Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Hard And The Soft

It is requisite for the ideal artist to possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with its delicacy.

Nathaniel Hawthorne
To be an artist one has to be mildly schizophrenic, not in a clinical sense but in a social, mercantile sense. In any transaction involving a work of art there are three elements, the seller, the buyer and the piece. Initially the seller is the artist whether he sells to a gallery or an art collector. If the buyer is a gallery there is usually no money involved. There's an agreement instead. The gallery becomes the seller, collects the money, takes a commisssion and sends the rest to the artist.

When the artist is the seller it becomes a problem of possession. He is letting go of something that was once an all consuming part of himself, like sending off a daughter to be married. The artist has to completely believe in the work and in himself. And he has to be very good at coming to an agreement with the buyer that is satisfactory to both of them. Which means he has to be a good businessman.

I know an artist who was asked by a buyer how much he wanted for a painting. The artist said, let's say, $500. The buyer then asked how much it would be without the frame. The artist replied "$500, I don't sell frames."

It is very similar in the theatre world. When an actor auditions for an agent or a director he has to go in sure of himself, confident and prepared. But in the actors case the piece he is selling is himself. It's his talent, ability, artistry and craftsmanship that's up on the easel. Once he gets the role then he can put the salesmanship in his pocket and let the artist go to work.

So how is this done? A young artist asked me that once and here's what I said. It's like you have two heads, and here's where the schizophrenia comes in. One head is you the hard nosed businessman and vendor of wares and the other is you the imaginative, sensitive creator of beauty, vulnerable and delicate. When one head is out front you are holding the other behind your back. You know it's there, but for the time being you forget about it.

DB - The Vagabond
Weekend Puzzle - Weekend Puzzle

I give you the questions, you give me the answers.

Ready. Set. .
1. What's here to stay?
2. Who am I dreaming of?
3. What are free?
4. Where should you tell your feet to go?
5. When did I know the time?
6. What do the light winds say?
7. How did she live her life?
8. Where should you take me?
9. Where have I got you?
10. What shall I brush up?
11. Who ran Venezuela?
12. Why should I keep my violin and bow?
I'm tapping my foot waiting. Good luck.


pacifica62 said...

I think that you have pretty much summed up why I am glad that I am not an artist or an actor. It is the business of selling oneself over and over again and hoping someone will buy your painting or hire you for a role. Quite a different life than just going to work every day at some mindless job, doing it then going home. I really do have to give you artsy people credit for going out there every day slogging your wares and hoping someone will appreciate you. Not a life I could ever live that is for sure.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I would imagine every piece, every performance, is like giving a small part of yourself away. The key is to replenish before you are no longer.