The Evolving Art World

Art is a universal language that is available to the world as a whole more than ever before.

Once upon a time art belonged solely to a select group of people who could pay exorbitant fees for art. Only the very wealthy could afford it. An artist had to be a genius to get trained or be from a wealthy family who could pay for the education. Some would-be self taught artists could not afford the costs of paint and supplies. Only the artists who could meet one of these criteria could make it professionally. Thankfully, that’s all changed. Art is accessible now to just about anybody who wants to make art. Is that good for artists or not?

In a thoughtful blog post, sculptor Kosmas Ballis states “Art has the power to enrich our lives, connect us with others, and bring joy and inspiration to our everyday experiences.” Art has immense power to change our lives in so many ways. Therefore it is a good thing that art is available to just about anybody. Ballis goes on to say, with more art, “we can open up new avenues for creative expression and foster a more vibrant and engaged society.” It can be argued that art uniquely opens worlds in ways that normal discourse cannot. Art is a universal language bridging most, if not all barriers.

On the other hand, in the realm of high end art dealers, galleries and collectors, there is a desire to define some art as more refined than others and deserving of a higher price tag. According to Kooness magazine, “The strong association that exists between power, status, luxury and Art make the Art World one which reflects social stratifications. In fact, for centuries this has characterized the Arts.” This definition of art would seek to keep art priced out of the reach of the common person increasing its intrinsic value. Those same dealers galleries and collectors get to define what art is worthy of the higher price tag. High end art is a gold mine for the artist who makes it to that level. Because high end art is defined by someone other than the person making the art, it is very difficult for an artist to break into this market. It is more often chance that provides that opportunity.

Is either direction a good thing for artists? If it gets down to it, both are market driven. Which market depends on the art and the artist. First an artist must decide their personal goals. Which is the best market to aim for? Where once there was one market to shoot for, now there are two with many variations in between. New variations in the art market mean there is also more competition. Competition is a good thing as it pushes the artist to seek new horizons and challenge limits. Competition leads to amazing new directions. So whether one is seeking the higher end or lower end in the art market, competition drives artists to stay fresh and creative.

Artists have more choices now than ever before. Does an artist want to go for the high end market? Does an artist want to seek success in one of the many newer markets that are available today? It really only matters to the individual artist. Choices are available.

As there are vast ways to make it as an artist, there are also vast ways the public can view art. The world of art can open doors in so many more ways than ever before. The language of art can bridge more gaps and go more places. Art can reach more people in positive ways. Art brings a more vivid world to both maker and viewer. Nothing else matters.

And that is a good thing.

This little chickadee pillow can be ordered here.

An Elegant Iris

The elegant simplicity of a white iris provides powerful artistic inspiration.

What could be more refined than the simple elegance of a white iris? The sparkles of morning dew resemble ice crystals on the pure white of newly fallen snow. The ruffles of the petals and falls are as velvety and flowing as a spinning dancer’s dress. The fragrance is more glorious than expensive perfume. It may be difficult to capture all that with paint, but I will try. So will others. It’s a subject that a painter cannot resist. Why do we do it? Because we must. The inspiration sits there screaming to be painted.

Since my iris was a gift, I am not sure of the variety. Susanne Holland Spicker writing for the blog of “The American Iris Society” describes a variety of white iris she grew up with called, “Skating Party”. She describes “Skating Party” as one of the first to bloom. My white iris is the first in my garden and far ahead of the others which don’t even have buds yet. Sticker also says “Skating Party” has “pure white falls and lavish ruffles” as well as a beautiful aroma. That would seem to describe mine.

pencil on paper

GardeningKnowHow lists a variety of white iris called “Immortality” as highly fragrant, with pure white, large ruffled petals. Hmmm.. “Immortality” would also appear to be my variety. GardeningKnowHow goes on to say that “Immortality” often re-blooms in the fall. I may have to wait until fall to know if I have “Skating Party” or “Immortality” in my garden and future painting but that won’t change the current artistic plans.

