MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MODERN DAY ARTISTS
By Gordon Fiedor
Consider that you are an illustrator.
You are a staff member in the advertising department of a major national toilet paper manufacturing company.
You sit hunched over your drafting table feverishly working on a sketch that was due deadlines ago. Somehow, it still isn’t quite up to par with the quality of artistry on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; (more like the paint spattered on the floor). You’re wondering if you haven’t drawn the baby’s head too large, or if you’ve drawn the cushiony cloud too small, when suddenly you notice someone peering over your shoulder.
It is an onlooker, someone new to the company who has wandered in from another department. He is smiling brightly.
You know exactly what he is going to say.
“You draw that?”
You reply in a way that is affirmative yet does not encourage further conversation.
“Must be nice to draw all day.”
You smile politely and deciding that the bunny’s ears are too pointed, you frantically erase them.
“Wish I could draw.”
You feel about the same today.
“Looks like fun” chorts the onlooker as he exits.
Fun isn’t the most select word to describe your experience as an artist, now or for as long as you can remember. Yet it remains one of a repertoire of words used by over-the-shoulder enthusiasts, to describe what is deemed the artist’s experience. This type of misunderstanding of the creative process has added to a growing palette of colorful beliefs about the nature of art that are more romantic than factual.
Here are a few of the more popular misconceptions targeted at artists, illustrators, sculptors, cartoonists, designers and anyone else with paint on their forehead and ink under their fingernails.
ART IS FUN. Wrong. Roller skating is fun. Twister is fun. Cutting photographs of ex-lovers into tiny pieces and mailing the pieces to them is fun. But you’d be hard pressed to find an illustrator laughing his way through a technical illustration showing a cut-away view of a microchip.
ARTISTS ARE BORN WITH A GIFT. Usually the belief of a blood relative and closet doodler. After four years of art school and six years of perfecting your craft, someone has managed to reduce the sum of your efforts to birth.
ARTISTS ONLY WORK WHEN THEY ARE INSPIRED. OH YES! For every job that was ever turned down by a mortgage-toting artist, there is an acre of beachfront property waiting on the coast of Ohio.
IF ARTISTS HAVE TALENT THEY WILL BE SUCCESSFUL. Survey says, “Not so”. If there is no market for the type of work the artist does, then by society’s standards, there will be no success, short of family praise. The art field is extremely competitive, and as in most professions, wearing the right tie will get you farther in an interview than talent. Art is a business and the same rules apply.
TALENT IS A VALUABLE AND RARE COMMODITY FOR WHICH THERE IS AN OBVIOUS DEMAND. Open any local newspaper to the classified advertising section and count the ads for Artists. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find any. Any Art Director will tell you that they review a staggering number of portfolios held by talented individuals for whom they can offer no work. As for Fine Artists, producing gallery art, the demand for their work may not be realized within their lifetime, and may possibly double after their death. Not a fun fact to base a lifestyle on.
ARTISTS LEAD ROMANTIC LIVES. Romantic people lead romantic lives; to that there is no mystery. There is a certain amount of romance involved in any creative process. An artist draws upon his perceptions to create a work. These perceptions are personal and must be sensitive to his subject if he is to achieve his goal. The viewer will have a reaction to the work. This will more than likely be an emotional reaction. The relationship between the artist and the viewer then becomes in some way a romantic one. One had effected the emotions of the other in a highly nonverbal way. Very romantic. However, this has little to do with how the artist lives; how romantic his life actually is.
Certain aspects of an artist’s career can be nothing short of degrading. There is a side of every profession that seldom finds it’s way into public view. The following will surely parallel a page torn from any artist’s diary that has worked the freelance circuit and had what is termed a “bad interview”. “Bad” meaning of course, the worst experience of your life.
As you enter the office of the most renowned Art Director at the most prestigious advertising company in the world, you are filled with false confidence and an unrealistic zest for your craft. You have spent hours talking yourself into this unwanted state of frenzy. Good job.
The Art Director is screaming at someone over the phone for wasting her valuable time. She gives you a look. You are suddenly reminded of a documentary you once saw in which carnivorous desert beasts pick their teeth with the bones of the slower members of some fleeing pack.
She motions for you to seat yourself in a chair that is overflowing with stacks of paper and books. You balance yourself on the arm of the chair and pretend to be interested in clever photographs and sketches that she has deemed significant enough to tack, staple and tape over every available inch of wall space in the entire office. You wish that earlier you had said “no” to that sixth cup of coffee.
She slams down the phone without saying “goodbye” and greets you without saying “hello” or using your name.
Making the sacrificial gesture, you offer her your portfolio; a book filled with the labors of your life; the accumulated treasures of your talents; the product of your soul and justification of your existence.
She leafs through it as if thumbing through the Yellow Pages. The number she is looking for is (from her expression), unlisted, and there is no new number.
She yawns and speaks in a monotone.
“I’m really looking for someone who can draw radishes.”
You lie to her and tell her you have dozens of sketches of radishes at your studio. She informs you that she has a pressing meeting approaching and politely asks you to leave without asking you for a card. You offer it anyway. She tosses it onto a pile of cards on a shelf in the corner. It disappears forever in a dark void.
Someone from another office arrives to escort her to lunch. She grabs her coat and exits.
You feel as if you will never work again as an artist – ever, ever, ever.
It crosses your mind to trash her office but you opt for self-abuse. You begin by asking yourself that all too familiar question; “I wonder how much bricklayers make an hour?”