Art, Creativity, the painting zone, balancing art and life

Flipping into the art unconscious–not thinking too much

A friend once told me that we only use maybe 5% of the brain. When I paint, I go into what I call the “zone”, I flip into some part of that other 95% of the brain–the “art unconscious.” After all this time, I’m able to trust that that is when I do my best art work.

I’ve realized that when I think too much about what I am painting or try to analyze the painting that I am working on, I get into a whole lot of trouble.

However, I find that flipping into that other 95% of the brain is always exhausting.

Balancing art and life–getting on the art planet

I’ve asked writers and other painters how long they can actually work (the actual writing or painting etc.) in a day. These are artists that have at least published their second book or gotten through their second one-person show–artists that are in it for the “long haul.”

For artists in it for the “long haul,” who work almost everyday, who know that their art is their vocation, it is always a challenge to figure out the right balance between one’s art and the rest of one’s life.

These artists almost always say 4 hours (this does not include the hours and hours of “artistic incubation” that take place to make these 4 hours of actual writing, painting etc. happen, see earlier post on “artistic incubation.” Neither does it include all the time devoted to the “business” part of art, which takes a great deal of time.)

Most people would say 4 hours, well that’s ridiculous, that’s nothing. Actually it’s not. (Yes, I know, this is when most people, parents, loved ones, significant others start screaming, “4 hours! Get a real job!!!”…calm down, relax, start getting on the “art planet!”)

The drool stage

I find that 4 hours (not including the artistic incubation part, and the business part) is just right. If I work 5-6 hours, I’m exhausted, and any more than that, I get to what I call the “drool stage”, where I’m beyond exhaustion, and can’t do much of anything, except, sit, stare into space and drool! I hate being in the “drool stage.”

The trick for me is to balance my day, and to know when to stop right before I get to the “drool stage.” Sometimes I stop too early, sometimes I stop too late, and sometimes I get it just right. Love those days when I get it just right.

Mary Baker

Art and the CIA

Ok, I’ve been kind of discouraged lately. I came across a posting on an artist’s blog that said the CIA backed the Abstract Expressionists. Now, I’m not big on conspiracy theories, even though apparently there has been at least one book on the subject (let me tell you, this is all really big news to me–never heard of this before) and I figured that this was just a realist painter who didn’t like abstract art, which btw I happen to love.

BUT, then I came across an article in the New Yorker Magazine on the same subject. Now, I figure the New Yorker isn’t going to write about some fly by night conspiracy theory unless there is something to it. And the story in the New Yorker talks about Abstract Expression and the CIA. (You’re just going to have to Google it, if you want to find out more about all of this.) The article says that the evidence is “circumstantial.” But, the way I read it it’s pretty convincing circumstantial evidence and it’s in the New Yorker, not some Joe-Blow tabloid in the middle of nowhere.

If it’s true, the whole rational behind the CIA financially backing the Abstract Expressionist during the Cold War was supposed to show the Communist that America appreciated freedom of expression and it was an attempt to get the art center away from Europe to the United State–which did happen.

So what does this say about the state of the art world and the prospects of your average artist whose either trying to make a living or break into the New York gallery scene, or even your average gallery?

If it’s true it means that major movers and shakers way beyond anyone’s control are deciding who succeeds in the art world and who doesn’t.

Now let me just be truly paranoid here. Before 911 the “Academic” realists couldn’t get their foot in the door in New York City. After 911 Academic painters became really big stuff and now they’re everywhere. Not that I don’t think some of the Academic painters like Jacob Collins aren’t brilliant, I do.

But maybe the powers that be wanted culture to reflect an earlier, safer time. Certainly a lot of the realist art out there reflects that. Sometimes I feel culturally like I’m back in the 1850’s.

So I find all of this CIA stuff very discouraging, and I’m still trying to figure out what to really make of it.

Pricing Art by the Square Inch

A lot of people price art by the square inch. I have a hard time with this concept. The rational behind this is that large paintings take longer than small paintings and are therefore more valuable (I have no argument there.)

However, by pricing by the square inch a body of art work could range in price from $200 to $18,000. It is certainly possible that the $200 price is way too low for a work of art and the $18,000 price is way too high.

It may take a very long time for an artist to do a small painting, and a $200 price could be inappropriate. By the same token, the artist may have never sold a painting over $4,000 and to price an art work at $18,000 could make an artwork more difficult to sell.

My own feeling is that if people are going to price a painting by the square inch, it might be a good idea to settle on a price for a medium size work of art work, have the square inch of the smaller paintings be a little more and the square inch of the larger paintings be a little less.

This creates a more uniform and realistic pricing range for the art buyer.

Mary Baker