Why Collectors Should Buy Prints (but artists should not make them)

The fine art print market is a great way to start collecting. But it is a complex art form that requires buyers to understand some technical aspects to printmaking.

For beginning collectors, prints are an easy way to buy nice works by substantial artists at prices that won’t stop your heart. For seasoned collectors, the print market is a fabulous way to acquire works by deceased artists whose paintings regularly sell at auction for staggering sums. 

"Whistler Smoking," c 1856-1860, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 9.5 x 6.63 inches

Consider James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). In 2020 at Christie’s British and European Art sale in London, Whistler’s 5 x 8.5 inch watercolor, “Chelsea Shopfronts,” sold for $79,840 (buyer fee included). And the following year at Christie’s New York 20th Century Evening Sale, his oil painting “Whistler Smoking,” 9.5 x 6.63 inches, sold for $1.2M. Whistler’s paintings rarely come up for sale, but his print work shows up frequently on the secondary market. That’s because, during his lifetime, Whistler made more than 400 etching and dry point plates and some 150 lithographs, which means there are multiples of those 550 or more images out there in the world, many selling for $1,500 to $28,000. 

It’s basically supply and demand: Whistler paintings are scarce; his prints are not. 

Affordability and Accessibility

The earliest known prints date back to sixth- and seventh-century Egyptian wood block prints on textiles and eighth-century Japanese relief prints. Since then, other printing processes have been added to the mix, which has opened up this art form of “original multiples” and made it accessible and affordable for both artists and collectors.

But wait, artists should or shouldn’t make prints?

OK, I’m going to split hairs here. Prints in their various hand-pulled forms are works of art in and of themselves. Mechanical prints such as giclees are reproductions–facsimiles–of original works of art; they are not the original works of art.

There is an important distinction to make when looking at prints: manual versus mechanical; human versus machine. In order to figure out the difference, it’s good to start with a little background knowledge. 

Printmaking 101

Manually pulled prints can be created using various means. The oldest prints were done as reliefs where a raised design on, say a carved block of wood, is inked, paper laid on top, and pressure applied to transfer the ink onto the paper. The second oldest form is intaglio, meaning “incising or engraving.” In this method, the image is etched into a plate, ink is pushed into the engraved lines, the surface wiped clean, paper laid on top followed by blankets, and then the whole kit-and-kaboodle is run through a press with heavy pressure, causing the paper to absorb ink from the incised lines. This process leaves a plate mark when the paper dries (check out the sidebar for more tips on discerning prints).

Here’s short video that shows you how intaglio prints are made. Pretty cool. 

This video explains lithography.

The third process, which is more recent, is known as planographic or surface printing—we’re talking lithography. This is done on a litho stone or flat metal surface. The idea here is that water and oil don’t mix. An image is created on the surface in oil that is chemically manipulated to accept ink. Water is then applied to the surface so that when the ink is rolled across the image it only adheres to the oil. Next, paper is set on top, run through a press, and voila.

Screenprints and monotypes are the most recent printing processes. Screenprints are essentially large silk screens where the image is masked off. Ink is pulled over the screen so that it falls evenly onto the paper. Many layers of colored ink are used to create one image and, as a result, you can usually see the ink laying on the surface more readily than in other printing processes. Monotypes are “mono” because there is only one—technically. The artist does a painting on a flat surface—plexiglass or copper, for example—damp paper is laid on top of the painting, then the whole thing is run through the press. A mirror image is pulled, leaving a ghost image behind. The artist can go back over the ghost image and change it, re-ink it, and run another print, though it will be noticeably different, thus a new monotype.

How to print serigraphs like Warhol.

Quick Monotype demo.

And, just to make this all a little more challenging, lots of these processes can be combined to make an image. All-in-all, printmaking is deceptively complicated and quite possibly one of the most underrated art forms.

The final category of prints are mechanical. Machine made off-set lithography, which is how this magazine you are reading was printed, and giclees are the most common, which brings us to the downside of printmaking for artists. (Giclee is a French word meaning “to spray,” which refers to the inkjet process of spraying ink on paper to reproduce art.)

More Isn't Always Better

Supply and demand does play into pricing art. Paintings are singular. Yes, artists can riff off the same image, but those are all new paintings. Hand-pulled prints come in multiples (except monotypes, which, as stated already, are unique paintings run through a press). Prints are numbered; however, hand-made prints tend to have lower numbered print runs because the plate or silkscreen simply wears out. With wood cuts, the artist may have one or two plates for an image, but that plate is run through the press multiple times and for each new color—some images have upwards of 20 color changes—the wood block is further carved away so that, by the end of production, the plate is destroyed.

Machines that make prints, however, do not wear out—well, not in the same way traditional printmaking tools do. And beyond the photographer who took a high resolution photo of the art and the pressman who oversees the printing, there isn’t any human contact.

Competing Against Yourself

And now we get to why I suggest artists who are not traditional printmakers should not make prints (giclees). 

With giclees, an artist can flood the market with reproductions of individual paintings. For new artists scrambling to pay rent and buy groceries, the promise of making a hundred bucks off a giclee sounds like salvation. You can practically sell them off your website while you sleep! What could possibly go wrong?

While these prints are incredibly accurate reproductions of paintings, they actually create a troubling side effect: artists start to compete against themselves. In the art market, at a certain price range, lots of art buyers can’t tell the difference between an original and a giclee and so, think, why pay more when the print is so good? Established collectors, however, know this is the equivalent of buying a Farrah Fawcett poster: totally rad, dude, but not the real thing.

So, when it comes to prints, scarcity and the human touch create value. Mechanical prints are beautiful but won’t hold their value. Manual prints, however, will because each print was—wait for it—hand pulled through a press. This is where being a flawed human is actually kind of a bonus. The savvy print collector looks for works pulled by specific master printers at certain presses that coincide with the era of the artist. Craftsmanship counts: you want to see the hand that built it.

Become a Savvy Print Collector

If you think you want to collect prints, we highly recommend educating yourself on the various printing processes. Bamber Gascoigne’s book “How to Identify Prints, a complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to inkjet” is invaluable. Visit some print fairs to see works up close and ask experts to explain what you’re looking at and why it’s priced as it is. There are myriad issues to consider before buying prints, but it all starts with identifying what kind of print you’re looking at. Once you invest the time to really learn about prints, you can find truly valuable pieces at estate sales, consignment shops, and antique stores. Check out the sidebar for telltale signs you’re looking at something of value.

How to Find Hidden Gems in the Art Market

  1. Rule out mechanical prints. You’re looking for a regular dot matrix pattern. This is a dead giveaway. You might need a magnifying glass (a loop with 4x magnification) to see the pattern of dots. It will look a lot like the Sunday comics in newspapers.
  2. Plate impression. You can easily see where an intaglio plate left an impression around the outside of the image. These images are almost always one color—black or sepia. If there is color, that may indicate that the artist painted on the print, making it a unique work of art.
  3. Color could also indicate lithography, serigraphy, or mechanical printing. Sometimes, if you look from the side of a print, you can see a layer of ink floating on the surface. This would indicate a monotype, lithograph, or serigraph. Again, look for the dot pattern, when in doubt.
  4. Double signature line. If you see a print with two signatures, one within the painting and another on the white paper border, it’s probably a mechanical print. A high resolution photo was taken of the painting—signature and all—and used to create a digital file that was then run on a mechanical press. The artist then signs and numbers these pieces of paper, indicating it’s a reproduction of the original.
  5. Single signature line in pencil. With hand-pulled prints, the artist’s signature will be written in pencil, usually along the bottom of the image. There will also be a title, often centered below the image, and edition numbers indicated by a number over another number.
  6. Edition numbers. With hand-pulled prints, the first number is the individual piece number, and the second number is the total number of prints that were pulled. So, 21/50 means you have print number 21 out of a total of 50 prints. Look for low numbers. If, however, the number is above 100—say, 1,200, for example—those are mechanical prints. No plates or screens can hold up to that amount of re-inking and runs through a press or scrapes of ink across the surface.
  7. Edition letters. You might also see things like “AP,” which is an artist proof. “PP” is printer’s proof, which are proofs given to the print studio. “HC” prints are hors commerce prints, meaning “out of trade.” They are only given out by the artist and are quite rare.
  8. When selecting prints, inspect them carefully. You don’t want to buy things with tears, creases, foxing or discoloration caused when a print was exposed to oxidation or acidity, usually from exposure to wood pulp from inferior matting. Some condition issues can be corrected, so it’s worth asking a conservator first.

Contemporary Printmakers I Love

Melanie Yazzie Waking Dreammonoprint
Leon Loughridge Freezing Over wood block reduction
Leon Loughridge Pecos Mission Sunrise serigraph
Johanna Mueller Kindness relief engraving
Joellyn Duesberry Truck Yard II monotype
understanding yourself through art

Understanding Yourself Through Art

An astute art collector once told me that whenever he’s in Manhattan, he visits the Whitney Museum so he can sit on the bench in front of their immense Jackson Pollock drip painting. He doesn’t do this because he likes the painting—he doesn’t even understand it. He visits the Pollock, he says, because he doesn’t like or understand it.

Recently, when I asked if the Pollock painting made sense to him yet, he said he thinks he understands it. Maybe. What did he understand, you wonder? I didn’t ask because, really, it doesn’t matter. I knew he wasn’t searching for proof of the painting’s validity; he had read plenty of critical essays on Pollock and the drip paintings to know how and why they were considered pivotal works in the American post-war art movement. And he is astute enough to understand that liking or disliking a work of art is a matter of personal taste.

