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Art Myths, Art Stereotypes and the Art Gospel | Colored Mud

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For your lighter appetite, I present a number of art myths and stereotypes that are propagated throughout
popular culture and also in the art world as almost gospel truths. Like many stereotypes, some are
grounded in a tiny basis of reality and many arent true at all. If we acknowledge stereotypes with too
much belief then we run the risk of too easily dismissing someone or something in our world view of
artists. Part serious, more fun; I hope you find some light humor as we digest the Art Myths.

Art Myth: If you choose the arts as a profession you will become the starving artist!
Reality: If my recent weight gain is any indication then I dont think this myth applies. This myth is rooted
in the financial difficulty that an art career might present but with creativity and reasonable sacrifice there
are multiple ways to foster and prosper in an art career. Does financial difficulty mean you wont buy
food? I think people use this myth as a buffer against their own uncertainty as to what the heck an artist
does. Most people cant imagine life without a steady paycheck so an art career seems alien for that
reason. Is self employment or a small business any different?
Conclusion: Imagine walking into a room full of people in all different walks of life and in meeting each
person, one of the first things you said to each of them was a dismissive so youre a starving.(fill in
career here.) This is so easily bandied about when I meet someone new and tell them Im an artist and it
is quite grating. Im not starving and actually doing just fine. Lets ask better questions and leave this
assumption and art myth behind.

Art Myth: Dont use a ruler. Dont paint with black.

Reality: There are lots of rules like these that we are taught as young artists that have more to do with
creating less reliance on seductive tools than anything else. A ruler and black paint are powerful tools for
making straight lines and dark colors respectively. They can be extreme in their intensity if we dont
recognize that intensity. A ruler line will have a visual quality different than marks we make with just our
hand and we want to be aware of that difference. Black can overwhelm a painting in its darkness and lack
of color flavor and we need to also be aware of this.
Conclusion: Use these tools but be mindful of their intensity.

Art Myth: Keep your art pure, dont think about selling it!
Reality: I touched on this in a previous essay (the conundrum of making and selling art) and I believe its
great to be a purist / idealist if you dont want to make a living. If you want to make a living then you
better think about sales or you wont have any! The tougher aspect is convincing people to think about
Conclusion: This great myth stems directly from the legend that is Van Gogh who didnt sell much in his
short life despite the fact that he wanted to!

11/05/2015 10:40 a.m.

Art Myths, Art Stereotypes and the Art Gospel | Colored Mud

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Art Myth: Artist always love doing art!

Reality: You sit down with your hometown newspaper and open the lifestyle section and out springs a
large photo of a smiling face with a caption and article full of the joy and rapture that is artist X and their
love of making art. Is this how we want to be portrayed? Are we either super controversial or in this case
super happy and nothing else in between? I know that I struggle, my artist friends struggle and in fact all
humans do struggle. To foster an image that making art is simply joyous is simply false! I consider myself
an art professional and I want people to think of me such. The analogy that if I make art and the public
perceives making art as something akin to eating ice cream and thus my life must be like eating ice cream
is a nauseating conception. I want my life to be like eating vegetables!
Conclusion: Artists are human and we live our lives like humans and we arent happy all the time just as
we arent miserable all the time.

Art Myth: Dont work from photographs.

Reality: We use a lot of tools when we make art and the photograph is one of them. The difficulty is that it
is a super powerful and seductive tool and it becomes the singular force that might drive an image. Imagine
if a carpenter only used a hammer for every problem or if a doctor only used a scalpel as her only tool. The
photograph is a limited, already filtered (mechanically) version of our experience and when we as the
artistic filter, filter that image again in our quest to make a piece of art can we expect a greater result from
a limited resource? If you filter something twice without adding something do you get more in the end?
Conclusion: Use photographs but recognize their limitations.

Art Myth: Artists always wear black.

Reality: I have my own suspicions about this. In general, artists arent the most athletic of sorts and as
such the nature of our physiques are often less than perfect? Black hides unwanted curves and bulges
better than any other color
Conclusion: Maybe thinking about color all the time in their art leaves no room for potential color choices
made in the wardrobe.

Art Myth: Artists are egotistical, selfish and snobbish

Reality: Actually, this one is totally true and if you are reading this sentence then my ego is puffed up
even larger in imagining the occurrence of your reading! Thank you very much!
Conclusion: If you read some of the pretentious art magazines you would probably think artists live on a
higher plane of existence but most of that pretension comes from fear. The world doesnt really care about
art in general so in fear of being irrelevant the art world seems to proliferate the notion that you better pay
attention because this is extremely important! In my experience, once someone shouts that what they do is
super important it almost guarantees that is really isnt

Art Myth: I could make that (insert non-objective and controversial art piece here)
Reality: How often have you sat in front of a sporting event and yelled at the TV (and your athlete) to run
faster, jump higher or something like that because deep in the well of your mind you have an inkling that

11/05/2015 10:40 a.m.

Art Myths, Art Stereotypes and the Art Gospel | Colored Mud

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you wouldnt fade like athlete x did. Or perhaps youre in the museum and you think or overhear someone
say I could make that or my kid could make that in reference to some non-objective (abstract painting
perhaps?) work of art. Could you? Can you run faster than the athlete who has trained all their lives? Can
you really (or could your kid) splash paint around with more dedication and subtlety than Jackson Pollock?
Probably not yet its an easy way to dismiss something you dont understand or want to understand.
Conclusion: If you can do it, why dont you?

Art Myth: My cousin is a wicked good aahtist (artist) or Hands are wicked haahd (hard) to draw but
my cousin draws em freakin awesome
Reality: These phrases are purely a New England thing in the pronunciation of artist and hand (you dont
hear the R) and the use of wicked. These utterances usually happen when you are drawing or painting in
public or over conversation at a backyard barbeque at your friends house. Can that cousin really be so
Conclusion: Ive never met the cousin in question so I dont know if this myth is true or not.
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Comments 7

Megan Chapman wrote:

Thank you so much for writing this. I enjoyed it completely!
I wish I had written it, as it is spot on in so many ways.
Love the points about why artists wear black, and the whole starving artist bit It is grating-yes!
I want my life to be like eating vegetables too!
Thanks again.
PS. You might enjoy my blog about art as well. My last post also touched on a few of the
realities/thoughts of a working artist.

Posted 19 Apr 2008 at 2:35 pm

Jason wrote:
Thanks Megan. I like your blog quite a bit as well its a neat way for artists to connect in this
blogosphere where we might not.
Thanks for reading!


Posted 20 Apr 2008 at 8:30 am

Nick Jaquith wrote:
Very good, sir. Youve made it onto my RSS reader.
Looks like youre kickin ass.
Posted 22 Apr 2008 at 2:58 pm

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