I really good enough to even keep pursuing my art" stage, I love the encouraging articles on here.. this one just made me feel discouraged. But I have to say after reading replies and rereading the article I do get what Rick is trying to say...get out of the rut and experiment with whatever speaks to you....Chris

Donald Fox
Long before there was an internet over which debates like this one could take place there were teachers who criticized students, jurors who criticized entries, critics who criticized exhibits, and everyone else who criticized whatever they felt like whether they understood it or not. That will no doubt continue as long as there are people to express opinions. Most of what has been written here does not apply to relatively new painters. Someone newly smitten by the art bug will not think about painting in the same way as a practiced, professional artist. New painters need encouragement.

At some point in the learning-expressing-creating process, most artists begin to question themselves and the art world of which they have become part. If I read Rick correctly, he's suggesting to question what you do as he apparently questions what he does. The opinion of what is bold, innovative, or unique isn't always recognized within the lifetime of the creator. All any of us can do is to be truthful to ourselves and create with integrity.

Virginia Giordano
To read this blog and maintain perspective I think two things are required; a level of detachment and ability not to personalize, and also a willingness to dig into our psyches as artists and people. The ideas in the blog are perhaps radical to some and may be challenging. Though to me it's truth. Also, maintaining detachment and being introspective at the same time can feel unbalancing until we are practiced at it.

'Go Ahead Be Daring' and the responses strike to the core of being a human being who creates art. And beautiful things were said by some bloggers about the process of being an artist.

This is the first blog that has engaged me on Faso in a long time. One can find a lot of hooey and knee-jerk atta boy responses, but this piece transcends that and provokes emotions worthy of investigation.

Rick, I feel you handled everyone's comments with professionalism and respect. Looking forward to your next blog. - Virginia

I totally agree with the basic message here to be daring and bold, and strive to do something fresh and new. I think today's best artists are doing exactly that. Some of them are going to be known as the "masters" tomorrow. Sometimes when I see those finalist paintings on Boldbrush, it just draws me in, and I can't help being fascinated by everything about it, the colors, and the composition. There is just something very interesting about a fresh innovative painting. I sit there mesmerized by what I see. But to get to that status, I think it takes a lot of effort, time and money. As I said I agree with striving to be daring bold just not with the negativity about the over done poor art out there, yes we know it, we see it and we're all trying!!!! Hey Van Gogh only sold one painting, imagine what they probably said about his art in those days!!

jim Springett
Hi Rick,

Lot's of good discussion like Brian Sherwin's blog a week ago and maybe we're not all so different. We have different feet sizes but we're all on the same path and hopefully doing our level best to do unto others as we make our journey.
I've been painting since '91 not as long as you probably, yet the one thing I have learned about being an artist is that every painting I make is new, unique and special to me, and actually most of the artists that I know all paint from their soul with each brush stroke so this is not new to me. Making a painting requires a great deal of heart. I noticed you spent some time on a few of our faso artist' websitess, did you have a moment to share your view of my work? I study and spend many hours in the field, wilderness to some, and learn all about what I paint, wildlife painting is my passion. I'm learning a lot about expressing what I see and learn in a very one of a kind way, and sharing my work on ebay, so learning my craft and learning about my customers takes a lot of hard work, marketing does not come naturally to me but I am learning. I'll do the same and check your website too. It's good to share ideas openly, not necessarily in a away that may be stepping on toes, I believe the vast majority of artists from those just starting to senior arts, are all engaed within their heart and soul and we all learn right up until we can no longer paint, in other words we never really arrive. Faso is great because artist at all levela are encouraged to participate and join in, that is how we all learn. Have a good evening.

Jim Springett-wildlife painter

You didn't set yourself up as an expert?

I missed what you said that might be positive about any representational art except, of course, to those 'professionals' among us who are in the 'know.'

Appreciate that! Thanks.

It does upset me that there were no positives about what it might be that makes art so daring and therefore, great. Something different...uh! Ok.

Gihan Zohdy
Rick, I agree with a few of your points, such as the lure of being commercial at the expense of being more creative. However, let's not speak of fellow artists in such a derogatory manner. There are some wonderful contemporary artists out there, who can not notice the wonder in David Leffel, Michael Maczuga, Michael Parkes or Odd Nerdrum, to mention just a handful? I ransack antiquity, the Renaissance the Boroque, that does not mean one cannot admire what is truly fine today. Just flipping through the pages of prestigious art publications makes the beholder stop to ponder. The art market is certianly inundated by mediocrity, that does not lessen the value of what is great.

jack white

David Leffel says in his book, there only five real artist in America, which he is one of them. I was stunned to read his thoughts. He doesn't think you and I are good enough to be called artist.

