Whistler destroyed masterpieces!

James McNeil Whistler destroyed what would have been masterpieces in order to stop collectors from benefiting from his inability to pay his bills.

As a lover of fine art I gasped when I read this until my wife reminded me as an artist I have committed the same atrocities.

She has spirited work out of the studio and I have found it in friends home to save the work from her perceived soon to be death. I am appalled yet secretly glad. It is with no great pleasure my anger gets to a point where I would destroy a work rather than live knowing someone got it for cheap or nothing.

I have spent many years selling low to gain the recognition to command a reasonable price and as artists all understand there are fat times and lean times. It is the lean times that drive me insane. I also care less about my reputation now and I am painting better than ever because of it.

As far back as I have been able to decipher artists have never been paid well for their work ( exceptions to the rule stop smiling) and in fact it is the very capricious nature of the commercial side of art that makes a true artist sick to his weary bones fighting for this acknowledgement.

What would cause someone who tortures themselves to create a work of art that is exceptional to all who look upon it – to then utterly destroy it because “If I can’t sell it then no one will get it!!”

True there are the paintings that survived that no one ever paid money for. The notable example is the Mona Lisa. Di Vinci never sold it keeping it with him until the day he died, but that wasn’t because he was destitute.

I recently finished a painting that was commissioned by one of my wealthy benefactors and everyone in the frame store from customer to employee ogled it and thanked me no end, leaving me wondering what the hell does anyone know about quality workmanship? I was working on the painting for a year and in those twelve months I was so close to cutting it up, painting over it, the fact that I hated it was what drove me there but the fact that I needed the money was what kept me working.

Now I am not going to say this is a masterpiece, I often paint things that are pedestrian because that is what I have been asked to do. Oh the shame of it all. But sometimes and mostly with my own work for myself for a show or a gallery I will beat the shit out of it and punish it for not being exquisite.

Hey I was told by a decorative painter that it is only paint nothing to be afraid of, HA! It isn’t only paint with a fine art piece IT IS MY HEART AND SOUL – you can’t explain it when your dead either! SOOOOOOOOOO. . . . .
Laissez les bon temps roulez!


Art Dealers. Are you thinking about being one??

I was reading a blog by a very skilled traditionalist or figurative painter, how many names can we give something? She posits a question to her readers asking what people reading her blog think of gallery directors asking an artist to make changes to their work, for reasons such as my customers like blue paintings this year. Or my customers are very interested in cloud paintings. All the responses were inarticulate, I mean seriously bad grammar. (This is another one of my pet peeve subjects, I am a terrible speller and my grammar is colloquial at best, so I make a strong effort to be correct.) After which I read through them all and it hurt. I tried to understand what the point of this question was? It reminded me of a woman I knew who was able to deflect the fact that she had no idea what to say to people by deftly saying ”Tell me more, tell me more”!

Just as anyone who has to fill airspace or newspaper space or Internet space 24/7 this blogger asked a mundane and innocuous question. And true to speculation, there were plenty, albeit poorly written, responses.

So I posit, do you think you want to be an art dealer? NOT a gallery owner or director, that is another sub species, but an art dealer. The art dealer sells his expertise on art to clients and acts as a buffer, an expert, a firewall against the moronic people out in the art world who don’t know anything, really. An art critic with a salesman sensibility is really what the job entails.

As an artist who has worked in many genres, and been represented by many galleries and have had and still get commissions from so many different people and companies I can say something to this bloggers question that rings true for all artists, the point of view from someone who can make you money telling you what they think you should paint is a good thing because it means they will make you money!!!! They will work hard to sell what you do. And BECAUSE they have had a say, a part in the final piece, they are more invested. REALLY this is selling 101!!!

I ran a mural business in LA for thirteen years. I had people looking over my shoulder for every one of those years telling me what they think!!! Albeit Mural Mural On The Wall was a commercial business it was still my artwork on the wall and I struggled to maintain some control! But I understood from my many years in the big leagues of advertising you do what the customer wants, period. But if you want to have complete control, complete say over your work product then don’t put it out for review or critique!

I had a client who will remain unnamed for obvious reasons (she was a very famous TV actress).

She wanted certain murals, faux finishes and painted furniture throughout her home in Westwood, California and I did exactly what she wanted and was well paid. I received great referrals and was on two TV shows because of the work I did for her. The work was as good as anything I painted as a fine artist because she, like most of my mural clients had strong opinions but the painting was executed by me. To my standards, to allow me to get more work and more press.

