I received an email today from a reader ( I love those) asking me what I meant in my last bullet point when I used the description "personal" when I talked about art. I will see if I can make some sense of that.I usually think of it as a good thing from an artistic standpoint, but it may not be in the market place. Sometimes it is, but often it is not.
By personal I mean highly individual and often expressing the personality of the artist or their deep concerns or quirks rather than having universality. If your work is personal in a good way often it looks as if only you could have made it and no one else. That is it is individual. Van Gogh would be an example of an artist whose work was highly personal. After he was dead it came to be appreciated for its power, but most people of his time thought it odd and a little too tortured and uncomfortable.
If you are working out your personal demons or using imagery that is meaningful to you but puzzling to the larger world you are being personal. If you are polically concerned and that is an element in your art, many people will see it as a statement of your beliefs but not necessarily want to hang it in their home, even if they agree with your point if view. Bizarre religious imagery, psychedelic surrealism, illustrations for your own unpublished fantasy manuscript and photo realistic depictions of your mother ironing laundry underwater are all going to be difficult to sell. They may be meaningful to you and they might be good art, but their appeal is mostly because you think they are cool. Others may look at them and think "what the hell is that all about?"
Art schools have, for years, encouraged their students to make highly personal, or art that looks as if it might be highly personal without warning them of this drawback. Those teachers are often not out in the art market and may even have contempt for those who are, except for the most celebrated of the modern guys in New York. They see as no part of their purpose raising up students who can make a living in the gallery world. Shows in galleries are for them about communicating who they are and what they have made, rather than paying the rent.
If that is what you want to make you will have a harder time selling your art. Fewer dealers will want to handle it and there will be fewer customers. I don't mean none, just fewer. You might want to ask yourself if you should be out in the market place at all, you might be happier teaching and making your art for your own enjoyment and getting shown in non retail venues like museums. Some artists are repelled by the whole art market thing and choose to find another means of support so they can make the personal art that they want and not have to be in the commercial galleries. There are avant garde galleries out there that feature very personal art though. In New York and a few other places that sort of thing can be highly valued.
I am lucky in that the kind of art that I am excited to make is appealing to a portion of the clients in some galleries . I have worked to find my own individual way of doing things and make my own statement. That is how I work to make personal art. I hope that when people see my painting they will know it is mine. I often ask myself;
WOULD THIS BE A BETTER PAINTING IF I PUT A BURNING PHONE BOOTH IN IT?
I have arranged to interview an art dealer I know who did her masters dissertation on what art sells and why. I am going to turn her loose on Artelasticum Pepsi-Colas questions and see what she has to say. I think she may have a lot of insight. Like most dealers she meets a lot of artists who hope to have her show their art, and must reject most. She has been on the other side of the equation and I am looking forward to what she has to say. I am hoping that that will happen tomorrow night. Till then I will lay here on the floor beside the computer with my arms at my sides trying not to think.