Sunday, December 30, 2007

Planning my Art career for 2008 Obstacles to art career success

This is from Alyson B. Stanfield's ArtBizblog, I'm posting her interesting questions and my meandering answers.

Unofficial survey:
Obstacles to art career success

Here are two big questions for you. The answers will also benefit me and the services I provide at ArtBizCoach

1.What is the biggest obstacle you face in promoting your art?(examples: time to make art, time for the business stuff, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, space, negative people, . . . )
2. What change could you make in 2008 that would have the biggest positive impact on your art career?

1. obstacle you face in promoting your art? I still try to sell both my styles, fine art and illustration, bouncing back and forth, which I have always said goes nicely with my ADD. As time goes by I continue to focus much more on the "Fine Art" gallery side.
I still love my children's book and whimsical stuff, but the sales have become increasing hard as I find folks aren’t willing to pay the same for work that could be called Fantasy even though many times it takes much longer to design and paint.
I also still have the problem from a gallery representation side and from developing a bigger collector base, I love art. I love walking thru galleries looking at books and magazines, and when I see something that gets my excited heart rate up, a part of my brain says “I want to learn how to do that now; I like those colors, that mood and that brush work.” I know from all the reading and classes that I need to start developing MY style so that people are going to know when they are looking at a Michael Orwick before they read the signature.

Also I love painting landscapes and people in landscapes, so into part 2 of the questions change could you make in 2008. This is the year I move 90% (can't give up my more imaginative work completely) into the gallery side and dare I say stage of my career.
I have signed up for an amazing 10 day art intensive in the Teton Mountains with Scott L. Christensen I plan to apply for bigger competitions and shows.
I really need to start a new more focused client list, and start to give all my support the love and time they deserve.

Thank you Alyson B. Stanfield for keeping us all on our toes, and for so much great art business information throughout 2007. Best of luck on your new book I'd Rather Be in the Studio, I look forward to reading it.

All the best, and a happy and highly successful 2008 to all of you.

Michael Orwick

Fall's Falling light

18x24 oils on board

by Michael Orwick

Friday, December 28, 2007

CITY ARTS: Please join us for our New Year First Thursday reception

To all of my friends in Portland Oregon

Happy Holidays,
The holiday season is almost over (whew!). It has been hectic, but lucrative for all of us. The City Arts crew never rests, and are gearing up for our New Year First Thursday Reception.

902 SW Morrison St.
Portland, OR 97205
Bowl of Apples by Michael Orwick Oils on canvas 14x11"
Please join us for our New Year First Thursday reception to be held January 3, 2008 from 5:00 –8:00 pm. Come meet and mingle with artists, enjoy live music, libations, and celebrate the New Year!

Our featured artists for the month of January are Joe Pogan (metal sculpture), Daniel Dinges (photography) and Michelle Purvis (acrylics).

Hope to see some of you there.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

Oregon Landscape Painter
http://www.michaelorwick/ Lots of new work up on the site

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

artists have written to complain that offshore painters

I may be being a wee bit lazy here, but again another thoughtful article and I just have not been home much over the last week (our 10 year wedding anniversary, many great Christmas celebrations and so much fantastic family).

I hope you have all had a great Holiday and I promise to actual write my own blog entries soon.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

by Robert Genn

Dear Michael Orwick,

Several artists have written to complain that offshore painters, mainly Chinese, are doing such excellent knockoffs that they present a real threat to our livelihood. The phenomenon, they point out, may eventually destroy hard-won lifestyles in the Western world. "Free trade be damned," they say, "we need tariffs."

Summer's Song Triptych by Michael Orwick 3 panels of 12x24" landscape oil painting on canvases

The Painter's Keys has been active in preventing offshore shops from cloning some of our works (in 2006 we removed the work of some 800 Western painters from Chinese clone sites, and closed down two of them completely). Copyright laws and tariffs won't work on those guys. While cheap art in parking lots has always been with us, the Western artist who wants to stay the course has to realize that a name is also an asset. Art is not like shirts, for example, where buyers may not care about name or brand as much as quality and price. Art is not like accountancy either, which is now delivered over long distances by anonymous accountants in India. In art, name is the name of the game. Artists and the art they make are "personalities within communities." These communities may be the whole world, or "The Trail Riders of Podunk County." It's a fact of life that one competently painted horse doesn't sell for the same amount as another competently painted horse. Reasonably decent prices are all about context and perception. Anonymous and "in the style of" work has little context and consequently low valuations. As an outsourcing candidate, art suffers from Baumol's Disease, named for the economist who first described the condition. Some goods and services, he found, resist outsourcing because of their individualistic nature. Further, works by personalities, when they meet certain criteria, are condemned to grow ever more expensive. No matter the idealism or the art-maker's joy, investment is part of our game. Just as common stocks are no fun when they don't go up, art needs to at least pretend. Pitching art down to a price only fills college dorms. A professional artist who puts his DNA into his work need not fear the offshore cloners. Even if the Chinese wizards succeed handily, a fake is still a fake. Art is not just art, it's a life, lived by an individualist with a personality, verve, and a deep respect for human relationships. Best regards,Robert PS: "A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa, but people still line up to see the original." (Louis Armstrong) Esoterica: Artists who would make their way need to see themselves as individualists, sovereign islands and unique brands. Beside the art, what is known about the individual can also be loved. The artist can make his life a work of art. Apart from all the predictions to the contrary, individualism is the key, and individualism will be with us for a while yet. "Like a snowflake we are the beauty of one." (Kathleen Arnason)

Copyright 2007 - Robert Genn.To get more of Robert Genn's insight and inspiration for your artistic career, sign up for his twice-weekly newsletter at:The Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter:

This article appears courtesy of by Clint Watson, a free email newsletter about art, marketing, inspiration and fine living for artists, collectors and galleries (and anyone else who loves art) .

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Our job as professional creators is to filter our own efforts

by Robert Genn

(Some of you may have seen this article posted at the Fantastic Robert Genn Twice-Weekly website if not, please consider this link my little gift to you. I have been reading his essays for a few years now and they always seem to motivate and and start great dialogues. )

Dear Michael Orwick,

In 1847, Karl Marx wrote that working for wages would be superseded by what he called "self-activity." With the economy humming along, surplus time would free people to study, privately create and generally improve themselves. He suggested they might also hunt, fish, or even become critics in their spare time. Of course, this was going to happen under the Communist system. It didn't. But Marx's prophetic vision continues to prove him right. What Marx did not foresee was the remarkable variety of interests that folks would pursue. Only a few years ago a person who painted on the heads of pins would be considered an eccentric oddball.