So, why did he waste time looking at art he didn’t like? That question is exactly what I'm tackling this month.

But first, a disclaimer: Spending time with art that repulses you is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about stepping out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to art you don’t understand. Maybe abstraction bothers you or conceptual installation or performance art. Whatever it is, just keep in mind that most artists are not willfully trying to upset you; they don’t even know you. So, next time you’re confronted with art that makes you angry enough to want to take a tire iron or can of spray paint to it, please just leave.

However, if you stay and allow your mind to plumb the depths of your unease, kudos! You are ready to take your understanding of art (and yourself) to the next level. 

1. Think Like an Artist

As collectors, you are instinctively curious. You enjoy learning how and why something came into being. You love adding knowledge to your big brain. But sometimes art causes sharp negative reactions. It’s not always logical but it is always valid. When confronted with art that rubs you the wrong way, take a step back and consider why.

Note: your feelings are entirely yours; no one can make you feel anything. Exploring your reaction to art, i.e., participating in the experience, is what art is all about.

You might be interested to know that lots of artists have the habit of checking out art that bothers them. While it may sound like an unproductive afternoon spent with stuff that doesn’t support your own ideals, artists know something is happening internally when art gets under their skin and that internal disruption can lead to personal artistic breakthroughs.

I have been told by many artists that the act of making art is problem solving. There are a million decisions that go into every piece of art. No matter how realistic a painting might appear, for example, it is still a whole bunch of abstract brushstrokes laid side-by-side creating familiar patterns in the brain of the viewer that then signal recognition.

But when those abstract brushstrokes, no matter how they are configured, stir an emotion in you, the question you need to ask is: what am I picking up on and why?

Here's an interesting bit of science...

Art may ruffle your feathers for reasons beyond subject matter—or lack thereof. If you’re anything like Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), color may affect you in strange and palpable ways. Kandinsky, a pioneer of abstract painting, had the neurological condition known as synesthesia. For people with synesthesia, the brain reroutes sensory information through other unrelated senses.

understanding yourself through art
Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII

Within Kandinsky’s brain, music was assigned various colors. The sound of trumpets registered as red, for example, an old violin was orange. Violet connoted the deep tones of an English horn or a bassoon, light blue appeared with notes from a flute, and a cello shone as dark blue. 

Kandinsky began his painting career depicting things more representationally but as he allowed music to play a bigger role in his work, his work became completely abstract, which he called painted symphonies.

Knowing what is rumbling around in an artist’s brain, such as Kandinsky’s, adds depth and character and connection not only to the work but to the artist as a person. Curiosity, I believe, is the key to unlocking this world.

2. Open Your Mind Through Discontent

The play “Art,” by Yasmina Reza centers around a white painting that one of the characters bought for $200,000. Serge, the proud owner, can’t wait to have his two best friends see the painting, but things don’t go as he’d hoped. Yvan is ambivalent and wishy-washy—much like he is in life—and Marc, the engineer, is aghast and feels affronted by his friend’s choice of a totally white canvas. He simply can’t understand why anyone would spend that much money on something that is, in his mind, “shit.”

The painting becomes the fourth character in the play. Its role is to goad the men into confronting deeper issues in their own lives as well as their friendship. Because of a painting, each man’s personal fears and foibles are laid bare. Ultimately, Serge, in utter frustration, hands a felt tip pen to Marc and invites him to draw on the painting if he thinks it’s so awful. (Spoiler alert: Marc does!)

There’s plenty of subtext here that begs the question: how do we deal with people who think differently than we do? Of course, when a friend’s taste in art, books, music, or movies leaves us wondering why someone we thought we knew actually liked that, we probably won’t kick them out of our lives, but something has shifted in the friendship.

While it’s silly to end a friendship over a painting, we do end friendships over personal opinions all the time. Consider the last time you had a constructive conversation with someone whose view on the environment or politics was the opposite of yours. Be honest. Did you both speak calmly and respectfully and, as a result, grow in your knowledge of an issue and your opinion of one another? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In a recent essay for the New York Times, columnist David Brooks argues that society has become sad, lonely, angry, and mean “in part because so many people have not been taught or don’t bother practicing to enter sympathetically into the minds of their fellow human beings.” He suggests that the decline in people going to museums or galleries, attending classical music concerts, opera, or ballet may be part of the problem. Art, he insists, allows us access into other people’s worlds, which is how we learn empathy toward one another. Without an appreciation for art, he believes, we struggle to get along.

3. Expand Your Mind

Today we love the Impressionists. In the late 1800s, however, the term “impressionism” was coined by critic Louis Leroy to make fun of the 30 painters who had banded together to hold their own exhibitions because the salons in London and Paris refused their work. This isn’t an anomaly in the art world; it continues to happen to this day. But it does shine a light on the difficulties artists face when exploring new forms of expression.

For collectors who have been at it for a while, your concept of what is good art has probably changed and evolved, too. You may even have a few pieces of art relegated to back bedrooms or closets. These things just don’t speak to you any longer; you’ve moved on.

Consider for a minute, why. Was it that you’ve seen much more art and have a broader knowledge of how things are made, and the level of skill required? Do you have a better understanding of creativity and artistry and the bravery that went into a piece of art? Are you no longer challenged by those older works?

Perhaps part of your evolution as a collector came with a desire to be more of an active participant, to feel more engagement with the things surrounding you. Engaging with art may mean it’s challenging you, but it also may mean that it is allowing you to disengage from your day-to-day work and let your brain live in a different, more creative headspace for a while.

Consider This

If art is resonating with you, something is present in your body, your mind, and your emotional makeup that hears its name being called. That’s what’s happening: the art is calling to you. 

Sometimes a work of art is calling to you but it’s making you uncomfortable because you don’t understand what’s happening. Take a chance, if you’re up for it, and approach this work as if you’re on a quest for knowledge and understanding of art. But really, the search is for a deeper understanding of yourself.

Talking to Artists

I’ve met many collectors who get tongue-tied when it comes to talking to artists. Most collectors do not want to hurt anyone’s feeling, especially an artist they admire. The question is then, what can they say that won’t get them in trouble?

On the flip-side, because art comes from a personal place of introspection, it can be difficult for some artists to express their work’s deeper meaning verbally. This may be why, when asked to talk about their work, many artists fall into “art speak,” when they tell you all about their medium, creative process, or how they search for beauty or great designs. In other words, they stay on the surface — literally.

If you are a collector who wants to make a genuine connection with the artist whose work has caught your eye, here are some of the politest ways to get past “art speak” and into the heart of an artist’s story.

If you’re an artist, please chime in with your thoughts on how collectors can connect with you.

Genuine Connections

Think of art as an extension of the person who made it, like tangled necklaces, the two cannot be easily separated. Everything from the daily news to books, movies, and random conversations can filter into a person’s art. And then there are the memories from childhood and past relationships, where you live, travel — the sky’s the limit. In other words, a person’s entire life is fodder for art. And how that comes out is part of the language each individual has developed in their chosen medium.

    As a collector, you want to know the origin stories of artwork in your collection for several reasons. First, this is the heart and soul of the work. Second, as a human, you’re hardwired for stories, so this is your strongest connection to the work. Third, stories add to the provenance of the work — think Picasso’s Blue Period or Jackson Pollock’s “drip paintings.” When collecting living artist’s work, you want pinnacle pieces. Learning the origin of thought behind each work is the key to getting to this peak.

My Kid Could Have Done That

So, how do you draw out these stories? Let’s start with what not to do. Do not say out loudly in a room filled with artists or any sort: “You call that art?! My kid could have done that.”

    If you’ve said this, please never do it again. Your kid didn’t make the art hanging in a gallery, museum, or your friends’ home. When you say this, it reflects poorly on you; you are immediately pegged as someone who has no true interest in art, so engaging in a conversation will be a waste of time. And really, isn’t there enough negative talk in the world these days?

Step one: Keep an Open Mind

Art requires your participation. The level to which you participate — from a passive glance to making a purchase — that’s up to you. The artist can’t make you feel anything. Add to it that the more you understand about art, the more you will respond. Even if you never enjoy a particular art style or form, your knowledge will allow you to bring an educated eye and a curious mind to the experience.

    Collectors who are curious and enjoy learning also tend to bring the spirit of open-mindedness to most situations. They slow down and ask themselves why they like or are bothered by something. Knowing that they bring their own baggage to every situation, not just an art experience, allows them to step back and think through what’s stirring up strong emotions — and helps them not buy on impulse or dismiss something important.

    Open-mindedness is a skill worth developing. Visit museums and gallery exhibitions and listen to those immediate reactions. Then, ask questions and read up on the work you are seeing. This isn’t about learning to like art you simply don’t like; it’s about <ITL>not letting subjective feelings rule your thought process.

Origin Stories

One of the most common questions people ask artists is: “How long did it take you to make that?” And a common (snarky) artist response is: “My whole life.” Because it did, essentially, take an entire lifetime of experiences to make the art you’re looking at. And the next piece will require all that experience plus this new experience learned from creating the last object. So, it’s not a total brush-off, but it is a way to deflect the question. Why, you may wonder, would an artist want to avoid answering something so straightforward?

