A Plea for Boldness

March 6, 2014

I left these words an art marketer’s blog. Did I go too far? Or not far enough?

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I can identify my motivation very easily: it’s what you’ve called artistic excellence. It forms all the reason I ever wanted to do art. Trips to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC during my childhood brought the old masters into my life, and when I decided that I wanted to paint just as surely I ached to learn how to paint at a level of skill like the great artists of the past. So the first challenge was learning to draw. Drawing is still a challenge, always will be a challenge. I had a natural affinity for color, yet I had to learn how to use colors through countless sessions of experiments mixing them. Later on, I realized that it is possible to be “all dressed up” without knowing “where to go,” and then I sought to figure out invention in art. How can art be simultaneously modern and traditional, answer the challenges of skill posed by great artists of the past and still address thoroughly modern ideas?

I have neglected the business aspects of art, and chasing after awards never appealed to me at all. My choices have created problems that didn’t need to be there — I mean that a better focus on business wouldn’t have harmed my efforts any — though it’s also clear that digital photography and the advent of the internet makes everything a gazillion times easier than in the past. Simply taking a decent photograph of a painting was a complicated endeavor when I was a youth and required a significant investment in time and money.

In short I can understand a more balanced approach — one that matches personal vision with PR and business savvy. But too many artists today are content to create a kind of art that fails to meet the minimal skill sets of even the second or third tier artists of the past whose works now live in museums. That is, I think, sort of tragic. It’s a failure of vision, of ambition — a failure of taste — it lacks guts. And if there’s anything that I could persuade a younger generation of artists to embrace it is skill and daring. Go shoulder to shoulder with Monet, or Hokusai, or Ingres, or Giulio Romano, or Domenico Tiepolo. There is no artist living today who has the pure chutzpah of Domenico Tiepolo. At least give it your best try.

I’m not lauding any particular style, but am making a plea for ability and boldness. Make a sort of art that could sometimes compare with a Hollywood movie. Wouldn’t it be wonderful?

[Above: Punchinello's Farewell to Venice, Domenico Tiepolo, National Gallery of Art in Washington]

Use this link to see a version of the image that you can enlarge: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.57482.html

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4 Responses to “A Plea for Boldness”


  1. Discussing this with someone at another venue, I added these words: “For the young, I really think they should pursue the hard things. Art has faced a serious lack of verve in modern times. I wish artists would kick butt, not in the “contemporary art world” sense of edginess, which personally I think is very fake (as well as boring), but in the skillful daring-do sense of someone like Rubens, for whom no imagery was too intimidating. When an artist is young and has acres of time ahead, he or she can afford to think this way — though I see few venues in the society encouraging young artists in such sentiments. What if a young artist sought to make art that was like a Hollywood movie for pizzazz.”

  2. chris ludke Says:

    Just trying to achieve the skill of the masters is bold. Modern artists don’t try to draw. But don’t expect to be noticed for your skill. Today art is all about how to be more “creative” than the next guy (meaning more crazy or show them something shocking or ugly). It seems like conformity is the rule because it’s all the same and boring.


  3. I find what you have written to be very inspiring :)


  4. Thank you, Gabe! You are so sweet to say so. I have been thinking that for the next post I should perhaps also argue exactly the opposite view. My mind works in opposites — a little of this and afterwards a little of that — by which method I’m always hopeful of covering most of the field. I could leave it to readers to fill in the spectrum between extremes since in any dispute there’s also the squishy middle to consider as well … There are always so many ways to skin a cat. ;-)


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