The Photographer

18x24" Figurative Oil painting

by Michael Orwick

Available Soon

Today's Internet can bring a world of pinhead painters together to share techniques, one-hair brushes, magnifying devices, exhibition ploys, pinhead history and pinhead lore. A pinhead society is formed and a pinhead president is elected. Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail," while essentially a book on economics, talks about these sorts of esoteric pursuits and issues that will affect the lives and livelihoods of artists. The long tail is a graph that describes the vast variety of niches now available beyond the more standard fare. Amazon, for example, by offering more than 800,000 CD titles as compared with the average Wal-Mart at 4500, is an example of the retail long tail in action. Without "the tyranny of the shelf," and with its ability to tolerate a great deal of what they call "noise," Amazon offers stuff that is otherwise hard to find. Niches rule. We've put long tail graphs and their implications at the top of the current clickback. See URL below. With the remarkable democratization of human activity, older attitudes of scarcity may be waning. The bonanza of choice is affecting the ways people buy art. The "Star system" may be on its way out. Not only will people make art for their own consumption and those of their friends, but they will buy locally and value individuality and connectivity rather than name. "Young people today," says media mogul Rupert Murdoch, "don't want to be told what's good and bad, they want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it." The growing presence of large Internet art sites where art is arranged by genre and niche is part of this phenomenon. "Are you looking for a pinhead landscape or a pinhead portrait?"

Best regards,Robert

PS: "Noise can also be a huge problem in the long tail market. Indeed, if left unchecked, noise--random content or products of poor quality--can kill a market. Too much noise and people don't buy." (Chris Anderson)

Esoterica: Not everyone sees the long tail as a good thing. "Sturgeon's Law," named after science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, states, "Ninety percent of everything is crud." Galleries, museums and even websites are in the business of filtering out what they consider to be crud. Part of our job as professional creators is to filter our own efforts. By the way, are standards rising? Maybe the democratization of art can only go so far.

------------To get more of Robert Genn's insight and inspiration for your artistic career, sign up for his twice-weekly newsletter at:

The Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter: Add Image

Thank you all and Happy Holidays.
All the Best,

Michael Orwick

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Learn About Art, Learn About What You Like, Learn About Yourself!

11x14" Landscape Oil Painting by Michael Orwick


Looking at art fills your life with visual stimulation.

The people you meet - artists, dealers, collectors - are fascinating, passionate, and often eccentric. Typically they are generous with their time and anxious to help you learn.

The art world reflects a hotbed of intellectual issues. Contemporary art deals with personal poetry, politics, philosophy, and sociology. To attempt to understand it, is to grapple with the main issues of the day.
Being a part of the art world can be one of the greatest joys of your life

You Can Become a Collector.

Just think about buying two or three things a year - perhaps on an annual basis - a birthday or Valentine's Day. This adds up. Perhaps you want to specialize in a category of art. Something that expresses your own vision such as art by women, minorities, outsider art, impressionistic paintings, landscape, etc. So often, by developing a coherent vision and point of view, a collector can create a collection that is more than the sum of its parts, and actually enhances the objects in it.

"With the brush loaded with light"

24x18" landscape oil painting on board
by Michael Orwick available

To help promote your blog, you can sign up here for free, put a small widget on your blog, and get free traffic right away: When you put it on your blog, a little panel displays links to five other blogs in your selected topic area (for example, Art and Design). And other blogs in that same topic area display links to posts on your blog. So the people who see the links are likely to click and visit your blog. That is not a scam. It was started by one of most highly respected names in Internet marketing, John Reese. You will not receive unsolicited emails, and your address will not be sold. I've been using it on my blog, and it is dynamite! Orwick Arts Sign up for my daily paintings, art related musings and tips and techniques.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How the value of art is determined? Sometimes we covet and ascribe great value to art

Guest Writer

Art's true value (Part Four)

Money: the supreme icon

by Duane Snider

Even before I started collecting, I wondered how the value of art was determined. I wondered why some art became priceless and some was ignored or even reviled. It still puzzles me how some people feel so strongly about art that they become obsessed over it, while others seem indifferent.
Both the production and appreciation of art involves the search for unique, personal identity and a connection with the infinite. During this process art serves as the perfect vehicle for intensifying individual experience. Art offers an endless array of symbols that foster an understanding of life and the inner self.


Landscape painting

by Michael Orwick

12x24" oils on canvas


It injects life into mundane experience. Art gives us stable, idealized images of all that is fragile and transitory, all that is timeless and permanent. The process of ascribing value to art has always been disjointed and messy. The subjective nature inherent in buying and selling art creates this mess. Art dealers, museum curators and art critics exploit this mess as a means to justify the monetary value they ascribe to the art and artists they happen to like. All too often selling art is a convoluted process in the most stylish wrapping. This is especially true in the blue-chip galleries.
The production of art brings into the world an endless variety of unique objects of beauty, pleasure and meaning. It also brings us images and ideas that disturb us and cause great discomfort.
Sometimes we covet and ascribe great value to art. Other times we chastise particular works of art as decadent and worthless. The judgments we make reflect the values and virtues we want to see in ourselves as well as the sins and transgressions within ourselves that we fear facing.
The time has come to tear away the fixation our culture has on the art business and rediscover the true value of art.

My special thanks again go out to Duane Snider

All the Best, Michael Orwick

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Art's true value Part three purchase of art for placement in our homes

Guest Writer

Art's true value

(Part Three)

Money: the supreme icon

by Duane Snider
Old Coastal Tree 3
Oils painting on Canvas
14x11" By Michael Orwick

Long ago I had the fantasy of buying a painting at a modest price only to find out years later that the dollar value of the piece had multiplied beyond reason. I'm ashamed to admit this was part of what lured me to buying my first piece.
Now that I've lived with numerous works of art for 20 years, the idea of selling any of my treasured icons seems crazy. They're like family to me. They've become a significant part of who I am, how I view the world and in what I believe.
Each piece of art I discovered and purchased became a building block in the growth and nurturing of my own unique identity.
The culture we live in today has evolved into an Orwellian nightmare of commercial and political homogenization. Fox Broadcasting has transformed news into propaganda and polluted the entire mainstream news distribution process. Madison Avenue bombards us with manipulative advertising with the sole purpose of brainwashing us into buying any and all junk they throw our way. We look out on the world through our media, our institutions and the places we work to find powerful forces bent on stifling the search for individual identity.
Consider that the selection and purchase of art for placement in our homes and work spaces is one of the few venues we have for exploring the unique aspects of our personalities. Our society has lost touch with this spiritual treasure that owning art offers. We have traded it for an obsession with the dollar value we place on any and all artifacts we choose to own.

