Another goal met: CPSA signature status

The moment I learned that the acceptance list for the 21st CPSA International Exhibitionwas posted this week, I clicked the link and stopped breathing.  I scanned down the alphabetical list, A…C…F…H…Ho…there it is, Howard, Denise!  I gasped and exhaled with a “YES!”

Tree of Character, 15"x20", colored pencil on Stonehenge paper

Tree of Character, 15″x20″, colored pencil on Stonehenge paper

This is my third acceptance into the show, so I’ve now attained “signature” status, meaning that I can tack “CPSA” after my name on anything art-related.  At the convention in August, I’ll get to walk across the stage and receive a certificate that makes it official.

This has been one of my goals since I joined the Colored Pencil Society of America in 2010.  The first year I entered, I had just joined so I didn’t really understand the level of competition, so silly me was disappointed when my entry that year wasn’t accepted. Then I saw the show, and was blown away.  These are some of the best artists in the world who work primarily in colored pencil.  People who have written definitive books on colored pencil technique.  People who have had solo shows in Paris. People who make their living from their art.  I then understood that i was going to have to step things up not just a notch, but several notches.  I heard several stories from folks who tried unsuccessfully for several years to get in.  Did I have it in me?  I have a certain competitive streak, but this was about more than competition, this was about having a goal: to improve my skills and create meaningful-enough artwork to someday get into this show.  And then beyond that, to earn signature status.  How long would it take?

Now I’m feeling very fortunate, because the next three years in a row, I’ve had artwork accepted into the show!  Along the way, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become friends with some of those world-class artists.

So what’s next on my list of art goals?  Winning an award in this show!  I wonder how long that will take?

A blog post about a blog post

Jan Looper is a professional art blogger who publishes The Art Scene in Silicon Valley.  She has been profiling a handful of the artists who are participating in this year’s Silicon Valley Open Studios.  There are a bazillion oil painters and watercolorists, but as far as I know nobody else whose medium is colored pencil, so I suspect that’s how she ended up in my studio last week.  We spent a very pleasant couple of hours talking about my journey and my philosophy about my art.  I enjoy opening people’s eyes to colored pencil as a fine art medium, so it was a great opportunity!

One always worries a bit after an interview of any kind, about being misquoted or taken out of context, or having important points omitted.  But this was not the case when she published her profile of me–I couldn’t be happier about it!  She “got” me.   I invite you to read it here: The Beauty is in the Details

Followup 5/7/13: SVOS picked up the blog posting and included it on the SVOS website.

Followup 5/14/13: Jan returned during my open studio weekend and purchased a print of Tree of Character. I didn’t realize what a special event that was, until she blogged about that, too!  See I Did It! I Bought Two Artworks During Open Studios!

The devaluation of original art

This article came across my radar today.  This is awful! Art “reproductions” are being created in assembly-line fashion by the millions in China and sold for ~$35. How are legitimate artists outside China supposed to compete with that in order to make a living?

This kind of operation devalues all original art by lesser-known artists. A consumer could argue “Why should I pay $1000 for your original painting of a poppy, when I can go to a chain art-and-frame store and buy something similar-looking that’s also hand-painted and is a copy of an artwork by a well-known artist, for $75 on sale?”

This prompted a lively discussion among friends.  One challenged me: “‘Why should I pay $1000…’ Good question. What’s your answer?”

My response: You’re paying for my vision, my skills and my time to create a one-of-a-kind artwork that speaks to you. No one else in the world will have this original. Instead of being worth $5 at a garage sale someday, it has the potential to go *up* in value.

This mass reproduction of art, made to be sold as “original” simply because there’s paint on the surface, is analogous to the rise of CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) to produce meat, chicken, milk and eggs: mass production on an enormous scale brings down the prices but also greatly reduces the quality, whether consumers fully realize it or not. Global agribusiness corporations have convinced millions of people through sheer volume that the flavor of their animal products are what they’re supposed to taste like. But they’re not–when raised and fed the right way, these products taste much better and are more nutritious. So now we must pay a huge premium to get “organic” products and enjoy that taste again. And people who are accustomed to the CAFO-produced products say in ignorance “Why should I pay $8 for a dozen eggs when I can pay $3 for eggs that do just fine?”

The difference, of course, is that animal products are consumables–food–while art is purely aesthetic. But they are both cheapened by mass production. I’m not talking about prints of originals. I’m talking about fakes.

Please remember this whenever you visit an art festival or show!  Art is a hobby for some, but for many it’s also a living.  Whether an artwork was created for enjoyment or for sale, if it speaks to you then it is worth something significant.  That’s value.  The original artist’s passion is absent in a fake produced by a set of painters who each specialize in just one aspect of the process and may not even know anything about the artist or his/her work.