Playing to the masses
Yesterday I was painting out on a public pier/park that juts out into the San Diego harbor. Generally I only see a few local regulars, a few homeless people and occasional tourists – most times I have the place to myself with a commanding view of the harbor I can paint without distractions. Yesterday a couple of teens and an older gentleman stopped and complimented my painting. Usually I’ll give a perfunctory thanks and then my body language says “I’m really trying to concentrate here – please leave now!” But
I let their compliment sink in this time. For a minute I was famous!
Earlier in the day I stumbled upon a link to a 2007 Washington Post article called the Pearls Before Breakfast, where the Washington Post experimented with having one of our nation’s greatest classical musicians, Joshua Bell, play in a subway station during a D.C. rush hour to see what would happen. If you haven’t yet read this article and seen the accompanying videos it is well worth the visit.
It gave me pause to consider how beauty is pushed aside in the rush to get ahead, that so many people miss out on the nurturing soul sustenance the arts and nature offers. So, I need to be grateful that at least few people who rarely see art will take a few seconds to consider both the beauty of the harbor and my painting. Is it provincial to even consider painted beauty as a valid pursuit of art in these post-modern days? Is my little premier coup paintings of tugboats and container shipping paraphernalia hopelessly romantic banal kitch? Are there enough people left in the world who care about the actual craft and artistry of painting, who can appreciate the underlying construction of a painting in formal terms and not just the outward narrative, subject matter or how it fits in with some school of art thinking?
Playing to the masses is tricky, what they do know and appreciate about art tends to be sappy beyond belief. They may appreciate you but will they slow down enough from their busy lives enough to tell, did they really hear you and most importantly leave a buck or two in your case? The true art lovers, the gallery goers, the collectors may know a lot about painting but they have an abundance of art to choose from and in all likelihood won’t be passing by my pier anytime soon. No regrets, I can just play as best I can and be thankful for the chance to do this.
Here’s some more info about the Joshua Bell article