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Notes to painters Notes to painters
by Joseph Gatt
2020-09-15 08:27:17
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So you want a career in painting. Here's some (life saving?) advice.

-Know your customers.

-What are your customers like? They are usually art collectors (which is often a rich people's pastime) and every now and then at fancy parties they are going to go like “I own three Monets” or “I own five Picassos” or “I own a Van Gogh.”

-So you could be the struggling painter selling paintings for 10 bucks or something. But a real painting career spans over years.

-Where do you fit in? If the rich guys discussing their art collections go like “I own a Jane Doe” those rich guys are going to have to explain who Jane Doe is. Let's assume you're Jane Doe.

pain001_400-For rich people to avoid saying “who the hell is Jane Doe?” you're probably going to have painted for a lifetime (maybe 15-20 years and you'll get your big break).

-You're going to need a good portfolio of paintings; the paintings will need to follow a clear line of reasoning. Your paintings have to be original, beautiful, appealing, they have to mean something (even if abstract) and they will have to follow certain themes.

-For you, painting will have to be an addiction. That means that when you sell your work at the gallery, and people show up and talk to you, you have to be kind to them. You collect your cheques, and you have to go back home and work on your next series of paintings. And your next series of paintings will have to be original, beautiful, appealing, they will have to mean something and follow certain themes.

-Why do painters have the reputation of being “crazy”, by that I mean the famous ones?

-Creativity is about mastering techniques. But it's also about learning and observing the world around you, and interpreting that world in ways that have never been interpreted before.

-In sum, you have to perceive what everyone else perceives, but you need to have a different, original take on things. Painting is about having a realistic, but different, unconventional view on things.

-So you don't become a famous painter by unconventional haircuts and dress codes and personalities. You become a famous painter by your original take on real aspects of life.

-Now a little bit of history will help. Painting is the ancestor of photography. That's why most old paintings are still life’s and portraits and landscapes. Painters in the old days mostly drew what they saw, and their gig often involved picking original spots to paint their landscapes, original people to paint portraits and so on. Kind of like today photographers roaming the world looking for the perfect spot to take a picture of the most original place.

-Now with the invention of black and white photography, painting had to reinvent itself. This is when you had surrealism and Dadaism and the whole world of “sketching” and “trick eye” and “abstract painting” and painters trying to invent techniques and trying to compete against each other for who will be the most daring and provocative painter.

-But even daring and provocative involves rules and originality. That is, in the post-photography era, a good painter is usually someone who paints what no picture could represent, yet something beautiful, original, eye-catching and appealing.

-But you will have to work on your name and identity, and need to get collectors to start collecting your work. If you paint 30 or 50 paintings, that's not enough for collectors to brag about you. You will need enough beautiful, original paintings that collectors can start bragging about possessing.

-Where do the finances of the whole thing come in? Painting, writing, movie making or any other art is not one of those “instant billionaire” or “instant millionaire trades.” Making your first thousand dollars is a slow process, making your first handed thousand is slow, and you millions will come too slowly for you to notice.

-So you want to focus on your paintings, on being original and painting original stuff and that should be your main concern. People are slowly going to notice you, and it takes patience, and by the time people brag about possessing your paintings, you'll be too old to care, and too busy painting new stuff to care.

-Finally, what makes a painting an expensive one?

-Art collectors tend to compete around the following stuff:

-Famous names (they would die to own a few of those)

-Some like to collect around themes, like geography or religion or ethnicity or something. When those are rare (and beautiful) they can be very expensive.

-Finally, some collectors look at the history of the painting. Some periods of history have their expensive paintings from painters who were not super famous (World War II paintings, Spanish Civil War paintings, and any war or difficult period of time, that is paintings that were painted in times where galleries were shut down and painters were confined in shelters and bombs were raining in and so on).

-Sometimes, it's just the person who previously owned the painting that counts. If Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of Michael Jordan owns any paintings, or Ferdinand Marcos or Jawaharlal Nehru or some big name like that owned paintings, those paintings will tend to have good market value.

-Sometimes it's just the circumstances. If a famous criminal or terrorist paints something in his prison cell, that could have good market value. Anything that's in the history books and that relates to the painting can bump the painting's value up.

Good luck!

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