Every month at the Sonoran Arts League meeting there is a different program. One month it was about stolen holocaust art and the fact that statute of limitations are running out so it is re-emerging. One month it was a quilt artist that did the most incredible work with fabric that you would never think of sleeping under one. Another month it was about how to write press releases. The list goes on.
This past Monday night’s program was a critique. Wow. I was transported back to college and I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack right there on the spot. Until I realized that my pieces weren’t on the block. The meetings are held in the community room of a bank and the League has a monthly curated show there that fills the walls with art. The gentleman who did the critique, Merrill Mahaffey, went around the walls and spoke on each piece. It was absolutely fascinating…gentle yet thought-provoking.
<> Merrill is an older man who has been painting for a lifetime. He does watercolors of desert landscapes and they sell for up to about $40,000, that I know of. He stated that there wasn’t one piece up there that he didn’t like because he loves all art. Still, hearing a critique, especially if you didn’t know it was coming can be hard.
<>So, what did he say that has me writing this whole post? These are close paraphrases. Quotes are used for emphasis. ‘Your art should give meaning to your life – not to follow someone else’ when he was critiquing a great pen and ink drawing…saying that ‘many people have drawn animal skulls, or copied other styles, but how can you make it different?’ I loved that because that’s what I try to do…take something ordinary and make it different. That is what gets you noticed (and keeps you from getting bored). ‘Make it say something about yourself.’ Not that it necessarily makes you a best-seller, right away, but you will get notice. Also, ‘Discover what you like about something and work on that.’ For example, if you like color, exploit that. If you like shadows, exploit that. If you like texture, focus there.
<>Of course, the thought in the back of many minds was, ‘But we need to sell our work.’ And that was stated out loud, to which he replied that he believed in ‘making the work you love and finding a way to sell it’…not the other way around. Genius. Marketing in itself is an art (he didn’t say that, I did). He also said that ‘the pioneers of new movements (cubism, realism, expressionism, etc.) weren’t always necessarily great artists but they were doing something that no one had seen before’ and that ‘if you put it out there, eventually people will start to like it.’ Have you ever had the experience of your newest, best work not selling but last years pieces (or older) fly off the table? I think that’s why. People aren’t ‘used to it’ yet. But then you will find those people that appreciate what is new and want it before it catches on.
<>I could go on and on with nuggets but those few really spoke to me. They were affirming and encouraging.