Saturday, September 30, 2006

CALL TO ARTISTS: An Introduction.

I want to give my personal welcome to artists of every style, medium and background to post a link to their personal art website. Feel free to introduce yourself and link your gallery as well. This is my 'hats off' to the many members of our community. Together we can make this blog an inclusive environment for each member who is willing to participate.

Comment on the galleries that are posted and expect others to comment on your gallery as well. This is an opportunity for us to see what our community has to offer and to talk about where we are going with our art. Please list any influences you may have or anything else that pertains to your work. How long have you worked? What are your artistic goals?

Sure, we may discuss some red-hot topics, but in the end we form connections that are positive as far as our development as artists is concerned. (It is important to think about every aspect of art).I can't promise that we will always have an amicable environment on the blog, but I can promise that there will always be new information and artists to challenge our way of thinking.My goal is for the blog to be mix of intellectual challenge and fun.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Friday, September 29, 2006

Higher Education in Art: Does The MFA Make You a "Better" Artist?

Through the years I have spoken with many artists who seemed disgruntled about having not earned a Master of Fines Arts degree. Many of them feel that their art careers have suffered since they never obtained a higher education in art. They often complained about artists who have earned an MFA when we conversed about this issue.

It was common for them to claim that artists who have an MFA are treated "better" because of the degree they hold. What do you think about this issue? Does a degree in art make someone a better artist? Does it 'pay' to earn an MFA? Do you think people favor artists who have an educational background in art? Should they even consider it when considering the value of the artist as a whole? Have you ever experienced anything negative in your art career due to not having a degree? (Or having one?)

Once, over several cups of coffee at a cafe, a fellow painter ranted for over an hour about the "elitist mentality of galleries and museums". He ranted, "They only value the degree you hold... not what you are doing with your art!" (Needless to say, I made him pay for the coffee after enduring his lecture.). This associate felt that "untalented hacks" were being chosen over him simply because of their degree.

How true is his experience? Could he have just been paranoid or trying to find an excuse for his failure? Has it happened to you? I'm sure we all have examples of it, but do you think it is a widespread problem? If it is, are these professionals wrong for 'raising the bar' as to who they accept and who they turn away? Are the professionals making a grave error as to who they select for representation? (Remember, there have been many famous artists who never attended a school of art).

I highly doubt that every museum/gallery decides the art they are willing to represent on a degree alone. However, I can see why an inexperienced collector would choose an artist who has an MFA over an artist who does not. Our society values higher education so it may be easy for someone new to art collecting to think that only artists with a degree are worth investing in. After all, when you need something fixed do you call the guy down the street or do you call the certified repairman?

In truth, Average Joe down the street may have more experience and knowledge of the repairs needed, but the certification gives the other guy a sense of credibility. It gives the customer the feeling that he is getting what he paid for. Is this fair? Not necessarily, but how can you change the mindset of the general population? How can you make them feel secure in their purchase when their security is often rooted in the credentials that you have?

This topic is a two-sided coin. I've also spoken with artists who are unhappy with the MFA they have earned. Some have stated that the degree is, "Nothing but a waste of money." or that they could have "learned all of this on my own.". A few have even claimed that the MFA "Held" them back as artists. They felt that the art they do would have been better accepted by others outside of academia had they been 'outsider artists'.

How ironic... some of the haves and the have-nots both feel "held back' over the same degree, but for different reasons.What do you think about this? Do you think an MFA degree is a necessity in regards to having a successful career in art? Do you think it is just a piece of paper that brings with it much debt?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Material of Controversy: Is the worth of our art decided by the materials we use?

What makes a work of art controversial? What gives a painting 'shock value'? A realistic painting of the Madonna with Christ done in oil paint is deemed beautiful, but a piece of similar quality and intricacy is deemed worthless by many if it is done in blood. If said piece is done with HIV infected blood (Which some artists have used as a medium) it is deemed horrible or downright blasphemous.

The HIV image would be labeled as 'shock' art by many with an end result of the artist not being taken seriously. Yet the images were both created by artists who share a close level of skill and natural talent. The two artists may even share an equal interest in exploring their artistic potential, process, and method. However, the oil painter will be accepted over the other and the 'loser' will be deemed untalented or unskilled.

Based on this observation, it would seem that the materials alone decided the fate of the painting. Do the materials we use really matter as to how our work should be valued?

