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Re: Kinkade, prints...the tough world for artistic survival

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From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 05:34:35 PST


This has been a long on going discussion on many online artist's communities
long before the special aired recently. I did not see the special, and wish
I did considering the many threads I've engaged in.

I'm not a Kinkade advocate. For me as an artist, I find my aesthetics
trigger when work I view either causes me to have wished to have painted it,
or has something to show me that chances to advance my understanding of
painting. Not to say I can't appreciate all works, and I do for the most
part. I'm just saying in a given amount of time, I'll economize and walk
past wings and many works to get to certain pieces that will call me to
attention.

Kinkade's work, like Redlin's is all too predictable to me. It is
commecial. On the other hand, I have seen works of his that are plein air
pieces...that is, painted on location. Those works are actually quite
remarkable and reveal the actual artist in him.

I had work in one gallery where the gallery owner himself brought me over to
a series of giclee prints Kinkade had out, twenty I think it was. The
factory people had ordinarily applied impasto paint over his prints to give
them that original look but these Kinkade had dabbed the texture paint
himself. It was therefore called a special print series, and the giclees
sold for about $20,000 each. Unbelievable that a print transfer adhered to
canvas with dabbed paint could bring such. Especially since perhaps 50
years might be expected of the quality of the inks used in these giclee
processes, though they are improving.

As art "historians" I don't think we should lose sight of the struggle all
artists have trying to make a living, nor do most want to have to do the
thing of trying to make money. Prints were a way however,
traditionally...for artists (I'm speaking of the masters), to produce work
for the commoner to afford to own art work, and to make money between
commissions from the aristocrats. Rembrandt had many etchings as did
Durer...Winslow Homer, etc;

I have several prints myself out...but the industry has lost sight of what
these are supposed to be. Affordables for the masses, a bit of money for
the artist. When big producers of art make the print, it will cost about
$5,000 minimum per image. They will take about 85% of each print sales, the
rest for the artist. Giclees are actually quite expensive by comparison to
make, and look good. The artist has more options of not producing mass
quantitites, but perhaps 1-6 at a time. The printer keeps the image on
computer disc. It is more manageable for the artist, and prevents his space
from being taken up by prints. That artists are getting more choices to
break away from the strangle hold of the big print producer will weaken that
giant and put the power more into the artist's hand.

The concept is still the same though, in that it affords the artist to knock
him/herself out on the original. I have one original with nearly 300 hours
in the piece worth about $16500 today. Where I live, no one can afford to
buy it. I can't afford to give it away. I had to take care of my family
and account for the 300 hours time put into it. Prints allowed such to
happen. I won a competition with that piece, and 450 prints at $75 each
sold. Signed and numbered.

For the most part...those prints were an occasion where people want to meet
the artist, rally to support his good success in winning, and be a part of
something that "happened."

If we could go back in time to when the first show of the "Impressionists"
took place.....how many of us now, would not scramble to put as much money
together as possible to purchase a piece...(any piece) for the pittance then
asked for knowing what they would be worth now? Not saying prints will be
worth that...but wanting to own something of significance that points to a
moment that "happened" seems to be a part of our nature. Those that have
bought prints of mine usually have developed a relationship of some kind
with me, even if brief. It meant something to them and that was an honor
for me.

People buying any prints from me enjoy the work I do, but frankly cannot
afford the original. This has been a problem for the artist for a couple
hundred years.

I do believe though, that what I do and many artists I know is a far distant
cry from the Redlin and Kinkade thing.

One thing that has always been a stereotype of the artist/educator type is
that heroic attitude that the arts ought to be free and clear of the evil
that any attachment to money brings. That is all well and said when you get
a check every other week. However, at 47 years of age and "back" into
teaching art after living off my artwork for 12 years...I am enjoying health
benefits for the first time. I am beginning to think about the possibility
I might see a retirement someday (though I will no doubt still paint).

For those that think all this stuff evades "fine art" I want you to know
that more and more these days it is getting nearly impossible to get into
the galleries that support "fine art" or contemporary. I have work in a
number of galleries, and my sales of originals have not been too bad. True,
the "fine art" gallery owners will have fun making sport of commercialized
art and artists, but then when considering work to put in their own
galleries...they will grill the artist for a "curricula vitae" which is a
fancy schmancy word for "artist bio".....

The "vitae" and uppity galleries want to know who your "important buyers"
were of your work. Important shows you were in, etc; the whole marketing
thing the same, but of a different color. They want leverage when they walk
a possible customer over to your work to sales pitch them into being
interested in buying your work. Some artists are giving paintings to state
governors, the president, etc., then putting into their "vitae" that
so-and-so owns a work. Same pretense and garbage if you ask me. But, it is
a game that is forced upon the artist trying to survive.

One gallery I was in in the Mall of America pays $14000 per month to lease
their space. They must generate a lot of sales to be there. The minimum
sale price of a painting to be there is at least $2200. I was fortunate to
be in their gallery for three years. Hey folks....let's not just teach
idealism to our kids. The world is real, and its tough out there. Yet at
the same time, I like to think we encourage minds to think and wrestle with
ethics. Things like selling unarchival inks on thin papered canvas for
thousands? Well....just not right in my mind.

When you get a chance, check out my new artist' site up, with demo's, etc;
Many of my demo's are good for young people. Mac users with Netscape
"might" have some problems. I'm still trying to figure out how to fix some
of the "html" problems associated with that. Thanks....
Larry

http://www.artsmentor.org

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