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Thursday, 29 March 2018


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Yay, Top is back!

As to the subject at hand, to be a successful artist, perhaps use this guy as a model:


I have an idea for an exhibit I've yet to try: Large, framed prints... of my image histograms. With a postage-stamp-sized print of the actual image next to each one.

And for those wondering: They will be strictly luminance histograms, not RGB, because everyone knows real photographic art is black & white. I am, after all, an artist.

At least I will be as soon as I change my name.

Surprised this wasn't kept until Sunday.

This is news I can use.

PS: The Colorado School of Mines sounds pretty good. Do you have any connections there?

So oddly named (e.g., Jawanta Peesomee?) nutcrackers with significant power of persuasion (or maybe mass hypnotism) and an art school sheepskin have an advantage when it comes to being (mis)taken for an artist?

Works for me.


PS Welcome back Mike.

Just so.

Two other tips:

1. Start with a large fortune. That way, you at least have the opportunity to finish your fine-art career with a small fortune.

2. If you go small, make up the difference by the overmat. A 2"x2" print in the center of a 36" square mat sounds about right.

Lets not forget "The Look". You need to cause a stir when out in public. A long beard parted in the middle, pulled up along up the sides of the head, and interwoven with a brightly colored "man-bun" would certainly be "stylish/memorable" and would pair well with a long, black, leather duster and ass-less chaps. :-)

The late Bill Jay suggested some sure-fire subjects if you want to be an art-world star:

1) Naked people.
2) Celebrities.
3) Naked celebrities.

Hard to argue with that.

There's a great short story "The Birth of a Master" by André Maurois. It's about a writer but everything still applies. Highly recommended.

I limit my prints to editions of 3 ... or even 2 ... or even 1. And an edition of 0 for the truly exceptional. I'm so exclusive I'll soon be famous and rolling in the golden output of the Colorado School of Mines. Although the Missouri School of Mines is much more rustic; someday they will accept me as a guest lecturer and I will be recognized as an uber-famous photographer of the people from the norther fringe of the Ozarks.

Just call me "r".

An equipment note for this list. Camera: whatever is at hand, your grandmothers 620 Ansco will do but absolutely required is a professional grade, extra heavy duty mature spreader!

It takes a real artist to create a photograph of a cheap motel room that features an unmade bed, cracked mirror, sheets stained with urine, and a half-eaten watermelon resting on the pillow. (You will search the web in vain for such a photograph, by the way. I made it up. See how clever and conceptual I am?)

It was apparently Isidore Ducasse who called surrealism "beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella". George Melly quoted it on TV and sometime later was presented, by an amateur painter, with a painting of such.

So don't be surprised if the motel room photograph turns up in your in-box some time from now...

Very good there, Gordon.
I wish I could contradict.

When I was young, I was so naive that I thought raw talent would make for a successful career. What I didn’t realise was just how few people care more about art, and can really see.

A couple of times I entered into prestigious censored art exhibitions. In the final exhibition I saw very little interesting art, amongst the rejections (when picking up my own) I saw several. True story.

I belive Mark Twain wrote a story about a bunch of painters trying to cash in on the point about a dead artist’s work being worth more.

Welcome back...and with a nicely satiric article which, from my experience visiting galleries in NYC, is unfortunately kind of on point! Be well.

You nailed it. I did go to art school but I don't print either big enough or small enough, I am known by both my first and last names, I don't do "conceptual", and I'm not dead yet so my work doesn't sell worth crap. Maybe my kids will get rich (or at least recoup what I cost me to make them) selling my closets full of prints after I die.

@Mark Sampson

Not hard to argue at all (least not these days):


A couple of winters ago we went around Portland's (Maine) "First Friday Art Walk." Trudging through banks of dirty snow we came upon a gallery featuring photography. I can't remember the photographer, except that he was from NY, and dressed all in black, at least all that we could see, though no reason to stop there.

I do remember his smallish b&w photos which could best be described as "Bondage Barbie." He had arranged Barbie Dolls in various positions with minimal clothing, all tied or handcuffed to small chairs, beds, tables. There were about a dozen in all.

Yikes! He was successful though.

In addition:

Call Normal Processes by Odd Names - It's not an ink-jet print, it's a digitally tranformed pigment deposition object.

Use Obscure Processes For No Reason - And Then Obsess about it. Note - working in platinum or cyanotype because you like it or find it works for your vision doesn't count. Rather, you must make daguerreotype images without modern safety practices and harp on how much danger you endure for your art, while assuring that the resulting images have NONE of the interesting properties of a well made daguerrotype.


I laughed when I read the "be deceased" comment. I stumbled upon the corollary as an art collector. About 20 years ago we bought several prints and a photograph by renowned artists. Not long after we bought the artwork a couple of the artists died. The pieces then shot up in value. Thus evolved my own "technique" of art collection: buy art from well established artists who are very old and seem near the end of life. Then wait.... =)"

Hmm... sounds to me like some non-fine art photographers griping about "successful" "fine art" "photographers".

For the "Embrace conceptual" point, I call this kind of art "depressing pictures of depressing people". You know the one: the sad ugly-but-beautiful 20-something, slouching on the threadbare couch in an empty room, staring mournfully off to the side." Bleh.
For the past decade (at least) every photography show or competition has been awash in this same style! It drives me NUTS.

I'm no social justice warrior but "Have an exotic-sounding name"? Seriously? Exotic to whom? Need only Gordons and Mikes apply?

