Friday, February 27, 2009

Indulging My Self

A comment on one of my recent posts referred to its content as self-indulgent. This isn't the first time someone has said this. But I'm not offended.
I agree.
My writing is sometimes self-indulgent. So is my art. I write and make art as a way of processing my own experiences in, or perceptions of, the world. My efforts don't nourish anyone (except, maybe, spiritually or intellectually). They don't give them shelter. They don't make them healthy or give them a basic education. In other words, they're not essential to anyone's existence other my own. The fact that I've dedicated my life to them is entirely about indulging my own urgent impulses – nothing else.
There are people who connect with my work in different media. It means a lot to me that others find meaning within what I do. It also saves me – if only because my egocentricity is transformed, in some sense, into community. As I write about myself, as a young woman and an artist, and about the experiences, perceptions and yes, prejudices that motivate me, I am trying to reach out and touch, inform, inspire and sometimes, enrage. But I don't expect always to be successful – and if I'm not, I don't really care. I do it because I have to. Which is another way of saying I do it for myself.
For a long time, I struggled with the innately selfish, self-indulgent, and solitary aspects of being an artist. I recognised there were higher vocations – just as there were, certainly, better jobs – and I admired them. But for better or worse I've learned to accept that I'm not suited to them.
I'm an artist. There's simply nothing else I can be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No More Fingers In The Dyke, Final Part

When I try to make art to please someone else, it always fails. The pressure of seeking approval destroys anything it could have been. The only way I can make art is to do what I want and to explore the ideas that interest me. I can't fake it.
I can't fake who I am either.
When I decided I wanted to express my long-repressed sexuality, this fed into my art and for a while, it got me branded – wrongly – as an erotic artist. But I never really thought of myself as an anything other than political, trying to subvert sexual identity and the mixed perceptions of post-feminist women's roles spawned by advertising and 'old' mass media to further excite a consumerist culture.
Sex is still a political matter and it still has the power to subvert and confront. That's why governments waste so much time trying to control it. In Australia, the Rudd government's determination to filter sexual content from the web or to whip the art establishment into line with Rudd's own middle-class, middle-brow Christian moral standards is an example. And before you argue that his efforts are about protecting us all from child porn', remember that most child porn isn't even on the web. It's distributed anonymously via P2P file transfers (outside the control of Rudd's proposed filters) or stored in email accounts to which passwords are shared. Filtering the web about controlling our flow of information and experience not about protecting children.
Conservative moralists always target sex first. This is entirely political: after all, it appeals to the prurient interest of the mass, the unindividualised 'old' media audience. Depicting even 'straight' sexual acts between consenting adults is taboo while acknowledging (let alone practicing) 'perversions' – like fisting – is akin to a guerilla attack. Even with modern, fetishistic subcultures there are protocols, rules of misbehaviour, if you like: expressing oneself outside of them can be construed within them as an act of social or political revisionism. I'm not your proto-typical feminist dyke or nor am I a partner-swapping 'swinger' of suburban cliché: my relationship is 'flexible' but not 'open', other than to shared experiences. In other words, I set my own terms.
Mostly, I've used only myself as an object in my work because I've had ethical problems with objectifying someone else, especially another woman. Women are objectified in millions of ways – by men, by each other, and by themselves. In the sexual encounters I've had with two partners, the other woman has nearly always been an object; I'm respectful of her but unemotional about her. In some ways, the experience is akin to creating an artwork: physically and imaginatively intense but with a degree of detachment, of forensic observation. (That said, I still surrender myself completely to a really good fuck.)
My choices in life and work are all intricately connected. They're driven by forensic self-analysis and a desire to re-programme 'the norm. We tend to become what we construct – or allow others to construct – in terms of ideas, opinions, beliefs or ethics – around us. Our successes and failures are defined by ourselves and others within these conceptual structures but for that reason alone, we shouldn't ever let them become too fixed or permanent. They tend to limit our freedom or, worse, become places for us to hide, even from ourselves.
If the artist has just one role it is to test these structures, to stress them, and from time to time, to tear them down so new ones can take their place.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No More Fingers In The Dyke, Part Three

