Thursday, June 6, 2013


In recent years I haven't gelled well with many commercial galleries. Okay, if I'm going to be honest, I don't exactly kill myself getting out to them, and showing them work, simply because many of them want a sellable name. I'm not famous, I don't set myself up as a brand, and I certainly don't want to be a 'celebrity artist'. But the fact is that galleries are in the business of setting up and marketing a sellable brand. And in order to have a 'brand', you need to produce something that is distinctively recognisable as created by 'you'.

This is where many artists start reproducing their own work over and over again, with slight variations. They get stuck in their own formula. The gallery will take this and work on it, and use it for marketing purposes, which is fine because that is their business - but it doesn't really hide the fact that the artist is churning out the same old shite over and over again, like some kind of production line. The actual creativity is redundant.

I should qualify that I am talking about drawing and painting, specifically. And doing the same drawing and painting over and over again, with tweaking. The same face. Or faces. Gestures. Landscape. Still life. Whatever.

I suppose that most galleries have to be able to 'sell' something that's obviously by the same artist, and subject matter is the sneaky trick. Is it that much easier to convince a potential art buyer that, because this new painting by this artist is so similar to the one by the same artist that the art buyer bought last month, the buyer is getting a great deal? Surely art buyers are not that dense?

I was told that in order to be commercially successful, I would have to paint the same damn thing every time. What? was my reaction. No way. Why would I do that? Tedious, to say the least. I LIKE chopping and changing my subject matter. If I feel like doing a landscape, I'll do a landscape. If I feel like working up a nude painting from a drawing, that's what I'll do. When I want to do a crowd scene, I'll do one. And don't tell me I can't do a still life. If I feel like drawing or painting inanimate objects, I'm bloody well going to do it. And if I'm going to be inspired by a photo, or a poem, or a piece of writing, or play with wax and crayons, well, that's it.

As someone who has spent many years working on my observation and drawing skills, it's actually kind of insulting to say I have to stick to the same subject matter. There's a reason why I sit down and look and draw and paint - it's to learn and do and make. And to do and make WELL. Why shouldn't I bring a gallery a range of the work I've produced? I can do it. I have the skills.

So I'll just continue making work that pleases ME. I'm not funded by any organisation, or any gallery (the very thought! :-D) or any patron, I have nobody to answer to. I may be broke, but I'm still independent.

Sketchbook project, number 28, from 2011. Watercolour sketch.

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