Art, craft and technology and the changing role of the artist

Above is a recent acrylic painting of mine.

The contemporary Artist 'profession' or contemporary Art industry seems to no longer fit in or play any part in most peoples lives unlike other professions and this normally to me seems a necessary defining feature of most professions- ie: to be a part of an economic 'eco-system'.
I am not saying contempory art should be more accessible.. I think thats an obvious one, I just think we need to stop and think where this may be heading.

So lets play devil's advocate for a bit. Lets take this into the future to one possible corporate / consumerist  conclusion and see were we end up. Supposed contemporary art, as paintings, videos, photography sculpture etc. get subsumed into the entertainment and marketing industry. In otherwords become part of film and advertising. I don't think this means people will stop making or buying traditional craft - well not any more than people stopped buying pottery, with the advent of mass produced ceramics.

Lets pretend the 'art industry' as a whole basically ceased to exist and has been gobbled up by Warner Brothers or Sony. What we are left with is amatuers and hobbyists, craftspeople. I don't believe this would be a bad thing. In fact I welcome it.

I feel that we are currently in a very transient period and what I just -half jokingly- predicted is not as far fetched as it seems. We have moved quickly into the information age from the industrial age from a previosly craft based cottage industries in just over 100 years. I think the fact that we still paint and weave and sculpt is testament to our desire to continue to do these things and work with our hands -possibly we do not get enough or any satifaction out of computers and machines. However since our current ecomony seems to not 'need' craftsmen to function and much of contempory art is not craft based, makes me wonder if painting, or 'crafted' art will survive as 'art' at all.

If art was previously grounded in craft, trade and skill -and now art owes more to promotion and advertising then to the studio or the academy surely the divide between 'craft' and 'art' will continue to widen in the same way industry and technology have left other cottage industries far behind. Is it not possibly that the rift between contemporary art and 'craft based art' could play out along the lines of a craft / technology divide?

Perhaps the professional artist of the future will be an entertainer of sorts, possibly have live shows in Vegas and the 'art work' as in the traditional static stuff would be mostly photography or some computer generated imagery and become the promotion or advertising of the film or live show or 'main event'.

I think we are already half way there and have not really noticed. Take for example artists like Jeff Koons, Any Warhol or  Damien Hirst. Their art could be viewed as partly self promotion and embracing consumer culture albeit some critics argue it's critical of the latter. Much art today in fact pretends to be critical but isn't really and would be better off just embracing consumer culture. And being free of this illusion of art somehow standing apart from the retail or entertainment business the artist will get swollowed up by the business - creativity will survive, but the solitary art making/producing sometime craftsperson will be gone. .


Painting from Photographs - pros and cons

There is no doubt that you get more visual information from looking directly at ‘reality’ than you do
from looking at a photograph (of reality), but it doesn't necessarily follow that to paint from life is better -doesnt it depend a bit on the subject matter and if you can feasibly stand in front of it to and paint it? or are we all budding impressionists and paint only the outdoors?
A photograph as a visual aid can be helpful, as is drawing from life an essential part of learning to draw, as is using your imagination but ultimately the quality of outcome depends entirely on the artist. There are many excellent artists who painted exclusively from photos or just painted ‘photos’, (think photorealists) and many great artists who never did as the camera had yet to be invented and yet their interpretations had little to do with a ‘real’ external reality…Titian,Rubens etc. but they were trained in life drawing.. and then there are realists who only painted what they saw Freud,Chardin.
I think the point is to make art as good as you can in whatever way you can by whatever means and if a photo helps then use it…(copyright issues notwithstanding)
Above is a recent work I painted from a photograph.


Do you need an MFA to be an artist?

Palm Springs 2014 -oil on canvas 40 x 28''

Is an MFA -as in a Masters of Fine Art needed to be professional artist? the short answer is no. Does it help? yes. So I guess the real questions is: how does an MFA help in an artists career? I will start by saying I dont possess one myself so I am not speaking from experience, so stop reading if you want first hand info. I have however visited numerous MFA grad shows and colleges, in London, US and Canada. I sat in on a class in NYC, been to grad shows in NY, Rhode Island, Michigan (Cranbrook), Goldsmiths, the Slade, the RCA and St Martins in London and numerous schools in Canada. So I am not uninformed in terms of the quality of art produced.
I recall speaking to a graduating student in Montreal's Concordia University which had a good reputation at the time (in Canada). I recall her telling me she was going on to study computer animation as she didn't really see the point of the MFA, so just as this one particular example, there are another few 100 students who graduate from MFAs every year and may or not even pursue an artistic career.
From what I can gather here in UK especially in London an MFA is invaluable in terms of getting exposure. For one you get to participate in shows, the graduate one being the most obvious but also others while in school. You will also get gallery owners coming around to the grad shows looking for potential up and coming artists - but of course its not like that can take everyone on.