I have to say I am mildly disappointed to see this here. Photographers already tend toward a pretty savage anti-art attitude, being generally pre-disposed as a group toward other things. Pandering to that unhealthy attitude strikes me as bad form.

Yes, Art has changed quite a lot in the last 100 years or so. Yes, there's a lot of crap. Yes, there's a lot of stuff I don't get (is there something horrible in the water in Düsseldorf?) but there's quite a bit of excellent stuff I do get. I dare say there are people who think Thomas Ruff is the bees knees, and they get quite a lot out of his pictures while the ones I favor leave them cold. Fair enough.

There's plenty to dislike in contemporary Art, but this sort of blanket dismissal seems to me to simply encourage everyone to go back to their comfort zone of arguing about sharpness or whatever.

Cited from an essay written by Friedrich Wolfram Heubach (originally in German, translated by me): "If there is anything to which everything applies that we usually attribute to an artist -- innovation, creativity, spontaneity, productivity, creation straight from the self -- then that would be the potato. Just look how it spontaneously germinates, lying in the dark cellar, producing sprout after sprout in inexhaustible productivity. It will subsequently step back behind its creation, overgrown by its sprouts, creating the most remarkable structures. Well, what we have here is creativity at its climax, in ultimate perfection! In short: Everything that the public expects from the artist -- who is unable to deliver -- manifests itself in the potato!"

The long sentences are straight from the original - we Germans like them.

Mike: Please heed the advice from your doctors!

Best, Thomas

Having either exhausted or rejected the first six tips, I’m afraid I’m going to have to settle for the seventh; hopefully not any time soon.

In our photo department, with a vocational mission, the Chair would figuratively loll his head in a blissful gaze upward when talking about the darkroom preserving Fine Art. It was a huge selling point for administrative types who knew nothing about our craft. I'm still not sure what they thought "art" was but it went without saying that is was a good thing.

And, of course, fine art was synonymous with darkroom and BW. All it did was keep an MFA in a teaching position. Never mind that darkroom classes lost 40% of its students in the first 2 weeks and 67% by the time grades were in. Nevermind that we Lightroom-types had an average of 25 years as pros and retained our students. We may have had PROs but we were still blue collar plebs. Being about the craft and producing work for $ had little cache.

But Fine Art (said with italics) was still sold as a symbol. That BW could no longer claim to define it in the digital age was anathema. They did not want to hear that and administrators feared the loss of something they did not even understand.

Usually if you chase a bear...you’ll miss him. But you just might catch that bear... and wonder who got eaten. A true story follows.

A few years back a museum here was hosting a talk and small dinner for a young, up-and-coming art-ish photographer. (I’ll not use his name, as he has since firmly “arrived” and would likely be familiar to readers with any familiarity with the art photography world.) Following the dinner our guest remembered that he had promised to do some portfolio reviews at the studios of the museum’s art school. Being a local, I offered to accompany him the several blocks to the school through the bitterly cold January Chicago night.

Along the way we began chatting about (what else?) photography but the conversation soon swung towards how he was getting along with his new art world fame. Perhaps he’d had a bit too much wine with dinner, or perhaps he just felt comfortable talking with me. But he very candidly told me exactly how things were going.

His most recent accolade, among many, was that he had been signed to be represented by one of the most prestigious contemporary art galleries in the world, a relationship which was apparently already beginning to run him ragged. He came from very middle-middle class, quiet, upper midwestern American roots. His wife worked in health care and he had worked mainly around art academia while going to school. He was actually a pretty shy, introverted guy and the glare from suddenly being marketed very hard worldwide was clearly straining his nerves and his home life. Sure, he was enjoying the nice income but he was wondering if it was all worth it. His home life was beginning to strain as he was spending little time there. The printing, the shows, the appearances, the travel. “I just want to make the fucking pictures!”, he shouted as we turned onto a dimly lit Wabash Avenue and an elevated train screeched overhead.

I’ve not had an opportunity to speak with this fellow again. He’s very much now among the brightest stars of the art photography world’s collector circles, not to mention a prolific producer of books, some of which he publishes through his own publishing house. So he seems to have struck some sort of comfort zone since that cold night one January.

My point is that there is a very real, rough flipside to Gordon’s satirical essay. Yes, gaining admission into the art world, in whatever medium you ply, often requires more than artistic talent. But it’s also true that the major leagues in which dealers are selling your works for 5-6 figures plays very hard and imposes demands that few newcomers are prepared to withstand. (The old, established names can call their own shots.). Be careful what you wish for, because if you ever actually catch up with that bear you’ll have your hands very, very full.

Wikipedia tells us, "As originally conceived, and as understood for much of the modern era, the perception of aesthetic qualities required a refined judgment usually referred to as having good taste, which differentiated fine art from popular art and entertainment."


So, "Fine Art" is whatever they say it is. As to who they are, my high school English teacher told us repeatedly that they were/are the "educated cultivated people".

"Skill without ideas, that's craftsmanship.
Ideas without skill, that's modern art."
-Tom Stoppard

Starting with "...and all them other high-class places", and finishing with "Be deceased", this is satire of a fine, arty order.

There was a painter who followed most of Gordon's advices and it worked for him. He painted cheap and dirty motel rooms, he was provocative (sometimes), he went to art school (just a little bit), he got deceased young, and he called himself by a single name - Vincent

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