Imaginative Art and the Marketplace
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    Imaginative Art and the Marketplace

    The following is a blog post after my experience at Illuxcon this year. There is a new push to bring imaginative art into the mainstream with talk about a permanent museum and more museum shows for the genre. These were some of my thoughts as someone coming at it from the gallery side of things as opposed to coming from illustration.

    Illuxcon was an interesting mix of new and old for me. It was fun reconnecting with old acquaintances from my brief illustration career and meeting new people who I have only interacted with online before the convention. It was exhilarating to see excellent imaginative art but frustrating to see prices for quality finished work set so low compared to the gallery world.

    Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire and the other people behind Illuxcon are bringing imaginative art to a broader audience with this convention. They are doing this by spotlighting the best traditional artists and sculptors for collectors and fans in a small intimate setting. Hopefully it will raise standards and prices along with that appeal. I think the time for this may be just right if it happens fast enough. It has been tried many times before but has never caught on completely. I participated in shows at the Delaware Museum in the early 90's with other artists in the field but the shows while well attended did not produce a large enough collector base needed to sustain itself.

    What is different this time around is the way entertainment and media have seeped into every part of our lives. It is literally at our fingertips 24/ 7 now, with tablet computers and smart phones. Much of the content driving the media explosion has its roots in Science Fiction and Fantasy. What was once a marginalized genre by most of society is now the mainstream and of course art plays a large role in the creation of those products.

    The industries that drive this kind of art creation are almost completely digital at this point. Prints will never garner the prices of originals. The missing component here is the representation of this kind of art in traditional galleries and show venues alongside more normal subject matter. There are a few of the more successful artists of the genre doing this already but it is a very small number and most haven't given up illustration to become full time gallery artists. I can only assume because sales haven't filled the gaps between the two disciplines and while collectors are there, they are too few in number to sustain artists completely like other genres of gallery work can.

    To create a sustainable market for original works the genre must move itself away from illustration and production art to stand on its own, freed from being a tool of product enhancement. Patrick Wilshire has again taken the lead on this by helping to establish an imaginative category with the Art Renewal Competition one of the premier representational shows in the country at this time. This should encourage more imaginative works to be created without any ties to merchandise.

    In the sixties, traditional illustrators from the pulps and paperbacks of the forties and fifties created a market for western and representational art that thrives to this day. Some of the highest paid prices for representational genre art are being paid at the venues that host this work. Look at the Masters of the American West Show, American Masters at the Salmagundi Club or the Prix de West in Oklahoma. Imaginative art can do the same if it can rise above some of its exploitative and juvenile subject matter and hold onto its traditional creation long enough for galleries and venues to establish their viability. Illuxcon is a great start.

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    A great topic for discussion, but most worthwhile I'd say if more art professionals, which I'm not, would join in. Such that I am, I will bump this thread with a question.
    When you state the actual works must transcend their origins as utilitarian artifacts of some larger effort like a film or a game, are you calling for artists to do more personal work that partakes of the genres of science-fiction and fantasy without being tied to "product", or do you mean the onus to be on collectors to evolve their sensibilities to appreciate the inherent aesthetic quality of concept art pieces apart from their initial purposes and subject matter? in either case I think it sounds like you're calling for the production of more work in traditional media, which I see as absolutely no problem, as even the best digital work seems usually to have been made by artists with strong traditional skills, but as you point out the industry requirements seem to be moving toward ever more digital production.

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    Great analysis and observations...spot on I think. From my point of view I think there are solid reasons for the disparity that exists between "gallery art" and "illustration". Interestingly though I think this is a fairly modern shift...last 100 years or so. When I think of the totality of art history I believe it is full of imaginitive, fantastic works (which were really illustration)that touch on the sublime and archetypical experience of being human - allegorical paintings full of symbolism, myth, monsters, romance, longing, etc. Illustration tends not to do that, concept art tends not to do that. It serves a very different purpose. A few illustrators walk that boundary and there are others making an attempt. John Jude Palencar comes to mind immediately, perhaps the Dillons, Michael Whelan and probably quite a few I'm unaware of.

    I think the core discrepancy simply lies in the intent of the work...and the intent dictates the handling of the subject, the media used and the presentation. It has more to do with the why than with the subject.