It took me a long time to get around to telling any of this to my father. I already knew how he'd react. Even the most understanding parents don't want to know details of their children's sex lives but I'd had enough of trying to hide my self. Besides, it was now all there in my new work – the large, easily accessible, billboard-like enamel on board paintings had given away to expressive and explicit watercolours on paper and stark, faux-porno' photographs.
There was a time when my father exerted a huge influence on me. From an early age, he'd taught me to do things usually reserved for boys and encouraged me to excel in all areas. I was a straight-A student, despite having attended a different school every few years. I excelled in school athletics. I rode horses and motorbikes and I shot rifles with extreme precision before I was eleven (I even earned a license for the guns). I skinned the animals I hunted and prepared their meat to eat. I cured the skins. He taught me what he knew and had others teach me what he didn't. He also indulged my pre-teen girlish whims – Barbie dolls, fanzines, hairspray, frilly dresses and exotic, impractical shoes. Other children wore uniforms to primary school. I wore a t-shirt (on which I often painted) and a denim mini-skirt.
He also let me read his collection of '50's comic books: in them, outrageously sexy villainesses and heroines with bodaciously curved and scantily clad bodies used their sexual wiles as weapons – Vampirella was a favorite. I became a fan of Wonderwoman and Catwoman.
In my teens – and even in my twenties – my father gave me newspaper clippings about the inequality of wages for women and books about strong and unusual women, including a biography of the eccentric poetess, Edith Sitwell. He encouraged me to "be a loose cannon" and reminded me that good girls don't get ahead, gutsy girls do.
I don't think my father realised that a lot of the women he brought to my attention had been persecuted, rejected or condemned for daring to choose to live and work outside the conventions of their time . When I finally got up enough courage to live the way I wanted, it became clear that what my father preferred was the comic book version of a strong woman: sexy, glamorous, even a little tough but still able to fit neatly within society's boundaries. No complications and no substance either – the sort of women I still paint in glossy enamel, using myself as a model.
Ironically, my father's efforts to turn me into some kind of socially acceptable superwoman backfired. He was unprepared for what I did with the information he gave me: the reality was that it involved risk, defiance, the breaking of taboos. When I expressed my own opinions or, worse, began to act on them, my father derided them and even tried sabotage them. When push came to shove, the last thing he wanted was a woman in control. He wanted a woman in her place, which, as far as I was concerned, was being an obedient, subservient daughter.
Unfortunately, for him, I'd become the woman he had raised me to be.
I spoke to my father for the first time in three years, just last year. I took him to view some of my new art but he didn't really want to know about the works that weren't the colourful, comic-book 'shock pop' that I painted when he was still an influence on my life.. He still wasn't interested in anything I was trying to express, especially about myself. I accepted this for a while but then he couldn't resist spearing me with critical barbs disguised as 'jokes' at my expense. Then it got worse: the disparaging or dismissive comments about nearly every aspect of how I'd chosen to live and work flowed stronger and became as corrosive as acid.
I cut off contact again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No More Fingers In The Dyke, Part Two

I left Melbourne and severed ties with everyone I knew, including my family. I had already stopped painting. I had come as close as I dared to the edge of a high, dark precipice.
Then I met a man. He was strong, smart and steady and I fell in love with him harder than I thought was even possible. He loved me back and not because of who I was pretending to be but
in spite of it. My family disapproved of him.
For the first time, I learned to trust someone enough to reveal everything about myself. To my surprise, nothing frightened him, not my manic work habits nor my moodiness nor my bouts of destructive self-loathing, certainly not my suppressed sexuality. He recognised early on that I needed to sate my curiosity about my own sexuality, to soothe the hot itch that had persisted long after I'd lost touch with M.
He gave me the space to experiment – in everything. When I asked him how he might feel if I wanted to have sex with a woman, it didn't faze him. He'd lived enough that little surprised or shocked him. I asked him if he'd be with me, to still my nerves and who knows, maybe to keep me safe.
Kelly was everything I was not; tiny, physically delicate, with long straight ebony hair that hung like a heavy curtain around her delicate Asian face, she smelled vaguely of cigarette smoke. I felt more shy with her than when with a man. Women see each others flaws and sometimes its competitive. Her body language betrayed that that she felt the same.
Maybe part of me, the part still in denial, was hoping I'd be repulsed by seeing her skinny, boyish body naked. It'd make it all much simpler, I thought – it'd mean that I was 'straight'. But repulsion was the
last thing I felt; I was intoxicated by the smell of her skin, aroused by the way her small, firm breasts felt against mine. Her skin was soft and warm to touch. Both hesitant, both just as apprehensive about touching each other, our curiosity about how and where each other's body might respond was a subtle, urgent pulse.
I was self-conscious about knowing what to do. I felt it should be second nature, if only because we had the same anatomy. I'd had a deal of straight sex in the past but I'd only just begun to feel free enough to explore more of what made my own body feel really good. Again, my new man made me feel it was ok for me to do this – alone, with him and now, with this young, pretty woman. With him, I wanted to try it all: anal and multiple penetration, fisting, pissing, squirting
. Before him I'd never enjoyed giving head and I hated any man trying to come on my face. I saw these as subjugating, anti-female political acts. With him, it was only about exploration, pleasure, intimacy, trust and love. Even with Kelly's hands and tongue on (and in) me, I wanted to gaze at him. He motioned or spoke softly to me and showed her and me how to make each other come.
She tasted different to the men I'd known. And I'd never imagined that the nerves of my fingertips could become so sensitive. I felt the heat and wetness within us both. Her pelvic muscle spasmed on my fingers deep within her.
Since then, the less I've hidden, suppressed or denied, the better I feel. Each time I delve a little deeper into some part of me I've repressed, I feel lighter, happier, freer. What lies beneath the surface of me is complicated. It isn't always easy to confront. But I realise, finally, that it's ok. A liberated sense of possibility (that can sometimes, admittedly, provoke episodes of reckless abandonment) has seeped into every aspect of my life and art. The exercising of my sexuality has been, unarguably, the most important influence on the evolution of my work, even the most recent work that's not apparently sexual. I'm driven to test my fears, to go beyond them, without any thought of being judged.
After my first time with Kelly, I made love with my man alone. Tears of relief spilled from my eyes as I came with him even harder than I had with Kelly. We continued to experiment together, with Kelly and others, and I became more confident and secure. In sex and in my art, I could be myself without rules or restraint – even without
him, if this was what I wanted.
This unprecedented freedom only made me want to share every part of me with him and to have him near always as I uncovered more of who I was. My heart and mind belonged only to him, no matter how intense my phsyical response to another woman might be.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No More Fingers In The Dyke, Part One

