Monday, April 20, 2009

Lessons from a Master

Every once in a while I have a magical day that reminds me just how fortunate I am. This past Saturday was that kind of day. I belong to a small support group of women artists (we call ourselves Salon 11), and we spent the day in Indianapolis visiting nationally recognized impressionist artist C.W. Mundy. Like so many artists I know, C.W. graciously welcomed us in to his studio and spent the day sharing his best advice on art and the business of art. What an incredible blessing this time was for all of us! We had asked for two hours of his time and he gave us so much more!!

The take-away lessons for me were:

1. Remember who you're painting for. As far as I'm concerned, there are only two right answers to this. C.W. would say that we should all be painting for the glory of our creator, who he calls God but who also goes by many other names and interpretations. For people who don't believe in any kind of "higher power," I think a good answer may also be to paint for yourself. The worst answer, however, is "other people." If you try to paint to please others, you will always fail. While some will love what you do, there will always be others who are indifferent to or critical of your work. Attempting to please others with your work is futile, so paint only for God and/or yourself. A right attitude will save you from a world of hurt and disappointment.

2. Know the "science" of painting. Unless you're strictly a conceptual artist, all artists -- from the most realistic to the most abstract -- are governed by the fundamentals like shape, value, color, edges, variety, unity, and so on. Mastering these offers so many benefits, among them that you will be able to create great work with greater consistency and that you will then have the freedom to explore and experiment without destroying the work. As C.W. said, parameters are not limiting but rather freeing.

3. Invest in yourself. When you've brought the quality of your work up to a consistently high level and you're ready to start selling, be ready to put your own money behind it. It would be great to imagine that a gallery would do this for you, but it's unlikely that they'll do all that could be done. So be ready to pick up the slack: Buy the highest quality frames you can afford. Pay for advertising your own shows. Create and maintain your own exceptionally good website. These steps may require you to get your financial house in order first, but the investment in your career will pay huge dividends in the end.

Many thanks to C.W. Mundy for his generosity, candid answers, and tremendous inspiration and motivation.

Now, what pearls of wisdom do you have to share?