    Just my two cents. And yes, great topic, and actually very important for many of us - I'm interested in hearing what others think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cory Hinman View Post
    A great topic for discussion, but most worthwhile I'd say if more art professionals, which I'm not, would join in. Such that I am, I will bump this thread with a question.
    When you state the actual works must transcend their origins as utilitarian artifacts of some larger effort like a film or a game, are you calling for artists to do more personal work that partakes of the genres of science-fiction and fantasy without being tied to "product", or do you mean the onus to be on collectors to evolve their sensibilities to appreciate the inherent aesthetic quality of concept art pieces apart from their initial purposes and subject matter? in either case I think it sounds like you're calling for the production of more work in traditional media, which I see as absolutely no problem, as even the best digital work seems usually to have been made by artists with strong traditional skills, but as you point out the industry requirements seem to be moving toward ever more digital production.
    Cory thanks,

    Yeah, I think that the ship has sailed on traditional painting for most art jobs now. There are a few people holding onto it but they are older and in a minority. So for a museum or gallery scene to develop, artists need to think about making personal work for themselves traditionally. Museums and galleries are supported by collectors and they want originals. Prints are never going to cut it in the high end market. In the old days this wasn't a problem because you has the physical art from a job after the image was used. Now you don't with digital.Its no good to complain because it s not going back, companies rely on all of the cost saving digital techniques provide, so the easiest solution is to cultivate a higher end market while us old guys are still here and then leave it as an incentive to younger artists to also pursue traditional painting and drawing in imaginative genres. If the genre passes to just digital then there will never be a market or it will always be a fringe market dealing in historical artifacts not contemporary painting genres.
    .

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    IlluXCon will be held at the Allentown Art Museum (in Pennsylvania) in September, 2013.
    I was pleasantly surprised, this past summer when the Allentown Art Museum actually had a huge show dedicated to fantasy art/imaginative realism in a show titled ‘At The Edge: Art of the Fantastic'. The show featured many of the works of artists that attended previous IlluXCon shows to works of Pre-Raphaelites, the forebears of the golden age of American illustration. All of the work was traditional. I live about 15 miles away, so I went a few times and met a few of the artists like Allentown residents Boris Vallejo and wife Julie Bell, as well as Michael Whelan.

    At the Edge-Art of the Fantastic


    Last edited by bill618; November 19th, 2012 at 07:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Great analysis and observations...spot on I think. From my point of view I think there are solid reasons for the disparity that exists between "gallery art" and "illustration". Interestingly though I think this is a fairly modern shift...last 100 years or so. When I think of the totality of art history I believe it is full of imaginitive, fantastic works (which were really illustration)that touch on the sublime and archetypical experience of being human - allegorical paintings full of symbolism, myth, monsters, romance, longing, etc. Illustration tends not to do that, concept art tends not to do that. It serves a very different purpose. A few illustrators walk that boundary and there are others making an attempt. John Jude Palencar comes to mind immediately, perhaps the Dillons, Michael Whelan and probably quite a few I'm unaware of.

    I think the core discrepancy simply lies in the intent of the work...and the intent dictates the handling of the subject, the media used and the presentation. It has more to do with the why than with the subject.

    Just my two cents. And yes, great topic, and actually very important for many of us - I'm interested in hearing what others think.
    Yeah,

    I'ts not a quality thing, its just a market reality that galleries depend on original art. If there are no originals for this genre and everything is digital prints then there won't be a high end market ever. Which would be a shame. That's why I think its important to get people to think about making work for themselves free from art direction. The way Waterhouse did for the Lady of Shalott. That painting is in response to the Tennyson poem which was based on Arthurian Legend, but it isn't an illustration. Its a narrative painting created for the art market of the time. There is no reason current artists can't do the same with contemporary writing. Its a matter of intent by the artist making the work.
    I mean there are some artists Gil Bruvel, James Christiansen, Michael Parkes, but it a small market that I think has room to grow and thrive if people support it.

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    http://lcrazzy1.narod.ru/image/fanta...g_of_eowyn.jpg

    This Hildebrandt Tolkien image was among my favorites when first released and I still think it's a great one. Aragorn heals Eowyn and thereby demonstrates he is the prophesied healer-king. The Hildebrandts imbued their interpretation with a powerful sense of solemnity and spirituality and I suspect even deliberately sought to invoke the Communion Supper. Tolkien was a devout Catholic. Without knowing the details of the particular narrative, I would hope potential collectors would respond to the afore-mentioned solemnity and spirituality, and so justify your belief in the possibility of
    Imaginative Art finding a high-end audience. Of course, many people are now familiar with the story details, thanks to Peter Jackson, a major cause of the main-streaming of the genre which you referred to.

    Um, about this image, just don't look too closely at Gandalf and his staff. ("Here, lemme stir that up for ya!" or, I dunno, may be he's taking the temperature?) I think this sort of juxtaposition is what Jeffery Catherine Jones meant by "the machinations of the subconscious mind."