During my brief stint at art school, I fell in love for the first time.
M. was a young Indian-Iranian woman, with wild hair and a stylised tattoo of a grumpy face on her upper arm.
We developed a fast, intimate friendship, hyper-aware that we were openly expressing only the surface of our feelings for each other. Our relationship was complicated by my hesitance: I was scared by the idea of sex with another woman, even a woman with whom I was romantically involved. I wasn't even sure what such sex might entail. Nothing much happened between us.
Part of the problem was that I'd only just restored a relationship with my father. I'd been estranged from him for a number of years. Once, when I asked him what he'd think if I were gay – back then, I thought there was only gay or straight – he told me that he'd still love me but that he'd think I was stupid or, worse, that there was something wrong with me. It was as if he was talking about an aberration – I imagined a confused animal that didn't understand the natural, necessarily heterosexual requirements of mating.
The art I was making then – that I had always made – was messy, emotive, and unrestrained. I was experimenting with 'found' and natural materials and videoing myself (in one sequence, I stared unblinking at the camera lens for several minutes in some kind of emotional endurance test). Then somewhere in the middle of that year, my friendship with M. floundered. Impatient with my lack of boldness, she had relationships with men instead. I was heartbroken. I began to craft collages around fragments of women who looked sort of like me. Using ideas borrowed from advertising and 'pop' culture, the work gradually became slicker, more refined – and superficial.
At the end of that year, I created my first large enamel painting. Its glossy, seamless surface was intended to obscure any evidence of the personal, the emotional, the real. In other words, it hid any hint of who I really was.
M. and I parted. Like her, I began dating men. Most of them embodied the conventional ideals touted by women's magazines. They were young, good-looking, smart, and 'creative'. Most treated me well and tried to make me happy. But all I felt was empty.
I began to paint myself. These stylised self-portraits in enamel were supposed to look more perfect than I could be. Although originally I conceived them as a comment on how art and the artist are productised in a media-driven culture, they were actually acts of self-negation. I wanted to whitewash my real persona, to cover it with an impenetrable glossy surface. I guess I wanted to transform myself into something more 'acceptable' – devoid of deviancy, uncertainty, irrationality or imperfection. Over time, the paintings became a very weird sort of psycho-sexual cheesecake – sanitised 'pop' pin-up poses that sold out my sexuality along with most of my political beliefs. In many ways, they were conceptual works, not real paintings, bill-board-inspired pseudo-advertisements for a version of myself more palatable to everybody – including my father.
Ironically, the increased technical skills I acquired to create these hard, shiney, colourful surfaces paralleled the growth of new-found social skills. I became adept at presenting a perfect but entirely false public image of myself.
And yet the more I tried to smother my persona beneath a smooth but brittle surface, the more I found myself wrung out by a relentless internal conflict . Eventually, in 2004, I created an entire series of enamel on board paintings of pairs of bikini-clad women fighting each other. Titled Self Vs. Self, the lesbian under-currents (depicted in a way that would have made Russ Meyer proud) weren't hard to miss.
I painted this series while I was still living at my father's house in Melbourne. He supported me financially but the shifting, ill-defined conditions of his support – along with the constant pressure of trying to please him – started to break me. My psyche began to disintegrate. So did my ability to control myself. No longer willing to hide my real self – I was desperate to give it free rein – my relationship with him deteriorated into rancour and resentment.
I decided to run away. It was the only way I could break free – and, at last, grow up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Market's Bidding

