“I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will.”
– Eugene Delacroix
In the first part of posting on this comment by Delacroix I dealt with the technical aspects of his work, this second part will deal with the business.
A highly successful artists like Eugene Delacroix did not achieve such broad recognition and respect for his art merely by being a great oil painter. Rather it is a combination of strong business sense joined with great technical virtuosity which produces the super stars of any art genre. These traits may be found in such showmans as Picasso, Dali and Rubens, or the trusted and respected court painters of Holbein and Velazquez or the independent artist like Rembrandt. Managing studio time and driving the wheels of self promotion is what is needed by an artist to push their art into the limelight. Far too often inexperienced artists assume that studio merit will be enough to guarantee a successful career.
Part of Delacroix’s success was derived from his ability to sway clients away from other choices and into his studio. I cannot imagine the competitive nature to art as
changed much over the centuries as thousands of talented artists constantly vie for the limited commissions which exist in the marketplace today . Sheer bravado, like the statement above, was more an advertisement for commissions than a call challenging his painting skills. As I have mentioned, Delacroix already knew that painting flesh required creating it out of ‘mud’, he was stating the obvious to any painter in earshot. But to the layman or art collector the skills of such a gifted artist were like that of a magician, and to raise such a public challenge must have seemed highly risky to the reputation if failure resulted and utterly amazing if the challenge was fulfilled. Makes me think of Houdini’s public feats, putting his life at risk and going far beyond what many artists would do for their work. But that is another level. The dice were loaded by Delacroix – and created a wonderfully imbalanced state to enter into negotiations with a client!
It was taken me years to place myself in such a state where the balance is weighted in my favor. This past weekend I attended IlluxCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention devoted to the art of the genre and heavily attended by professionals in the industry including artists, art directors, collectors and serious fans. And just like Delacroix, I stacked the deck in my favor. Not by proclaiming my technical virtuosity, but by showcasing some of my best oil paintings and drawings in beautiful frames, and by presenting lectures in a structure I was both familiar with and knowledgeable about. I even went out on a limb trying out a new lecture on Abstraction in Realism, thinking I was attempting new territory. It was a hit, judging not by my accounts, but by the numerous artists and viewers who approached me later in the weekend to comment on how informative and entertaining it was. But when I presented the same lecture in my class room at the School of Visual Arts on Monday, I realized that nearly 1/3 of the lecture was material I had already covered for years!
Performing live demonstrations, lecturing, socializing at events and displaying art requires experience to make it appear smooth and effortless. The ease in which I negotiate a seminar or demonstration was not an attribute of the young artist I was 15 years ago! Far and away it was not! I hated attending openings at the Society of Illustrators, not knowing what to say or how to break the ice. And my live demonstrations? Ouch! head down, quiet as a lamb, thinking that making a nice piece of art was more important than communicating my process. There is a place for perfection and that resides in the studio, not in a one hour demo. Build upon your strengths in what ever art you undertake, and use that to leverage projects, clients and commissions to break into new territory. Your strengths might not only be a part of your technical ability, but might exhibit themselves through various social and business interactions experienced during the development of your career.
The earlier you begin to tackle aspects of self-promotion, the quicker your confidence and clarity will mature in their delivery. And the sooner you can stack the deck in your favor…
Born in 1967 and raised in Colchester, Vermont, USA, art was always a hobby for Donato as a young man, he would steal away into the basement of his parents' home to work on drawings, create his own maps for the game Dungeons & Dragons, paint figurines, read comics, and construct model tanks and dinosaurs. His love of imaginative play dominated his childhood, both indoors and out. At the age of twenty Donato enrolled in his first formal art class, the beginning of his professional training. Immediately after graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University in 1992, Donato moved to New York City to immerse himself in the inspired and varied art scene. Formative years in the early nineties were spent as the studio assistant to the preeminent figure painter Vincent Desiderio, and long days of study in the museums of New York. It was then that his love and appreciation of classical figurative art took hold. He continues his training even now, visiting museums regularly, learning from and sometimes copying original paintings by Rembrandt or Rubens, attending life drawing sessions with illustrator friends and constantly challenges himself within each new project. Pilgrimages to major museums are his preferred reason to travel.
Donato has released a revised hard cover compilation of his works on the theme of J.R.R. Tolkien, Middle-Earth: Journeys in Myth and Legend from Dark Horse Comics.