Updated: Apr 20, 2020
In a conversation about school with a friend last night the topic of versatility was brought up. More specifically altering your craft so that it can be used in a way that brings more demand and monetary value. I think that in today’s modern art world where there’s so many different and established styles a lot of people want to just skip steps and get right to the big work. The problem with that is that they don’t have the technical skill or understanding, they’re just making work for work’s sake and saying it means whatever but that doesn’t work outside of a scholastic environment. One of the things that bugged me most in critiques was when a piece would be terribly put together but the person would say that it means this or that and the whole crit was about concept. Ok, great, you’ve got your concept figured out but you can’t craft your piece well, and I don’t think a piece that’s crafted poorly can convey a concept without you standing there and saying what the concept is. These are the people we unfortunately see give up and no longer work as artist post college, they become one dimensional and that one dimension may not come with monetary compensation so they get stuck and a run in the mill job and the creativity just fades away.
We as creators are unfortunately going to have to compensate a lot in our professional careers because being an artist in the modern sense unfortunately wasn’t design to be a “job.” So, if we think of our art and learning our craft as building a house, things like concept are like the shingles on the roof and technical applications like paint mixing, wood bending, and just all around craft are the foundation. People forget that the great abstract painters didn’t always work that way, they were classically trained but saw flaws in what everyone was doing in art so they created something different. But now people are coming into school and they just want to jump to the full, museum style pieces that they see their favorite artists doing and schools are letting that slide when they shouldn’t. If you want to make large scale installation sculpture that requires a massive space, awesome, schools give you a space to perfect that. But if you skip over learning the technical aspects like welding if you’re working with steel, or cutting, bending, and gluing/nailing with wood you’re going to struggle as a professional artist. In the professional world there’s very few spaces that can facilitate things like that and, as I said, sometimes we have to compensate as artists. Sculptors sometimes have to make trinquets, painters sometimes have to do landscapes, and ceramicists might have to make simple bowls to get by to fund their more creative work in hopes that the big artistic break comes. But the difference there is they’re still working on their craft, toning the basics so that the creative work becomes even better. If you’re waiting tables (which is an honest living, don’t think I’m hating) and just waiting for someone to discover you based on your college work, it likely won’t happen and you’re going to be super out of practice.
It’s an unfortunate truth in the art world and it might be super boring but we have to hone the basics of our craft. I can’t just shatter a mug and say it means the economy or something because that isn’t going to translate. Schools need to stop letting silly stuff like that go and we as artists need to realize that it might suck but we’ve got to be good at our craft technically as well as creatively. Don’t forget to log the time on the boring stuff because one day if you have to make a career out of living room paintings, or trinquet sculpting while you wait for the creative stuff to take off, then at least you’re working in your craft. It sucks that we need to get paid to get by and we can’t just be creative but it’s the truth and it’s a hell of a lot better to just compromise and do something a little more boring but along the lines of your craft than it is to just find some other job and admit you wasted your time in school. A SOLID FOUNDATION IS THE KEY.