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    ... its important to get people to think about making work for themselves free from art direction. The way Waterhouse did for the Lady of Shalott. That painting is in response to the Tennyson poem which was based on Arthurian Legend, but it isn't an illustration. Its a narrative painting created for the art market of the time. There is no reason current artists can't do the same with contemporary writing. Its a matter of intent by the artist making the work.
    But how much does the prospective audience really need to know? The great Waterhouse piece had its source in the poem, but for its beauty, power and raw emotion really stands alone. Elsewhere in these forums Chris Bennet has exhaustively analyzed its composition which only reinforces its greatness. I would hope ignorance of the original source would not be a barrier to appreciation of so powerfully emotive a piece as this, an idea I was trying to get at in citing the Hildebrandt piece, but in this post to his blog

    http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...cal-twist.html

    James Gurney suggests that the public's lack of familiarity with the great literary traditions, including the mythological and Biblical stories which have inspired so many great works in art history, precludes practices like the subject of this post, 18th century painters contextualizing an academic figure study with a title referencing Classical mythology; "Adding these mythological layers can seem extraneous or gratuitous if the story doesn't guide the entire conception from the start. But when it's done thoughtfully, it offers both the artist and the viewer many new layers of feeling and association."
    Gurney then states;"The problem for artists these days is that the audience is generally not familiar with the stories and the characters of the Greek and Roman mythology or of the Bible. An artist can count on everyone knowing what a cupid or a mermaid is, but viewers might not be as familiar with characters such as Sisyphus." This last really stung because at the time of the post I was working up a piece actually referencing the myth of Sisyphus, but enough about me.

    How crucial is the main-streaming of source material, science fiction and fantasy subjects, to the success of the high-end Imaginative Art market you envision? Can artists overcome collectors' lack of awareness through skillful realization of their personal responses to subjects in the genres?

    I am determined to wring answers from you, sir, and apologize if my "irrelevance" at the end of my previous post derailed this effort.

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    Thought provoking post!

    One of the problems is you can’t ‘force’ something to happen. Markets and public awareness of those are to some extent organic. Whilst you can create the conditions for something to happen, it’s not a guarantee of success, (and good luck to Illuxcon for trying to do that). Waterhouse is often trumpeted as the epitome of the ‘imaginative’ artist working as not an illustrator but creating images that are perceived by the imaginative fantasy world as representative of what they, as ‘illustrators’ aspire to. (It’s quite flattering that a Brit has this role, but I digress). But Waterhouse was working in an entirely different world to today, and when not painting his damsels was painting portraiture of society the way Sargent would do. But Waterhouse WAS illustrating. Your description of his process and method is that of an illustrator. He pushed the allegorical and the narrative, but he 'illustrates' a story. The fact he didn’t do it as such for a client, is the only distinguishing difference. And there’s the rub. Illustration will only be a minority collector market to those who appreciate the skill, but aren’t bothered by the fact the artist is using someone else’s imagination as a vehicle. The mainstream non-illustration collector art world, the ‘fine’ art scene, isn’t buying the artwork; they’re buying a piece of the artist. They’re buying the artists vision, and at the same time buying into their world, irrelevant of process to some extent. In the illustration world there are exceptions, there always are. Frazetta is one that springs to mind. He created a world within his work that is uniquely Frazetta. Whether it’s an illustration for Mad magazine, Conan or something science-fiction, there is an essence beyond the subject matter that is totally individual. So when a collector of fantasy art buys a Frazetta, he’s not necessarily buying the image, he’s buying Frazetta! The illustrator HAS to have a unique vision to equal the appreciation of Frazetta, and skill set alone is not enough (and yes, I do know there are others!).

    You are right that illustration artists should move away from illustration and design to have an impact on the ‘fine arts’, (heck, Mark Ryden and all those commercial artists of the low brow scene have relative success there) but the problem is Fantasy Art or what we now seem to have euphemistically re-branded ‘Imaginative Realism’ (which indicates an emphasis on technique rather than subject) is seen as genre, and genre is seen as not mainstream unless it's in the cinema (he says cynically). Collectors want things that are going to be valued by the ‘mainstream’ not by a genre audience, as they want their investment to have resale value. Of course that's wrong and absurd and to be frank I don’t understand why anyone would want an image they didn’t like on their walls anyway, but that’s another issue. Going back to our Waterhouse example, and I’m getting specific here, his characters are not drawn from Fantasy in the way modern society perceives ‘fantasy’. They are drawn from classical literature and history, so move away from genre. Whether ‘The Lady of Shalott’ or ‘Mariana in the South’ is fantasy or not is irrelevant, the mainstream sees the ‘source’ as classical. Conan is not classical in the same sense. Gurney is right when he talks about familiarity: many people only know classical literature and studies these days when they come across it on Wikipedia. Yet everyone knows who Spiderman is. Popular culture is the new mainstream, whereas 140 years ago, artists were often classically educated, so that’s where their source material lay and 'illustration' was fairly nascent.

    But this goes back to your last sentence: illustrators have to move beyond juvenile subjects. So maybe that’s the contradiction: a desire to be perceived as ‘serious’ does not go hand in hand (generally) with continued inspiration from ‘Lord of the Rings’ or Marvel regardless of arbitrary skill sets. The thing is one can’t have it both ways: popular culture will always be seen as throwaway and transient, so if you use it as inspiration it’s going to be pretty hit or miss if it's mainstream appreciation that is sought. Personally I think illustrators SHOULD be able to move into contemporary story telling and draw from that inspiration that moves beyond the obvious, beyond the liteRAL not (literary). It's why Waterhouse painting a relatively contemporary poem works, it was current (for the time) and yet alluded to much more; classical story telling, mainstream literature and to top it all a pretty doomed girl in water! Always a recipe for success! It'd be wonderful to see more illustrators use modern literature as well as classical as inspiration rather than Batman, as fun as he is! Just harking back to a classical past means you never look forward... anyway, now I'm rambling...

