Writing a resume always throws me for a loop. I suppose it affects most people that way. But I think artists have an especially hard time of it. For starters, it’s been my experience that artists like to talk up their work in inverse proportion to its merits. The best artists I know are mostly shy, and the prospect of self-promotion is almost painful. They are perfectly comfortable, mind you, discussing art in general terms — or even in explaining the narratives behind their own pictures — or their opinions about various art related topics. The best artists I know are experts in art and have quite a lot to say about it and share their expertise generously.
But that’s a lot different from writing a resume or doing other kinds of promotions. Whenever I do promotion, it’s like slipping out of my skin and becoming another person. I try to pretend that I’m someone else looking at the paintings, and I try to “hype them up” a little based upon what various audiences seem to want or believe. (Hope my target audiences aren’t listening.)
Perhaps “hype” is not the right word. Let’s just say that I’ve come to recognize that my pictures may have different uses to people than what I originally intended, and I’ve learned to respect those other points of view as having equal validity — that art is “in the eyes of the beholder” as a practical matter. So I inject humor into my advertising in regard to pictures that were never intended to be humorous. Or I point out the fact that the pictures make bold design statements, although “interior design” was never a passing thought in my mind.
Mostly (as here) I try to help people enter the realm of visual meaning and metaphor — which goes much more truly to the heart of what I intend when I paint. But sometimes the more serious message is not the most effective one.
I find that there’s an enormous difference between marketing paintings and marketing the artist. My resume problems belong to the latter category. Actually when it comes to the paintings themselves, I’ve never had a collector once ask me where I went to school or what grants I may have received. They want to know things about the subject matter of the painting. Their attention is fastened entirely upon what they see and how it makes them feel, and they don’t seem to have the least idle curiosity about my background — which is wonderful. That’s as it should be.
However, all the things that the collector could care less about are exactly the things that one needs to address in a resume — with dates, places, and details. Half the time, I cannot even remember when I worked on a painting, not merely in regard to ones I painted years ago, but even as concerns ones I have painted recently. Often I forget what I’ve worked on in any given year. Often I work on certain pictures over the course of several years — for perhaps as long as five years.
My “real” resume is a lot like Cezanne’s. I’ve exhibited about 5 times in shows that were beautiful but unknown. And, yeah, it’s okay to toss around the names of the big guys. Cezanne’s resume when he was living is the one to have. It’s all about working. His life and his work were of one piece, and he just got up each morning and did it.
But, us — we gotta have resumes. Alas!
New Resume Bullet: During the last five minutes, I drew a little vase that sits on my table with a pen. Took a digital photo of it. Posted it to my blog.