Wednesday, April 26, 2006

valuing art

I have been completely fixated lately on figuring out how to market and increase traffic to my new small art blog, to the detriment of everything else. So far it's been a low-key trickle. It hasn't helped that I've had some less-than-ideal experiences with the bricks-and-mortar world lately, making me feel even more like I want to be able to control my own destiny. So, from joining blog directory sites, to begging for button links on my dear blogging friends' blogs, to ordering books and surfing sites on marketing, I've been more than a little obsessed. Meantime, nobody gets fed and no paintings get painted. Time to chill I think. I've always been just a wee bit impatient.

Sunday was one of those days when I tried to de-stress a bit. Zappa and I had a pleasant morning run, then in the afternoon Greg and I headed down to Birch Bay, ostensibly only a 40-minute drive, but since it's a foreign country, and my mind is stuck in pre-9/11 mode, we didn't expect the 1+ hour wait at the Peace Arch border crossing. So we decided to head east for a Sunday drive through south Surrey and Langley: beautiful, rolling estate and equine country.

This is how close we were to the States (those trees are in Washington state). Check out the name of the street.
Just down the road is my uncle's 35 acres where I frequently hung out on horseback in my early teens.

This is the view from the 49th parallel north towards Vancouver.
We eventually ended up at Domaine de Chaberton estate winery and took a little tour. Even though it's a riot of green everywhere else, the grape vines have only just started to bud.

Maria was our tour director and wine-tasting instructor. I couldn't keep my eyes off her as she has that kind of beauty that seems to blur ethnic lines. We liked the Chardonnay enough to buy a bottle for a friend.

It was while in the shop that I got my knickers in a minor twist again. There was a silent charity auction on a Robert Bateman litho print, minimum bid $200, going on. Normally I wouldn't feel the least bit stressed at seeing this because (a) I'm 100% behind artists who use their fame to donate work for charitable purposes, (b) there's a market for all kinds of art out there and somebody has to be the most mainstream, and (c) any way of making people look at fine art, be it through prints or magazines or whatever is a good thing. And there's no question that Bateman is the world master of the wildlife genre.

But when it occurred to me that Mr. Bateman was likely to sell out this edition of 4500 lithographic prints (signed and framed posters, essentially) for more than many artists can get for an original painting, I just felt a bit deflated. It made me depressed to think that this kind of marketing is vague enough to convince the uninitiated that they're buying real art, which therefore effectively siphons them off from the original art-buying market. The thing with original art, though, is that it seems like such a rarefied world that most people never even consider it. After all, they can affordably download their music or purchase CDs, go to the library, buy live theatre or music experiences, go to the cinema and rent movies, etc., so why shouldn't their visual art be also as accessible and affordable? But then, how many chances do you have to own an original manuscript or nail down an Oscar-winning performance to keep in your living room? Visual art is almost the only original art you can own.

In Robert Genn's book The Painter's Keys, he mentions that after family photo albums, beloved paintings are the first things that people grab when their house is on fire. I'm always surprised by just who buys art. It's so often not a measure of education, intelligence, desire for prestige or bank balance. I've noticed that those who desire original artwork come from all walks of life and all socio-economic pigeonholes, but they also possess a kind of sensitivity and appreciation for beauty and originality that you just don't see every day. Hmmm .... Maybe the real secret is to start with the human factor: to recognize and/or create the kinds of people who have that sensitivity dimension to their characters. This sounds like a job for the genetic engineers.

Lecture over. You may now return to your regular programming.

10 Comments:

Blogger susan said...

dear a.
always make art which comes from your heart. don't be deterred by idiots along the way and keep having adventures as you did in this story. they are serious fuel for the fire.
it all takes more time than either you or i are willing to wait for!
(off soapbox now)

27/4/06 4:59 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

What a great post. I really enjoyed reading this Andrea. The funny thing is, when I see your art and success, I feel like the "wannabe". It's all relative.
a.

27/4/06 7:19 AM  
Blogger Sheri Burhoe said...

Interesting post ! Just keep creating what you love and don't analyze so much.I find the less one stresses the easier things come their way. Your works are fantastic ! :) Sometimes I leave my artist cards with contact info on them in places such a my Dentist office, Doctors office and the local Arts Centre as well.

27/4/06 8:25 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Andrea - you are tagged!

I have also just shown a few of your, as yet unsold, masterpieces on my site in the interests of pushing more people your way.

27/4/06 11:58 AM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

I just found your small art blog via Caroline's blog, so there's one avenue! It's lovely! Your discussion of prints was interesting, above. I'm hoping that I may be entering a phase of my life when I can afford more original art (I recently bought a piece, yay!), but up til now I've mainly had to buy reproductions while traveling. I do LOVE the idea of owning originals, but I'm also a big believer in sharing art with the world at whatever price the world can afford, and I like the idea of reproduction as an illustrator, to get more people to be able to see my work, or anyone's work, and to be sort of populist with it. Sow art through the world! But I get your frustration with artists who can sell prints for so much... I guess some of them have earned it, but it is depressing.

27/4/06 12:37 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Susan: I think there's a link between creativity and impatience, don't you? :)

Andrea: Every step I take forward, all I see are all these steps in front of me, so I know what you mean. I tend to forget how many steps are behind me.

Sheri: Me? Overanalyze? What exactly do you mean by that? (hee hee)

Caroline: You are a sweetheart. (The cheque's in the mail :)

Laini: Like I said, I think the print market occupies an important niche and I even have some of my work in print. Illustration is a whole other ballgame, too, and meant to be shared widely. It's the marketing practices of those who exploit fame by setting up this grey area where the uninitiated think they're getting something created by the artist that gets under my skin. It's worked so well locally that people will actually say they "have a Robert Bateman" and can't see the disconnect.

27/4/06 12:55 PM  
Blogger susan said...

here is my opinionated two cents. always buy original art. if you spend 100 dollars on a print, most likely if you take your time and look around you will find a beautiful, small work for the same price. many artists we represent work on paper for just this reason. we always have original works at 35 - 100 on paper from artists who's large work goes for hundreds or thousands. works for us as a gallery and most often, people end up spending more and buying more small works over a period of time. and often for gifts even! we will never ever carry giclee prints or non origanal artists prints as it works against the originals.
heck, we even have hand made cards for $5 which people have bought and framed. there is no reason not to buy an original!
ok, told you it would be opionated...

27/4/06 6:41 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

I don't want to downgrade any method or mode, but the print market now is bogus because the galleries convince people that this is worth something they don't mention that there's an edition of 3500 in 4 different countries and that you are really buying one of 10,000. Most of the printing is done on machine which defeats the purpose of calling it a hand done limited edition. But all that aside people need to buy what they love not because of the value because in the end as you figure out in life things are only worth what you can get for it which generally speaking ain't much! Did you ever hear the famous story about the truck over turned in Paris filled with blank sheets of arches and jipon paper, 1000's of blank sheets signed by Dali! Very interesting post Andrea!!!

27/4/06 11:02 PM  
Blogger kyknoord said...

I know that your picture will be the first thing I grab if my place goes up in smoke.

28/4/06 1:19 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Susan: I like your opinion! I have heard that once you have something small it often gets the ball rolling.

Val: Wow -- inteersting comment. I hadn't heard the Dali story, either. I love it.

Kyknoord: :)

29/4/06 9:27 AM  

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