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    Aly,

    All good points. I agree you can't force a market but you can grow one if you manage it right. Movies have done this with comic properties which are now some of the biggest movie franchises ever. 25 years ago that wasn't the case.

    I agree about Waterhouse and we can't recreate that time again. Maybe it was a bad example on my part but he seemed to be relevant historically. Tennyson's poem was written 30 years before Waterhouse was born.
    Better examples are the so called cowboy artists which started in the late 60's after being pushed out of illustration and are active today. These artists and younger ones who have followed in their footsteps have built a huge collector base around basically the same subjects they were painting for the pulps. I mean, Mian Situ sold one of his paintings at the Autry last year for $600,000, and he's not alone Clark Hulings 300,000, Howard Terpning 350,000, Joseph McGurl 100,000 to 150,000. Compare that to the prices Donato, Whelan and Hildebrandt get 20,000 to 50,000 for their major works. Compare that to artists working with fantasy subjects not tied to product fullfilment like Michael Parkes and Gil Bruvel who get those same prices for small and medium works and double and triple that for large pieces; you can see the market is out there.

    Patrick Wilshire just bought a Parkes pencil drawing for 20,000. I don't see that happening with furry art or manga anytime soon but I do think possibly Kipling's Jungle Books, Jules Verne, Poe, Howard , Lovecraft and maybe even Tolkien or Bradley's Mists of Avalon could be considered classic literature to new generations of artists and collectors if created with thoughtfulness.

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    Great discussion. I wish something like this was on exhibit near where I live, maybe some day I'll have to just travel and see these amazing works in person. There will probably be more of a market for this stuff as people who grew up with fantasy as a big part of their lives start having some dinero to throw around.

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    This is a fantastic discussion. I have always thought it would be great if there were galleries dedicated to this genre of work. I think a lot of people are unaware of a lot of the work out there because of the lack of physical pieces in galleries ect not due to a lack of interest. I do agree that maybe there is some truth in the idea that the older generation who have the money at the moment to buy original pieces, will not respond to some of the "juvenile " themes that are prevalent in most of the fantasy work coming out these days. But I think the type of work an artist produces is in response to their root into the genre. I think in the pre computer games era it was fantasy literature that got a lot of people into the art and that created a different maybe more mature visual aesthetic. Whilst now people are responding to the influences that games, cartoons and films ect have created. But I do think there is a market place for it if the right kind of work is produced and of course painted traditionally.

    In fact I was thinking about this very topic this summer when I was over in Paris in the louvre. In there English landscape painting section (right near the exit from the main hall) they had a piece by John Martin "pandaemonium" it is truly breath taking, for its scale, execution and imagination. In fact it reminded me a lot of the concept environment work that Noah Bradley does. After seeing so many Madonnas and Crucifixions ect it was refreshing to see something that was crossing over into the modern fantasy realm whilst still filling the traditional landscape box. But what struck me the most was that almost every single person who passed it would stop and stare for some length of time. I truly think it was the imaginative fantastical nature of the painting that was capturing peoples attention. I thought this was a great feat for a painting by a not so well known artist in a gallery full of classic works by the old masters.

    I agree with JeffX99 a lot of the old works were fantasy illustrations (Titian and Botticelli for example) depicting the stories people were familiar with at the time the Bible being the most notable. I think if the subject matter matures a little and puts humanity and emotion back into focus then I think people would respond quite well to that work. I doubt many people would turn there nose up at a painting by Danato but he puts the characters at the heart of his paintings and handles his subjects in a very mature way.

    I do agree with Kolbenito's point that perhaps when the younger generations (who most of the current fantasy genre work is aimed at) grow up and have the income they perhaps will want to own originals of paintings that represent the themes that they understand and have grown up with. For example I bet if Kekai Kotaki, Brad Rigney or Daarken turned their hands to oil painting and kept their same style and themes many people now and in years to come would want to get their hands on their work. But I think overall for any such market to exist more artist would need to work both traditionally and digitally and I am not sure this is about to happen any time soon but thats just my opinion.

