What is ‘true art’?

    Background: In December 2003, a debate flared up online when someone used the phrase ‘true art’ and tried to suggest that some artists’ works aren’t really art. This was my reply. I think that it applies to many discussions about art as a profession, so I’ve included it here.

If we start debating what is “true art,” we’re going to have problems in a hurry. Most of them will be semantic.

Recently, I laughed out loud when one directory-type website put all “physical arts” (ballet, etc) in the category of “sports.”

I understand their dilemma. I mean, some of the gymnastic work that I see at the Olympics (for example) are very definitely “art,” but they’re also sports. How can anyone draw a line between the two?

So, let’s not go down any path that involves saying what’s “art” or “true art,” and what isn’t. There will always be debates about the nature of crafts, and where mixed media art fits in, and so on. That’s just semantics.

In my opinion, it’s art if you say that it’s art. Period.

Along the same line… Let’s not reduce our discussions to what artistic compromises and marketing techniques are acceptable or moral or anything like that.

Most of us make compromises now & then, if not in our art then in our marketing, to secure an income.

I follow trends and statistics to see what’s selling well at eBay and elsewhere. And often, I look at them and realize, “Cool! I’ve wanted to try some art in that style. Now I have a good excuse to do that!”

I learn from the process, and the art usually sells.

Is it all true, meaningful art? I haven’t a clue. It’s creative and it’s fun. I call it art. That’s all that really matters.

Share and Enjoy !

Teaching at National Art Events

If you’ve been teaching at shops for awhile, national art events might be your logical next step. However, they’re not the best choice for everyone.

For the first year or two, expect to lose money teaching at art events. Event paychecks may look juicy, but when you factor in travel, supplies (that you provide), and prep & recovery time, it can equal minimum wage.

Events often require more complex classes, with far more info, more demos, plus more handouts and supplies that you provide.

To learn more about paycheck issues at events, see my article, What Art Teachers Are Paid.

You’ll need to create very different classes than what you usually teach at shops.  Students won’t pay high event prices for classes they can take — for far less — at a local shop.

You’ll need to steadily create new classes, anyway. Some of your event students will go home and teach the exact same class… for far less than you’d charge. They may even use your handouts without your permission. (Almost every teacher has dealt with this at least once. Be gracious about it, but be certain they’re crediting you for the original information. After all, that’s good for your reputation.)

Some teachers continue teaching at shops.  Many don’t.

Within a couple of years on the national scene, other income opportunities will open up.  National events make you into a ‘name’ in this field. Your artwork might earn higher prices in galleries. You may discover licensing opportunities, book contracts, and — of course — fabulous networking… but don’t count on that your first year or two.

The tricky part can be bringing in income during those “bridge” years.  Etsy is one of many options.

Teaching at national events propels your career so quickly, it can be breathtaking… or overwhelming.  It’s not a smart choice for everyone, especially if you’re re-entering the work arena due to an abrupt change in circumstances.

But, if it works well for you, the personal rewards — far beyond the paychecks — are tremendous!

Share and Enjoy !