Do you mind if I tell you a little story?
“Lawrence, you need to make a decision,” she said, partly in exasperation, part in concern.
“What do mean Jeanette?”
“You need to decide whether your art is decorative or fine art.”
“I’m still not sure what you mean. Please explain.”
She sighed, “I mean do you want to see it hung in a museum or in people’s homes.”
I was flattered . . . in a museum? This all started in a discussion about our art. Her art is digital too. She’s in an MFA program in major city in Ontario, while I just do what I do in a small prairie center. Her goal is to create something that will one day appear in the history books. Mine is to pay the rent and keep me sustained enough to do more art.
The discussion was more about the frustrating business side of digital painting. The original art is essentially in a file and then printed in a museum-quality way. However, museums are used to showing art that is one-of-a-kind. It seems that is the point she was trying to make.
That’s a big decision from a business point-of-view, though it has nothing to do with the creative process. We talked about how people get confused by it all. When they think of prints they think of a photograph or scan taken of a one-of-a-kind work of art, and so the quality is not the same as the original.
However, with digital painting each print is a first generation of the original art. We talked about that too.
“But Jeanette, here’s where we disagree. I can produce the exact same work of art for a gallery as I can for someone’s home. I know that’s a big change for the gallery world, but I never intended to screw anything up. I just love doing my art as I do it, and never really thought of things much . . . and by the way, thank you for the really nice compliment!”
Jeanette didn’t say anything for a minute. She was thinking. She understood the importance of it from the marketing point of view. After all, in a previous life she owned a pretty successful advertising boutique. She also lives in different circles from me. She’s not a snob about it all, but she’s very much aware of the games that go on in the world of art . . . the silly ones really.
One of those games concerns limited editions. I expressed my frustration at that, telling her that I’m not going that route anymore. There’s a lot of trust involved on both sides . . . artists and buyers, and anyone else in the middle. Besides, very few limited editions really go up in value, so it’s a dangerous game investment wise.
She seemed to sense that I was making my decision as the conversation went on. She understood when I explained how my only real way to reach art lovers is online, at least for now. She sympathized with my desire to simply have people buy my art because they like it or love it. She understood how I hope that when necessary, it brings them a much-needed smile or some kind of inspiration.
She kind of frowned slightly when I added, “and that could be anybody . . . I’ve gone with open editions and am making my high quality art available at the lowest prices I can justify.”
It was obvious that Jeanette didn’t approve. How could she? She had long forgotten the pressures of rent and such. She had many luxuries that I don’t, including time. She can travel and shmooze and sell the odd piece for $5,000 while I plug away at prices that start at $32 . . . funny thing is that most find my art to be more interesting hers. Then again, her customers don’t know of me, and they seem to want something to pay that kind of money for . . . it just takes some convincing in terms of the value.
Jeanette and I never discussed value, or technique for that matter. For me it’s because I know how she does her art, and it really is just pushing a few buttons. Mine is much different, much more like real painting, more hands on and lots of TLC. As for her silence on the matter, well . . . she simply knows that I know!
Before we parted ways for the last time, I asked, “Why not both?”
She was already walking away and turned and gave me a puzzled look, “Excuse me?”
I said, “Why not both? Why can’t I sell the same work of art to people for their homes and still have one hanging in a museum?”
She kind of laughed, definitely gasped. She never said a word, but the laugh was meant as agreement, while the gasp was definitely to say, “the horror of such an idea!”
This is the end of the story. My art will likely never be in any museum. That was never part of the dream and so that’s okay. And if I want it published in a book, I can damn well do that on my own! Then again, all I really want is for those who love it to have it in their homes, and once awhile smile for the picture.
Now here’s a video that in a way makes fun of my art predicament, but please don’t think of my art in terms of photocopies or even mass-produced big-box posters . . . each one is the same as the original . . . hence that wonderfully confusing new term, “multiple originals”! I had quite a discussion about that with one of my old economics professors not long ago. However, that’s another story – one in which we both laughed a lot!
Finally, finally . . . and one of these days I really must finish that little story . . . the one about gravity, and how apples really do float. Ah, the Son of Man (the painting)!