    Frankly, artists have learned that it’s much easier to give a snappy response to this one because the amount of time is irrelevant. Besides, this is just a conversation starter, much like “What do you do for a living?” But there’s also the part that can bite an artist. If they say, “Oh, this one just flowed out of me in a couple of hours!” Then the client does some quick math and translates that into an hourly rate — because non-artists often charge by the hour — and now the inquisitor is in the position of deciding whether the artist is worth that hourly rate or not.

What Artists Would Rather Talk About

Instead, here are a few examples artists wish collectors would ask instead of “How long did it take you?”

    Artist David Michael Slonim would love to answer this question: “What visual input from when you were young do you suspect might be showing up in your work now?”

    In fact, he often writes about his response to this question on social media:

Marketing Your Art
"Flying Machine," David Michael Slonim, 40 x 30 inches, oil on canvas

Dad’s gone now, but I can still picture him as a young man sprinting back and forth across a field trying to get a colorful box kite airborne. Eventually, the kite lifts, he lets out the string carefully, then comes over and hands the spool to his 8 year old son — so I can fly my kite. That’s fatherhood in a nutshell: Busting your tail to give something of value to your kids.

His painting Flying Machine, he realized after it was finished, came from this memory. 

    Victoria Eubanks loves this question: “Where were you when you painted that?”

She always remembers where she was when paintings came to her, and she feels like that question leads to bigger conversations. “I might have been sitting with my father while he was in the hospital and drew his shoes because I needed a break from the stress of being there,” Eubanks says.

Artist Marketing
"Reminisce," Victoria Eubanks, encaustic over recycled paper, 24 x 24 inches
artist marketing
"Baby It's Cold Outside," Kim Lordier, pastel, 24 x 36 inches


Kim Lordier finds this an intriguing inquiry: “What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome to be an artist?”

And Sophy Brown finds the question, “Is what you do cathartic?” to be interesting and complicated. “It’s true that subject and content are determined by an emotional connection. But the word ‘cathartic’ suggests that there is some kind of psychological relief, a cleansing through the expression…”

artist marketing
"Street" Sophy Brown, mixed media on paper, 41 x 48 inches

To know the rest of Sophy’s answer as well as how your favorite artists might respond, you’ll just have to ask.

Do consider your surroundings, however. If you’re at a crowded opening, the artist might be too distracted to get into a deep philosophical discussion, but if they do want to go down that path, you might be surprised by how many others gather around.

    Ultimately, this is the stuff you want to know; it’s the information you will repeat when someone asks about the art you own. And the bonus is that you will be forging a deeper connection with the artist while uncovering commonalities that you had no idea existed.

More Great Conversation Starters

Are you stumped when it comes to talking to artists? Perhaps a bit starstruck by your favorites or afraid to sound uninformed when asking questions? We’ve got you covered. Here are some questions to consider before your next artistic encounter…

Did you have a mentor when you started as an artist?

Who inspired you to become an artist?

What surprised you as you worked on that piece?

Where do you see your work going next?

What art books do you recommend?

What question do you wish people would ask you about your work?

Where do your ideas come from?

What’s the key to your growth as an artist?

What advice would you give your younger artist self?

What do you collect?

Please leave your favorite questions below! Thanks for reading.

Pricing art and the Gender Gap

Pricing Art: The Gender Gap

I’ve written about how art is priced in the blog Making Sense of the Price of Art, but the gender gap in pricing is a bit more nuanced. And, yes, it’s still a thing.

Let’s dive in.

The Numbers Don't Lie

According to an article published in Forbes, Aug 2022, titled “The $192 Billion Gender Gap in Art,” of the $196.6 billion spent at art auctions between 2008 and 2019, work produced by women accounted for only $4 billion, or around 2% of the total sales.

At auction, the gap is quite striking. Consider the $450 million paid at auction for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” compared to the record for a female artist–less than 10% of that value–$44.4 million for Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1.” 

pricing art image

How about sales for living artists? Here Jeff Koons holds the record of $91 million for “Rabbit.” The closest woman: Jenny Saville’s “Propped” went for $12.4 million; that’s 14% of what the Koons went for.

Of course, historically women weren’t allowed to make art as anything beyond a polite distraction, with the exception of such trailblazers as Camile Claudel (1864-1943), Rosa Bonhuer (1822-1899), and Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1952/53). And for many female artists such as Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), access to subject matter as well as the freedom to have a career outside the home was strictly dictated and often forbidden. Thus the dearth of women artists.

How Women& Their PRices Prices Stack Up, A Snapshot

Forbes analysts also found these fun facts:

  • Art by women sells for 42% less then men. (See “Gendered Prices” from Oxford Academy.)
  • Phos One‘s analysis of 18 major museums shows 87% of collections are make and 85% are white. 
  •  According to research by Helen Gorrill in “Women Can’t Paint: Gender, the Glass Ceiling and Values in Contemporary Art,” when men sign a work of art, it increases in value; however, when women sign their work, it decreases in value. 
  • Mary Ann Sieghart on BBC Sound in the episode, “Recalculating Art,” uncovers many truths like the research that people can’t tell if something was painted by a man or woman, however, people preferred paintings attributed to a man, whether they were painted by a man, woman or AI. Further, she notes that in Gombrich’s “The Story of Art,” a book used as a textbook for college students, only one female artist is mentioned.
  • 70% of students in art school are women, and yet, in the art world, this is reversed when it comes to validation of an artist: 70% of artists in galleries and, thus, work in collections and awards go to men.

The Pricing Conundrum: Western Auctions

OK, apply all the above to non-blue chip women and it’s more the same. Here’s where it gets personal.

A friend of mine had been asked to take part in a Western themed auction held annually in Wyoming. She created a painting for the auction–a truly wonderful piece that pushed her out of her comfort zone–but when she went to price that painting, she faltered. 

Was she, she wondered, undervaluing herself and her work once again?

There are layers to this pricing conundrum. 

First and foremost, auctions are not usually kind to living artists, man or woman. Here’s why. 

When art goes into an auction, the auction house starts bidding well below retail, often half. The thinking is that a good auctioneer can whip the crowd into a frenzy, pitting bidders against each other. If the auctioneer can get several people to dig in their heels, game on. The key is “several” bidders have to want the art. Oh, and at least two interested bidders need to show up. That means the weather needs to cooperate or their internet needs to be working or they have to remember the auction is happening and they can’t get sick or have any kind of emergency that calls them away. Lots of ifs….

Let’s say all that happens, the artist is still put in the crappy position of seeing their work open at 50% of retail, because retail pricing doesn’t encourage competition since buyers can, auction houses insist, buy art anywhere at retail, so what’s the fun in that? 

For artists, it’s only fun when their work goes for a price over retail. Otherwise, auctions are purely an anxiety-ridden experience that does nothing more than shave precious years off the artist’s life.

The Rules Apply

For some reason, the Western US market for Realism treats art sales like cattle at a live stock auction. Auctions are the antithesis of high-brow East Coast sales where people dress in Dior and talk in hushed tones while sipping champagne. No, Western Art auctions are ruckus affairs straight out of a wild west show. Instead of cowboys getting trampled, however, we stand back and watch our artists get thrown.

Personally, I don’t understand it and have avoided working on auctions at all costs. But when it’s part of the milieu, what can you do but play along? 

My friend knows all this and still she asked me what I thought might happen if she raised her prices for the upcoming auction, the one where she’d plan to submit that killer new work. treats

The thing is, she wasn’t thinking of just upping her prices; she was thinking of doubling them to align her retail with that of the men in the auction.

Keeping an Open Mind

I listened carefully as my friend laid out her reasoning, but I knew this was a bad idea. 

In a nutshell, she agued the following:

1. She’d been painting as long as many of the artists in the show, thought not as long as most.

2. Her prices were, compared to her peers, half that of the men. 

3. She always sold well at this particular auction.

4. She would be featured that year in a pre-auction collector get-together, so she’d be getting a little more attention on her work.

5. She’d heard whispers that some artists increased their prices for auctions and major shows, so why was she the only one following the rules?

But double?

“I started thinking,” she said, “men were inflating their prices for the auction. So I went through past show catalogues and looked at prices, it looked like that was the case. And I thought, ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ And they’re getting it, the work is selling at those prices.”

Then she went to gallery websites and saw they actually hadn’t inflated their prices for the auction; that the men were indeed getting higher prices than the women. 

“The veil was lifted; I felt this huge gap,” she confided. “There are 16 women and 86 men in that auction. I spent a little time going back to see where women’s work was priced and I do think, overall, we do price at a lower threshold, despite having similar credentials.” 

In this sense, if she doubled her price for the auction, she’d still be well within the range of the other works for sale.

Pricing: A Double Edged Sword

My advice:

Do not double your price for this one painting in this one event. 


Collectors do their homework. They will look up your prices–just like my artist friend did when comparing her work to her peers. They will see you put an unreasonable price on that one painting and will pass. 

But if it’s a great painting, isn’t it worth more?

Nope. Not when you’re a living artist who is still actively making art. I’ve stated this before, but it bears repeating: Artists are poor judges of their work. They feel like they accomplished something, and they probably did, but in the grand scheme of things, the accomplishment may be relatively minor. Or it may be monumental but collectors rarely see or know this has happened. What collectors see is that an artist has raised their prices too high, too quickly. Collectors may stick with an artist, calculating the increased value in the work they currently own, but they often won’t buy more. In fact, the collectors who watch the market may be considering selling that work and trading up for something else.