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    that lady of shalott is amazing. painting things from books is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cory Hinman View Post
    But how much does the prospective audience really need to know? The great Waterhouse piece had its source in the poem, but for its beauty, power and raw emotion really stands alone. Elsewhere in these forums Chris Bennet has exhaustively analyzed its composition which only reinforces its greatness. I would hope ignorance of the original source would not be a barrier to appreciation of so powerfully emotive a piece as this, an idea I was trying to get at in citing the Hildebrandt piece, but in this post to his blog

    http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/20...cal-twist.html

    James Gurney suggests that the public's lack of familiarity with the great literary traditions, including the mythological and Biblical stories which have inspired so many great works in art history, precludes practices like the subject of this post, 18th century painters contextualizing an academic figure study with a title referencing Classical mythology; "Adding these mythological layers can seem extraneous or gratuitous if the story doesn't guide the entire conception from the start. But when it's done thoughtfully, it offers both the artist and the viewer many new layers of feeling and association."
    Gurney then states;"The problem for artists these days is that the audience is generally not familiar with the stories and the characters of the Greek and Roman mythology or of the Bible. An artist can count on everyone knowing what a cupid or a mermaid is, but viewers might not be as familiar with characters such as Sisyphus." This last really stung because at the time of the post I was working up a piece actually referencing the myth of Sisyphus, but enough about me.

    How crucial is the main-streaming of source material, science fiction and fantasy subjects, to the success of the high-end Imaginative Art market you envision? Can artists overcome collectors' lack of awareness through skillful realization of their personal responses to subjects in the genres?

    I am determined to wring answers from you, sir, and apologize if my "irrelevance" at the end of my previous post derailed this effort.
    These are all really good insights and questions. As with most things, success ultimately resides with the skill of the artist and their ability to connect to the marketplace. I believe that there is an opportunity here to get people my age and a little younger (35 and up) to buy this type of art.

    I already do I own a number of pieces from artists I admire. These were bought directly from the artists or traded for though and its a closed system at this point. The sale of originals is seen as a secondary or even tertiary income stream for many of these artists. For it to be mainstream it needs museums and galleries to participate in the sustainability of a bigger market and higher prices equal to the market for regular landscapes and portraits. Jim is a good example, his work fits perfectly as the kind of imaginative painting that people respond to but he has chosen not to deal in originals. It is very hard to buy those paintings because so few are in the marketplace. He has good reasons for not selling the originals but there is a market for that type of work with that type of quality. It is a definite mind shift from banging out $20 sketches at an artist alley every weekend. It requires more skill for one, and longer to create a thoughtful piece of work. There is more risk but also more reward, it just depends on if artists in the genre are willing to pursue it.

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    A couple brief points in response to Cory and Ally...

    I actually don't think Jim (Gurney) has it right regarding the general public and their lack of familiarity with myth, biblical and classical themes. I think it has more to do with "illustrators" not digging deep enough and exploring or illuminating archetypes and human pathos. Those are understood at some level without knowing context.

    Good observations Ally - agree with all that for sure. You briefly mentioned Mark Ryden (and what I generally call the Juxtapose/High Fructose artists - the "low brow" crowd) - that niche is an example of "illustration" as fine art I think...but it feels very fad oriented to me and smacks of hipsters kind of snickering about how cool they are. Maybe just me.

    Again to me the issue revolves not around subject, or even execution, but intent. Am I just making a pretty picture (J.C Leyendecker)...or am I saying something? And am I saying something like, "Cool!"...or am I saying something like "This is the sadness and longing I experience when I look back over the lost loves and opportunities of my life"...or whatever deeper human experience you care to plug in. IDK...maybe that's only part of one equation as well. I know I like a lot of different things and often they're just "Cool!" or interesting...and not terribly deep.

    All that aside, I think the heart of the issue (not definitions and what I/we like) has more to do with the viability and future of our work in the marketplace. My concern (which is what dpaint is getting at I think) is that we are at a crossroads of sorts...if younger generations are not interested in hanging work on walls (buying/collecting) because they see as much as they want on their screens (and I've heard many proudly state their walls are bare)...it is entirely possible we could have "vapor lock" and fewer and fewer people will be interested in owning anything original. The reason for this, I believe, is that if you grow up with art, you appreciate its value...if you don't grow up with art you don't miss it.