My special thanks again goes out to Duane Snider
Part four and the final chapter in this fine essay tomorrow.

All the Best,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Art's true value part 2 Money: the supreme icon by Duane Snider

Guest Writer

Art's true value

(Part Two)

Money: the supreme icon

by Duane Snider

The early-20th-century philosopher Irwin Edman gives a remarkably simple bit of insight into what art offers us in everyday life:
"Painters speak of dead spots in a painting: areas where the color is wan or uninteresting, or the forms irrelevant and cold. Life is full of dead spots. Art gives it life. A comprehensive art would render the whole of life alive."
The history of art includes the history of icons in every imaginable variation. It's a history that goes back as far as the cave drawings at Lascaux.
Examples of iconic images range from Christ and the Virgin Mary to Warhol's Campbell's Tomato Soup Cans.
Icons help connect us with not only religion, but also with culture, nature, human events and the inner self. Icons form a language of symbols we use to connect with and find meaning in our lives. The greater the meaning a symbol or image can convey the greater the value we place on that image or icon.
It's easy to understand how iconic imagery becomes an artistic commodity in the commercial side of art. The term "value" takes an entirely different meaning when we talk of the business of art. In this context the dollar is the supreme icon. Imagery becomes a means to a profit rather than a symbolic dialogue on the meaning of things.
PBS recently aired a 90-minute biography of Frida Kahlo. After detailing her life, her art and the intensity of the imagery in her paintings, the credits rolled over a video of an auction for one of her simple self-portraits. The bidding closed at $1.2 million. That's a strong statement, but I wonder about the message it sends to the average person who will never see that kind of money and doesn't have much knowledge of art.
Why are people so eager to lay down such a huge sum for a single painting?
The desire for ownership of famous works by famous artists is the common way of rationalizing such purchases. We covet cultural icons familiar to us and to society at large.
On a deeper level it's about the desire to own anything that is the product of genius. Owning the work of a genius offers a material connection with the artist, maybe even a window into the mind of the artist.
For the artist and the collector the artistic process is about making a commitment to an idea and an ideal as a means of defining personal identity. The artist creates and the collector adopts as both follow a path of self-discovery. With the discovery of a unique identity comes the creation of a bridge between the self and the rest of the world.
When, as an aspiring musician, I adopted Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" as a personal symbol, I had unconsciously started down a path that lead me to a greater understanding of who I was at a particular time. That enhanced consciousness helped me let go of one phase of my life and move on to another. The end result was personal growth.
We are faced with the duality of the commerce of esthetics. The art business is the production, marketing and sales of artistic windows into the mind, heart and spirit.

Part 3 from Duane Snider's essay Art's True Value coming tomorrow.

All the best,

Michael Orwick

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Art's true value; Aesthetics vs. commerceby Duane Snider

Guest Writer
Art's true value (Part One)Aesthetics vs. commerce

by Duane Snider

That's when I started learning that the real value of art is not determined by the price on the sticker, but by the strength of the connection between the viewer and the object of interest.

We take for granted that fine art holds great value for us as individuals and for all cultures of the world. However, determining the hows and whys has always been an elusive task.
On the one hand we have the aesthetic aspects that encompass beauty, symbolism, communication of ideas and a spiritual sensibility. On the other hand we have the commerce of distributing all the objects that contain these lofty attributes.
In an ideal world commerce and aesthetics could be separated into two different sets of values that functioned independently from one another. But this is the real world, so art and business are forever joined at the hip.
I offer a story of how one particular painting affected my life.
A 20-year-old Pablo Picasso painted "The Old Guitarist" during his Blue Period. A friend gave me a poster print of this painting when I was 20 during the time I call my Blue Period. I'd been playing the guitar for about five years and was starting to have fantasies about becoming a musician.
I hung that poster in my apartment and felt the presence of the image every time I picked up my instrument to practice. The image of that old man in ragged clothes, hump-backed and hunched over his guitar, became a metaphor for my own toil and struggle. I had talent, but I wasn't gifted.
After five more years of reaching for mastery of the instrument, I gave up playing and steered my life in a different direction. I put down my guitar, gave away that poster and suffered the pain that was the natural consequence of a shattered dream. Through the pain came the beginning of a lesson about the power and value of symbols and icons.
A museum poster that probably only cost $30 became a defining element in my belief and understanding of who I was, what I wanted and the path of life I was traveling. That's when I started to understand the value of how a visual image can communicate such broad and deep meaning.
When I gave up the guitar I couldn't give up my need for a place to put my passion. It seems natural that my passion migrated toward the visual arts. Giving up playing music meant letting go of a sizable part of what I thought was my identity. My search for a new sense of self played a major roll in pushing me toward the idea of collecting.
In the beginning art seemed like a keen interest which evolved into an all-consuming passion. This kept me on a path toward a lifelong passion that became my personal salvation, a path with a dark side that offered me some vital lessons.
For me, the money and business of art occupies a large part of that dark side.
When I first started collecting, I was caught up in what I call the "Antique Road Show" fantasy: the idea of buying a piece for a little money just to watch its value skyrocket with the passage of time. After several decades of collecting I have come to view this get-rich obsession as a cultural perversion. This attitude draws attention away from the deeply personal meaning and aesthetic inherent in art.
However, since I've never had much money, I've always obsessed over the price of art.
There are standard guidelines and practices galleries use when pricing art. However, unless you are part of the process as a dealer, artist or collector, transparency is non-existent. The basic pricing guidelines focus on: 1) how successfully the artist has been promoted in the past; 2) how many shows the artist has been given; 3) what galleries the artist has shown in; and 4) the range of prices in their last successful show.
Works by artists just beginning to show are given bargain-basement prices; this is the norm no matter how much time and effort the artist puts in, or how good the work might be.
Artists have fantasies of striking the cultural mother lode of profit. Andy Warhol once said to an interviewer, "The greatest art is business." Warhol was arguably the supreme self-promoting artist of the 20th century.
Of course, brokers and dealers are in it to make a living and the most successful are marketing geniuses. Museum directors and curators spend vast amounts of time and resources courting contributions from wealthy collectors and corporations. Blockbuster exhibitions underwritten by huge corporations and newspaper announcements of huge art donations from wealthy families stand as monuments to successful institutional promotion.
The struggling, unknown artist just wants to eat and pay the rent.
To outsiders these statements may seem brash, but these dealings are documented in detail by cultural historians like Alice Goldfarb Marquis. Her book, "The Art Biz," is the most enlightening and disillusioning book about the art world I have ever read. I strongly recommend it.