I also think the MFA affords you a time to think about your art -and do only that - as well as getting others in the same situation to do the same. I do think you need to be in the right frame of mind however as not being 'into it' while doing an MFA will mean important opportunity lost. So as an opportunity to connect and network with potential galleries and like minded people I think an MFA is invaluable. My only beef with an MFA is that sometime they are looked at as 'credentials' for making art.

You don't need any obviously, but in the current Art climate where it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between Art and non-art, people like anything that gives them a little bit of assurance that the artist is serious about his or her work and I think and MFA gives people that impression. Like say, someone who has a graduate degree in botany would be more serious about plants than your average horticulturalist or at least that is the impression you would get without meeting them.

So in an nutshell - in terms of an art 'career' if there is such a thing - a MFA will be of help - but not in terms necessarily of artistic development and I would even argue that it could sometimes be a hindrance to artistic practise when it's  influence stops you from working.. ie; gives you so much to think about you become overwhelmed or paralysed by the possiblites or questions posed or even takes you in a direction that is not naturally your own and it ends up being fruitless.


oil vs acrylic paint

Does acrylic painting allow the same amount of flexibility as oil?
Probably not. I dont think you get the same about of sublety as oil. Perhaps this has to do with the binder - linseed oil vs an acrylic polymer or water. I think the fact that oil does not dry as fast -in fact leaves the paint thinker and shinier for longer probably adds to the visual appeal. The viscosity of oil is greater so allows the paint to be sculpted and remain in place unlike acrylic which even when using a good medium will not be as flexible and the water rapidly evaporates leving little of what was originally on canvas in terms of paint body.
I do however like using acrylic on paper as when used with water can become as translucent as watercolour and I like watercolour. The other advantages are cleaning and health in terms of water vs white spirits. I also want to carry on using acrylic on canvas for longer as I want to see how far i can take it in terms of getting more out of it in terms of colour and effect. On occassion it does suprise me and i still want to mix it with other waterbased media just to see how it will react. So before I pack it in and switch back to oil I will give it some more time and who knows, as the saying goes...something about those who wait..
-Above is a recent acrylic work of mine.


colour interaction

I am getting more interested in colour interaction lately and I feel I have developed a slightly better understanding since I started.. which was basically sky=blue people = orange, sea= well...blue darker than sky.. as hopefully you can tell from this one. My simplistic colour theory goes something like this:
background colours: cool and warm greens for trees, cool blues and greys for sky, mid-ground reds, purples & warm blues for people. Foreground - pale yellows and oranges.


subject matter vs subject

After a brief daliance with 'Abstraction' I have returned to beach subject matter or people in swimwear (and sometimes not).Watercolours, a set on Flickr. I have been spending a good deal of my time looking for good source material off the net. I also vacationed in the Tenerife recently where I managed to capture some beach life directly. This to me is subject matter. Now what is the subject behind all these people lying around on beaches? Heat ? Leisure? Summer? Happiness.. and indeed if say the Subject is indeed 'Heat' is this the best way to express it? Why not a photo? why not a photo with a thermometer reading in it?


Bussière-Galant, France

Just spent a week in the Limousin, France. Can’t think of anything better to interrupt the rural landscape than a 14 century village and its reclaimed stone buildings.



Canaria, a photo by MONDOSTEVO on Flickr.
Did some gouaches this week, applying the paint more like oil. Love the results and hoping to get some more mileage out of it


Painting in Portugal

We spent last week in northern Portugal where I managed a few watercolour sketches.
This one is my favorite. I had a unique view above this little cul-de-sac of farm houses which made it interesting for me to draw and paint.


the artist soldiers on...

watercolour 23 x 17'' 2012

I have not yet decended into madness, although arguably this would be hard to tell..
I am now at the present time actively painting again so it seems only natural that I stop berating famous artists who are talentless and annoying...and concentrate on all the good stuff that is out there as I am in a very + mind set.. so perhaps I dont have much to say on the 'art' subject anymore and perhaps thats best.
At this point all I can say is that painting is happening all around and besides all the business/ galleries/money involved that maybe causes some people to argue about the various merits of those more famous and sucessful/ its really a good thing. lets get it all out there and have a party!
I am now trying to delve a little more into my subject as frankly it is feeling a little purile/16 year old ish.. all these bikini clad women .. surely I can get something a little more ..profound..?