Here's a few of them:
- Groups: the art societies or art groups you belong to
- Galleries: the galleries you say your art is shown in
- Your websites:
- your website
- your Facebook page
- your Twitter account
- your YouTube account
- your eBay page
- any other online galleries
- your Internet presence generally
- Your studio
- Communication: the way you deal with emails, form filling etc
Bottom line - do all the clues add up to a consistent story? Is the overall picture of who you are clear or confusing? Does it promote confidence in the art a gallery may show or a collector might buy
Alternatively, do some of the sources of information raise queries and/or doubts about you and your work?
EXAMPLE: If I've seen an artwork which I'm attracted to and start to think about buying, I rarely make the purchase there and then. I'm much more likely to go home and look online to see what I can find out about the artist who produced the work. Sometimes I may see other work by the same artist which I like more. Alternatively I may see that an artist is a "one trick pony" and what may look attractive in isolation may look more like "same old same old" on a website. More than once, the notion of my making a purchase has stumbled when I looked online - for a variety of reasons.
EXAMPLE: The artist claims a relationship with an art gallery and yet there is no evidence of this on the art gallery's website. (I see this one again and again on artists' websites and every time I do those artists loses some standing with me.)
You are known by the company you keep
One of the ways in which an artist is assessed relates to the company an artist keeps.
It's a well worn phrase but there's a reason for that. Like many other such idioms, it's true.
There are other idioms which mean the same thing, such as "birds of a feather flock together".
There's an interesting variant in the Bible.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.Proverbs 13:20Essentially it recognises the influence that being a member of a group has on an individual. You may join a group because they seem to be just like you. There again you may develop 'groupthink' because you're a member of a group.
Art GroupsA lot of artists get involved in art groups. They're very often people with a similar interest. It seems they're much more likely to happen if they're related to subject matter than media - so maybe more to do with painting flowers, or drawing buildings than the medium you choose to use. These days we see a lot of examples in terms of Facebook Groups and online Forums.
Sometimes they might relate to the level of achievement a person has attained.
That's because people wanting to advance want to be able to mix with those who can help them with advanced skills. They may be less enthusiastic about mixing with beginners, some of whom can be very draining in terms of the time they want from you. It's a particular issue for people who teach for money. On the one hand you want to drum up business and on the other hand you don't want to give so much away nobody bothers to pay for the workshops!
The best groups seem to be the ones which gel around a common set of values and specific interests eg plein air painting is a good thing. Ones where peer review is the normal mode of operation rather than tutor and student. (The latter are called more properly called workshops!)
If the work of the artists who belong to a group becomes very popular than they'll become known by name (Group of Seven; Camden Town Group) and may even become a recognised art movement (Impressionists).
However it comes about, people will always tend to associate the characteristics of an art group with all those who are members. If the group has high status, your membership confers high status on you - and vice versa. Associating your art with a group which is viewed as "a bunch of amateurs" means the aspiring professional painter risks his or her work being considered amateurish too. Or people just wonder why he or she hasn't moved on.........
Art Societies almost always grow out of art groups of people with a common interest.
|The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72) by Johan Zoffany|
oil on canvas,
The Royal Collection
However groups are sometimes oppositional - the new group rejects the status quo and tries to create a new way of doing things eg the New Society of Painters in Water Colours which became the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. They distinguished themselves from the Royal Watercolour Society by allowing non-members to exhibit work with members. That's not to say they lowered their standards so much as opened up their exhibitions to potential new members!
The status aspect is rather more profound with art societies. It will also come as no surprise to many that there are certain art societies which some artists yearn to join (not least because of their reputation for generating sales) - while there are others many artists wouldn't touch with the proverbial "barge pole".
Attaining signature status is a very big thing for many artists. This is because achieving signature status with an art society which has an excellent reputation has a knock-on effect in terms of an artist's own reputation, their credibility, getting into art galleries and selling art. All of which crucially important if you want to make a career out of making art. Mixing with the right people in effective art societies can have a profound effect on the bottom line.
Hence, if you're an aspiring artist it's absolutely essential to become attuned to which national art societies might:
- provide professional leadership and standards
- provide peer support
- promote the careers of their members
- enable members to advance their professional careers
- put on exhibitions which attract art collectors and sell a lot of art
- create opportunities for members to teach
and those societies which
- fail to exercise appropriate quality control over exhibitions, membership etc
- fail to generate many sales at exhibitions
- in short, behave no better than a local amateur art society.
After all, if you are known by the company you keep, then career advancement can be enhanced by striving to keep the best company.
It's not for everybody. Some take the Groucho Marx approach "I don't want to belong to any group that will accept me as a member" - and that's fine too. It's an approach very often adopted by those who never feel very comfortable in groups and much prefer their own company.
However being known by the company you keep is a fact of life - so you might as well try and hang out with the best in the business!
Do you agree? Please feel free to post your observations below as a comment welcome
Which is the art society that you would most like to be a signature member of?