Just like in any profession, if you want accolades, then you need to do good work.
One of my friends posted this editorial about Artists participating in ArtPrize 9. I think this article is relevant all of the time – just “do good work.”
Here is the editorial:
You and I both know there are tricks to get the general public’s attention at ArtPrize. You and I know these have, at times, won over the public for large prizes. But really sublime work has also won over the public’s heart, and this is, after, all, our ninth time doing this thing called ArtPrize.
I myself, in this wonderful circus of ArtPrize, have participated as an artist, a curator and venue manager, an ArtPrize staff member, and a member of the media covering this monstrosity. I’ve been heavily involved every year, experiencing it in every way except being a passive visitor. Some call it a sickness, an obsession. I don’t know what to say — I just love that throngs of people are hanging out and looking at and talking about art.
You may be a new artist or someone considering submitting work next year. But just a heads up, we talk about your art. And through the years I’ve heard some real zingers. We notice the bad art and are getting better and better at discerning as we get more practiced throughout the years. So here is the start of a list of simple ways to truly win over our hearts, not to mention maintain your, um, well…
your dignity. Let’s go:
Don’t try to trick us into liking you. Do not, for the love of all that is holy, resort to gimmicky for the sake of having a gimmick. Sure the penny made of pennies made a splash seven years ago. It also garnered abysmal and definitely not complimentary nicknames of course. But we’re asking for more. Don’t paint with lipstick instead of paint just because…well I have no earthly idea why. Don’t do it. Gimmicks are cheap; they’re trickery; they’re wholly unnecessary. Wow us with your skills, your craftsmanship, your conceptual layers.
Stick to what you know. I know it’s tempting to try out a new idea when faced with the competition and prize money, but ArtPrize is not the time to completely shift gears. Create a work that shows off the skills you have honed over years of work. If you’re a painter, don’t suddenly create a sculpture. If you’re a sculptor, don’t try your hand at painting. Do these things, sure—but perfect that new skill before you enter it into a large competition.
Go big. I don’t just mean size, here, though large work is a proven tactic to get the notice of the throngs at ArtPrize, I’ll admit. I mean give it your all. I mean push your boundaries just enough, and challenge yourself to expand on your skills. Be sure to give yourself time to try out your big boundary-pushing challenge to expand your work to new levels before entering it into ArtPrize, of course, but do it. Don’t play it safe. I know this and the advice before it seem like they contradict one another. That’s okay. Life is full of both/and, after all, so stick to what you know and then go big with that.
Practice. If your work has some sort of performative element to it, or your sculpture has moving parts, please don’t just think you can wing it. We will—all 500,000 plus of us—see you fail and know it’s because you didn’t practice. Remember the first year, when the paper airplanes were all supposed to come floating down to us from a tall building all together, thousands of them? Well. Guys. They came down in clumps. Huge clumps of hundreds of paper airplanes, with just a few separating to do what they were intended to do. The artist himself admitted they hadn’t done any trial runs, not even a throw from a 2nd story window. It was an embarrassment and that failure is what everyone was talking about. For years. Don’t have us talking about that. We understand things go wrong but if you don’t even practice, do any trial runs, we will see that and we will feel betrayed.
Consider the base. I don’t mean the voting base, I mean the thing you put your artwork on. The frame for a painting, the structure holding up your sculpture, the pieces that you don’t think of as your work, and yet when we the viewers look at it, we see it with your work, all at the same time. There is nothing more visually frustrating than a beautiful or conceptually moving work that’s propped up with….bright blue plastic bins, for example. The presentation of your work—even lighting, arrangement, how far apart it’s placed from other work—should be considered as carefully, crafted as closely, as the work itself. As much of this as you can control, control it. We see it as a whole. Please don’t throw together shim-sham and expect us not to notice. It’s distracting. We notice.
Nobody likes a car salesman. Don’t shove flyers in our hands or plaster your work itself with your voting code. We understand you want to get our attention, but there are so many ways to accomplish this without resorting to something that makes us feel icky. Set up a little table where you demonstrate how you make your work, for example. People love watching artists work. We are fascinated. Work your social media savvy—or have a friend with social media savvy up your game. There are plenty of ways to get our attention. Compromising yourself or your work to get your voting code in our face isn’t the way to do it.
I’m not voting for a cause. I don’t care how important your issue or need is, be it cancer or puppy adoption or domestic abuse. I care about those issues sure. Well, I don’t care that much about puppy adoption, if I’m honest. But none of that matters: if the art is bad, I’m not voting for art based solely on what it’s trying to say. Art has to also be visually masterful. Remember those toilets? About colon cancer? Yeah, even my then-5-year-old could tell that was bad art. We can talk about causes and issues and you might even get a donation to your nonprofit doing valuable work but I’m not hitting that thumbs up on your ugly hastily thrown together “statement” piece because of it. Make good art. That’s what where my votes are cast.
And that right there basically sums it up:
Make good art. Stop trying to trick us into liking your work and just make work worth liking. Don’t pander. We want to walk up and be arrested by the work, to draw in a quick breath at its exquisite color, or form, or conceptual expression.
I’m not saying it has to be beautiful.
But it has to be masterful. It has to be smart. It has to be carefully considered and well made. And beautiful, stunningly, shockingly beautiful? That works too. Just like in any profession, if you want accolades, dear artists, then you need to do good work.
And good luck out there. I hear everyone’s a critic these days.
by: Holly Bechiri