The Race Is Won By the Sure & Steady

Despite the fact that several artists did pad their prices, she hung with the majority who kept to their retail across the board. She did take a small price increase, but planned to do so anyway–she takes a 5-10% increase every January.

“You have to look at this through a bigger lens,” she said, of her decision. Once her price was determined, the bigger issue was then, where to start the reserve, which artists were given the opportunity to increase.

“What will be the lasting impression,” she wondered, when thinking through the ramifications of changing the reserve, “from a collector’s experience, if they see your work go for half the retail? But consider being the artist whose painting goes for $3,000 over. That leaves the collector watching and thinking, ‘this isn’t an artist who has shot the moon; I should get in there and buy her work.'” 

The director of the auction, in a preliminary conversation leading up the event, mentioned that she thought her price increase was smart, and that they were getting a lot of good feedback on her work. Yet, she was still feeling unnerved.

“I was feeling gender gap issues and what the numbers seemed to be doing in my head,” she said. “After our conversation, it helped me think about how to position myself in a good way.”

She went on to express her frustrations with the whole Western market and auction system.

“Big picture, there’s something about the auction; it’s a nerve-wracking experience,” she said. “I feel a lot more “good old boy’s club” at these traditional shows. I painted to a scene that, for me, feels more masculine. For the first time, I depicted an historic “comment” on the western world. I love the painting but every time I see it it feels like I painted one of the boys’ paintings as a woman. I even questioned that if they didn’t know it was me–a woman–how would it sell?”

Though she believes these are merely her own insecurities, she recalled being at a show and talking to a group of women. “One of the gals was looking through the roster and said, ‘Oh, my god! Where are the women?'” 

Back to Square One

As women’s voices grow stronger and they take on work and subject matter that is vital and compelling, the question of parity remains. I asked her why she believed men in the Western art/Realism market command higher prices?

“A man’s stance on the West is the cowboy because that’s what men did. A bunch of women on a cattle drive, that didn’t exist. A woman’s experience is more of place and home. Yes, there are modern cowgirls but the glamorous roles were male,” she said, and added, “That’s one of the reasons why I paint the landscape; there is a sense of place that holds many stories and doesn’t differentiate between gender.”   

Maybe the bigger question is: why do women feel the need to compete with this subject matter in the first place? Maybe this is part of the gender-gap in pricing; we’ve come to believe the stereotypes and women don’t fit in them neatly. In fact, women don’t fit the stereotype of artist as professional and so are treated as if they are working at a nice hobby. But when a man enters into that world it’s like, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ His work and choice of career lands differently.

And yet the vicious circle spins: The majority of art we see is by men; it’s familiar; we studied it and were taught it’s importance and value. If collectors don’t understand the worth of a woman’s work–because the market doesn’t support that at sales and auctions–how can women ever break through?

“The cowboy and Indians, horses, tipis, white men painting Native Americans,” she said, “really bothers me. These are depictions of things that happened in the 1880s. But they still get gobbled up.” 

Post Auction Blues

I heard from my friend in a text she sent from the road as she was headed home from the auction weekend. It did not go well. Her painting went for under the reserve; she was devastated. In the weeks since, my friend looked back a bit more wistfully. “I’m proud to be one of the female voices; it’s really important that we are in there. If we all bail, that doesn’t help us. I am part of that movement, that presence. We need that counter-voice.”

As for the sale, she also heard from the organizers, who were roundly disappointed in the sale, that no one did well. Perhaps, I mused, it’s time they rethink their structure and motivation, maybe start listening to the artists?

The numbers went like this:

103 paintings and sculpture

16 women and 87 men

20% of the art went for asking or above

43% sold for 75% of asking or lower

12% were bought-in (unsold because they didn’t meet reserve)

The day after the auction there is a quick draw. My friend didn’t participate this year, but related the story of what happened in a previous year. 

Artists set up in a crowded plaza to paint while spectators mill about asking questions and making comments on the work. After the allotted time runs out, the artists set down their brushes and their paintings are judged, someone wins a prize, then the artists are told to line up and parade their work, when called, before the audience who gets to, once again, bid.

“I fucking killed it,” she said of her on-the-spot painting. “I represented myself very strongly.” The guy who won the Quick Draw, she told me, did a small sketch painting. “Something about the way the auctioneer worked the crowd didn’t sit well with me. He put his arm around that young guy and they were laughing and joking; he was the favorite, I guess. It just felt that way. It wasn’t cool.” 

Please feel free to share my blog with anyone who would benefit from it. And if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading! If you haven’t already subscribed, please do so HERE

artists marketing colorado

What Inspires An Artist’s Work?

Humans are hardwired for stories. Stories came before written words. Stories, passed down through time, have kept us out of harm’s way, helped raise our children, and formed communities and cultures. 

As an artist, you spend your days telling stories in paint or clay or photographs or bronze. Because art it, at it’s core, stories. 

These stories are what collectors want to hear and learn. I’ve heard many artists say, “My art stands on its own; I shouldn’t have to explain it.” To which, I say: “Good luck with that.”

Artists, please, for the love of god, understand that there is a gap between your work and your audience. Yes, collectors could take art classes and learn the amazing techniques you’ve just wowed them with, but they don’t want to. What they want is to live with art and to feel connected to the art they collect. Technique is not that connection. Stories are the connection.

This is why I want you to tell your stories in a blog. The stories are not always exciting or earth-shattering; they often are simply the idea or feeling or emotion that was passing through while you worked. 

Tell the Story, Connect the Dots

artists marketing colorado

Creating a blog does something else that is quite remarkable. It acts like your personal magazine filled with ads focused on you.

This is the best marketing you have at your disposal. And it forms the Artist’s Marketing Trifecta: Blog + Newsletter + Social Media.

Each of these things done alone helps, but when done together, they’re art marketing magic.

What's the difference?


Lives on your website

Creates great SEO even while you sleep

The perfect reason for collectors to return to your website


Individual email, sent and gone

Doesn’t live on your site

Announces current happenings and, if done right, should send people back to your website

Social media:

Lives on someone else’s platform


Should be used to announce new blog, which drives people to your website

Let's make it easy

I am so dedicated to getting you to create blogs and effective newsletters as a way to market your art online that I’m teaching Blogging with Pictures every other month. I developed this workshop to make it easy. We use your art and tap into the stuff you know like the back of your hand. 

I give you templates and go over all the basics. Then we make blogs and post them to your website.

Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. 

Artist Bloggers Show and Tell

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. There are lots of analytics about what works and the best length of a blog, but the reality is that any blog written on a topic you know well is a great online marketing for your art.

Still feeling a bit dubious? Check out these blogs from artists who have taken my workshops…

In this blog, Jan R. Carson talks about her work but does so by telling a story of how one piece came into being after watching a paper wasp build her nest. It’s a fascinating blog that let’s us into her process and educates us with her knowledge of insects.

Queen Paper Wasp Encounters

My interactions with insects have become a dynamic influence on my artistic process. Paper wasps love to build their nests on the eaves outside my textile art studio in northern Colorado. Each spring I use the handle of a metal rake to scrape off the nests before they get going. The key is to remove the nest when the queen is out foraging, which is usually in the strongest heat of the day. This means I spend some time watching the queen build. This also means I start developing a bond with her. After all, she did pick my house. To me, that feels like some kind of compliment.


Pati Stajcar decided to answer a frequently asked question: how do you get all this heavy sculpture to an art exhibit? In her blog she takes us behind the scenes as she and her husband travel to the Easton Waterfowl Festival.

Travel Blog: Easton Waterfowl Festival, Easton, Maryland

July 21, 2023

The sounds of semi trucks and car doors invade my sleep. I have a wildlife art show in three days. My body is stiff as I carefully stretch to ease the pain. I can’t see even though my eyes are open it is unnaturally dark. Oh yeah, I have my hat down over my eyes to shut out the glare from the lights in the parking lot. The fog of sleep is lifting as the sun rises. This is day two on the road. Have sculpture, will travel. My husband Dave and I are sleeping in our van at a rest stop. Kansas or Missouri? Put the coffee on, things will come into focus.


Here’s one by Suzanne Storer, a ceramic artist. Suzanne’s work is incredibly unique. Her blog sheds light on her subjects–homeless men and women–and gives us valuable insights into their lives, Suzanne’s process and her fervent desire to make sure these people are seen.






OK, one more. Cody Aljets is a sculptor who literally traded his fire fighter’s helmet for a welder’s helmet. Why? Because his days were numbered…

The thing I didn’t write was: I want to do this before I die of cancer. 

The problem was, I was a ticking time bomb.

It’s October, 2021 and I’m sitting in my Fire Officer One class, distracted with the uncertainties that lay ahead. So many things had transpired in the past years.  

My wife Brieonna and I started building a home while living on our land in an RV with our son Cullem, who was 3 at the time. 

I have been with Crested Butte Fire Protection District since 2013, working full time since 2019. Covid hit everyone’s world hard, but started here in November 2019. 

In April of 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer and given less than 10% chance of surviving. Nine months later and 70 pounds lighter, I headed back to work.


Let's Do This

Please consider joining me for a Blogging with Pictures workshop. I want to show you how easy and effective this approach is for marketing your art online. 

And, once you’ve taken a workshop, you can come to any of my virtual office hours on Zoom for help with writing, editing and layout for SEO.

Hope to see you soon!

Here’s a link: WORKSHOPS.