Michelangelo painted what Pope Julius II told him toImage , sculpted what Lorenzo De Medici Imagetold him to and look where that got him!!Image Someone please give me work and tell me what to do!!

Art Dealers and have they usurped our freedom to choose?

ImageArnold “Arne” Glimcher (born March 12, 1938) is an American art dealer, film producer and director. He is the founder of The Pace Gallery and is widely known as one of the art world’s most powerful dealers. Glimcher has also produced and directed several films, including The Mambo Kings and Just Cause.
Glimcher was born in Duluth, Minnesota. He graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Boston University. In 1960, Glimcher founded the Pace Gallery in Boston. In 1963, Glimcher moved the gallery to New York City. Today there are four gallery locations in New York and an additional gallery in Beijing. The Pace Gallery represents contemporary artists including Chuck Close, Tara Donovan, David Hockney, Maya Lin and Kiki Smith. It also represents the estates of several artists, including Pablo Picasso, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, and Alexander Calder. Today, Glimcher, serves as Chairman of the Pace Gallery. During his career he has worked closely with important artists, including Jean Dubuffet, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, and Lucas Samaras. In 2007, Glimcher received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.


-Four levels of formal analysis, which you can use to explain a work of art:

1. Description = pure description of the object without value judgments,

analysis, or interpretation.

· It answers the question, “What do you see?”

· The various elements that constitute a description include:

a. Form of art whether architecture, sculpture, painting or one of the minor arts

b. Medium of work whether clay, stone, steel, paint, etc., and technique (tools used)

c. Size and scale of work (relationship to person and/or frame and/or context)

d. Elements or general shapes (architectural structural system) within the composition, including building of post-lintel construction or painting with several figures lined up in a row; identification of objects

e. Description of axis whether vertical, diagonal, horizontal, etc.

f. Description of line, including contour as soft, planar, jagged, etc.

g. Description of how line describes shape and space (volume); distinguish between lines of objects and lines of composition, e.g., thick, thin, variable, irregular, intermittent, indistinct, etc.

h. Relationships between shapes, e.g., large and small, overlapping, etc.

i. Description of color and color scheme = palette

j. Texture of surface or other comments about execution of work

k. Context of object: original location and date

2. Analysis = determining what the features suggest and deciding why the artist used such features to convey specific ideas.

· It answers the question, “How did the artist do it?”

· The various elements that constitute analysis include:

a. Determination of subject matter through naming iconographic elements, e.g., historical event, allegory, mythology, etc.

b. Selection of most distinctive features or characteristics whether line, shape, color, texture, etc.

c. Analysis of the principles of design or composition, e.g., stable,

repetitious, rhythmic, unified, symmetrical, harmonious, geometric, varied, chaotic, horizontal or vertically oriented, etc.

d. Discussion of how elements or structural system contribute to appearance of image or function

e. Analysis of use of light and role of color, e.g., contrasty, shadowy,

illogical, warm, cool, symbolic, etc.

f. Treatment of space and landscape, both real and illusionary (including use of perspective), e.g., compact, deep, shallow, naturalistic, random

g. Portrayal of movement and how it is achieved

h. Effect of particular medium(s) used

i. Your perceptions of balance, proportion and scale (relationships of each part of the composition to the whole and to each other part) and your emotional

j. Reaction to object or monument

3. Interpretation = establishing the broader context for this type of art.

· It answers the question, “Why did the artist create it and what does it mean

· The various elements that constitute interpretation include:

a. Main idea, overall meaning of the work.

b. Interpretive Statement: Can I express what I think the artwork is about in one sentence?

c. Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork supports my interpretation?

4. Judgment: Judging a piece of work means giving it rank in relation to other works and of course considering a very important aspect of the visual arts; its originality.

· Is it a good artwork?

· Criteria: What criteria do I think are most appropriate for judging the artwork?

· Evidence: What evidence inside or outside the artwork relates to each criterion?

· Judgment: Based on the criteria and evidence, what is my judgment about the quality of the artwork?

Leo Castelli, hero or villain. Taste maker extrodinaire or taste killer.


Can extraordinary people rule by being harder working, more persuasive, stronger willed, more affluent?? Or can they influence by their audacious and willful, connected abilities??The case of Leo Castelli is a excellent example of all of these attributes. This man created the Modern Art World, the artists and the commerce (high prices) because of his strengths and beliefs. His understanding of the nature of artists and collectors. His rich heritage in Trieste and his relatives throughout the Renaissance. Rich people need status. They also need reassurance and tax breaks and loopholes and investments. They are making the money that fuel the arts. But was Leo Castelli right in his choices, in his directions and in his loyalties.