The gallery from which I bought my first artwork made the sale because the gallery owner made an effort to make the pricing and sales process as transparent as possible.
She gave me a short but thorough explanation on how galleries set prices. She explained that great art comes in all price ranges, as does mediocre art.
That's when I started learning that the real value of art is not determined by the price on the sticker, but by the strength of the connection between the viewer and the object of interest.
Money intertwines with the arts and culture business like blackberry vines in an untended garden. The fruit might be sweet, but the picking can be painful. It's easy to forget that even through a tangled mess, some flowers bloom above the thorns.
So where are the blossoms among the thorns? Where is the value in buying original art?

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All the best

Michael Orwick

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The life-affirming qualities of art Embarking on a journey of discovery

I want to thank Duane Snider for sharing his very private and very powerful experiences with his readers and allowing me to share it with you.

It is so nice to hear how art affects the viewers on so many positive levels. I know that I would continue to paint even if every painting went straight into the closet instead of the galleries and your walls, I know the kind of power and release painting has had in my life. So, I loved hearing how it may in fact have saved Mr. Snider's life...on multiple occasions.

This year I will let this essay about "the life-affirming qualities of art" stand in for my Giving of Thanks.

Embarking on a journey of discovery

The life-affirming qualities of art

by Guest Writer Duane Snider

"Collecting became my process for opening myself to the world in order to discover who I was and who I wanted to be."

"I want to demonstrate the potential value art has for the individual and I can't think of a stronger example than to show the impact it has had on my life.

In art I find joy, inspiration, comfort, therapy, meaning and, most of all, myself. I often hear people harping about how expensive art is and how they just can't afford it.

I dread to think what my life would be like had I felt like that."

I viewed my first art purchase as an isolated event involving a unique and beautiful object.
At the time I thought it would be a one-time purchase and never dreamed I'd become a collector. That was for people with more knowledge and money than I would ever have, or so I thought. I didn't realize I was embarking on a journey of discovery.

Years later I came to understand this journey was not just a quest for knowledge of art but, more importantly, for knowledge of my own identity. Buying that first piece of art was the continuation of a lifelong search for my own personal set of icons.

After I married my wife, Linda, I started having fantasies about turning our new house into our own private art gallery. We started buying pieces when we had enough extra cash and made monthly payments to galleries for work we put on layaway.

Unfortunately, I also struggled with depression and dependence on pot and gourmet wines. Anger and mood swings were part of my addiction and, after we'd been together six years, Linda reached her limit. I could have her or the addiction, not both. I attended 12-step meetings and gave up drugs and alcohol over the course of 18 months.

Living clean was more difficult than expected. I no longer had drugs to dull the affects of my depression and needed a place to put my compulsive tendencies. I started attending First Thursday openings at the galleries in Portland's Pearl District with an almost religious regularity. We bought more art and Linda quickly realized my growing obsession for art was taking my mind off of self-destructive tendencies.

We refinanced our mortgage and took out cash to remodel our house. Now that I was spending so much of my spare time in art galleries I talked Linda into the idea of redoing the interior in the style of a gallery.

The tacky walnut-colored paneling was ripped off to show the original lath and plaster walls. Pulling up the scuzzy green shag carpet revealed original 3/8-inch oak floors. The walls were painted linen white. The floors were sanded and given a Swedish finish.

The interior was now our own little gallery. Everything we hung looked great. Our house became a spiritual sanctuary where we retreated each evening after work and on weekends. We had good jobs that paid the bills but our occupations could not fulfill our creative and emotional needs.

It was great just walking in the door to be greeted by rooms full of unique, beautiful and meaningful works of art.

It was our house of icons.

Linda started taking painting and drawing classes and I continued my quest for great affordable art. But although I stayed sober I suffered bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. Yet it was always art that seemed to give comfort, inspiration and zest for life.

Collecting became instrumental in defining my identity and broadening my understanding of the value of culture and aesthetics. A gallery director introduced me to the idea of connoisseurship and the thought of cultivating an appreciation for the highest expressions of art became an obsession. I focused on learning how to acquire the best examples of the art I liked at prices I could afford.

I learned quickly that smaller pieces by artists who were just beginning to show their work were not only affordable but also great values for the quality of the work. I started with pieces that were mostly representational, but made the effort to look at all the different kinds of work showing in local galleries. Persistent effort expanded my tastes and the art we purchased took on a more eclectic tone.

We made a continuous string of purchases over a 20-year period and prevented going broke with a few simple ground rules: We allowed ourselves only one piece of art on layaway at a time and put a $1,000 limit on any one piece. And, since we both had to live with it, we both had to love the work.

Some great opportunities were missed, but we managed to acquire far more than I ever imagined possible. We've never regretted a single purchase.

Each work we brought home became a watermark in our lives. Each installation was a reason to celebrate an event that gave us good feelings for the commitment we had made to our esthetic pursuits. This process helped me find a level of identity and self-respect that I'd never known. Collecting became my process for opening myself to the world in order to discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Art gave me a healthy diversion from my darker emotional periods.
Our collection grew and we kept moving along with the expected ups and downs. Then, after 10 years of sober living, I was consumed by an unfortunate set of events.

I came down with pneumonia and fell into a deep depression. I was prescribed Paxil and for a short time thought I was OK. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I came to realize that this drug not only neutralized my self-destructive emotions, but also drained almost every speck of passion out of my being. I stopped taking Paxil after a year and started having suicidal thoughts again. I did a round of counseling and tried to find ways to deal with what I knew were completely irrational impulses.

For three more years I struggled.

Art was where I found comfort and emotional relief, and during this period I needed all the comfort and relief I could get. At times I felt like the dark waves of emotion would engulf me and wash away my life. Some days I could barely force myself out of bed, but would focus on one or two pieces in our collection just after waking and that gave me enough spark to start my day. In the evenings I would return feeling emotionally drained and mentally depleted. But I walked in the door to be greeted by dozens of familiar and comforting images and felt my spirit instantly lifted and relieved of the day's burdens.

Then a friend suggested I look at the reports on studies of treating depression with Omega-3 oils. I started a daily regime and within weeks felt like a different person. I believe it was a miracle.

I had my passion, a positive outlook and a level of focus like I could never remember.
Looking back, I have to wonder how long I could have made it without a loving partner and the life-affirming qualities of art. My story is difficult for Linda and me, but one worth telling.
I want to demonstrate the potential value art has for the individual and I can't think of a stronger example than to show the impact it has had on my life.

In art I find joy, inspiration, comfort, therapy, meaning and, most of all, myself. I often hear people harping about how expensive art is and how they just can't afford it.
I dread to think what my life would be like had I felt like that.