As always, leave a comment with questions and feel free to book a call with me to learn more. Go to my CONTACT page and scroll to appointments.

How to Market Your Art Online

A friend of mine asked if I taught luddite artists how to market your art online. He isn’t really anti-technology but is frustrated. I don’t blame him. The reality is that selling and promoting art online is frustrating because there are so many options from social media to websites to emails. Even more annoying: the technology behind those options is constantly changing.

Social Media & Art Sales

When it comes to marketing your art online, social media seems like the obvious choice. It’s free and can be a fun way to check out what your fellow artists are up to. But it’s a love-hate thing. Social media is a time suck and, more often than not, doesn’t result in sales. And yet, we all–myself included–keep posting.

Here’s the thing, as annoying as it is, I would never tell you to stop posting on social media. Far from it. In fact, you should definitely keep up with it (maybe set a timer so you get off at a reasonable hour) but keep at it because it is helping. It’s just not helping market your art online like you think it should.

Why Social Media Isn't Your Best Selling Tool

I know some art does sell through social media posts, but I’ve never heard of anyone selling there exclusively and consistently. If you are, I’d love to hear from you! 

So, why doesn’t social media work? It’s pretty simply, really.

People who randomly give your post a “like” as they infinitely scroll aren’t engaged enough with your work to make a buying decision.

How Do You Turn Browsers into Buyers?

You see, there’s a missing link between scrolling and buying.

So, you may be wondering, how do you turn “likes” into sales?

Excellent question.

Answer: get scrollers to visit your website and sign up for your newsletter or emails.

Research shows that if a visitor to your website gives you their email, the chances of them becoming a buying client jump dramatically. 

Photo of young women scrolling online

In a March 2023, Snov.io. com, reported that email marketing acquired 40 times more customers than Facebook and Twitter combined with the average click through rates for each channel:

– email marketing (3.57%)
– Facebook (0.07%)
– Twitter (0.03%)

How to Grow Your Email List

The majority of professional marketers believe email is more than twice as effective at generating leads than paid social media. Twice!

In order to effectively market your art online, you need to grow an email list of clients. There are some really important ways to do this. 

  1. Have a sign up form on your website’s footer and contact page.
  2. Ask people to sign up at strategic places throughout your website.
  3. Give visitors to your website a compelling reason to sign up.

Compelling Reason #1: Send Awesome Newsletters

People who give you their email address actually are interested in you and your work. They want to hear from you and may already be contemplating buying something from you. They are your perfect clients and your target audience. 

When it comes to marketing your art online and making sales, your email list holds the greatest opportunity. 

This is why I want you to create effective newsletters (and compelling blogs–I’ll explain next). 

How to Create Awesome Newsletters

Newsletters I receive from artists tend to be focused on sales and promoting the latest painting or awards, workshop schedules, etc. This seems like the obvious reason for a newsletter, right? It is a “news” letter, after all. 

But you’re missing your greatest opportunity to really engage your audience and bring them into your world. 

If you get anything out of this blog, it should be this:

Follow the 80/20 rule: give, give, give away insights and knowledge 80% of the time; ask for something only 20%. 

The Secret to Email Success: Change the Conversation

Here’s a simple fix for newsletters that are always asking for something or sound like bragging. Turn the announcement of a new painting into a conversation about what inspired that painting or, as the case may be, series of paintings (photos, sculptures, etc.). 


STANDARD EMAIL: “Hey, I just finished a new painting in my zen series. Here’s a link.” 

CONVERT TO: “I’ve been searching for ways to find peace in my life. As many of you know, I have recently gone through challenging times. This new work started to flow after I took time off to hike and camp out in the desert where I could be in total quiet and calm, away from distractions (no internet service!) that had kept me from facing the difficulties I’ve been working through.”


You’re still announcing new work, but now you’re giving insights and personal reflections that will resonate with your reader. If your reader is interested in your work, they will now have a deeper understanding, which is something collectors are always yearning for. 

In other words, you’re giving people the story behind the art. 

And, not only are you giving people a glimpse into your practice, but you are being real and showing them that you–like them–face similar challenges. It’s all about helping.

Ultimately, your clients will feel a connection to you because you are being authentic. They will further feel connected to your work because they too have had to deal with difficulties.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be difficult times. It can be joyful times, too, like the birth of a child or the addition of a new furry friend. 

The thing is, you’re an artist but you’re a human being, too, who is dealing with the same basic needs as every other non-artist. Find connection through the human stuff; use your art as the catalyst for the conversation.

Compelling Reason #2: Blogs

Blogs on your website are akin to having a personal magazine. A blog allows you to do what Social Media won’t: spread out and tell your story. 

Newsletters are the vehicle to drive people back to your website. Blogs are the destination. Newsletter are timely; blogs are usually evergreen. 

Newsletters go out in e-blasts that land in your clients’ inboxes then go away. Blogs stay on your website for years where they remain searchable. Searchable content on your website means it’s constantly working to reach collectors long after you hit publish. Newsletter, on the other hand, are a one-and-done deal. 

5 Reasons Why You Should Blog

  1. Drive people back to your website. The ENTIRE reason to send a newsletter is to bring people back to your website. If you’re not sending them to your website, you are missing a golden opportunity. 
  2. Build SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) is the great, organic stuff you do on your website to get discovered. Having a blog that talks about topics that people looking for work like yours are searching for is better than buying ads or boosting social media posts that are only randomly found. 
  3. Content lives on your site, working long after you hit publish. This content, when done right, keeps working because people from around the world who are looking for answers can find you through your blog content. 
  4. Establishes you as an authority. This space is all yours, and you are an authority on your work, your genre, your materials, your studio, etc. So get out there and talk about it.
  5. It’s shareable. People who read your blog can repost it on their social media or email to their friends. Suddenly you have a sales force out there sharing your insights and driving more people to your website. 

Compelling Reason #3: Use Your Images

You’re an artist. You have images of your work. You don’t have to be a stellar writer to make really great blogs. In fact, you can work magic marketing your art online and create a loyal following by using your images. Here’s how:

  1. Gather together images that have a cohesive theme.
  2. Simmer that theme down to one clear topic that answers a question your audience has.
  3. Make the topic something that people would look up when searching for you. Example: you’re a watercolorist. Collectors of watercolors frequently search “how to display watercolors.” Focus on this searchable topic.
  4. Optimize images for the web (your website will have recommended dimensions and files sizes–check out these standards and convert images appropriately).
  5. Write short paragraphs or longish captions that explain the images and how they help answer the question of how to display watercolors.”
  6. Link out to any and all terms that are appropriate. Using our Watercolor example, you may refer to certain types of glass. Link out to manufacturers of that glass. 
  7. Link internally. Every image on your blog should be linked to the image where it lives on your art page.
  8. Use your key phrase throughout your blog, i.e. repeat your key phrase/established topic.
  9. End your blog with a call to action (CTA). This might be asking them to subscribe to know when your next blog is published or maybe to email with other questions about displaying watercolors (you are the authority, after all). 
  10. Before you hit publish, ask a friend to read for content and typos. If you’re like me, you can find other writer’s typos but not your own.
  11. PUBLISH!
  12. Send a newsletter.
  13. Post your blog on all your social media.

Want Some Help?

Join me for a Blogging with Pictures workshop. I run them monthly. (Yep, that’s a Call To Action, my friend! You’ll learn about those in my workshop, too.)

I'd love to hear from you so, please leave a comment below.

Duesberry How to become a good artist blog image

How to Become A Good Artist: Joellyn Duesberry

If you lined up a hundred successful artists and asked for their best advice on “how to become a good artist,” you’d undoubtedly receive dozens of different answers. 

This question, however, is essential, albeit it, elusive. And it comes in many forms: “how do I get into galleries?” or “how do I get noticed as an artist?” and, of course, “how do I make a living as an artist?” 

For the next few blogs, I’m going to look at what it means to become a good artist, by turning a spotlight on the practices of artists who have achieved major milestones in their careers and how they did it.

how to become a good artist

First up, Joellyn Duesberry (1944-2016), an artist I met in the early 90s when I worked for Carol Siple at her Denver gallery, and got to know Joly quite well when I published her book, Elevated Perspectives, the Paintings of Joellyn Duesberry. Now, working for her family as a consultant helping to catalogue her work, place some things in museums, and sell others privately to collectors, I am learning even more about what she did to constantly propel herself and her art forward.

Competing against yourself

Primarily an oil painter, Joly focused on landscape. She was a “plein air” painter before it had a cool name and she had some great stories about being so immersed in her work that. One of my favorites was the time a bull walked up behind her and started breathing on her back. Annoyed by the interruption and then startled by the reality that a bull could sneak up on her, she carefully backed away, ceding the meadow to the massive beast.

Joly was intense and would have probably been considered ADHD, had that been a diagnosis at the time. Over the years, I think Joly could be her own worst enemy, and yet she was easily one of the hardest working and most driven artist I have ever known. 

Check out Joly’s curriculum vitae to see what I mean: Joellyn Duesberry CV

Suffice it to say, she was a force of nature. She’d fought off cancer three times before finally succumbing at the age of 72. I believe Joly was keenly aware of the ticking clock and simply refused to stop running, cancer be damned.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about Joly or why I think she was successful. She became a good artist because she never stopped challenging herself. The work she was creating at the end of her life was bold and clearly taking her in a deeper level of discovery. Yes, Joly was still pressing herself forward, still exploring, still looking for a new language in painting even as cancer was winning.