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    I think the main issue with Fantasy Art today is maturity. When you think of Fantasy Art you have to think of whose fantasies are being expressed in the vast majority of the work of the genre today. By and large it’s testosterone driven teenage boy fantasy. ‘Coolness’ and ‘Badassity’ are hardly substantive criteria for art, IMO. Unfortunately a lot of fantasy art is superficial. It doesn’t have a transcendent or emergent quality that makes it greater than the mere some of its parts. So the small number of truly creative ‘imaginative’ works out there suffer, by association, with a genre that gets little respect from the fine art establishment, or the sector of the art loving public that is looking for something a little more sublime than the simple excitation of the fight-flight response.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post
    I think the main issue with Fantasy Art today is maturity. When you think of Fantasy Art you have to think of whose fantasies are being expressed in the vast majority of the work of the genre today. By and large it’s testosterone driven teenage boy fantasy. ‘Coolness’ and ‘Badassity’ are hardly substantive criteria for art, IMO. Unfortunately a lot of fantasy art is superficial. It doesn’t have a transcendent or emergent quality that makes it greater than the mere some of its parts. So the small number of truly creative ‘imaginative’ works out there suffer, by association, with a genre that gets little respect from the fine art establishment, or the sector of the art loving public that is looking for something a little more sublime than the simple excitation of the fight-flight response.
    Excellent, and succinct summation bill! That's what I've been trying to get at - you just said it better. It isn't even really about the subject so much...even hot, naked mer-babes tending to ripped dudes with wings can actually work just fine...if handled well (Draper - Lament for Icarus):
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    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post
    I think the main issue with Fantasy Art today is maturity. When you think of Fantasy Art you have to think of whose fantasies are being expressed in the vast majority of the work of the genre today. By and large it’s testosterone driven teenage boy fantasy. ‘Coolness’ and ‘Badassity’ are hardly substantive criteria for art, IMO. Unfortunately a lot of fantasy art is superficial. It doesn’t have a transcendent or emergent quality that makes it greater than the mere some of its parts. So the small number of truly creative ‘imaginative’ works out there suffer, by association, with a genre that gets little respect from the fine art establishment, or the sector of the art loving public that is looking for something a little more sublime than the simple excitation of the fight-flight response.
    Bill, you're referencing the "Sword and Sorcery" brand of fantasy whose imagery tends to be lurid, violent, sexist, and damn fun; and also lends itself to expression in games and movies and quick fun dirty reads. There is however another branch of high literary fantasy, at whose endpoint I place Tolkien. I know most people see him as one of the fathers of modern fantasy literature, but I contend he deserves a place in the older tradition. Among other more recent luminaries in this tradition I'd include Lord Dunsany and George MacDonald, and slightly earlier William Morris and down the line I'd even include Tennyson. Mind you this view doesn't reflect serious, disciplined scholarship, just enthusiasm for the genre as a whole. More serious scholars tell me I'm wrong, and I'll be grateful.
    I do come by this view by considering that these authors down through Tolkien deliberately draw on an existing body of literature and folk-lore treating of "higher" or "other" realities, spiritual realms, Faerie, what have you, and their use of the trappings of fantasy are metaphorical, a means to apprehend personal, interior realities, basically what Jeffx99 has suggested should be the goal of art. Finally, their actual prose style is lyrical, ornate, occasionally and self-indulgently labyrinthine, and therefore rapidly becoming ever more inaccessible to modern audiences, but beautiful all the same.
    The fantasy authors following Tolkien are less observant of this high tradition, and are more writing in emulation or refutation of Tolkien himself. Of course there are a number of excellent authors who still mine the older tradition, like Charles DeLint and Robert Holdstock, and even more women like Ursula K. Leguin and Patricia Mackillip, but even though the women especially really do hew pretty close to the older tradition of high fantasy, their work still reflects a modern, post-19th century sensibility.
    Anyway, to wrap this up, it is this tradition of fantasy which I would say lends itself to more deeply felt, personal "serious" artistic expression, and I'd say Donato Giancola is THE artist actually doing it.

    I should say I'm woefully behind on what's really current in literary fantasy work. My life got busier, the genre became more main-streamed to where there are so many 6-12 part "trilogies" out there, well, I just got tired. Nowadays I tend to just re-read "Phantastes", "The King of Elfland's Daughter" or "The Gods of Pegana", or if I feel really ambitious I stroll through Middle-earth yet again...

    Sorry about all this, I really will keep future posts to questions or expressions of gratitude for all these detailed, thoughtful responses!

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    I just spoke to my gf (a writer and works in one of the Philadelphia museums) and brought up the fantasy art in fine art museums topic, by asking if the director of the museum where she works would ever have a fantasy art exhibition there (even though I knew the answer would be a resounding no). She just answered by saying, you should read the not-so-flattering review of the Allentown museum show on Philly.com.

    Philly.com review of the Allentown museum of Art exhibition—At The Edge–Art of the Fantastic:

    http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-2...own-art-museum

    –Ways to go, it seems.

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    See? "lurid". Told'ja!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cory Hinman View Post
    See? "lurid". Told'ja!
    My point was also about guilt by association.

    The quality work within the genre is tarnished by its tether to all the junk in the category.

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    Look forward to that read bill. Funny how they likely wouldn't consider a "fantasy art" themed exhibit...but would likely jump at the chance to host a Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolist or Orientalist exhibition? IDK...maybe not...but that is all pretty much fantasy painting. [side note - bill, is the Philadelphia Art Museum the one designed by Calatrava? Or is that the Milwaukee?]

    Cory - I think Tolkien succeeds for two main reasons (and I know you know this - just voicing it): 1) Intent - he was steeped in and devoted his life to world myth and legend and set out to write a mythology for the Brittish Isles; 2) LOTR and Silmarillion are really sublime works which are all about archetypes and deep human pathos such as bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, betrayal, longing, the corruption of power, etc. So (and again I know you know this, not suggesting you missed it somehow) it resonates on a far deepr level than the average "high fantasy" escapist "Dope-de-dope de-dope-de-dope...let's go onna quest everyone...you be the angry, sultry wench, you be the clever, witty thief with a good heart..." kind of pablum so prevalent in the genre. And at this point I would like to invoke Sturgeon's Law! 90% of fantasy is crap...but 90% of everything is!