Thanks again to Duane Snider The Art Counselor

Have a Great Thanks Giving,

all the best,

Michael Orwick

Monday, November 19, 2007

Artist Spotlite, A special thanks to,

A special Thanks to Graham over at

Hello Michael!I have great news for you!You have been selected for our first Artist Spotlite at ArtsSpot!I have enjoyed looking at your great artwork! Keep up the awesome art!My fiance has dyslexia also, so I can certainly relate. She is gifted also.The post is up blogroll.

This is our first Artist Spotlite. In this section, we will be showcasing different artists and let the artists speak for themselves about the artwork.

Please take the time to visit the artist’s website.

If you want your own art featured here, check out our post on Artist Spotlites for details.
Our first featured artist: Michael Orwick

Sierra Trails
30x40"oil painting on cavas
by Michaelorwick
available at Dragonfire gallery
503 436 1533

My art hints at a story and then invites you to finish the narrative. My style has been called Inspired Expressionism, which combines impressionistic brush strokes and a touch of realism to create the atmosphere and lighting woven into my work.
The easiest way to see my work is at and from there a list of galleries showing my art is available.

I was born in 1975 on a sunny day in Astoria Oregon. Despite my near death experience at birth, my Mom thought I was perfect. My Dad, a physician, knew better.
These assessments continue today.Within days of my recovery, my adventures began. Our small family moved to the Olympic Peninsula to live on the Quinault Indian Reservation as Dad served in the Indian Health Service. Most of my memories from those very early years involve an ancient Indian woman known as Gram Black, eating live clams on cold foggy beaches, and our performing circus poodle.
From two to four, our family moved to Boise. My parents got me a Golden Retriever who taught me the joy of peeing outside, and they adopted my Colombian sister who taught me patience and the importance of proper grooming.
At the age of four I became the seventh generation on my mother’s side to live in “the town that friendliness built,” Lebanon Oregon, home of the world’s largest strawberry shortcake. Over the years, my family created a sort of odd animal sanctuary and hobby farm with a revolving cast of colorful creatures to ride, observe and endlessly scoop up after. My bedroom was in the tack room, which I shared with my youngest sister’s goat. To this day, there is no love lost between me and the nasty rooster who cock-a-doodled any old time.
Very early it was discovered that I had dyslexia, and that I saw things differently from most. School was difficult, but in hindsight this was one of many blessing that have led and helped shape my artful existence. I was also lucky to grow up surrounded by beautiful creeks and evergreen wilderness, and within a family that loved to travel, encouraged curiosity and following one’s heart. And my heart has always told me to create.
I started college at the University of Oregon, and for reasons I cannot recollect, I majored in business. Two years in and losing motivation, I jumped at the chance to move to Australia for half a year where I filled up sketch pads with drawings and small paintings. The thought of returning to business classes never crossed my mind.
I spent the next year a transient, sleeping on friend’s couches and beanbags putting together a portfolio, and starting to date my future wife, a beautiful Bulgarian named Gabriela.
Gaby and I started our life together in Portland, Oregon where I majored in Illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art. I discovered that oil painting and the method of working from dark to light really worked with my “backwards brain.”
When I’m not illustrating books, I still find my whimsical images and my landscapes to be very illustrative. I love creating art that invites you on a journey, in which you’re invited to form a story and explore your world within.
Gaby’s and my daughter, a creative, inquisitive two year old, has kept me in touch with my perpetual child within. Throughout my life, I have been lucky to know beauty and comfort, laughter and joy. These are a few of the things I hope to impart through my brushes.
I look forward to continuing my adventures, inviting inspiration and beauty into my life, and sharing it with you through my paintings.
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Friday, November 16, 2007

What is Plein Air Painting? Define: PLEIN AIR, en plein air, plein air painting, alfresco

Wahkeena Falls
Plein air painting
12x24"oils on cavas
by Michael Orwick

What is Plein Air Painting?

Related phrases: en plein air plein air painting The equivalent term in Italian would be alfresco.

(En) plein air painting - French for "open air" in painting terms refers to the practice of painting out of doors, directly from the subject, rather than in a studio.
Often done quickly or on the spot.

The Plein Air Painter,
Cannon Beach
By Michael Orwick
16x20 Oils on Canvas SOLD
These paintings are usually less detailed and more impressionistic. A relatively recent practice, painting outdoors became an important dimension of the landscape work of the Impressionists and painters of the Barbizon school (I will talk more about the history of both of these styles in the upcoming days). Although plein air painting should not be considered as synonymous with Impressionism or quick sketching, it became central to Impressionism.

See the Plein Air Forum.http://www.wetcanvas./

Open-air artists attempt to capture an immediate impression of what the eye sees, rather than what the viewer knows or feels about the work. They study how light appears on subjects in different weather and at different times of the day, an interest that can be traced back to Realism.

Mt Hood Plein air 8x10" oils on canvas by Michael Orwick 2007 SOLD

They prefer to work outdoors in natural light, rather than in their studio with sketches, and often their art tends to have brilliant colors that almost shimmer in their intensity.
Painting from life is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique.

It challenges artists to concentrate completely on the information in front of them. Their senses absorb it all, from sight to sound, from temperature to atmosphere, and then channel these feelings into their vision in paint on paper or canvas.
Today, painting from life is a pursuit that continues to challenge the finest artists in the world.

Painted during an amazingly educational Kenn Backhaus workshop

There are numerous associations of plein air painters, noteworthy among them being PAPA (Plein Air Painters of America)
Credit for much of the above information is given to the website of the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA) and to that of the National Academy of Professional Plein Air Painters.

One of the groups I paint and show with
Sites used for this blog entry
Judge Robert Gamblin
& Colors Award Winner
Michael Orwick
Painting Downtown Hillsboro
Hillsboro Plein air Competion 2007

the Gamblin website is amazing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Meeting the artist, I love paintings

"The art game includes connection, friendship, joy, love, sentiment, experience, taste, honor, acquisitiveness, the collecting instinct, social acceptability and investment. That's why the experience is so rich, varied and, yes, mysterious. When leaving my openings and heading for the local bar, I often think of George Bernard Shaw's remark: "When you know the artist you think less of the art."

*Copyright 2007 - Robert Genn.