I have never agreed with that. I think anyone he has the courage to create is an artist. Some are more skilled than others.

jim Springett

The age old question the egg or chicken which came first? As I said last night in my earlier blog, I went to your faso website to learn more about your 30 years of dedication to creaing art that is pleasing to your field whether cusomers or those only viewing. I think from reading your inital artist statement sort of explains your view differently(more from your experience and your path) than your blog, and as such might be worthy to share in this blog. It is short yet very clear on what you learned though your years as a highly skilled artist. Others can decide what their motivatons are and I know from my work over the years i'm changing and maturing. I love to paint wildlife so that people will remember , never forget,to be careful with our wilderness and take care of the animal kingdom, did you ever notice animals do not need man's hands to survive yet man does need animals to survive.
Have a good evening.Jim Springett-wildlife painter

Carol Schmauder
You certainly inspired a lively debate, Rick. There is not anything that is totally original or hasn't been tried. I still enjoy a wonderfully painted landscape or still life and it is also fun to see an exciting new take on painting certain subjects. To me it is only important that a painting move me.

Rick Rotante
This blog; as with most blogs; is reminiscent of a child's game where you whisper something into the child's ear and it get whispered to six or seven other children and by the time it's said out loud, it doesn't resemble anything of the original context.

Kay Rideout
Rick, sometimes someone wants to comment on another commenter's comment. Rabbit trails happen.

My observation with the original context is that the subject is thought provoking, but presented in an abrupt manner which many found insensitive. Most could get past this if you had concluded with insightful, helpful advice, but you did not offer much more that the artist look for new subject matter, with which many disagree.

I think this topic has a lot of potential, so I give you thanks for bringing it up, I just think there needs to be refinement and more follow up with the solutions.

Rick Rotante
Kay - Giving advice would certainly have been pretentious on my part. The article was written based on what I see currently passing for ART.
I did state there is much good work being painted by talented artists who push the boundries. I may have hit a nerve with some and believe those who took offense may need to re-look at their own work.
I am used to offensive remarks. It goes with the territory. If a commenter chooses to demean themselves with epitaphs I don't usually bother to respond. I don't write in the hopes of make friends or saying the right thing to get approval. I try an speak honestly about how I feel and as a result I do ruffle a few feathers. I think many others should do the same.
I try and choose my words carefully and be subjective about my ideas, but many who read inject their own ideas and motives and agendas.
I say take what I said and think on it or not.
I never plan to incite for effect.
Being politically polite many times doesn't allow us to speak our true thoughts. The truth is a hard pill to swallow. I know because I swallow it every day.

Kay Rideout
Rick, I agree with you, it would be pretentious to give that kind of advice. So how does one try to give guidance as a conclusion when bringing up the topic of mediocre art? I've thought about this a bit, and I am open to others' ideas, but what comes to my mind is what Richard Schmid writes about in his excellent book Alla Prima. It is the elements of art. Line, shape, color, values, edges, texture, composition.

That is basically what artists have to work with. We can experiment with each element to find our vision. We can compare various artists' work looking to see how they handled each element differently. I suspect some artists find their vision intuitively, and others could benefit from planned challenges focusing on an element working trial and error style.

Quang Ho has some good instructional dvds which I have enjoyed and learned much from. He states that the #1 problem he sees in his students is drawing, and the second problem: drawing.

So for myself, drawing is big, even if I want to paint loosely, placement is important. Experiment and have fun!

Kay Rideout
I'd like to add, I am not ruling out new subject matter as a way to set yourself apart. I just don't think it is crucial to focus on that option alone just as I wouldn't select one of the art elements as The One that artists should focus on.

Rick Rotante
Carol - I too love to look on a beautifully painted landscape. I am waiting to see one that provokes my wonder at the beauty of life.
Kay - New Subject matter would be interesting. As with my own work I rely on old subject matter; the human form. It's perfectly well and good to repeat subject matter. For within that subject is an infinite amount of interpretations. Look at it this way. Writers all use the same language yet great writing takes that language and uses it in such a way as to bring insight and wonder to the reader. It takes them to places never visited or reveals an inner life rarely seen.
For those artists where this matters, there will be personal challenges, for others who don't....well this is just another blog.

Rick Rotante
Kay - Final comment - you couldn't be more right about drawing. I teach drawing and stress it in every painting class. When I see well painted works the one issue that stands out many time is the lack of drawing skill on the part of the artist. I can't understand spending hours even days or weeks on a work where the drawing is wrong.
Many of my students want to paint portraits or figures and most have no drawing skills to speak of. Worse yet they use photos to work from. The results are disastrous.
Painting is not about applying paint to a canvas. Many eventually learn the methods and techniques, but never learn design, perspective, how to interpret the scene or how to inject themselves into a work. Their work lacks heart, creativity.
As with any other art form: music, writing, dance- technique gets so far.
So we agree on something. Yes?

Connie McLennan
I am the most mundane of painters who may never achieve much in the way or originality. Nevertheless, I found your comments inspiring and completely in line with the opinions of one of my most important mentors.

Rick Rotante
Connie - Don't sell yourself short. Originality is within all of us regardless of expertise. It doesn't take an inticate complicated approach to achieve an original work of art.
I just takes an interest in achieving it.

Bob Ragland
I find that , I just do the work. What ever happens, happens.
I just enjoy pushing the paint around. I am past fretting over the art making. I didn't make the first cave painting.


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