View from the Trail, by Lori Woodward
It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's definitely true when it comes to fine artwork. It's interesting to note that my friend and mentor, Richard Schmid has no artist's statement. I'm not sure he ever saw the need to create one.
In my experience, writing an artist statement is a waste of my time. If my paintings make a wordless impact, then I don't need to really "talk it up". All the words in the world will not enhance an artwork that doesn't emotionally affect viewers. I'm not sure where and when artists statements came into being, but I'm willing to bet it was to substantiate abstract artwork in the early part of the 20th century. Words were needed to help collectors understand what the work was about. Representational works need no explanation - they either resonate with the viewer's life experience, or they don't.
The internet has become a noisy and crowded place lately. Like any new "toy" it takes over and becomes a fad - with time, when the hype settles, only quality will remain. No normal-minded human being can take in the amount of information that's online and retain it all. For the most part, links to blogs and photos become meaningless because there is too much of it to digest. Social media has developed into a continuously streaming infomercial, and while many of us have become addicted to the social aspect of it, trying to read everything is unproductive. I don't remember even a quarter of what I read or see during the course of a morning.
At first, I thought I was getting senile, but it has become apparent that I'm overloaded with images and text. My ADD mind is confused, becomes distraught and even afraid that I'll miss something. It's akin to the guy with the TV remote - trying to watch 2 or 4 programs at once. However, TV has gotten to the point of not supplying viewers with enough great contact to think one will miss anything. Reality shows keep you hooked because they imply that if you look at anything else you'll miss something.
Back to the Internet and Social Media... as I prepare to lead a seminar on art marketing at Scottsdale Artist School, I'm researching the current ways artists are selling work and collectors are buying it. I'm finding that no selling trend is lasting very long, and collectors are slowing down acquiring work and making more careful decisions. Some artists who were selling well on Ebay for a time - had sales drop off dramatically in recent weeks... no one knows why.
I can't find anyone out there who is asking collectors what they want, where they want to buy and why they have moved on from any particular artist. There are analysts for every field of marketing, but no one seems to want to research collecting patterns for fine art. Is it because artists and dealers are afraid that their livelihoods are in deep trouble? It could be that there is a potential new collector base just waiting to be engaged and enchanted. Every downturn creates new businesses - out of the ashes, the Phoenix arises.
Where was I? Social Media... I'm beginning to think that Social Media marketing for any product is not the magic answer. It is just another tool. When all the hype and noise calm down, only quality will get noticed. People making money off of social media instructional materials might need to find another job. When everyone jumps on the same bandwagon, the music stops - leaving only noise and chaos. I don't know about you, but social media is wearing me out and leaves me depressed.
I'm looking forward to experimenting with Google +... not because I need another social network ,but because it appears as though I can easily control the content that reaches my ears and eyes on a daily basis. My "friends" become circles and I don't have to see a constant stream of new input as I do on Facebook and Twitter. I can list only a few blogs that I feel I must read - on my Google reader, and all of this is accessed from one page: my calendar, gmail, and reader. I have the ability to cut out the noise.
The question that remains: If people no longer read a stream of incoming information all day, what becomes of social media marketing? Answer: it becomes more difficult to reach a lot of people with your message. The good part is that once you do reach someone with your awesome artwork or writing, you have the chance of keeping their undivided attention over a period of time.
Quality and scarcity create value. The only way to make a lasting impression is to create artwork that leaves people speechless (in a good way) and writing content that is so memorable, they'll want to print a hard copy of it. Using social media has become a battle for attention in a crowded infinite space. Not one I'm willing to spend most of my time on. Everything I believed about the internet 2 years ago doesn't seem so true now. When the frenzy dies down, only the best will survive.
When I was a kid (a long time ago), there were very few movies, and each that my family watched was indelibly etched in my memory. Now, my hubby and I rent numerous videos - so many in fact, that I can't remember the plot lines of the one I watched last week. Sometimes we mistakenly rent videos we think we've never seen - and about a quarter of the way through, we realize we've already watched that movie. Is it senility? No, it's too much information.
On the other hand, there are those movies that make such an impact that I think about the plot for days after watching them. They are few and far between. These are those that we end up buying and adding to our collection. Watching them 20 times - and know what? They get better with every viewing because they're complex and well executed.
That's how I want my art to impact viewers. If I crank out hundreds of works a year, how will anyone remember just one of them? If they are all the same visual story, how does that engage? Sure, my style needs to be recognizable - I have developed a couple of genres, but since I know that scarcity and quality have lasting power, I'll strive for these things.
In a world where quantity has become the norm, I expect that quality will win out over time.
If you read this far, thanks...
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