Many would say, ""Why use THAT to create a work of art!" when observing the various materials used by artists in the last fifty years alone. Well, why not use IT and everything else? Is it a crime to experiment with materials? Why do so many seem to fear this form of change? After all, the goal of many artists is to learn what works and what does not. To some it is a form of science.

It can be said that such experimentation is the heart and soul of the 'art world'. The art world would become stagnate if artists did not work in new ways to express their vision. If it were not for this spirit of experimentation we would all still be locked in the cell of the academic tradition.

It is my opinion that the more these artists are censored by the public and rejected by their peers, the more the art world will be restricted before everything is said and done. And to think, much of it has to do with the materials these artists use... nothing more.

Why label a painter as a 'shock artist' just because he or she decides to explore the potential of a rarely used medium in order to convey a visual message? Would the same painting be enjoyed by the viewer had it been painted in a traditional manner? Remember, the artist may not wish to shock anyone. Shock may be the furthest thing from his mind. Yet he is labeled because of his choice of medium and his career directive is set in stone based on mere assumptions of what his intentions are.

Think of the 'shock artist' that disgusts you the most. Is the artist Damien Hirst? Perhaps the artist is Tracey Emin? How about Nobuyoshi Araki? Many people find these artists to be 'shocking'. Have you ever bothered to read what the artist has written about his or her work? Does the artist truly mean to shock others... or are you just shocked by the materials that he or she has chosen?

These artists may be representing a clearer image of our reality than any traditional artist. Perhaps that is why their work, and the way they present it by using unorthodox materials, is loathed or feared. Perhaps these works are to 'real' for many of us to deal with.

While you ponder this question think about how our world has changed. Some of your interests would be considered shocking by your great grandparents, true? Does that mean you should stop researching or exploring them? Is your answer "no"? If so, why should these artists stop creating?

Take care, Stay true

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Vanity Publications: Is the cost of being accepted worth the cost of your art career if you are accepted?

I'm certain that at one point in every artists life he or she will be tempted (or will know someone who has.) to order and submit work to some $19.95 publication claiming to be on the 'cutting edge' of artistic publications. Publications like this offer artists the chance to have their work 'recognized nationally by art critics and collectors.' simply by submitting artwork. They often claim to be the perfect PR move for aspiring artists. What you read may sound good, but the end result may be very bad for your career as an artist.

Imagine, you are surfing the net and you discover a site about having your work published. The company offers you the chance to have your work displayed in the book with other talented artists. All you have to do is submit your work and you may be selected for the publication. Seems like a good PR move, right? WRONG.

A few days later you receive an email stating that your image has been selected. Your heart stops with excitement. After calming down you joyfully order a dozen copies for your friends, family, and one for yourself. You think about all of the people who will finally see your work.

"Will I become famous", "Will this help me obtain that grant?", "Maybe that MFA program will take me seriously now.", "Gallery representation is knocking on my door!"... thought after thought crosses your mind. Your work is finally going to be published! You go to bed after telling all of the people close to you (and a few you don't like... for bragging rights.) about your achievement. You dream of becoming an 'art star' over night after the publication is released. Sweet dreams? I can tell you right now (based on the experiences of some of my artist friends) that they are not made of this!

A couple of months pass and you finally receive your copies of the publication. Excited, you rip open the box containing the books and anxiously tear away the plastic wrapping from the first book you grab. You can't wait to see your artwork and the work of all the other talented artists represented in the publication. Horror strikes!

You discover that the book contains page after page of mediocre artwork. You turn the page and focus on a picture of a stick man riding a stick horse followed by a picture of a snowman dancing with a dog. You discover your own image on the opposite page as you stray away from the absurd images. You question yourself, "Talented artists... fine art?" as the phone rings. It is one of your friends calling. He wants his copy of the book. Did you make a mistake? Yes. The question is, do you know how big of a mistake you may have made. One thing is for certain, this mistake could cost you far more than $19.95.

These types of books are nothing more than vanity publications. They target aspiring artists who are hoping to bypass the 'grit' of the art business in order to 'make it big'. These companies prey on the dreams of creative individuals.The artist submits, gains acceptance, and orders a dozen copies. The catch is that everyone who submits will most likely get accepted. There may be a hundred different versions of the same publication created, each containing art by different artists. The company has long since cashed your check by the time you find out that the publication is not what it was represented to be. (That is where their 'fine print' comes into play.)