This week, John Keats of Menzies Art Brands let me know that three more enamel paintings of mine – a large work from my now hard-to-find Lake Eyre On Acid series and two smaller Sports Babes, Resized For Easy Consumption – have been submitted for Menzies' major auction of Australian art scheduled for 25th March, in Sydney.
I don't know whether to be pleased or to puke with anxiety. In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s even the rich are shedding assets – starting with their art collections – and the news from major auction houses around the world, including Sotheby's and the venerable Christie's in London, where my work sold very well in December, has been less than encouraging. Only a tiny percentage of contemporary works by young (well, thirty-something) artists are finding buyers while well-known works by older 'stars', including Hirst, Emin, and Banksy, have been passed in without any bids.
I'm aware that many collectors and auctioneers regard my paintings as being sensibly priced. They rose steadily in value (around 1,000 per cent on what was paid for early works a decade ago) but didn't sky-rocket during the hyper-inflationary final years of the so-called 'art bubble'. Moreover, I was careful not to allow dealers or collectors to 'ramp' auction prices. Now my work represents, as one art consultant put it, "a combination of artistic credibility and solid potential for investment growth".
This doesn't ease my nerves. I feel the same way I did when I hung my first-ever show – edgy, unsure, wondering, "What if they don't like it?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Unbearable Rightness Of Being Myself

I've been very withdrawn this week. This has been reflected in fewer entries here. When I'm unhappy or troubled, I clam up. I throw myself into work. But sometimes trying to ignore a problem, especially an emotional one, is a bad idea.
I spoke to my father a few days ago. Our conversations are rarely about my art or my career but he knows that I've been under a lot of financial pressure lately. Technical mistakes in my studio, which I've written about here before, have been costly in every respect: I have had to spend a great deal on new materials and at the same time, forego new income while I repair or repaint some large works. I've always prided myself on the quality of finish – and durability – of my enamel works and its important to me that no second-rate work finds itself into collectors' hands. No matter what it costs.
My father had called to offer me money. I turned it down. We have fallen out over money before. I've learned that, with him, there are always strings attached.
Having refused his help, our conversation soon degenerated into a fight. He told me what a failure I am and that I should have handled my career the way he had told me to. The trouble is, what he had told me, five years ago, was that I should give up art. This was after a widely reviewed and much-publicised show, Self Vs. Self, at a well-regarded gallery failed to return what I'd invested in it. He considered that a disaster.
My father judges my success by the amount of money in my account and the number of my own paintings that I hold. Instead, I've invested in expanding my studio, increasing the number of my assistants and producing my own exhibitions and events. I prefer that my work is on the walls of collectors rather than in my store-room. My father doesn't understand that paintings don't just go up or down in value on their own. Their value is directly related to the amount of work I put in. At this stage of my career, paintings stashed in a store room do nothing for me whereas paintings in collections build awareness and appreciation of my work.
Besides, I'm an artist, not a banker or stockbroker. Communication of my ideas is important to me. My father would regard this argument as ridiculous.
In the middle of our increasingly bitter exchange, I mentioned the high price my work achieved at auction, at Christies in London, in December last year, despite a worsening economic climate. My father told me that meant nothing. All that mattered, he said, was how much money I had in my hand. The huge gulf between our values was suddenly so stark that I didn't know what to say anymore. I told him, simply, that I was proud of what I'd accomplished – especially as I'd accomplished much of it alone. His rage amplified and he hung up.
Sadly, more and more, my relationship with my father has deteriorated as I have become my own person and made decisions that reflect who I am rather than who he thinks I should be. My father used to ask me why I was so quiet and didn't speak my mind. It was because when I did say what I thought, he didn't like it.
My father doesn't really like the person I am and I don't like the person he wants me to be. He can't accept me as I am but I can't pretend to be someone else. What I can do is accept the way things are between us and ignore what he says to – or about – me.
Which prompts me to admit the only untruth I have ever told in this blog. After the opening of my PORNO exhibition, last year, I wrote that my father told me he was proud of me. He didn't. He had looked pleased and I had really wanted him to say he was proud. In fact, all he told me was that his favourite exhibition was my first, ten years ago.
Now I feel foolish for inventing what I'd wanted so badly to be true. It's time for me to accept the reality that it isn't and move on.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meanings To Me