The race was always against herself and time. She didn’t resent others for their success; she simply tried harder. 

She could have been resentful; she had to work harder than, for example, her male contemporaries. That’s just the honest truth. All women did and still do. 

How You See Yourself

Joellyn always called herself an autodidact, a self-taught artist. She was referring to the fact that she began painting when she was five years old and taught herself without the influence of teachers until she went to college. She earned a BA from Dartmouth and a MA from Smith, and went on to study at the Art Students League of New York, the National Academy of Design, and the New York Academy.


Ghost Ranch Morning, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype

I only bring this up because it always struck me as odd that she called herself an autodidact. Looking back, I believe she did this out of fear. 

Staying In Front of Fear

I’m speculating and could be wrong about this, but I think Joly suffered from nearly debilitating self-doubt. She told me once that her mother had been terribly abusive. I don’t know that Joly ever fully swept those memories out of her psyche. And I wonder if calling herself an autodidact was a shield she held up to protect herself from the fear of what people would say if she called herself an artist, pure and simple. 

Maybe too, this fear was the wellspring of her determination and drive that pushed her through exhaustion and pain. 

I want to be careful here, though, to make this distinction: determination isn’t enough to get your work into museum collections; museums don’t reward the squeaky wheel. Determination might get you noticed, but the quality of your work gets you in. 

Joly did not pursue art for accolades. She worked to become a good artist and then an even better artist. She pursued this goal her whole life, right to the very end.

Listen to Your Mentors

Red Cliffs, NM, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype

In 1986, Joellyn took a workshop with Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993). She notes in her book, Elevated Perspectives, that Diebenkorn instilled three important concepts.

  1. The abstract and the real are indistinguishable in painting.
  2. Her paintings were landscapes that masqueraded as abstracts–or maybe were abstracts that masqueraded as landscape–and that this was her unique expression.
  3. That her pursuit of landscapes as abstract and vise-versa most likely came out of childhood bliss and terror.

And then Diebenkorn suggested she try printmaking, in particular, monotypes, to help her loosen up and better see shapes and patterns.

becoming a good artist Joellyn Duesberry
The Desert Floor in Winter, NM, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype

Explore the Unknown

For nearly 30 years after Diebenkorn’s suggestion, Joellyn booked printmaking sessions with master printer Mark Lunning, at his studio, Open Press, in Denver. According to Mark, Joellyn’s original intent was to use the printmaking process to help resolve her paintings. Over the years, she embraced printmaking for the way it shifted her perception and helped her to see painting and the world differently.  

She was a colorist more than any artist I’ve ever met. She’d book three- to four-day sessions. We’d spend the first day mixing inks and we’d make the most amazing colors. That was one of the things I loved about Joly, her dedication to her work and the process.”

Joellyn Duesberry monotype explore like an artist
Fantasy on Rio Grand, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype

Don't Get Too Comfortable

Dan Sprick told me that when he would paint with Joly she sometimes brought old canvases with paintings she didn’t like and painted over them. This isn’t unusual, reusing an old canvas, but Joly would turn the canvas sideways or upside down, or would just start painting right onto the canvas as it was. 

Wetlands and Walkway, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype and collage

When Dan asked her why she did that–didn’t it make her crazy looking at all those old marks?–she said, “It throws me off.” 

To which Dan replied, “Painting is hard enough already.”


This was, Dan thinks, Joly’s attempt at deskilling, a 20th-century notion that confronted art as a skilled labor and sought to break from skill in order to build a new set of skills. Think Marcel Duchamp’s ready mades

Ultimately, Dan suggested, this might have been her way to place one foot in abstraction while the other remained squarely in realism. 


Monotypes–the printmaking form Diebenkorn suggested Joly try–are essentially paintings done on a surface such as Plexiglass that are transferred onto another surface, usually paper. The artist works with inks and tools called brayers–rollers of various sizes–and other tools that allow them to achieve the right composition, look, and feel. Here’s an article in ARTnews that explains the tools and processes common to this form of printmaking. 

Spontaneity and abstraction are key aspect of monotypes because of the inks and how they dry, and the tools one usually uses in the process of creation.  

Master printmaker Mark Lunning describe Joly’s process to me, in particular how she would bring a painting that was, say, 80% complete but was not working. She would then set to work creating monotypes that played with form, design and color to find solutions. 

Burney Falls, Autumn, Joellyn Duesberry, Oil on linen, 30x40 inches

Work is Play / Play is Work

And so, in the print studio, Joly played. She played with color and inks and papers. She experimented with ghost prints–the second pulls off the plate or the pull of another lighter weight paper laid atop the first run that absorbs the excess ink. Sometimes, Mark said, she came to the studio with old monotypes from previous sessions that she didn’t think worked. She’d cut them up and reassemble them into new works. 

Canyon of Sandstone, NM, Joellyn Duesberry, monotype and collage

I use the word “play” but it was work, of course, and a grand experiment. It was collaboration with another artist. And I think, when I look at Joly’s monotypes, it was joyful.

What does it take to be a good artist? In Joly’s case: fear, mistakes, experimentation, play, camaraderie, skill and the release from trying too hard. 

Ultimately, it requires the greatest amount of faith. 

As for Joly, she embodied all of this. Toward the end of our call, Mark told me how Joly loved the notion of abstraction and talked about it as an objective. And yet, he said, for all her talk she never quite let herself go there.

Maybe in her next life. 

Visit JoellynDuesberry.com to see more of her work. 

Want to learn more about Artists Marketing?

Visit my Let’s Work Together page to see how I work with artists.

If there’s an artist you’d love to learn more about, let me know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading!

The End of an Era

This month, March 2023, marks the end of an era. After 27 years building the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale, an exhibition under the auspices of the National Western Stock Show, several men on the Board of Directors at the Stock Show, none of whom collect art anymore (or ever did), have decided to eliminate my position as curator. 

Yes, you read that right: the Coors Show will no longer be an independently curated event. A committee will decide. 

The art, I have been told, will reflect them (white men) and their traditional values, whatever those are. 

Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up? Art + committee + traditional values…. Yeah, it hurts my heart, too. 


This is an old story. Art exhibition has great success; egotists take over after deciding they can do it better despite having no understanding of the art market; art show dies; no one cares.

It’s not just art shows either. Think of all those funky neighborhoods where artists lived and worked until someone thought it’d be really cool to buy up the shabby-chic (read: cheap) real estate and suddenly the neighborhood becomes a cookie-cutter version of every other formerly artsy outpost. Rents go through the roof and the artists can no longer afford to live and work there. Creativity grinds to a halt without artists and soon the cool neighborhood becomes another cliche. 

The Big Backlash​

When I told the Coors Show artists what was happening and that I wouldn’t be back, many  reached out in texts and emails expressing their anger and incredulity.

One conversation in particular set me back on my heels. Melanie Yazzie, master print maker and a university professor said that this kind of thing was happening all over academia.  

What we’re seeing across the country, she told me, is a backlash against the #MeToo movement. Out of fear, certain people are doing everything they can to maintain control. They’re deceitful, conniving, and ruthless.

As she talked, I flashed back on the years working in the National Western culture of good old boys and saw vividly the scene that decided my fate.

Minding My Manners

Last year, I and two other women filed a complaint against the CFO of the National Western for bullying, harassment and retaliation. The president of the National Western, which is the company I worked for as curator of the Coors Show, hired an outside firm to interview everyone and, well, cover their asses.

Well behaved women rarely make history.

Our intention in filing a complaint with the National Western was not to be litigious but to make the bully stop. 

What happened, however, was jaw-dropping. The man with the outside firm who conducted the study came back with his findings: the women were not credible; the man was. 

When my contract was up, I was offered a “constructive discharge,” i.e., a contract written to force me out. In the contract were two stipulations. One, that the National Western would select a committee to curate the show with me (that committee would then take over in a couple years, presumably, after I trained them), and two, because of my “problems” with the CFO, I was not allowed in the offices where he was–which are essential to doing my job.

The bully is protected. The bullied is shamed and fired.

Yes, this is still 2023. I just checked.

When Committees Tell Artists What to Make

There are numerous reasons why art by committee guarantees a weak, milquetoast exhibit and mediocre art. 

First is the committee itself. Who joins a curatorial committee? Often it’s collectors with a limited palette. They have, thus, a dog in the fight; their goal is to substantiate their own collection and stoke their egos. They often know enough about art to be dangerous. They purchase what they like, not what is artistically important. 

Next is the problem of casting off anything that offends anyone on the committee. When all the offensive work is removed, what’s left is safe, mediocre.

And then there’s the issue of censoring and silencing voices. Artists who need the show and rely on those sales will rein in any thoughts of pushing themes or style or subject matter. Safe gets you in; experimentation and expansion of ideas gets you kicked out. 

When Politics Trump Art

Throughout history, politicians and religious figures have imposed their will upon artists, writers, and philosophers. In 1633, Galileo was found guilty of heresy for saying the earth rotated around the sun, not the other way around. He lived the rest of his life under house arrest. By the way, it took the Catholic Church more than 300 years to admit they were wrong and clear Galileo of heresy. 

Oscar Wilde was convicted of gross indecency with men and jailed from 1895 to 1897. 

And then there were the artists in Europe in the 30s and 40s who had the audacity to make work that pushed forward the ideas of what art is and its purpose. When Hitler came to power, part of his hatred was turned on modern art and the “degenerate” artists who made such things. The only art permissible was that of bucolic countrysides or heroic images of beautiful Germanic people.

