Society is Not Static, Change Your Art

One question I have from my students all the time is how to paint things.  How do I decide?  Well, I am a professional artist.  It is funny because most people think you can’t make a living as an artist.  Well, they are wrong… really, really wrong, but you must do it correctly and professionally.  You must follow the trends and diversify.   You must constantly change.

Art constantly changes.  It runs in cycles.  It has for thousands of years.  Even Rosemaling, my first love changed each design period from the Renaissance to Louis XVI.  Each design period brought new ways of painting and “looks”.   Today, some say they want “traditional” Rosemaling… Well, if you truly study the history of Rosemaling, there is no such thing as “Traditional”.  Which Telemark is Traditional?  Baroque, Rococo, Regency, Louis XVI and so on?  It always changes.  Art changes…..  It is like Sigmund Aarseth wrote in his Rosemaling book in 1974…  Rosemaling must change because society is not static.  It always changes, so Rosemalers should change.  That is so very, very true.

I have been painting since 1975 and have seen so many changes.  Artists that are still popular change with the industry.  They create new looks and styles.  I change…  I have reinvented myself 5 times over the years and I am doing it again right now.  I will always have my favorite styles to paint, but I must change to keep the art moving because society is not static.  I must change to stay popular and sell my paintings. I see it all the time…  In decorative painting one artist becomes very popular, then after 5 years, if they don’t change, no one paints that style any longer.  Why?  It isn’t because the paintings aren’t great, it is because society is not static.  It changes.   A funny  example is James Bond, look how they made the movies in the 1960’s to how they do it today.   This year they will produce I believe the 24th movie since Dr. No in 1962.  He is still fighting SPECTRE but with different tools and completely different cinematography.   Movies have changed, shoes have changed, watches, couches, water bottles… Everything changes.  The entertainment of good vs. evil doesn’t change, but how they entertain us with that battle does.  The idea of painting a rose will not change, because roses sell!!!

An artist must change how they presents the rose with new looks, colors and techniques that excite the market and make people want to learn and buy it.  Change…  it is important.  So I change.  I change to keep art exciting and fresh.  I certainly love painting all styles and will bring some back in a few years.  But that is not always successful.  I loved the volkswagon bug, but they could successfully bring in back.   Because society changes.  I would still love to have one though.. Each artist must find their way.

For me, I cannot compete with realism that digital photographers can bring to the art.  So I don’t paint that any longer.  Digital art is now huge in our market.  So I must make my paintings look like paintings!  I cannot compete with digital art, so I go a different direction.  Give your paintings textures, strokes, powerful tones.  They must be paintings and look like paintings.   Look for what makes your paintings different from other things.  So, I have moved to fast, alla prima, and other techniques that give me dramatic looks the digital artists cannot do.  Perfect for the new generation acrylics.  Digital arts cannot place a thick stroke of paint to make something come forward.  I can.  No more mop brushes, blending for me.  Because digital art can do that.  My art must be different because society changes.

So I just completed a commissioned wildlife painting above.  My third one this month.  Why?  it is a painting.  You can see the movement of the brush and paint.  I don’t paint “real” elk.  I make them a painted object within the scene.  Rocks are painted with textures and heavy use of paint that provides another means of visual entertainment that other media cannot do. As an artist always look for what you can do that is unique.  That is the key.  That is what I do.  I have so many new ideas for Rosemaling, strokes, scrolls, seascapes, etc….  So many, because I change, open my mind to new things and looks for ways that other digital industries cannot do.    It is like I read on facebook earlier this year?  Why go buy that painted rabbit at a craft store for $5 when I can paint it for $100 in supplies?  Why can’t you sell craft items?  Because so many can do it cheaper.  Why can’t you sell paintings?  Because they can print something cheaper.  Make your work unique.  Looks for techniques that are more difficult to produce.   You can sell giclees of your art like I do, but, I know I am going the right direction when I sell more originals than I do prints…  and I do!

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