    Anyway...a bit off topic maybe - sorry!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post
    I just spoke to my gf (a writer and works in one of the Philadelphia museums) and brought up the fantasy art in fine art museums topic, by asking if the director of the museum where she works would ever have a fantasy art exhibition there (even though I knew the answer would be a resounding no). She just answered by saying, you should read the not-so-flattering review of the Allentown museum show on Philly.com.

    Philly.com review of the Allentown museum of Art exhibition—At The Edge–Art of the Fantastic:

    http://articles.philly.com/2012-07-2...own-art-museum

    –Ways to go, it seems.
    Hmmm...tbh I think a pretty fair review, though I would quibble with some of his points (no need to go into them here - not germain to the discussion).

    The following quote stuck out to me as particularly accurate (to my feelings at least):
    "As fantasy art enters the contemporary period, it seems to leave behind even tenuous connections with ordinary human experience. It becomes pure sensation and technically virtuosic, which accounts for a good deal of its appeal.

    Particularly in terms of elaborate compositions, the work is dazzling - precisely drawn, vibrantly colored, and designed to transport viewers light-years beyond the quotidian. Emotionally, it's flat."
    Edward J. Sozanski


    Thanks for the link...interesting read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Look forward to that read bill. Funny how they likely wouldn't consider a "fantasy art" themed exhibit...but would likely jump at the chance to host a Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolist or Orientalist exhibition? IDK...maybe not...but that is all pretty much fantasy painting. [side note - bill, is the Philadelphia Art Museum the one designed by Calatrava? Or is that the Milwaukee?]

    Cory - I think Tolkien succeeds for two main reasons (and I know you know this - just voicing it): 1) Intent - he was steeped in and devoted his life to world myth and legend and set out to write a mythology for the Brittish Isles; 2) LOTR and Silmarillion are really sublime works which are all about archetypes and deep human pathos such as bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, betrayal, longing, the corruption of power, etc. So (and again I know you know this, not suggesting you missed it somehow) it resonates on a far deepr level than the average "high fantasy" escapist "Dope-de-dope de-dope-de-dope...let's go onna quest everyone...you be the angry, sultry wench, you be the clever, witty thief with a good heart..." kind of pablum so prevalent in the genre. And at this point I would like to invoke Sturgeon's Law! 90% of fantasy is crap...but 90% of everything is!

    Anyway...a bit off topic maybe - sorry!
    Exactly, Jeff. You touched on the specifics of what makes Tolkien so good, which I skimmed in my little overview.

    bill618, I'm afraid I touched a nerve and I'm sorry about that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cory Hinman View Post
    bill618, I'm afraid I touched a nerve and I'm sorry about that.
    No worries. No struck nerve. Though I like Fantasy Art, I’m actually not a real huge fan of the genre, in general.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    side note - bill, is the Philadelphia Art Museum the one designed by Calatrava? Or is that the Milwaukee?
    Santiago Calatrava designed the Quadracci Pavilion at the MAT.
    http://mam.org/info/architecture.php

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    And at this point I would like to invoke Sturgeon's Law! 90% of fantasy is crap...but 90% of everything is!
    Sturgeons Law needs an addendum here. The 90% crap, that IS everything, doesn’t usually drag down the value of the 10% that isn’t crap, to the extent that it seems to do with fantasy art.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    LOTR and Silmarillion are really sublime works which are all about archetypes and deep human pathos…
    Every time I hear the word archetype I’m reminded of when was 14 and read ‘Man and His Symbols’ by Carl Jung and associates, and how it had the most profound effect on me as a young artist in the 70s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post
    My point was also about guilt by association.

    The quality work within the genre is tarnished by its tether to all the junk in the category.
    This isn't a new complaint. At the Boston World-con in 89 they had invited out David Usher the CEO of Greenwich Workshops and some other people from Mill Pond Press and Hadley House Publishing to come and see the art show. Fantasy prints were pretty popular then with Scott Gustafson, Dean Morrissey and I think Jim Gurney had just signed with Greenwich or was about to. The print market was huge back then with people paying thousands of dollars for what essentially was a inkjet poster.

    Anyway the idea was these people would come in and see the art show and maybe sign some artists to their roster as they were actively looking for people. This was going to help fantasy become respectable and bring it to a wider audience. Well they were horrified because they expected to see Dinotopia paintings and Whelan Paintings and the professional stuff, but that isn't what they remembered when they came away from the show. That stuff was there, but what they remembered was all the furry porn and badly drawn murder rape fantasies and all the other crap that was in the art show hanging next to Whelan and Gurney and Hale and the other pros.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post


    Santiago Calatrava designed the Quadracci Pavilion at the MAT.
    http://mam.org/info/architecture.php


    Sturgeons Law needs an addendum here. The 90% crap, that IS everything, doesn’t usually drag down the value of the 10% that isn’t crap, to the extent that it seems to do with fantasy art.