Painting is a strange business. (J. M. W. Turner)

Ephemeral Illumination
16x20 oils painting on canvas
by Michael Orwick
Available at DragonFire Gallery,
Cannon Beach Oregon

"it looks like a place I'd like to visit".
(Unknown buyer)

I personally have to disagree with Shaw's remark that knowing an artist leads to thinking less of the art. I am an out going person and I lock my self away for days at a time with just Shamy My faithful Golden Retriever to keep me company. So when I’m doing an open studio or a show opening I love to hear what people really think, it amazes me what different things people interpret in my paintings and how things as straightforward as a landscape have the ability to affect us all so profoundly different.
I love to have all sorts of conversations with people who stop to look at my art--sometimes they are completely unrelated but spur from something that an observer notices or decides to comment on.
I have found that many people buy after the second of third time they meet me and have the chance to share their feelings about my art and art in the more general since.
I not only love painting, but I love paintings I love contemplating and debating them, it gives me a thrill akin to the actual creation of them, and this thrill is what I hope buyers take home with them and share with their family and friends.
I would like to thank all of you who are taking the time to read and share these blogs.

All the best,
Michael Orwick

Many Moods Of MT.Hood 2
8x10 Oil Painting on canvas
by Michael Orwick

My wife and I are collectors of contemporary art - that is work by living, working artists. The first thing we look for in an artist is technical mastery of their chosen medium. This eliminates about 90 percent of all artists out there, since mastery in art today is not considered too important (though it seems that may be slowly changing). The second thing is that the artist must have a strong personal artistic vision and esthetic; when you see his or her work it must be unmistakably his or hers. Thirdly, the art must speak to us on a gut level. This is purely subjective and cannot be explained. Fourth, we only look at artists who are not yet well known in the art community - they do not have a reputation. This way we are only paying for the art itself and not the reputation. We are not made of money, but are not afraid to spend significant sums on quality work. My wife and I have to agree on any purchase, and we both have veto power over any proposed buy - no questions asked. We both have to live with it, so we both have to love it.
- **Phil Taylor

"Buying is a profound pleasure." (Simone de Beauvoir)

(Andy Warhol) noted, "Success is what sells art."

*To get more of Robert Genn's insight and inspiration for your artistic career, sign up for his twice-weekly newsletter at:The Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter:

**Phil Taylor

Monday, November 12, 2007

Do you collect? Stripping away the barriers. Collecting art in Portland

Guest Writer

Part Two: Stripping away the barriers

Part one can be found at

Collecting art in Portland
by Duane Snider

A weak link in the public relations of art is the absence of any meaningful discussions about the basics of buying and collecting.

Lake Oswego Island By Michael Orwick
16x20 Oil painting on Canvas
Available from DragonFire gallery
Cannon Beach Oregon 503.436.1533
With many people I meet in Portland galleries and museums, the first thing I ask is, "Do you collect?"
All too often my second question is, "Why not?"
The most common answers I get on the second question are:
1) I could never afford to buy art;
2) I wouldn't know how to go about it; and
3) I don't know what I should buy.
Whenever I've pressed for clarification on these issues I inevitably find some level of discomfort with the image galleries project. For a person previously unexposed to a traditional art gallery, the experience can be a bit unsettling.
Bright lights, high ceilings and linen-white walls may remind some people of a chapel, others of a grand meeting hall. When they look at the price tags of artwork they've never experienced, they may be reminded of the time they walked into a Neiman Marcus thinking it was a Sears. New and challenging experiences often give people an unsettled, nervous feeling.

The art of introducing art to the inexperienced buyer requires an effort to smooth the bumps in those early encounters. My friend who sold me my first painting told me not to feel intimidated by those big galleries downtown. She gave me the permission and confidence I needed to walk into other galleries to look, learn and enjoy – regardless of whether I intended to buy or not. That was the trigger I needed; others may require even more help.

This elitist stigma is not an entirely conscious intent of galleries or arts organizations. It's tied up in a tradition that's thousands of years old. The history of art and civilization is the history of how art has been the exclusive domain of the wealthy and powerful.

There is a long tradition of merchants and professionals from many cultures who avidly collected fine art and crafts, but we seldom find histories about collectors from the bourgeois classes. We are taught that dynasties like the Medici House in Italy, the Strogonoff family in Russia, or the Rockefellers and Gettys of America are the storied patrons of the arts.
The best and most widely known example of passionate and intelligent collecting by the working class has to be the Herbert and Dorothy Vogel collection. He was a U.S. Postal clerk and she was a librarian. They married in 1962 and lived in a small New York apartment for 35 years. They used his income to pay the bills and hers to buy works of conceptual and minimalist art.
By the time they retired they had amassed over 2,000 pieces – currently worth millions. They donated most of the collection to the National Gallery, for which they accepted an annuity worth a fraction of what the collection could bring at auction.

The Vogel Collection includes pieces by many of the great artists, such as Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, Robert Smithson, Agnes Martin, Donald Judd and even Christo.
They accomplished all this even though they refused to work with dealers and consultants. They instead relied on their own taste, research and judgment. They focused on smaller pieces, which could be purchased on installments or for just a few hundred dollars. They were not motivated by the pursuit of wealth or prestige. Their inspiration was simply a passionate and committed love for art.
But they don't fit the stereotype of great collectors. The fact that they are a simple, middle-class couple from New York City often receives greater focus than the collection that bears their name.
Another issue that confounds people who have little or no experience with galleries is the mixed message surrounding the economics of the business.
On a typical Portland First Thursday, many first-timers will stroll from gallery to gallery – and find themselves baffled by some of the art. This often leaves the novice puzzled about how art gets priced. They may find a piece in one gallery for $500 and another that has a similar style in a different gallery for $5,000.
Regardless of the reasons, this can make that novice feel a bit uneasy – even suspicious – if they don't have the opportunity to ask the right questions and get the right answers.

The popular media focuses on art appreciation in terms of the monetary value of art rather than its esthetic value. The huge prices paid at auction for a select few pieces get plenty of attention in the press. However, we seldom hear how much one of those pieces originally sold for decades or centuries earlier.
A recent discussion on CNBC centered on the new Art Index Funds being created by asset managers. We also see stories about prominent businesspeople who donate a portion of their large collections to museums. What we never read about are many less prominent, middle-income people who offer important collections to museums.
The Vogels are the rare exception to this rule.

In Portland, unlike in larger cities, one doesn't need lots of money to afford a very nice personal collection. Local galleries do a good job making art accessible to anyone who has even modest amounts of disposable income. Many local galleries have liberal layaway policies that help new customers start collecting.