I've been thinking about the things that are most precious to me. Nearly all are simple gifts or 'found' objects and each is more important and meaningful to me than any of the expensive, luxurious things I own. They include:
A stone with a hole in it that I found on a beach in Norfolk, near my grandmother's house. It was the first time I saw her as an adult and the last time before she passed away. I wore it as a pendant for a number of years, with leather threaded through the opening. When I hold it, I see a film in my head of the time I spent with her.
A carved and delicately painted wooden bust of Buddha. The face is feminine and particularly beautiful and peaceful. I used to have it facing my bed, to watch over me while I slept. Now it sits on a makeshift altar in a corner of my home studio. I have taken it to every place I've lived since I bought it during my late teens.
A box from Papua New Guinea. Carved from a single, solid piece of wood, the lid slides open to reveal partitions, and a smooth half circle. It was intended (and used) for storing and mixing ingredients (calcium and daka or betel leaf) to add to areca nut to make a stimulant referred to as betel nut. There's still some residue on the wood. I keep small, precious pieces in there.
A small statue of the Madonna, carved in soapstone. I don't know where it's from, other than it was a gift from my dearest friend. It's been worn smooth in patches from being touched over many years.
A Buddha carved from a single piece of blood-red garnet, a gift from collectors of my work to whom I am very close. As a child, I used to fossick for raw garnets and sapphires in local creeks and waterholes. We found hundreds of them. They were kept in jars of water which we held up to the sunlight to look at, turning them around like home-made kaleidoscopes.
An inexpensive bangle that I bought for myself when I was in art school. It's silver, inlaid with pieces of black shell cut smooth and regular. I don't know why i like it so much, other than that it's been a rare constant in my life. I never take it off.
A small, sculptural hat pin in the shape of a crow that I found in a second hand shop, long ago. It's made of dull black plastic sequins, sewn to overlap each other. The feathers are cut out of the same plastic and sewn in a fan-like semicircle. It has a metal beak,and yellow beaded eyes. I wear it in my hair, when it is long. It's beautiful, but also a little sinister. I feel like it protects me, like eyes in the back of my head.
I often wonder what objects hold meaning for other people, what become their intimate fetishes, and why. Why not tell me about yours?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bad Memories

A long time ago, I dated a rock musician who was enjoying some success on the national charts. Everywhere we went, people gave him free guitars, sneakers, skateboards, strings, clothes, meals – anything they thought he wanted. He accepted the gifts with grace but always looked a little awkward. When I asked why, he said it was ironic: when he'd really needed help, no-one gave him anything. The gifts were nice but they didn't really matter now that he could buy whatever he needed.
I saw a couple of close friends yesterday. I've known one of them since the beginning of my career. Somehow, he knew my old art teacher at high school. The teacher had said to tell me hello, and asked my friend to pass back any message. I laughed and said he could tell her to get fucked. I had asked the teacher several times for a reference to help me get in to art school. I went back every day for a week but she could never be bothered to write the note. Now that I had proven myself without her, she behaved as though she'd been part of my journey – or had recognised something in me then. She hadn't.
In my teens, I read articles about artists I aspired to emulate. In them, there were always comments from people out of their past, who'd claim they'd recognised something special in the artists. At the time, I thought that I had less of a chance of becoming successful because the people I looked up to ignored me. Now I realise that most people claim to have recognised and nurtured talent – and most of them probably hadn't.
I receive a lot of electronic files of art work and links to websites from people I don't know. They want my opinion. I understand the need for reassurance but I can't give it. Still, I don't want to discourage anyone. I still remember a time when nobody recognised any value in my work. If I'd cared too much about that, I wouldn't have continued.
It's not about what anybody thinks of your work. It's about persisting, regardless.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Girl Talk

The girl sitting next to me reached out and gently cupped my breast.
"Are they real?" she asked. "Or implants?"
"Um, they're real," I said. Her boldness had taken me by surprise, especially as we had only just met.
"Oh, very nice." With almost forensic precision, she examined the breast's weight and shape with her fingers.
She moved her attention – and her hand – to her own chest. "A lot of my friends have implants," she told me.
I hid my relatively new curves in the same way she disguised her thin, lithe figure, under loose-fitting clothes. I wondered if women had always been this way, always dissatisfied, always longing to look different.
"You're beautiful the way you are," I said. "If you want to be bigger naturally, just put on some weight. You just have to be a bit fatter all over."
I could hear her male companion finishing a mobile 'phone conversation in the other room, his voice growing louder as he walked back towards us. She giggled, I smiled.
"It's so hot. Let's get some water," I said, changing the topic. I didn't want to think about it anymore.