    Every time I hear the word archetype I’m reminded of when was 14 and read ‘Man and His Symbols’ by Carl Jung and associates, and how it had the most profound effect on me as a young artist in the 70s.
    Thanks bill! Yes, excellent addendum to Sturgeon's Law in this case. And relates to what dpaint just said about Greenwich Workshop. Most of us "seasoned" folk are aware that your portfolio is only as good as the worst piece in it...because that is what will be remembered. The expansion of that idea to the genre as a whole is exactly what I think you're getting at - the guilt by association.

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    Well, hell! That makes perfect sense, but--hell.

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    It seems to me that the entire industry under discussion gathers its daily bread by making fantasies look realistic, mostly rendering photographically or close to it. Almost no effort is expended doing the reverse, which was the foundational idea of the Golden Age of illustration. That is, today, no thought is given to what anybody is saying about life and the experience of it. Fantasies all say the same thing, one can argue: life sucks, let's transport somewhere else. And the follow on is, look, I made something that doesn't exist look real, some bread for my belly please?

    Also, Imaginative has come to mean "fantastic" somehow. But this is not the meaning of the word. As Dean Cornwell put it; "Have the courage of a healthy imagination. By imagination I do not mean fairies flying through the clouds or gnomes peeping out of crooked trees." One might conclude that escapist fantasy is just what Cornwell would consider imaginatively unhealthy. Given most of what appears on this site, it is hard to imagine that most wanna be fantasy artists are anything like happy, sane, experienced in life, or in any way informed about art.

    Obviously the market for pure fantasy is the real meal ticket for the daily working imaginative artist. But given that the mob of fans ingesting fantasy simply want escape, they may, on any given day, shoot up with porn, drugs, or politics for their charge instead of looking at art. The rarest thing in the world, it would seem to me, is for an escapist mind dulled by the globally supplied methods of getting a free buzz, to somehow make a lot of disposable income in a hard nosed world. So most consumers of any of these products will gravitate towards the cheapest quick trip they can get, with "free" being the baseline and "you pay me to consume your product" being the golden ticket. A point which leads to questions about the intrinsic value of fantasy. What is the value of making stuff up that doesn't exist and making it look real, without actually making it really real?

    Well, just thinking economically, since the amount of stuff that doesn't exist is infinite, by the law of supply and demand, stuff that doesn't exist is actually valueless... An argument for why CGI will eventually be the entire provider of the pornography of the fantastic. After all, why should any time be wasted on creating ultimately valueless creations. Fantasy is by nature a completely disposable product, a tent show. It is the opposite of real estate.

    Serious human beings, who invest in themselves, and who accumulate meaningful relationships in life and hard earned wealth (and, yes, real real estate), don't waste day after day ingesting unrewarding, ultimately depressing, fantasies. They just don't. So they are not somehow going to find a kinship with the vacuity (non-philosophies) on display in merely fantastic works. (Philosophy being one's handbook for living a better, more substantial life.) People want art that reflects them and their values.

    All to say, while it may be well and good to suggest that fantasy artists make a gallery play for respectability and cash reward, the question is just who are the moneyed people out there who desire merely shallow escapes from life? Unless the rich idiots who buy postmodern agitations suddenly get re-brainwashed into liking shallow fantasy, I don't see the market. Donato, as good as he is, has nothing to say in his work that isn't also in the work of his worst imitator. If you believe in meaning, as most normal successful people do, where are the fantastic works that reflect that interest?

    What I'm trying to say is, the only value of a communication is the meaning of that communication. Meaning can't continue to be ignored if a genre plans on being taken seriously by realistic minds. Craftsmanship alone is merely the articulation of what is said, it isn't content.

    Ending thought: Movements start with artworks, not words. And artwork begins with artists. And artists are fostered by the pervasive culture. And here we are in the wasteland.

    kev

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    How the hell does Rothko No. 1 sell for 75 million dollars, and Illustrative art from the Silver era is not worthy?

    I'll be honest, I find the Modern Art scene somewhat offensive and the pretentious pseudo intellectual soul searching that goes along with it ridiculous. What prompts someone to spend that kind of money on something their children could probably do? Oh yeah, it's really about elitism and owning something other people want that have a lot of money that makes it worth the price. Excuse me for being skeptical but I think that is all there is to it. The main problem that Illustrative art has is that the rich people are still buying simplistic geometric shapes and badly drawn/painted things under their favorite name brand, "Modern Art".

    Illustration of the type mentioned in this thread has a bad rap here in the West for being largely associated with things for Children. That's a stigma that is changing. I know more college educated people between 30 and 45 with good careers who like fantasy, play games etc. than those who don't. Will that translate into Fine Art Illustration being coveted by the elite some day? If Rothko's painted rectangles can do it, I believe Frazetta and Bama can too.

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