In recent years galleries have been opening outside the traditional art districts with a focus on quality work by emerging artists generally priced under $1,000 – with many works from $100 to $500. This profusion of affordable art is the element that makes the Portland market irresistible to the experienced collector and surprisingly accommodating to the novice.
Many Moods Of Mt. Hood by Michael Orwick SOLD

Labeling any original art as a bargain, however, is looked on by some as cheapening the image of the work. So this selling point seldom gets mentioned. In terms of a public dialogue, mixing the topics of money and esthetics in a public forum is considered vulgar and inappropriate by curators, major collectors and gallery people. The huge reservoir of middle-income people rarely hears how affordable art in this town can be.
A weak link in the public relations of art is the absence of any meaningful discussions about the basics of buying and collecting. Recycled coverage of basic topics on subjects like food, gardening, interior design, exercise, real estate, movies and consumer electronics are mainstays for newspapers and TV magazine shows.
But how often do we see articles on the basics of collecting art?
What we get are esoteric critiques of an artist's work, the cultural and historic significance of the new blockbuster exhibit at the museum, or the announcement of an upcoming art fair. These topics are important, but they're aimed way over the heads of those who aren't familiar with the business and esthetics of art.
There's a need for more discussions about the reasons for collecting and the reward for cultivating this passion.
The basics don't get much attention. The point to keep in mind is that the toughest piece of art to sell is that first piece to someone who has never bought an original work of art. It takes a lot to make that first sale. But if the gallery people do their job and help the buyer find a special connection with that first piece, it will almost never be the last piece they buy.
With coordinated gallery show openings, preview nights and cooperative gallery promotion tactics, the Portland scene goes a long way toward opening up the market to that elusive new buyer.
But cultural tradition can't be created overnight. Even though Portland's First Thursday openings have continued for almost two decades, there is a need for some new points of focus.
Maybe by giving attention to what experienced art buffs take for granted, the old barriers can be stripped away and the ground can be tilled for larger crops of new local collectors.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The paradox of getting started Collecting art Part One by Duane Snider

Guest Writer

Part One:

The paradox of getting started Collecting art

in Portland

by Duane Snider

the Loral and Hardy Trees
by Michael Orwick
12x24 oils on canvas

Collectors, gallery owners and artists will tell you that Portland is one of the best places in North America to buy and collect art.
The Portland art scene abounds with original art in the broadest range of styles, genres and prices. Legions of talented and committed artists choose to live in the area for its natural beauty and the diversity of a thriving culture.
Michael Kenna, the internationally renowned California photographer, just moved here from San Francisco because it's allowed him to dramatically cut his housing and studio costs. He's far from alone. And it's an abundance of such talent that provides Portland with a market of fine art to please every imaginable taste with prices that can easily fit into most budgets.
As a collector, I believe art should be an easy sell to the locals in this highly accessible, culturally rich scene. But it's not.
Local gallery owners tell me close to 60 percent of the art they sell goes to people who don't live here. They come from places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Miami – even Seattle and Tacoma.
Why? Because we have the quality and diversity of most big cities along with some of the best prices in the country.
My collecting history started in 1982 when a friend opened an art gallery in an old remodeled house. She invited me to stop by and look around. She said it wasn't like most of those pretentious downtown galleries. "It's in a house that's easy to just hang out in," she said.
At the time I was barely above the poverty line and had never thought about spending more than $30 for a poster to tack on the wall. So when I finally visited my friend's gallery, I wasn't expecting anything special to happen.
I ambled through this unusual combination of art gallery, craft gallery and jewelry shop. The character of the old house was the core concept for the gallery's design and the place offered a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.
Drifting past a kaleidoscopic array of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, clay pots and plates, my senses tingled. I don't think I had ever been in an art gallery before. A painting hanging above the front window of the gallery grabbed my attention.
Time stopped.
Rendered in the atmospheric translucence of watercolor was the most beautiful flower I could ever remember seeing. The central image was a white iris with purple highlights and nearly photographic clarity flanked by softly focused foliage. Everything I thought I knew about art changed in a moment. I understood the virtue of a unique, handmade object.
This painting was more than just an image, more than simply an object of beauty. It was also a symbol of something much greater. I stood motionless.
"You know," a voice from behind suddenly said, "we have a very easy layaway plan."
I was hooked.
That moment turned into one of those life-altering experiences forever etched in my mind. The feeling was like my first sunset at the beach, my first taste of ice cream, my first kiss from a beautiful girl and my first symphony concert. Once bitten, forever smitten.
"Foolish Pleasure," by Kirk Lybecker (watercolor with airbrush). [Photo by Todd Leninger with artist's consent]
The painting, by Kirk Lybecker, was priced at $450 – a huge sum to me at that time, but my desire for the piece overwhelmed me.
I feared my wife, Linda, would think I was crazy if I suggested buying something as useless as a painting. But her passion for drawing and painting went all the way back to her childhood.
To my surprise, she loved the idea. We scraped together $100 to put down and paid $60 to $100 a month until it was paid off. Then we bought another painting by the same artist.
Well, 22 years later, we have more than 80 works by at least 50 different artists adorning our modest southeast Portland home.
The help I received buying that first piece was truly fortunate and necessary. I needed guidance through the barriers that block many people from making their first art purchase. Looking back, I understand that the first piece was the most difficult to buy.
I thought I couldn't afford fine art. I needed justification for spending that much money on an object of such subjective value. I feared I didn't have the knowledge or experience to make good judgments about what I wanted. I felt intimidated by the abstract nature of what constituted quality art.
People with art savvy know that the work shown in Portland galleries and artists' studios holds up well to art sold anywhere else in the nation. I learned this as I continued to buy more art and built relationships with gallery owners, artists and other collectors.
I became a regular at many gallery openings and previews. I started meeting visitors from all around the country who came here to take in the galleries with the intention of buying. Talking with many of these visiting art lovers gave me a window into the art markets of other cities. The more I learned, the more I came to appreciate the opportunities Portland offered for collecting great art on a modest budget.
Portland has art for almost anyone willing to take the time to look.
Some galleries cater to people with a taste for decorative and representational work. Others are geared toward contemporary themes like abstract, conceptual, minimal and other statement-oriented work. Regionally prominent and nationally known artists show here as well as emerging talent from all over the country.
High quality, broad diversity and abundant supply result in a market much larger than one might expect from a town this size. All collectors love great values; Portland has them in spades. Locally, the value issue doesn't receive much attention. It's just taken for granted by those familiar with the scene.
Many established Portland galleries spend time and money building clientele in markets outside our region. The top-tier galleries buy advertising in high-profile art publications to promote their best known and most talented artists. Ads from Portland galleries appear regularly in ArtNews, Art In America and Art & Antiques.
The Portland art scene has a national reputation as a destination art market and brings in substantial amounts of money from people coming here to buy. Unfortunately, relatively few local residents take advantage of this opportunity.
For years the local gallery community has debated the reasons for this situation.
Some say Portland (and, to some extent, the rest of Oregon) is anti-business. For example, Nike is the only Fortune 500 company in the state, so there are few highly compensated corporate executives here to solicit. Some say the money here is old money and these materially blessed community members do spend on art, but there's only so much from this group to go around. Still others just throw up their hands and say, the locals just don't get it.
A recent article in the Oregonian by D.K. Row mentioned that many local galleries have grown tired of expending energy on First Thursday. Frustration grows as, month after month, thousands of people attend these events but very little gets sold at openings. These events have succeeded in raising the awareness of the local community to the presence of an art scene, but that's just one of many steps needed to cultivate new collectors.
From my years of collecting and nurturing my knowledge of art in the Portland market, I see a need for some new strategies. The barriers I had to overcome when I bought my first piece also hold back many others from making their first art purchase.
This might be a good time for taking a fearless inventory on just what these barriers might be.
Special thanks again go out to Duane Snider the art counselor
To see some of the artwork and the article in its original context please visit

