Thursday, June 28, 2012

Arting Other Artist's Art

While I’ve been toning my figurative painting muscles over the past year, I’ve run into an interesting problem. There is art everywhere.

Epic Cafe Painting
While clearly this is not a quality of life problem, it does pose a challenge in art. I don’t want to paint other people’s artwork. For example there is a wonderful mural on the Epic Café which I have recently made a painting of. However, I was working on a post-impressionist-esque (like that?) style which would not do the mural justice, plus someone already painted that mural. I don’t want to paint it again. So I added a few brush strokes to suggest the mural.

Epic Cafe, Tucson, AZ
Murals, tattoos and graffiti are all around and each represents other people’s art. To photograph them or to paint them in a photorealistic style could do them justice, but why paint someone else’s artwork? From a documentary point of view you could show the juxtaposition of a purely functional warehouse wall with tags on it or a beautiful tattoo on a person, but the bottom line is; I did not make that graffiti. I did not design or execute that tattoo. The graffiti/tattoo artist made that juxtaposition or that beauty themselves. They beat me to it. It is theirs.

I feel like the same goes for painting buildings. CharlesSheeler did a beautiful job showing the unintentional beauty of industrial buildings. But when an architect creates a building where beauty is an intention, why paint it?  I would be merely documenting someone else’s creation. Maybe in fifty years it would be interesting to show the atmosphere and gravity’s effect on that structure. But in the present it is a work unto itself. So, I will leave it alone. 

Before this digresses into theories on the role of photography and photorealism, I’ll leave you with this. I am learning that as a 21st century artist it is my job to paint my own reality whether figurative or abstract. It is fun to reflect or interpret what I see, but I think I must not base my work on the work of others.

Not Going to Paint This

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shameless Self Promotion

Back in 2002, right after I moved to Brooklyn, I got it in my head that I was going to be the next big thing in art. I didn’t really have the work to back it up at the time, but I arrived in New York with my ego blazing. I ordered some “Tim Doyle’s Really Fine Art” postcards. Bought a display easel. Put on a pin striped suit and headed out to Chelsea with a painting under my arm. My plan was to be my own Chelsea gallery on the sidewalk. I had heard that selling artwork on the sidewalks of New York was perfectly legal and had a backup plan to explain that I was not selling, but simply displaying my artwork. This would certainly be the case anyway.

I set up “shop” outside of a vacant store front at 532 West 24th Street (now home to Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery), right down the street from the Larry Gagosian Gallery and Mary Boone Gallery at the time. I had watched Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat” too many times and was convinced that if I parked myself there someone would notice me. Some people did. Most did not. I tried to hand out cards to the many art tours which passed by that day. Most were not impressed, but they were not repulsed thanks to the power of the suit. One person that was impressed was a cab driver who was fascinated with my little stunt.
He drove by me in the morning very slowly, circled the block and stopped in front of me. “Hey! What are you doing?”

“I’m showing my painting!”

“That is yours?” he asked.

“Yup! That’s mine!”

“Very nice! I like it!”

“Here! Have a card!” I said happily.

“Thank you! Give me more!”

I gave him some cards and he went on his way. Throughout the day I saw him drive by with a fare, pointing at me and presumably explaining what I was doing.

Across the street from my post there was a giant construction site which is now a luxury apartment building. There was a construction worker who was not so appreciative of my efforts. He came walking over to me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was showing my painting.

“You can’t do that!” he explained loudly. “You have a permit?”

“Sure I can! You can sell books and art on the street,” I told him.

“No. This isn’t right.” He looked around uncomfortably and went back to the construction site.

An hour later, he ran over and asked “Does the landlord know you’re doing this?”

“I’m on a public sidewalk,” I told him, “The storefront is vacant.  I don’t see what the problem is.”

He seemed angry and frustrated and ran back across the street to the construction site. A short time later a tenant walked into the building’s foyer and the construction worker ran across the street and accosted the tenant, yelling at him and gesturing at me. At this point I was sunburned and needed to find a bathroom, so I packed up and walked away, not waiting to see what the tenant would say.

I gave out a lot of postcards that day and for my efforts saw a small spike in traffic on my website. I was not “discovered” by a gallery, nor should I have been at the time, as I only had five or six paintings. But I seemed to make one New York cabbie happy and I think that made it all worthwhile. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Really Fine Art Criticism

I have never really been afraid of criticism of my artwork by the public. Within a year of declaring that I was a painter and making my first painting I had an exhibition at a café in Boston called Curious Liquids. I was a wonderful place, perched atop Beacon Hill across the street from the Statehouse. It was surrounded by Emerson College and Suffolk University and so attracted a very dedicated mix of students, artists and proto-hipsters of the mid-nineties. I enjoyed sitting at the café, drinking giant coffees and smoking endless cigarettes while watching people walk around and look at my paintings. I remained anonymous for the most part, at least until the viewer had done their rounds and shared their honest opinions.

 “Clearly they are derivative of…”

 “He needs to learn to stretch a canvas…”

“There’s a lot of movement…”

“Why does he sign his name so big?”

If they had a question I would pipe up, oblivious to the embarrassment it would cause them. I preferred to do this than to ask my friends their opinions both because their opinion would be colored and I would take criticism from them more personally than a stranger. The other thing that I liked about getting honest opinions by eavesdropping on strangers was that people who didn’t normally talk about art would give their opinions. My paintings were less figurative in those days and I liked to get “non-artist" opinions on paintings. The most flattering thing I heard was when someone who doesn’t consider themselves “creative” says “I don’t normally like abstract art, but I like this.”

 I exhibited some paintings at an electronic music festival in Boston and hovered around them listening to people talk about them. The most memorable contributor was one very excited guy who ran over to one of my paintings, grabbed a friend and screamed at him “Yes! Yes! That’s my shit! That’s my shit! Not so much that one, but THAT ONE!” He then ran onto the dance floor and removed his pants. I love rave reviews. While in New York, I tried a few different publicity experiments. One day I posted an ad on Craigslist inviting people to look at my website and invent an “ism” which applied to my work. A response was posted and I paraphrase, “How about ‘Hasafewgoodideasbutnonaturaltalendandcouldreallybenefitfromartschoolism’?”

 I’ll admit to spending a good hour trying to write a snappy comeback, but abandoned it in the realization that I had asked for it.

After the Great Freak Out of 2009, I got back on the horse here in Tucson and have been quietly making more paintings than ever before. I’ve had a couple of paintings in gallery group shows, but haven’t really received a lot of feedback from those. However, it is here that I discovered the feedback of the patron. A collector began acquiring several of my paintings last year and it is from him that I have received some of the most valuable feedback ever. He is able to tell basically what I was thinking when I make a painting. He knows when a painting has shortcomings and why. It is not just the feedback that is valuable from this individual, but the knowledge that I have successfully connected with an audience. Beyond money, recognition, admiration, and finding value in something you do, beyond all of that, connecting with an audience is what any art is all about.