Monday, January 25, 2010

First painting of Phase II complete

I feel like I’ve been living like a hermit for the past few months. Better to save you from my misery and post less than post at all. After nearly three month of languishing over The Feast of Bacchus, it is complete. Nine portraits in one 5’ X 6’ piece, this particular feast is filled with volunteers from the portrait painted project and I’d like to thank each of them for participating. Rather than call them out individually, I’ll just say “you know who you are and thanks for being the first— of what I hope to be many—guinea pigs.”

For those of you who know me personally, you know I really hate waxing intellectual about art. I don’t feel you need a master’s degree to paint (obvious since I don’t have one) nor do I feel you need to know anything about art to appreciate and talk about it. Viewers should be able to look at something and say “I like this” or “this is fucking garbage” and that should be sufficient. However, what I would like for people to take away from any experience of seeing a painting they enjoy is a desire to see more, to learn more, to be inspired more. More. More. More.

History has left behind some fantastic artists and thus fantastic paintings. The original painting, found here, by Velazquez is by far one of my favorites from the Baroque painters. This painting is generally referred to as “The Drunkards” and the reason I chose this as the first painting in this part of the series is that Bacchus, in the world of mythology, is known as the god of wine, propagator of the grapevine and a provider of joy. Alcohol was then (as now) a much beloved rescue for the common man in the street, and as such Bacchus was considered to brighten the lives of ordinary people. It seemed fitting as a first choice for a project focused on painting the “every person” (I know I too grow tired of the quotations, but bare with me) enjoying a bit of rescue.

Of course, the other relevance I see is that as the individuals in the original are depicted congregating to eat, drink and be merry, so do we congregate daily on such social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Yeah, yeah ok, so we don’t exactly eat or drink online, but in a figurative sense, we do. Coming together on a daily basis with people we may or may not know in life and soak up the excesses via an online social networking so to do we feast.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An honest, top 10 list of lessons learned in 2009

2009 really was an amazing year for us at Held Studios, but it's always important for me to reflect on the things learned along the way in order to keep perspective on where we are today.

Let me set the stage for this post with a nod to a girl who's name I can't remember. She emailed us about half way through the year to ask Matt for advice on how to become a successful artist.

Right. Ok.

I am sure the response went something like this: "Paint everyday, and everyday you can't paint draw. Network. Do something that is relevant and will get people interested in your work. Seek out criticism from others, it's the only way you'll get better. And then, tell me what you think being successful means."

She wrote back, said thank you and that she would do just that. I don't think we heard from her again, but that's not why I make the reference. All the things mentioned above are true for most artistic endeavors - just substitute "paint" for write, dance, act...But defining success is really the most important piece of it all.

If you define success by consistently selling work, or being represented, or getting published, landing a part you really wanted, receiving a grant, or a performing in a solo show, then strive for that "success".

Some people may think this list is too honest, or maybe unproductive, but it is what it is. The reason I put it out there is because of one little virtue my parents tried to instill in me: humility. So take it for what it's worth, but here is our honest top 10 list of lessons learned from our success in 2009.

1: All the press in the world does not put food on the table. People have to buy your work in order to make money.
2: The art world is a fickle, fickle planet.
3: Even famous artists still have laundry to do on Saturday mornings, most of them do it themselves.
4: Trying to make money making art is not for the faint of heart.
5: Asking your fans for money can be incredibly rewarding and really frustrating.
6: The goal you set forth a month ago that seemed so easy to achieve might fail - not because it was easy, but because you can't control the universe and it's important to know that's ok!
7: Creativity is only half the operation. Remember you are a business, even when people treat you like you are twelve, you are still a business.
8: Everybody wants something for free. (see lesson #1 for emphasis)
9: Sometimes it's better to go to bed, wake up and start over.
10: Success is not defined in the same way for everyone, you have to define it for yourself.

I am sure there is much more I could add to this list. It would never be fully comprehensive or exhaustive because as we go along, we learn more and more.

2010 could be better than ever, but not if we don't set forth a new set of goals, keep lessons learned at an arm's reach and remember that success is measured by ones own ideals, not those of others.

Best of luck and good fortune to all of you this year!