Is the eye and passion of a primitive artist less than great because an art dealer can’t understand it, can’t sell it?? You would say no to this, yet this is exactly how the rarified art world of New York, Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam work. Is the primitive unschooled artist and their passionate work less than the skilled, educated, privileged AND accepted artist that is heralded in the privileged world of collectors and art dealers??

I have been working as an artist from as far back as I remember and I have been in the halls of great artists. I have worked with them, worked for them and also promoted their kind. I grew up in NYC with a talent and the lucky chances of going to special and very good schools for art, taught by some of the legends in advertising, graphic design, photography, illustration, painting, sculpture and architecture. My best friend went on to design Broadway theaters, another has work in the permanent collections of the Met and Whitney museums, another runs a fine ad agency and another is a respected photographer. My credits are okay too. But none of us had a Leo Castelli behind us. Yet we have all made some impact. Which brings me back to the question of the taste makers.

And the ultimate question of what is ART?


Art in your life.

I am almost 61 years old. I was treated as if I was a prodigy from as early as I remember or earlier. Odd now that I look back on it as at 61 I am still struggling to find my voice. I read in a New York magazine recently titled “How To Make It In The Art World”, that a college BFF was still in NY making art. When we last parted 1974, he was off to go back to Narlins to marry his girlfriend and go back into banking as he was educated in this at Tulane. So to find out he stayed in NY and is a well known artist and teacher at the New York Institute of Art ( I admit I haven’t heard of it) – but anything in NY is heads and tails above any other school outside of NY save a few exceptions of course. Yet he was a serious and is a serious artist and I am still looking for my “voice”. Yet here we are. Two guys 38 years later who are making art. As a living. Different. He has works in the Met!! No shit and the Whitney, according to his web site. I have a piece in a Boston Museum’s permanent collection but I have many pieces in private and corporate collections throughout the world. Yet I am envious. I can’t seem to make enough money to be beyond the worry of a middle class guy. I mean I am lucky I live in a resort community and my wife has provided the steady income we have needed for over twenty years try as I may to make a buck, but still, hey, 61 really when is it going to happen?? Then I thought that it is or has happened. I have commissions, I have the respect of my peers, I have had some very successful projects and I have fans. I just have to work every day. Then I have to step back and with the understanding I have acquired I realized I am an artist and everything I do whether it is getting dressed, having lunch with friends, being with my wife, teaching my children, taking care of my parents, I do it with the mind of an artist. I approach my life, the mundane the routine with the mind of an artist. I don’t have to wait, I have always been AN ARTIST!


In 1885 one of London’s most famous if not the most famous artist living was the American ex-patriot James McNeil Whistler (Whistler’s Mother – and shame on you if that is the only painting you know of his). He wrote and gave a lecture that brought the lecture houses down. These were times when people actually listened and paid good money to do so!

He was flamboyant and not one to suffer those that disagreed with him. (The famous trial against John Ruskin – then the most respected art critic and author of his generation. Who at this time was considered by some to be exhibiting dementia and rapidly lost his audience after he lost the libel suit to Whistler (who won a farthing (a penny) and went bankrupt for his art).

Whistler fought for his work and for art and true artistic expression his whole life and still through his will was a force to be reckoned with. Yet ( and this is important – history lost site of his accomplishments and place in the history of art….One reason to read about the life of a man whose thoughts on art are relevant today!

Excerpted from James McNeil Whistler’s Ten O’Clock Lectures

“…A teeming, seething, busy mass, whose virtue was industry, and whose industry was vice!
Their names go to fill the catalogue of the collection at home, of the gallery abroad, for the delectation of the bagman and the critic…”

“…Therefore have we cause to be merry !–and to cast away all care–resolved that all is well–as it ever was–and that it is not meet that we should be cried at, and urged to take measures !
Enough have we endured of dulness ! Surely are we weary of weeping, and our tears have been cozened from us falsely, for they have called out woe ! when there was no grief–and, alas ! where all is fair !
We have then but to wait–until, with the mark of the Gods upon him–there come among us again the chosen–who shall continue what has gone before. Satisfied that, even were he never to appear, the story of the beautiful is already complete–hewn in the marbles of the Parthenon–and broidered, wlth the birds, upon the fan of Hokusai–at the foot of Fusiyama…”