Stalin, too, mandated that art could only depict the communist party and people in a positive light. Art created during his reign was used as propaganda to convince citizens to fight for the motherland and that the conditions under which they lived were really not so bad. 

From where I’m standing, I see modernist structures, and the only hint of a classical building I can see is the top of the U.S. dome. That is not what our founders had in mind.

In 2020, then President Trump signed an executive order called, “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” This order, which has since been rescinded, put forth that all new federal buildings should be beautiful because the “modern” federal buildings, according to Trump, are “just plain ugly.”

Ah, hubris….

Forgetting we belong to each other

Western art is the ugly stepchild of the art world, with good reason. Traditional Western artists who strictly adhere to the genre are often white men who paint pictures of cowboys and Indians. These old tropes are not only derivative but reductive; they perpetuate prejudice and lies. As Dakota Hoska, the curator of Native American Art at the Denver Art Museum curator put it: “Why don’t they tell their own story?” 

My goal as a curator of “Western” art was to exhibit art pertaining to the Western U.S. that was relevant and vital and alive. Because we are a strong community of artists, the vast majority of whom want to create work now, not work that looks backwards.

Curating the Coors Show for nearly three decades was more than a job to me. It was a community of people who brought fresh ideas to the table, each and every year. We made something that challenged the common perspective but did it in a way that invited conversation. The show was, ultimately, a place where artists could be seen and have a voice. 

It’s bigger than a job. It’s bigger than sales. It’s about being part of this life. It’s being human and understanding the true meaning of what Mother Theresa diagnosed as the ills of this world when she said, “We have forgotten we belong to each other.” 

Blessings in Disguise

Recently, over lunch, I told a dear friend what happened. After listening patiently, he sat back, took a breath and said, “Congratulations!” 

He meant it. And though I wasn’t quite ready to look back and laugh, his comment did help me put things into perspective. 

After nearly three decades working to build something, it was time to move on. I would not have left had I not been pushed. 

And, so, what else is there to do but feel grateful, turn the page, and start anew.


Since posting this, I’ve been told that the people at National Western who did this–and signed the contract that fired me–are telling people my blog has “gross inaccuracies.” So, here’s what you need to decide for yourself….

1. Here’s the proposal I sent the CEO of the Stock Show: 2023 Curator Compensation Proposal.

2. Here’s a copy of the contract I was presented: NWSS Best and Final Curator Contract offer.

3. Check out the site Non Profit Light. They list earnings and salaries for the National Western Stock Show. Note that Paul Andrews is paid nearly half a million a year and that all but one of the directors are men. 

4. And here’s the ethical standard for non profit pertaining to paying commissions, which they call, “not appropriate.”

The Death of Art Criticism

The loss of local newspapers has led to the decline in coverage of the arts and the near extinction of art criticism. 

I get it. Papers have had to slim down, cut the fat, make their staff wear many hats. I also understand that reporting on the arts is not exactly hard-hitting journalism. But what really frustrates me is that papers have deputized any old staff writer as “Art Critic.” The result is that the deputized journalist is let loose to wander into the art world with a head full of hubris and a mind lacking true understanding. 

A Tale of Two Meanings: Crit-ic (noun)

Definition one: 

A person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally, as in, “A film critic.”  

Similar: commentator, observer, pundit, expert, authority, arbiter, appraiser, analyst.

Definition two:

A person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something. 

Similar: detractor, censurer, attacker, backbiter, vilifier, denigrator, belittler, traducer. 

What's in a Name

The biggest problem with the ersatz art critics of the world is that we have come to accept their writing as actual art criticism. It simply isn’t. It’s just one person’s negative opinion, i.e., too much backbiter and not nearly enough authority.

Because knowledge is power, I’m diving into art criticism and what makes this form of writing so valuable and what we’re missing when we don’t get real critics to do this work.

Wayne Thiebaud on Left-handed Compliments

In my 2009 interview with Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021), I asked about Edward Hopper.

Thiebaud called Hopper a very good painter of whom the art world had done a disservice. He brought up Clement Greenberg–arguably one of the most influential art critics of the 20th century–as an example.

Greenberg says something like this, and it’s an art world kind of way of putting down someone but not too far because they are so well considered by so many people…Greenberg says,

“If Hopper were a better painter, he wouldn’t be such a great artist.”

You give that to a student and the student has to puzzle that out. If you are useful to the student, you make sure that he understands something like that because it’s a central question.

Tennis, Anyone?

Speaking of left-handed compliments, here’s one I recently endured courtesy of the Denver Post’s “art critic” Ray Rinaldi.

The annual Coors Western Art Exhibit has been going on for a good 30 years now and, like a lot of things at the National Western Stock Show, its value comes from the fact that it never really changes.

From here Rinaldi talks about how the show has expanded and diversified…so not stayed the same. Then he writes that the scenery is on repeat, which he follows with a comment stating that the show is staying current by raising issues in the West. It continues in this manner–a nauseating set of left-handed compliments–to the end.

To make matters worse, he sprinkles in his own experience at the exhibit, complete with misspellings and personal meanderings that reflect more about himself and almost nothing about the art.

Nancy Bass, "At the Museum (After Mel Bochner)

At one point Rinaldi states that “walking into the show can be a lot like joining a family holiday.” But that’s the extent of his analogy; he never completes the thought beyond suggesting that artists in the show get on his nerves.

He does list the names of artists he’s familiar with–and with whom the art world greatly respects and so he can’t say anything too terrible about, as Thiebaud suggests. But he then goes on to belittle and dismiss everyone else. Sadly, he misinterprets one piece based on its title. This becomes a missed opportunity to delve into the artist and backstory. Not only does he glance over the sculpture but he misidentifies the work as a “hog,” not a coyote. Had Rinaldi looked just a little longer and dug just a little bit further he might have learned not only about art, but about animal behavior that so brilliantly sheds light on human behavior. 

Most unfortunately, what we never get from Rinaldi’s writing is a true dialogue about the show, the subject matter, the artists, or the reason for the show. 

In other words, his job of guiding us through an exhibit as an authority who is judging its merits never happens. The “review” comes off as petty. In fact, we learn more about Rinaldi’s temperament and inability to extricate himself from an experience than we do about the experience. 

Ah, hubris.

Christopher Knight: the Unicorn

So what does good art criticism look like?

There’s a reason Christopher Knight won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020: he’s really good. He brings a depth of knowledge and intimate understanding of the LA art scene from museum to street level. He looks. He digests. He finds meaning. He does this by spending time with art in order to understand the work and make important connections, which actually help us interpret it and, thereby, our world. 

Knight shines in his review, “Unicorns are just one of the wild rides in the Getty’s ‘Marvelous Book of Beasts,'” from July 23, 2019, LA Times.

In it, he draws on his vast knowledge of art, history, and Christianity. He kicks off the piece with a bit of insight into the life of Marco Polo who had thought he’d seen a unicorn on his travels, which he wrote about as, “‘Tis a passing ugly beast to look upon.” Of course, Polo hadn’t seen a unicorn, Knight points out, but probably glimpsed a rhino. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Unicorns proliferate in the first room of “Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World,” a sumptuous exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum. An animal surrogate for Christ’s cleansing purity, unicorns turn up in pictures drawn and painted in the vellum pages of books, carved into the side of an ivory box and the seat of a parade saddle made of bone, woven into a wool and silk tapestry, stained into window glass, hammered into a brass dish, molded to form a ritual water vessel and embroidered into delicate linen cloth.

Knight proceeds to walk us through the exhibit as if we were asked to join him. He regales us with more insights and points out hidden gems along the way. He refers to the curator’s writing and didactic materials, and soon an exhibit that, upon first glance sounded like a stuffy theoretical walk through the Getty archives, has come alive. 

But when he takes us to the final room in the exhibit, he offers this: 

If only the exhibit had also ended there. Unfortunately, there’s one more room to go, and it misfires.

Wait! What?

I’m hooked on this show because Knight has, through his well-trained lens, offered me a deeper understanding of the exhibit and drawn insightful connections to the human condition. But why did the show misfire? My curiosity is piqued and so I read on.

Seventeen minor specimens of Modern and contemporary art…suddenly catapult us almost 300 years into the future. The exhibition’s closing narrative is disjunctive. What happened between the 17th and 20th centuries is anyone’s guess. 

What We Learn

Personally, as a curator, I truly appreciate and am grateful for this section of the review. First and foremost, I want to get better at my work, so hearing why an exhibit misfires is instructional. But too, I know I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to do too much, thinking more is better (which would have been a legitimate critique of the Coors Show).

Knight gives us the reason why this final room of art does exactly the opposite.

Art museums now seem to feel that topical relevance is somehow served by appending recent art to exhibitions otherwise anchored in a historical epoch. Here, reducing the medieval bestiary to a contemporary footnote makes for a listless conclusion to an otherwise strong and compelling show.

I Think I Finally Understand

Rinaldi’s article showed up on one of my social media feeds along with his comment, “I think I finally understand the Coors Show.” If he did finally gain some understanding, he didn’t share it with us. 

The late, great art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, in his farewell column to readers of the Village Voice, beautifully addresses the kind of ambivalence Rinaldi stumbles over: 

I hazard that about 80 percent of my Voice writing was strongly affirmative in tone, with about 10 percent strongly negative and the same proportion sullenly mixed. Regrets? A few, mostly in the “mixed” category. Critics should shut up when they can’t decide how they feel, not that it’s always possible on a deadline.

