Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unwelcome Distractions

I am not a 'joiner'. I am not a 'people person'. I am solitary, prickly, and on most days absorbed in my work. I don't like to be distracted. I don't respond well to those who try.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone who reads this blog. And yet I have lost count of how many people email me or worse, ring me up and ask me to do them a favour – as a fellow artist'. None of them qualify as acquaintances, let alone as friends.
The range of such favours can be wide – from lending them money to introducing them to a dealer or helping them to promote a show. It's not enough that I've shared the mechanics of how I've managed my own career on this blog for the past four years. I'm expected to talk them through what I've written because they can't be bothered to read it.
Last year, after doing a series of high profile interviews about my decision to abandon commercial galleries and promote and sell my art using the web, I had a number of calls from artists wanting my support for a sort of artist's union. They didn't get that what I wanted was to burn down the whole archaic, abusive system – not negotiate terms under which I could continue to work within it. Every conversation began or ended with a not-so-veiled appeal to my non-existent guilt for being successful, crude slivers of emotional blackmail meant to encourage me to lend a hand to 'a fellow artist'.
Yesterday was the last straw. I received an email from another total stranger. It read, "Hi Dooney Studio. I'm rebuilding my site and love the clean layout of yours. Could you advise where I can grab this template? Many thanks for helping a fellow artist."
As if.
Many artists and galleries have copied my website since I paid to have it designed and built to my specifications, back in 2003. Frankly, it's a little dated now, if not yet past its 'use-by' date, but I still don't take kindly to someone I've never met thinking it's ok not just to tell me they intend to copy it but to ask me to provide the template.
I don't care if a 'fellow artist' doesn't have the originality, imagination or drive I do to promote themselves and sell their art on their own terms. It's hard fucking graft and damn few are suited to it. I don't see it as any part of my responsibility to be available to help them. I've helped scores of young artists – and others – who have demonstrated that they have what it takes.
When it comes to those who don't, I have a ruthless disregard: Plenty more where you came from.


Ned Tobin said...

I find an overwhelming desire to kill everything that hinders my progress with a fury suited only for the warriors of yore, after reading this blog.

I admire your ability to cut with the bullshit and isolate the raw abuse being poured forth unto you into a comprehensible diatribe, that motivates me!

Not only this, but the brief glimpse I have just grabbed of your life is awakening for me, not that I don't personally have the motivation pouring forth already, but that there is simply so much more I have yet to do.

This may not make sense, but thank you.

andrea said...

There are artists who are everywhere on the interwebs because they love the social, sharing, instructive, guru-creating aspect. They welcome the questions because it fills a need they have. Then there are those who are everywhere as a means of marketing and self-promotion and creating an artist-controlled cult of self. I'm surprised your 'leeches' can't tell which one you are.

Oriane Stender said...

Andrea, don't you think that Hazel is providing enough of a public service through her blog posts? If she decides to open a business as an artist's consultant, or to teach a business class for artists, I am sure she would expect to get paid for it. That's the way the big, bad world of capitalism works. As for a "cult" of personality, there's no one coercing you to join.

Gwenn said...

The request is especially annoying considering that the web is the quintessential open source creation. All the person had to do is "view source" and they wouldn't just know where you got your template: they'd have it.

Leigh said...

Really Ned? "I find an overwhelming desire to kill everything that hinders my progress with a fury suited only for the warriors of yore"....oh wait, it gets better- "the raw abuse being poured forth unto you into a comprehensible diatribe"
Wow, I thought it was just about a template. The nerve of some people huh!?

Fitzroyalty said...

I feel exactly the same :-)

TB said...

And yet in private you have actually helped a lot of people like me and asked nothing in return. But you don't mention that. You encourage people to be themselves and take pride in what they've achieved. You don't try to take it away by wanting credit for what you gave.

Real philanthropy isn't self-aggrandizement. Ironically, maybe you are one of the few people these days who understands that.

Chad Swanson said...

As a fellow artist...I love your honesty. I do feel a special affinity with other artists (true artists), but that doesn't mean I like them. Truth is, a great deal of artists are self-absorbed, egotistical and borderline sociopaths. Same goes with art buyers. Nevertheless, I feel a special bond.

I get a bit frustrated with much of the conformity in art. Because individual success relies on community approval, artists need the support of other artists and art buyers to gain that community approval, which leads to assimilation of localised norms. I do find it refreshing to come across someone who is more true to themselves.

Finally, I will contradict myself once more. I like helping others; not because they are artists, but because helping others makes me feel good.