Thursday, August 6, 2009

just a little something...that kinda bothers me...

Okay maybe I shouldn't even say anything. I do believe in karma. But I keep having little nagging issues that gnaw at my brain every now and then. As an artist I have to wonder if I should just jump on the bandwagon. The "bandwagon" being that minority of artists who paint a subject simply because it's a moneymaker. Even if they have no knowledge about what they are painting. Example (making it as brief as possible!):

Vending recently at a large Day of the Dead event. Set up next to an artist selling Day of the Dead and other religious themed paintings. Very nice lady and pleasantly nice all weekend. Lady has no idea what the Day of the Dead is about. Lady paints skeletons and calls them Day of the Dead paintings. Lady sells several "Day of the Dead" paintings at $250.00 each. Lady is also selling religious painting of saintly woman. Lady has no idea who saintly woman is. Lady saw the saintly woman at a museum in Italy and copied. Lady sells saintly woman painting sells that weekend for $900.00.

Okay label me jealous. Yes I admit it. I was jealous that she managed to sell a painting for $900.00 that weekend and most of us were struggling to sell our $20.00 items. I was happy that she sold the painting. Any independent artist who sells a higher end painting is like a victory for us all. But she simply had no idea that the saintly woman she had sold was La Dolorosa. The image of the painfully weeping mother who has lost her only son and who bears the seven sorrows of man as swords pierced deeply in her heart and is a beloved image in the catholic religion. But lady manages to pull the deal off with the customer and sell her painting. *sigh*

When I started creating Day of the Dead themed art several years ago, one of the first things I did was to read everything I could on the subject. Yes it was a cultural holiday that was undoubtedly celebrated by my ancestors long ago, but I knew that I could not create serious artwork unless I knew my subject. In other words, I can't just jump on the bandwagon and start painting skeletons for profit unless I know my subject.

I suppose that the success of selling art is in the hands of the buyer. I rarely have a customer who purchases a high end piece from me and does not want to know everything about it from what originally inspired me down to the painting process and method.

I see so many artists on etsy who are misusing the term "Day of the Dead" on items that should more properly be labeled for Halloween. There are no zombies, blood or gore associated with el Dia de Los Muertos.

If I decided to become a writer one day because I thought it would bring in some money, I would never write a book on "How To Speak Fluent Russian In Just One Day."

So I will conclude with this advice to new artists. Take a few moments to utilize the net or your local library and learn a bit about the images you decide to use in your art. Yes skeletons are big sellers and they're cool and lots of fun to paint. But take the time to find out why they are used in artwork and where the idea was originated. It's never too late to learn about other cultures and civilizations. You might also find that it enhances your own life and inspires even more creativity.


Tricia said...

I'm surprised she was able to sell a painting to someone with little to no explanation of its content. When my brother has a prospective buyer, they always ask 40million questions about him and the piece.

For what it's worth, I totally agree.

Kate8085 said...

I agree.
I lived in Mexico for awhile, and have celebrated this holiday for many years.
We had an altar at our wedding celebrating all of our loved ones that have passed on, and had an explanation of the holiday in our programs for people that were not familiar..
I see alot of weddings, tshirts, paintings, tattoos, etc..that are themed after this, and it kind of rubs me the wrong way.
People don't even take the time to research this beautiful event, much less celebrate it, but are quick to make a buck off it.
I have had a sugar skull tattoo for almost ten years now, and it still amazes me with the popularity of it these days, and the fact that people getting it have no idea what it is all about.

gennimcmahon said...

I feel like that about Frida Kahlo. I always assure people that I liked her "before she was trendy." They don't understand her art, aren't familiar with the darkness of her work, and want to make eyebrow jokes. Some guy came by the booth once and said, "If I had a time machine, I'd take her a razor to fix her eyebrows." I thought to myself, "And I'd use it to tie your mother's tubes at age 12, pal."

Sigh. The ignorant will always be amongst us, and they will sometimes profit unfairly. But legitimacy attracts legitimacy. The buyer of La Dolorosa probably thought the colors would match their new couch.

glorv1 said...

I too think that is good advice. I only recently learned of the celebration and that was through Stephanie Hilvitz who holds the yearly tradition online. I got participated last year and really felt I had done something that gave me a spiritual feeling of doing something for my lost family members. I don't sell what I do. The skulls I painted will hang up in the patio along with last years. For one thing, they would never sell, hahahaah, and for another, painting for me is a sense of release. I give away most of what I paint. Thanks for sharing an important part of an artist life. The importance of learning what they paint about. Have a great weekend.

Jessica said...

I am so glad to read this. It seems that as the trends move to the Dia de los Muertos that you can find it commodified all over the place. As an art lover, it makes me happier to know that YOUR art is meaningful to you, thus more meaningful to me!! Keep up the great work!!

Carolyn said...

Wow! I agree with you! I research all of my saints. And before I started painting my meurtos, I researched them as well! When I first started painting saints, a friend of mine told me that when she paints her saints, its a form of prayer for her. I found this to be true as well. Although, I have a hard time remembering things and have probably forgotten alot of the things I have read by now.. I still agree.
Wow! I wonder what it was about that lady that people were just shelling out that type of money?