Monday, October 09, 2006

Post to Class Blog

I spent today at the glass studio, making Christmas balls to sell at an upcoming festival. While they offer a great profit margin, more than a few glassblowers are driven away from making ornaments because of the mindless repetition involved. I find, however, it can be a great time to think. And what I thought about today was selling art.
The reason Christmas balls are my best-selling item is that I can make them quickly, and therefore keep them inexpensive. Anybody who wants a little art in their home can afford one. If some rich idiot wanted to pay $5 million for one of my paintings, I’d take it! But I am more interested in finding a way to make painting accessible to as many people as possible.
This idea about Cheap Art isn’t a new one for me, nor did it come from my glassblowing experience. The biggest influence seen in my paintings is from cartooning. Comic and manga artists, and animators, spend an enormous amount of time on their work. But after the work is reproduced in its final form, it’s sold cheap. I am using forms that developed as a result of the constraints of these industries, but in a medium which doesn’t lend itself so easily to mass production. The painter Takashi Murakami tried to tackle this issue in various ways. He collaborates with other artists and craftspeople (a big aspect of animation and glassblowing too) and created a system for making his paintings which he even calls a “factory.” He sells everything from vending-machine figurines to multi-million dollar sculptures. But his form of Dadaism has yet to prove its sustainability. He himself has publicly worried about losing credibility in the fine art world. His idea, I guess, is to sell the cheap trinkets while keeping the interest of the big buyers. I like Murakami’s assessment of the art market, but am not entirely satisfied with his methods for shaking it up.
To this end I have been doing a few oil paintings on sealed paper. I can certainly sell a large work on paper for less than one of equal size on canvas. And more importantly, I’m discovering it’s a really fun way to work. The paint flows more easily on this surface- it behaves more like ink when thinned with turpentine, and the paper isn’t as absorbent as gessoed canvas. I’m working from sketches and trying to keep my compositions simple for now.


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