It occurred to me that some readers of the site may not yet have a good idea of what they'll find in the pages of Divulge and even though the investment to participate is only a dollar, it's a dollar being spent on the unknown. So to give you an idea of what you can expect, from me at least, here is my contribution to this month's edition in full. If you've already downloaded your copy of the full mag then you've seen this and a lot of other great content that I hope you feel made the investment worthwhile. As a special treat to those who did take the plunge and spend their hard earned money what you'll see here is the final Jeremy Brautman edit that didn't make it into the final magazine. I think this version makes pretty clear the value and importance of having a good editor and fits right in with the subject of the article itself: no one is so good on their own that a second, better, pair of eyes isn't a good idea.
Here goes it!
You know that little creature that lives in the back of your mind that stops stupid and self-destructive thoughts from becoming audible speech? Yeah well, I don’t have one. Perhaps I was dropped too many times as an infant, or those daily six-packs of Diet Mountain Dew in high school took their toll in an unpredictable way. Whatever the reason, the end result is a regular diet of foot with a side order of quiet when I enter a room populated by people I’ve confronted. This doesn’t bother me though because, title of this rant aside, my real friends understand that truth, however painful, is infinitely more valuable and productive than letting friendship reign over better judgment.
This truth, this realization, became evident over the last year or so as the seemingly endless onslaught of customized toy shows exposed their artist rosters to my browser. The lists are quite often identical or, at the very least, they share a predictable handful of names. If you give me the name of the gallery hosting the show, I bet I can tell you the lineup of artists involved. Further, I could also tell you, before work-in-progress pictures even start hitting blogs and Twitter, exactly which artists won’t sell a single thing. Therein lies the problem. There are consistently artists (and I use that descriptor here very, very loosely) who apply their undesirable aesthetics to ill-suited platforms. The fact that every vinyl toy apparently also needs to have a custom show of its own is another issue all together.
If this scene is at all interested in growth and legitimacy, we wouldn’t be afraid to talk openly about the effects of an artist who doesn’t sell his or her pieces one, two, three times in a row. I have a few suggestions: 1) That artist should stop being invited to shows, which would ideally send the message that something isn’t working, or 2) That artist should be self-aware enough to recognize a technique isn’t working and try something new. You know: growth, progress. One-trick ponies exist, and they get by in life because their work sells. Someone who keeps doing the same thing without selling anything is just embarrassing.
But growth, progress, self-awareness and sent messages don’t happen. This same hypothetical artist will be back at the next show, with a piece that looks unfortunately similar to the last one, and it will, not shockingly, not sell. This happens because it isn’t easy to be honest with people you like and who you think “tried their best.” No one wants to be the guy who says, “You know, that just isn’t good. You should try something else.” We are largely a group of sissies trying to affect a “hard” appearance in the little cliques we’ve made for ourselves, me included. As long as invitations to participate in custom toy shows are based on people being good guys/gals, or because they’re fun to hang around and drink with (instead of because their art is good, popular and easy to sell), we’re doomed to orbit here forever. These shows are, after all, designed to make money. When your art doesn’t sell, you’re wasting valuable space that could be occupied by someone who made art worth owning. Have some respect for the platform designer and the gallery, and do something about it!
Being an actual artist, rather than a hobbyist with connections, means having the ability to self-edit (or knowing a good, honest editor). You can’t always blame the curator. If you think everything you do is awesome, it probably isn’t. (And you aren’t either.) Everyone should feel free to create, but it’s developing the skill and bravery to say, “you know what, this just isn’t very good,” that makes you worth following and being interested in. If we as a group want this art form to be considered something more than a garage hobby where anyone with access to Sculpey and resin can call themselves an artist, then we need to start acting like it.
Everyone starts somewhere, but placing your sub-par work in the same gallery space as talented and desirable artists is simply disrespectful to their hard work, skill, and dedication. Being an artist is an identity to a lot of people, and they put in the time, research and effort to earn that title and make it theirs. Giving you and your friends the title, because everyone’s an artist in this scene, starts to take away some of the title’s meaning and value. And don’t get me started on pricing. Yikes.