The February Making A Mark Poll looked at Where do you start when making art? The headline results show that:
- 57% are influenced by life and what they see around them
- 43% work from their own ideas and concepts
- 38% are stimulated by their own reference photos - rather than those taken by other people
- nobody seems to want to take account of current trends or whatever seems to sell!!!
- 134 respondents had an average of 2.42 options which influenced where they started when making art.
The results are ordered in the chart according to popularity as is this commentary.
Life and what I see around me: Since artists gave up creating paintings about history, myths and religion, the stimulus for a great deal of art in the last 130 years or so has been life and what we see around us on a day to day basis. Over a half (57%) of people who responded to the poll chose this as one of their main influences. 77 responses accounted for around a quarter of all responses.
My ideas and concepts: 43% of people chose their own ideas and concepts as major influences on their art. Normally we associate this notion with art which is trying to convey a message or comment of some kind. I had intended this to be what my shorthand meant to other people but now wonder whether this was the case. The reason I say this is I was quite surprised by the level of the response to this option as a lot of the representational art I see does not suggest to me that there is an idea or concept (ie a message) behind it. Of course there might be and I'm just being too literal and not getting the message that the art is trying to convey!
My reference photos: 38% said that their own reference photos generated artwork (compared to just 13% who used other people's reference photos). It was pleasing to see more emphasis placed on working from material that the artist had generated. The inherent problems associated with photosgraphs can be overcome more easily if they are used by the person who remembers what the original image looked like in real life.
My imagination: 35% said they used their imagination when creating art. It was good to see this more creative aspect coming to the fore. Obviously 'using your imagination' is quite a wide term and could in fact mean anything from a full blown fantasy artwork to changing the colours seen in reference material to moving objects around and/or omitting items like street signs because they don't look good in our artwork!
My sketches and my photos: It was interesting to see that most people who used sketches supplemented their sketches with reference photos. A third of artists responding used their own sketches and photos but only 10% of artists worked from just their sketches. There's no right or wrong answer here. There are good reasons for either practice. Speaking personally I find a reference photo much more helpful if I have a sketch or drawing from life. I use reference photos to check the accuracy of relative proportions and sketches for design, atmosphere and colour.
Paintings by past masters: Just 10% of artists identified paintings by past masters as influential and this option attracted just 4% of the total responses. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? All I know is that the more I study art history and painters that have gone before is that an awful lot of past masters studied the artists who were past masters in their lifetimes.
Maybe more artists would find it helpful if they allocated more time to study more artists from the past to see what they can learn? I know I'm finding it incredibly helpful and yesterday could be found sketching landscapes in the National Gallery - two Cezannes and one by Rubens!
Commissions: 4% of artists identified commissions as one of the main reasons they make art. This suggests to me that the proportion of those artists working to commission is a bit lower than I was expecting. On the other hand it maybe that even artists working to commission regrad as commissions as the 'day job' and responded to the on the basis of the art they choose to create. I'd love to hear what you think on this topic.
Current trends/whatever seems to sell: There is one response which I found very surprising. NOBODY identified current trends and whatever seems to sell as a reason to make art. I don't expect it to be the main reason to make art
However I simply don't believe it. I know a lot of artists want to sell art. I know that a lot of artists keep a 'weather' eye on how trends are changing in the marketplace, what is selling and what remains unsold. For some artists it's critical to making money to live on. In every business, keeping an eye on the market is absolutely essential to being able to sell product to customers - and at a very basic level art is no different - unless you have an independent income and/or choose to make the art you want to make in the time you have left over from doing the job which makes the money you live on.
So what was going on here? Why did NOBODY acknowledge this as a factor they take account of when making art. This was a multiple choice poll and there was no limit on how many options people chose.
Alternatively, could somebody please explain to me what the 'painting a day' small works phenomena was all about? ;)
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