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You Probably Know More About Art Than You Realize

by Duane Snider

Open up an issue of ArtNews or Art In America and you find endless jargon, obscure references, and highly subjective criticism. For anyone outside the elite group of market makers, the initial response to this kind of material is "What the hell is this?". Many critics in local newspapers are just as bad, regardless of the purity of their intent.

Sun Fall by michael Orwick

oils on canvas 11x14 SOLD

It always starts the same, like a reoccurring dream. A casual conversation with a very casual acquaintance or a complete stranger turns to the subject of owning original art. I mention my decades of collecting and ask if they own any art. All too often the answer is "No, that's not thing. I really don't know anything about art and I wouldn't know what to buy".
In a recent repeat of the scenario I tried a different follow up than my stock comeback of "Oh, you should think about buying some because it will change the way you look at art and the world." Instead, I made a pitch I've recently been thinking about. I said "you probably know more about art than you realize."
"Ok," she said, "I'm listening, what do you mean?" The hook was set, now I had to give her a clear and convincing argument to back up my brash statement. I began to deliver a brief outline on why she knew more about art than she gave herself credit for.
For starters we live in a society and culture that is awash with an endless stream of art in all possible mediums and styles. It is almost impossible to get out of bed in the morning, turn on the TV, the internet, or open a newspaper and not see some form of artistic expression.
This exposure shapes our perceptions of art which in turn shapes and molds our understanding of artistic imagery. In very classic terms this is what the philosophers, historians, and art critics might refer to as plastic experience.
In the academic world, the visual arts of painting, sculpture, and fine prints are called the plastic arts. In this context, plastic refers to the capacity for shaping and molding a medium. Traditionally, classic use of the phrase refers to sculptural mediums like clay, marble and glass. By the mid-twentieth century the meaning had expanded to include painting and fine prints. An examination of the plastic nature inherent if various mediums offers an excellent starting point for viewing and responding to art.
The Artist shapes and manipulates a medium to capture an idea, a message, or an insight for the purpose of finding a connection between the inner self and the environment. After completion of a piece the artist may offer the work for viewing by others.
With the display of a work of art comes the inevitable audience response and interpretation. Simply looking at works of art produces a reaction and response from the viewer.
The active viewer tries to find an inner connection with a piece of art during the viewing in a manner that correlates with the connection the artist strives for during the act of creation. The passive viewer will also react to art, but with a lower level of interest and commitment.
Regardless of the individual level of interest, the observer responds and in the process adds layer upon layer of context for interpreting art on a personal level. We all do it whether we choose to focus our attention or not.
When I frame art appreciation in this way, people who tell me they don't know or understand art get curious and engaged in the idea of viewing and responding to art. They think that maybe their view of art might have as much validity as anyone else's view, and of course, it does.
I remember noticing art at a very young age. A thick catalogue of Currier & Ives reproductions, the life-like painting of Glenn Miller on the cover of an album of glass 78 speed records, and the paint-by-numbers still life and landscape pictures my mother had hanging on the walls all had an impact on how I viewed artist imagery.
As a child I read countless issues of various comic books. They became an early addiction. Over the years I've seen my fascination with comics validated as they evolved into the present day graphic novel. Graphic stories defiantly shaped my appreciation of the entertainment potential art offers.
Consider the common thread most of us have with these kinds of experiences. We shape and mold our interpretation of art by integrating these visual experiences into our personal spheres of awareness. The process of growing an appreciation of art is as plastic as the act of creating art.
So, the question is, why do so many people believe they know so little about art? There are no easy answers. However, religious, cultural and corporate special interest groups have designs on controlling what people believe they know about art.
In the USA, corporate marketing groups manipulate the public's perception of art. The people who sell the high end original art only target the top eight to ten percent of the population for marketing their merchandize.
The big money interests in American art want to keep firm control of the market. The easiest control method is to confuse the issues and obscure any process that might help the public understand why art is relevant and important to our lives.
Most of what is written about art today is meant only for people in the cultural trades, that is, those in cultural institutions or in the business of selling art. Of course the high end collectors are part of that group, they drive the market. In the securities business the operative term is "Market Makers".
Open up an issue of ArtNews or Art In America and you find endless jargon, obscure references, and highly subjective criticism. For anyone outside the elite group of market makers, the initial response to this kind of material is "What the hell is this?". Many critics in local newspapers are just as bad, regardless of the purity of their intent.
It's no wonder people don't believe they can understand, or have an interest in original fine art. The kind of dialogue that nurtures or validates the esthetic context most of us acquire from everyday experience is conspicuous only by its absence, and is missing from the general public discourse on art.
Instead the public gets this incessant subtext of "Don't trust your instinct you developed with experience, let us tell you what you should consider relevant. We'll tell you what to buy". That's the message for the art market's target audience. For the rest of the public get a message like "If you don't get it, get lost".
Even culturally savvy people get conned by sharp salespeople. Gullibility is not a measure of how much or how little people understand about the various artistic manifestations that hold meaning for them.
That understanding is about the connections made between a lifetime of visual imagery and personal identity. It requires the effort necessary for developing a sense or personal curiosity and a desire to follow that path wherever it leads.
As for the art business, even some people in the trade don't completely understand the significance of the role they play in guiding people on that path.
If we gave the general public just a little more basic information about what constitutes original art and then left them alone to discover personal meaning and relevance, I believe more people would recognize the cheap imitations and demand the genuine article.
The "plastic arts" is an archaic term that offers some insights into contemporary dilemma of understanding art in the context of the culture we live in. The artist shapes and molds a chosen medium to communicate ideas. The perception, response, and understanding of the viewer is shaped and molded by life's visual smorgasbord and by external forces intended to influence the process. Free will and internal awareness guide us to the meaning and relevance that art offers to all who take the time to look and reflect.
It's all very plastic.

Special thanks to Duane Snider
The Art Counselor
All the best,
Michael Orwick