Get Rid of the Labels and the Illusion

The article below was written by Jack White in Fine Art Views, a newsletter about Art and Fine Living…FAV allows subscribers to share the information it contains..
Jack White has the title Official Texas State Artist and recently Governor Rick Perry appointed him an Admiral in the Texas Navy. Jack has authored six Art Marketing books

This post touches on a discussion we had about improving our profile pages..(see link on the right), to whit whether using the words “self taught” is a good idea…this is Jack White’s take on it

I think there are pecking orders in most aspects of life. In small towns, it’s the county judge or sheriff at the top. In other small communities it’s the minister, teacher or winning coach.
In the art world the academia wants to impose a pecking order on those of us who have not endured art school. The sad part is so many of you reading this have fallen victim to allowing others to place you where they think you belong

It’s done with titles. You are a student, beginning artist, emerging artist (reminds me of a bug) and horrors of horrors you are self-taught.
By your acceptance that you are just a student, beginner, or an emerging artist you are playing into the pecking order as sure as if you were a stallion on Frank and Leos ranch

I have heavy disdain for those who place labels on artists. A term I totally despise is Starving Artists. Or people who name their gallery, The Starving Artist Gallery. Trust me on this. No one wants to buy from a starving artist. They want us to be successful. Likewise why would anyone want to buy from a student, beginner, and emerging or self-taught artist? Somehow those four negative terms make it sound like the student, beginner, emerging and self-taught artist would have less to offer than a ‘real artist’.

Being an artist has nothing to do with how much you earn or what level of skill you express. Being an artist is a mindset. It’s time you stopped letting the so-called experts put you down. Refuse to be placed in a slot by people who don’t know you or the passion in your heart. From now on shout to all you see, “I’m an artist.”

Pecking orders work in the animal kingdom, but I refuse to bow to any but my Lord. I am totally self-taught and have accomplished as much as all but a few academic art scholars. I was an artist the day I declared I was going to learn to paint. I’ve been an artist almost 42 years, but I’m also a student who strives to continue to learn. I believe everyone who makes art has the God given right to be called an ARTIST.

It’s never enough just to produce artwork; we must also market what we make.
I learned early in my career that how much people are willing to pay is based on their perception of the value of my art.
A few weeks ago a Vincent Van Gogh oil sold for over one hundred million dollars. The same art his brother, Theo, couldn’t generate any interest in. Theo finally sold two small paintings during Van Gogh’s lifetime.
What makes that Van Gogh worth millions of dollars today when at the time it was painted the work had no perceived value?
The answer is simple. Today there is an illusion that his work is that of a genius. When he was alive, he was thought to be a mentally disturbed man. Today, through marketing and slight of hand he has advanced to the top of the pecking order. The same depressed and depraved man is now considered a nova, well ahead of his era

Nothing has changed; his art has not been reworked. But shrewd art dealers began to build an aura around Van Gogh, placing his work at the high end of the pecking order. Brushstrokes in his day that looked like loose scribbles are now considered the work of a brilliant craftsman. The better the illusion, the more value the art is perceived to be worth. Most galleries today fail to sell the illusion; rather they try to sell the art.

Art has dream value. The value is conjured up in the mind of the buyer. If the buyer thinks the art will gain in value he is willing to spend. Using terms like starving, student, beginner and emerging doesn’t help you increase the value of your art.
Art has an established pecking order of worth. The public perceives that oils on canvas have more value than watercolors on paper
…(it’s time we changed this..edit.)
Somewhere in the annals of the art world a pecking order came into place .. perhaps by clever art dealers or gifted oil painters.

You have to build the dream, letting the buyer know you are an artist. Let’s face it, those at the high end of art marketing developed a pecking order for the value of art. As individual artists we must also build our own pecking order to establish the value of our work. As long as you see yourself at the bottom you can never get out of that hole. Eliminate your label and begin enjoying the status of being an artist. You are an artist, so you may as well enjoy the position.


I post these articles to inform, to aid in understanding other points of view, and to stimulate discussion..
Do you consider yourself to be an artist or are you struggling with the above labels?

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