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Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Art Influencers

I've looked at every side of who and what an artist is and what makes some artists popular and others not. From Da Vinci 600 years ago to Ai WeiWei in the present times, these masters of their craft share one commonality. They are influencers in the world of art. Almost without exception the most popular artists throughout time influenced the art world around them.

Lets look at Da Vinci first. Here was a man who was an ingenious artist. There is no doubt that his mind was filled with ideas every moment of his life. But would those ideas have ever been seen if the man hadn't also been a great influence on the art world at that time. He carved a niche for himself where almost everyone respected him and his name rose because he forced the art world towards new ideas. Yes it was his art that first and foremost made him who he was, but it was also the mans intellect and how he moved amidst the world of the Renaissance that brought him to prominence. In many ways he was the Renaissance. He embodied it within his beliefs.
This may seem like common sense to you. Of course he was an influence. But what I am saying is that the more popular the artist, the more influence they had within their chosen career.

Move up in time to Picasso. This little man wielded incredible power in the art world because he understood art, he taught others about that understanding and he forced the world to look at art in new ways.

Move up again to Ai WeiWei, Annish Kapoor or any other modern day master and you find the same thing. They are not only talented but they force the way they look at art on all around them. Look at Damien Hirsch. For a time the man held great sway over the art world but his grip and control on changing peoples ideas about art have dwindled. (No offense to the Hirsch fans out there).

As always the press giveth and the press taketh away. Much of the influence of these artists is because the press listen to them and disseminate their ideas back out to the world. And people listen.

So what am I really trying to say here? This logic is nothing new. But the fact is that  emerging artists are always saying "how do some artists become famous? How can I be one of them?" This is one of the ways.

To be an "artist" you need talent, motivation and ideas. But to be a "popular artist" is more than that. It starts there but its about how your work, your ideas and your mindset influence the art world that you exist within.

Many artists say "well I just want to paint". That's fine. Your work may get noticed in your community and your region and for a time may be quite popular. But if you want to create a lasting legacy in the art world then you need to create a lasting impact on it also.

Art is about more than just the brush to the canvas. Its about what we are saying to the world both "in" the art we create and "around" the art we create.

Lets look at Banksy. No one knows for sure who they are, but Banksy speaks! We hear it in everything he/she does (lets not assume Banksy is male).  Even in his/her anonymity the artists influence is massive and ingenious.  Because Banksy is not just about pretty pictures. The artist influences the world through their art and around their art constantly. And the press love him. But would they love him if he was just painting in back alleys across Europe? Doubtful. He gained their attention by speaking within that art and making very bold statements that could not be missed.

Some say that money is the easiest way to popularity, but I am not so sure thats true. There are many artists out there who can afford to spread their art around at ease. Look at Thomas Kinkade. The man wielded influence in the art world for a time. But what did he contribute to the art world itself?  Now that he has passed away, does he leave behind an undying legacy? Sure if you own one of his originals it will be worth more now that he is dead, but who talks about him? Who talks about the legacy he left behind on the art world or the lasting message that surrounded his work?

The other night we were discussing an American artist named Marushka who made quite a bit of money in the 70s and 80s with these chic little canvas prints. For a short time they were all the rage. Any college student during that time had one or two hanging on their dorm room walls. But who today remembers Marushka in anything other than memory of their youth? Marushka never influenced the art world. He came and he went. He made money off the art world, but he left no lasting footprint.

I think we as artists fight against our very nature sometimes. We just want to be left alone to create and that's fine. Some go further merely for popularity but I think this backfires on them. In the end they are never as grandiose as they would like to be because they never left behind a powerful message that other artists could learn and grow from.

But some have the deepest desire of their spirits to have a say in the world they exist within. Their interest is sincere. Its not built on fame, fortune or popularity. These are by far the strongest voices. They speak from the soul and to the soul with both their art and their words and they deserve to be listened to.

You want to be a famous artist? Make an impact. Speak passionately. Loudly at times. Softer at others but speak and teach with every brush stroke you take. Make your life the canvas, not just your art.


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