Susanne Spicker, in her blog post, states, “I’ve heard it said that there is nothing more beautiful than a simple white flower.” Right now, I can’t think of anything more beautiful either. Apparently, White Iris Dress concurred as they named their shop of beautiful formal dresses in Chicago for this lovely flower. Does it really matter which variety I have to be worthy of painting? Absolutely not. As artists, we paint what inspires us. Inspiration has struck with this elegant iris. Therefore, paint I must!

Accidental Artistic Assistance

Safety in artistic practice is vital. Are we paying attention?

The dangers of cadmiums and other paints are one of those topics artists don’t always pay attention to. Recently the issue became front and center for me when my  5 month old puppy decided to give me a hand with the painting by licking the paint off of a wet oil painting of cardinals. Safety in artistic practice should be our first priority but is it always?  If you’re like me you can get in the zone and forget what’s going on around you. I set this painting on a side table to go to something else and was not looking when my puppy decided she liked the taste of oil paint! Thankfully, she suffered no ill effects.

There is a wealth of information out there on the dangers of artist’s materials.  A teacher I had in school was adamant that no solvents be used with oil paint.  But its not just the solvents. It’s also the paint pigments themselves. Renee Phillips, in her blog, says Rubens and Renoir suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and Paul Klee from scleroderma that could possibly be linked to heavy metals, such as cadmium in the their paint.

Many artists have taken up acrylic paint for a number of reasons but one is that acrylics don’t require solvents.  However has a great article on this subject and says acrylics release chemicals into the air as they dry, such as propylene glycol and ammonia.  And for those who use acrylic medium with their paints, they could also be releasing formaldehyde.

Art-Is-Fun lists some of the known toxic chemicals in paint as cadmium, cobalt, manganese, chromium and lead.  All accounts say the main harm is inhalation or ingesting large amounts.  Minimal safety procedures can eliminate or reduce the risk of most of these dangers.  Read labels and follow all precautions.  Adequate ventilation is a must.

Consider Plein-Air painting if you must use solvents. Don’t eat your paint and keep it out of the reach of helpful wanna be artists. 

Fascinating Ancient Flower

Though frequently mistaken, the Lotus Flower and the Water Lily are not the same flower or even in the same family.

The Lotus flower and the Water Lily have always been mistaken for the same flower, but they are not even in the same family. The yonkipin flower is a beautiful sight to see at Reelfoot Lake during the summer months. My grandmother and great aunt would always look forward to seeing them in bloom. I’ve recently researched this flower and it’s origins, and found it to be quite fascinating.

I learned that Yonkipin is a variety of Lotus flower, and that Lotus flowers and waterlilies are not the same plant. Lotus flowers have deep spiritual significance for several cultures. Lotus blooms rise above the water and are rooted in the mud. Waterlilies float on top of the water.

According to Floraly, the lotus flower as been around for at least 100 million years and has been found in a number of fossils. The lotus flower is a symbol of spiritual enlightenment, beauty, fertility, purity, prosperity and eternity. It is the national flower of India and Vietnam.

The botanical name for the North American Lotus Flower is the Nelumbo Lutea Willd and is in the family of Nelumbonaceae Name That Plant tells us. The North American variety is primarily seen in the Southeastern states. The water lily may be similar in appearance but its botanical name is Nympaeaceae and it grows completely differently. Lotus flowers are rooted in the mud and rise up above the water to stand alone, a fact that partly contributes to the spiritual mystique surrounding them. Water lilies float on top of the water and do not have the ancient history of the lotus.

Growing up with a flower that is common to you can diminish appreciation for its uniqueness. I took for granted the beauty of the Yonkipins that begin blooming in late spring. It wasn’t until I began to paint them that they Took on a whole new sense of fascination. Learning about how fortunate I was to grow up with these beauties has made me want to paint more of them. One thing is for sure: I’ll never call them water lilies again.

Join us as we gather at Reelfoot Lake in remote West Tennessee to paint these beauties, as well as the stunning sunsets. For more information, see below!

Painting Reelfoot Lake as the Lotus Flower blooms.