Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tips Menjadi Idola

How to be a Famous Artist
by David Gilhooly & Camille Chang

Reprinted by permission of the authors
Photo © Hakan GilhoolyOkay, so I was supposed to come up with text for this page so that Camille could put up images of the new pieces. I got a letter from a gallery asking how to be a famous artist and how to promote art so that the art world would notice.
I recently read an interview with Bill Gates. The question was asked, "Don't you feel it ironic that you tell kids to stay in school, yet you're a college dropout?" The gist of his answer was, "Yes." But he went on to explain that he was in the middle of a paradigm shift at the time he left and meant to leave for only a year while he "explored" it. But if you're not as lucky as he and other people of that time were, then staying in school could possibly be a good idea.

Dell of Dell Computers story is similarly interesting. To make extra money, he bought computer components and built computers which he sold to other students. He got so well known that he started hiring other students to help him and they took orders over the dorm phones. And then he gave the bad news to his parents. As I recall, the deal was one year to make a go of it or else back to school. This brings us to the "quick" answer of how to be a famous artist.

The Quick Answer.

I was likewise in the middle of a paradigm shift. Camille and I have a theory that we refer to as "The Wave" for lack of anything better.

Basically, The Wave is an idea or group of related ideas that artists (painters, sculptors, musicians, directors, writers, et al) are working on, independent of each other. It just seems to be an interesting IDEA that these individuals want to pursue in their particular discipline. You could say that Gates and Dell were part of a wave, that when added to the rest of the waves in related disciplines became a paradigm shift in computer technology and availability. The TB-9 (refers to the ceramic studio at the University of California at Davis) students all caught and added waves that became a paradigm shift in ceramic sculpture and in the art world. While TB-9ers knew each other and saw each other's work, there were others working similar waves that they didn't know about until much later, Voulkos and Mason were part of the first shift in clay and the TB-9 students, Melchert, Shaw, et al were part of the second shift. Prior to this, clay was a material used solely for pottery or maquettes for bronze or stone sculptures. Yes, yes, there were the occasional exceptions like Gauguin, but for the most part clay was not a serious medium for sculpture in and of itself. It was more like sculptural scratch paper.

So, the short answer is that I was lucky. I was part of a paradigm shift. That's how I became a successful artist. The time was right and I walked into it. Artists, collectors, gallery people and art historians were all making waves in the same direction that later formed the paradigm shift called Bay Area Funk Art. So, if you want to be successful in promoting your art and getting 'known' in the art world, all you need to do is make waves.

In other words, you need to work. And be lucky. And maybe, there's talent.

Now for the long answer.

I believe that you make your own luck and talent is hard work. So, here's the other answer, the long one, which I hesitate to include because people just don't believe it. I happen to be a Scientologist and most of what follows is from a book "Introduction to Scientology Ethics" by L. Ron Hubbard. You can order it from Make sure you get a 1993 or later edition if you're so inclined. But, here's the long answer.


That's all.

Keep your ethics in and the money and junk and stuff come in by themselves.

Ethics are defined as long-term survival with minimal destruction along any of the dynamics. The dynamics are: 1.) survival through self, 2.) survival through a family, 3.) survival through a group, 4.) survival through mankind, 5.) survival through plants and animals, 6.) survival through matter, energy, space and time, 7.) survival through spirituality, and 8.) survival through the Supreme Being. If you want to get into this more, get the above mentioned book.

That's the big picture and oddly enough, the little picture, too.

The big picture is that being an artist is an ethical decision for me. It helps me survive along all of the dynamics.

The little picture is that the goal in art is to make pieces that communicate to people. It has been my experience that the easier it is for people to interpret your piece the easier it is to sell the piece. However, the piece is also less satisfying spiritually. In other words, it's harder to sell an abstract painting than it is to sell a painting of a clown, but the painting of the clown is less satisfying to create and have on the wall.

Money is not a goal in art. Money is a symbol for goods and services. As students, we used to have what we called, pot sales, to make money. We'd make pots, bowls, and cups in exchange for money. They were fast and easy, not very satisfying spiritually (making art is after all a purely spiritual act), but people bought them. Your audience does not require you to perform great spiritual acts. It is up to you to give it to them anyway. Since people most readily buy things that are easy to interpret, they can become annoyed when you ask too much of them. Tough. The pot sales enabled us to persist in art long enough for people to catch on to the art we were making.

Fame is not a goal in art. If you work towards fame you end up being mostly the sixth dynamic and people will treat you like a thing. Example: most rock stars, many actors. The saying, "The show must go on", is one of the most aberrated things I can think of. To me, it means the performer (the famous person) is a tool and no matter how broken or tired this tool is, we are going to use it until it is so broken than it can no longer be used. Tools are made from moulds and usually have only a few specific uses. Tools are not allowed to change or grow and when they wear out, it's pretty easy to get a new one.

If you pay attention to the right goal, money and fame automatically attach and come along for the ride without your having any attention on them at all and hopefully by the time the money and the fame do come to you, they are inconsequential because your attention is on the doing of the work; in other words, the creating.

Creating anything is the most excellent thing we do.

Example: We have a 14 year old who plays the piano. When he first started out, the performances were way too important to him. My wife had him examine his goals. It turned out that he wanted the audience to love him. She pointed out that that was a wrong goal. First of all, you can't make the audience love you. Second of all, who cares if the audience loves you? The first point was real to him the second was not. So, we told him he couldn't do anything about making the audience love him. What he could do was study his theory and practice his pieces. That's all. Those were the only two factors in his control as far as we could see. He came up with another; listening to CDs. So we added that and realigned his goal to playing his pieces very, very well with a short term goal of being really ready for each lesson. I also told him that the reason we want our children to play piano is that reading music and playing an instrument are part of personal excellence and we don't care about performances. We like to listen to the struggle of learning a new piece and perfecting it. The performance is boring!

He got his ethics in by studying and practicing on a regular basis. This attitude leaked into his other studies. He also started helping around the house more. He became personally excellent. When he had the slightest feeling that he should be practicing he went and practiced. If he didn't understand a musical term he looked it up. He read about the lives of some of his favorite composers (found his place in history). He started composing. He has recently changed to a new teacher. My wife contacted this teacher and asked if he was interested at all in having our son as a student. This teacher told her, "That's like asking me if I want to drive a Rolls Royce". So, he's achieved "audience love" without having it as an actual goal. The interesting thing is that audience love is no longer important to him. What has become important is the practice and study of the piece or the creation of the performance. The performance itself has become an anticlimax.

You can't make people love you, you can't make people love your work and you can't make people buy your work. The only thing that's under your control is to create the work as excellently as you can. Pay attention to the small things. Ethics is actually doing what should be done in the time you notice that it needs doing. If you see your living room needs vacuuming, get the vacuum and vacuum it right then! If there's a towel on the floor, pick it up. If you feel like you shouldn't throw down the towel in the first place, fold it and hang it after you use it. If the piece isn't looking right, fix it; don't just leave it. If you need to learn how to draw better, learn. If you feel like you really should be working in the studio, go to the studio and work!! Fame and fortune come by themselves as long as you persist in creation.


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