Amen to that. 

Check out these Critics to read more good writing about art...

Peter Schjeldahl (1942-2022) wrote for The New Yorker for many wonderful years. Here’s a link to “T.C. Cannon’s Blazing Promise,” the review of the 2019 retrospective of Cannon’s work at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Cannon dealt directly with being at once Native and American and, while he was at it, a citizen of the world. He did so in the name of a higher, though difficult and lonely, allegiance. He wrote in a letter from Vietnam, “How thoughtful of God to provide such a life-stream such as art.” -Peter Schjeldahl

Rebecca Solnit is an incredibly prolific writer. Here’s a quote from an article in Cosmo titled, “How I Became a Writer, Historian, and Activist”:

Counter-criticism… seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting it, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities. A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination. Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against the killing of the spirit. Such criticism is itself great art. -Rebecca Solnit

Roberta Smith is an art critic for the New York Times. Check out “Roberta Smith on Donald Judd’s ARTnews writings: ‘A Great Template for Art Criticism.’

Everything around you can be analyzed in terms of its visual presence…the great thing about art is that there’s more than you can ever know about, you can’t learn it all. And you’re lucky if you get to spend your lifetime trying to. –Roberta Smith

Michael Kimmelman, critic for the New York Times has several books out. One of my favorites is “Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere.” I’m including him here because he’s not the usual critic. Here’s an excerpt from an interview about his book, “The Accidental Masterpiece”:

To keep your eyes open can be remarkably difficult. People typically go to museums and feel that unless they have been told where and how to look, they won’t know what they’re seeing. So they don’t trust themselves to look. No wonder they’re resentful and feel left out. I know the feeling. It took me a while to learn how to open my eyes. Talking with artists helped. I once wrote a book about going around museums with artists and I saw how they looked at the same art differently, through their own perspectives, which proved that there is no single, correct way to look at art. That’s the essence of art—good art—that it refuses to be reducible to one message or idea, so the more you look, the more you can find. It’s a metaphor for life, I think. –Michael Kimmelman

For more insight into the history and genre of art criticism, check out “16 Art Critics Who Changed the Way We Look at Art,” in Artsy. 

Want to read that entire Wayne Thiebaud interview? Here ya go! Enjoy.

The Memory of Things

Here’s something I’ve been wondering. Is it possible to feel an artist’s intention through a work of art? In other words, does art hold the memory of the hands that made it?

Stop Making Sense

Yes, I know I’ve been missing in action for a couple months (no, not ready to go there yet) and now I’m hitting you up with this bit of metaphysical silliness. But the idea that things carry the memory of their creator has been on my mind for some time now.

Maybe it’s this time of year, my favorite time of year: short, cold days and long quiet nights that beg for stories to be conjured. 

And so, here are a few winter stories, just for you…

One: The Art of Sushi

Jan Weiss Sushi Manifesto
"Sushi Manifesto" by Jan Weiss

Years ago, my friend Quang Ho and I were eating at a sushi place we love. We sat at the bar, in front the owner, Toshi, who was making the most beautiful plates of food, each morsel a tiny mouth-watering sculpture.

Needless to say, we ate until bursting and then ate some more. Quang and Toshi, who had known each other for years, caught up on family and friends and the art world. But Toshi was visibly irritated throughout the course of our meal.

Suddenly, he nodded toward a chef at the other end of the bar and said he would never eat that man’s food. We were puzzled. The offending chef was gregarious and had the couples in front of him in stitches. Toshi shook his head, disgusted. He said that people in Japan will wait in line for hours to order sushi from their favorite chef because each chef puts his intention into the food. The gregarious chef, Toshi said, was not paying attention to his work; he was more interested in being the center of attention. Because of this, that chef’s food would surely induce indigestion.

Two: The Sound of the Ocean

I am 7 or 8 years old, standing on a beach washed in the guazy light of a summer sun, the sound of the waves lulling me into drowsy contentment. 

Here, give me your hands, my father says. I reach up and he sets a conch shell on my open palms. The magnificent shell is sun-bleached on the outside but as I turn it over there, inside, it is smooth and pink and curves and spirals in on itself. What a beautiful puzzle.

Hold it to your ear, I am told. Shh. Do you hear it? That’s the sound of the ocean, the  sound of the waves. The shell remembers the waves and sings when you hold it to your ear.

How sublime! And yet how sad to carry a memory as a song for anyone who picks you up to enjoy while you wait helplessly to be returned to your home.

"Luminous Conch," Stephanie K Johnson

I don’t know why I looked up this phenomenon of shells and the sound of waves, but according to an article in Live ScienceTrevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom explained it this way:

“The seashell is like a wind instrument. It has a set of resonant frequencies where the air inside the shell will vibrate more strongly. Hold the shell to your ear, and it is those frequencies in the ambient sound that get amplified. Because the sound changes, your brain pays attention to it.”

Yeah, whatever, Trevor… 

Three: The Song of a Soul

Jump ahead for our next story. A tale from this summer past, remembered in the twilight moments before I drift off to sleep, my dog Buster lying next to me, his old, achy body curled up close to mine. He is warm and asleep in moments while I try to get comfortable without disturbing him. Finally, I lay a hand on his back and breathe with him, slow and deep. 

In the morning, I wake carefully feeling him next to me. He doesn’t stir. This is new. He is always the first to wake but now he sleeps late and waits until the last possible moment before leaving the warmth of the bed. 

He is here this week then back to stay with my ex, who doesn’t let him sleep in the bed. But even after he leaves, it’s like he’s here because I see him in the usual places and talk to him before I catch myself. Oh, right, I am talking to a memory.

How surreal, to feel his presence in his absence, in the middle of the night and throughout the day, to catch a glimpse of his ear twitching from where he normally sleeps on the couch with his paws resting over his nose. 

Maybe it’s nothing more than my deep desire to have him back but the memory of him is so vivid that, for a few unhurried moments before reality comes sharply into focus, I know he is with me. 

It was selfish, maybe, to keep him alive for so long. But what a burden to make a decision for a being who cannot express his own desire. His heart was giving out, the vet said. Yes, but he’s still eating and happy, I replied. My boys agreed and added, He’s happy and active, so why are you writing him off?

Looking back, I think Buster kept going because it was his job to watch over us. On the day he passed from this world, I held him and told him we would be ok, he could go. I didn’t believe a word of it.  

It’s been months and here, in the heart of the winter, the physical sensation of his presence is still sentient. And no, I don’t believe in ghosts, not exactly. What I’m suggesting is that I think people, animals, and even certain objects carry a spirit–an echo, maybe–that we can feel and connect to whether the living, breathing body is there or not. 

“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart.” -Erica Jong

Four: The Here After

My friend Cathy came over a couple weeks ago. Late afternoon coffee turned into dinner followed by cups of tea. We curled up like cats on either end of the sofa and talked into the evening. At some point, I can’t remember why or how, the conversation turned to the afterlife.

Do you believe in reincarnation, I asked, sensing she was headed there but unsure of whether to broach the topic. I do, she said, yes, I do. In fact, she added, I’ve learned I had past lives.

I do like the idea of reincarnation, partly, because I was raised Catholic and never felt satisfied with the tight-laced answers the church offered. I am now more of a traveler through other mythologies and have come to believe that if there is a god and a divine order to life, that god would have to be, first and foremost, hysterically funny and second, way, way, waaayy smarter than all of humankind put together.  

So, why not past lives and the recycling of souls? It’s a rather comforting notion, isn’t it? I’ve even read that, in the ranking of past lives from young souls to old souls, when you make it to the level of dog, you’ve reached your highest incarnation and can finally come to peace. I like this idea best of all. 

Five: A Creation Myth

Let’s say we are surrounded by souls and that we are souls on our own private journey just trying to figure it all out–that the physical body is a vessel from which we will move on–could that also mean that we can impart our spirit (or the impression of our spirit) into the things we touch?

People bring their own baggage to every experience especially when looking at art. I talk about this in my blog, Defending the First Artist In. But I’m not sure that fully explains the abrupt sensation an onlooker has when standing in front of certain works of art. The same can be said about music, literature and poetry, though I think visual art, because it doesn’t move past you in the same way, allows viewers to tune in differently. 

"The Horse Rider," Marc Chagall, National Galleries of Scotland

Six: What the Dickens?

Maybe it’s the Ebenezer Scrooge effect. You know how Scrooge denied the first ghost of his dead business partner by telling him he was a bit of bad porridge? It took three more ghosts before Scrooge could see the path he was blindly headed down and how he had missed the true joy of connection with others. But it’s never too late!

So, what about this? What if, in the process of creating art, an artist surrenders to a truth, which is the authentic voice of his or her soul? And what if, in doing so, observers throughout time who come with open hearts and minds can take part in the experience the artist had in the creation of this art? Is it possible then that looking at art might be akin to walking with spirits?

Yes, maybe art is simply a shell that, instead of echoing the sounds of the shifting winds blowing past, reflects the mind looking in. 

I think, though, because it’s winter and because I like a good tale, that maybe the objects we make with our hands, the things that we pour our life’s knowledge, understanding, intentions, and love into, maybe those things carry a piece of our soul, which can be felt and heard without words by those souls who are open and ready to settle in for a long winter’s eve to hear a story.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays. And, as always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.