Friday, February 06, 2009

In Remembrance, Inspiration

I spent my childhood in isolated places – and my early teens in what used to be called 'under-privileged' neighbourhoods. Raised a feminist, l was told often by my parents that I could achieve anything.
It was all very well in theory – and in pop culture: Girls Can Do Anything was on bumper stickers everywhere then – but it was bloody hard to find young female role models to assure me it was true.
I did have one. The daughter of close friends of my parents, she was older than me so I knew of her rather than really knowing her. Nevertheless, I followed her life. Before I finished primary school, she won a Rhodes Scholarship. I didn't even know women were eligible, maybe because, in Australia, the women awarded it were very few. She left to study at Oxford University, where she attained all that was expected of her – and more. Later, her achievements in a profession dominated by men proved, once and for all, that everything I'd been told was possible. It buoyed my own ambitions and narrowed my focus.
She was, in every sense, an inspiration.
I attended her funeral yesterday. She died just last week, still very young, after a long, painful illness. And yet even her passing inspired me – to be more aware of the brevity and fragility of life. It also reinforced my resolve to live my life fully, with courage and boldness and above all else, joy.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One Last Whinge

Today, as I painted a large area of colour on one of my enamel works, I thought about some of the things I hate about being an artist:
The art world is nothing like how I imagined it as a kid: it's about money, ego, status, competition and spurious theory and not at all about art.
People I've just met ask me to bring my work into their office/shop /home/cafe to show it to them or ask to come to my home to look at it.
The same people tell me that
everyone is an artist or that everyone is creative – "They just express it in different ways". Oh yes, and that childbirth is the most creative act.
I can't spend all of my time just making art. One of the reasons is the allergic reaction I get to paint fumes.
I always have dirty fingernails.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How Not To Sell Your Soul

Actually I have one secret. It's a very easy secret. You get up early in the morning and you work all day. That's the only secret. Is there another one?
Philip Glass
As more and more artists increase their online presence in order to be independent of commercial galleries, there's an exponential increase in long-winded articles, both online and off, giving artists marketing advice.
Mostly, they're written by people who have conflicting interests – they're either gallerists or they own art networking or sales sites. The latter urge artists to join their online communities as well as establish their own sites and blogs. They talk at length about techniques to drive and sustain traffic to theses online presences. Some of their advice is even quite good.
The trouble is, they don't talk about content.
They talk about how to sell a product that you've made. For them, the business of art is really no different from any other online business.
And yet it is, both online and in the real world, and those offering advice miss – don't even understand – the subtle emotional, aesthetic and other less easily mapped fields that exist between the collector and the individual artist and their work. In this context, most advice on selling is unrefined and next to useless: it's one thing to advise responding promptly to enquiries from potential buyers but it's another to find the right balance of information and integrity in that response, while at the same time laying the foundation for an ongoing relationship, even if the enquiry doesn't result in an immediate sale.
And let's not forget, the artist should also use an online presence for much more than mere marketing. They should be be part of – and, even better, provoke – public dialogues on art, ideas and socio-political issues too (and not be afraid of the occasional fall-out).
In the end, though, it comes down to this: To be a successful artist, in any environment, you have to make a considerable amount of art.
And while you are making it, you have to show it to people, both in the 'real world' and online. You have to help people to appreciate its history – in other words, the
context of how and why the art came to be made – as well as its ongoing intellectual and technical evolution. And you have to connect all this to yourself personally as the artist.
It's not exactly quantum physics but it is demanding. Along with the art itself, you have to think about it – and, if you have a blog, write about some aspect of it – nearly every day.
Some things can be learned by observing the actions of artists who are doing what you would like to do. Those artists' actions will reveal a much more compelling and meaningful motivation for making art than just the desire to to sell it.
If your only motivation for making art is to sell it and your main intellectual preoocupation is not the work itself but how to productise it, then you're not an artist. You're just a self-stocking shop.