True, the book is about artists and their art, the company did not lie about that, but the caliber of the artists published can vary greatly. A serious artist would most likely not want his or her art shown in the same context as others who may be mere 'hobby painters'. The negative side of having your work in a vanity publication is that your art may be devalued by those who observe your work alongside art that is of a lesser quality. Once the book is printed your ill decision is documented for all to see (I've seen these books sold at art fairs and on library shelves.). The damage can haunt your career as an artist for years or become a rather nasty inside joke. Good PR move? Nope.

There are smart choices an artist can make before falling into the vanity publication trap. Online galleries, like those supported by, are good PR moves for any serious artist. True, the artists on any art site may have different levels of skill and talent, but each individual is represented by his or her own gallery. They are not all lumped into one solid shell like vanity publications tend to do.

Unlike vanity publications, an online gallery offers the individual artist to stick out rather than being represented as having equal skill and merit. The artist is not represented by every other artist upon the site. He or she is represented by his or her own personal space. Your online gallery is a representation of you alone. Vanity publications represent everyone as a whole (regardless of skill or merit), which has an end result of misrepresenting talented artists to whomever picks up a copy of the book.

A little PR can go a long way, but if done in the wrong manner it can make an artist seem desperate. However, I understand that our need for being "seen" sometimes clouds our decision making and choices. Thus, I will stress that the best way to be "seen" is to maintain an online gallery (Like the galleries we have on Being involved with your online gallery is a far better PR move than relying on any form of vanity publication.

Allow me to be frank, do you want to be a coffee-table memory or a successful artist? These publishers can be the lemon-car dealers of the art world! Remember, famous artists of the past did not pay to be included into vanity publications. They put their work out for people to see. Today we have the option of putting our work out for thousands to see daily on an online gallery. Take advantage of it.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What Is Acceptable Art: A Question Every Artist Should Ask.

What is acceptable art? This has been a question asked by every art observer since the time art was first appreciated for aesthetic value. Through the centuries certain artists and their styles have been embraced or rejected by their peers. We will all face this at some point in our art career.

More often than not, an artist who is rejected by his or her generation (Vincent Van Gogh, Egon Schiele, George Grosz) will be widely accepted by a future generation. Think about the controversial artists of our time. Will they be widely accepted tomorrow? Should we, as artists, accept them today?

It seems that many artists are just as guilty as the public in regards to judging the value of certain artists who work in a radical manner. It is an 'at least the finger is pointed at them' mentality' which, in my opinion, has an end result of hurting every artist.

The truth of the matter is that many artists are held back if the general public is adamantly against their work. Their peers, within the context of the art world, rarely show them support out of fear of being 'fingered'. When will we unite to support those who have been thrown out on the edge? When will we start to point back?

It often seems that the controversial artist walks alone as if he or she has the plague. Should we give them support when this breed of censorship occurs? How safe are we in the future if a few are allowed to be persecuted for their art today. As for myself, I would rather not play Russian roulette as to what art is acceptable and what art is not. I know that a hundred years ago my work would have been seen in a negative light by most of the public. Thus, I will be tolerant of all art today.

Remember that at one time Picasso was seen as a disgrace to the popular concept of art, George Grosz was observed as being a 'butcher' rather than a painter, and Vincent Van Gogh was only accepted by a select few within his inner circle. Now these artists are famous the world over. Let us not allow artists of our time to be denied their chance at success due to our own perception of what art should be. After all, the next artist that is held back may be you.

My opinion is that making rash decisions about what is acceptable in the art world is like stomping on the lungs of creation. The advancement of art, no matter how refined or brutal, should be allowed to breathe. Anything less than this will lead to the suffocation of expression as a whole. Think about this the next time you write a fellow artist off as a hack or perverted lunatic.

What is acceptable art?... All art?... Good and bad? Does the process alone give value to the worth of the work? Does the dedication of the artist make the art acceptable no matter what the subject matter or materials used? Would Picasso's "Guernica" not have the same message and fame had he mixed blood in his paints? Would LĂ©onard de Vinci's "Mona Lisa" be so respected had he used traces of feces? Would Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" been so infamous had he used dye? Think about this and feel free to respond.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New contributor to the myartspace blog

I wanted to welcome on board Brian Sherwin (aka "balhatain") to the myartspace blog. Brian is a member of the myartspace community and an aspiring artist from Illinois. He graduated from Illinois College in 2003 and plans on entering an MFA program at Goddard College in the future. He's been an active artist for the past 12 years and began his drawing work at age 3. He has interesting insights into the art world and he is a welcome addition to our team.