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Who Are We Painting For?

Who Are We Painting For?

So, who are we artists painting for? Do we do it for ourselves? Friends and family? Potential buyers? For posterity, even?

My new mug

My pic is of a mug that my wife just bought for me. I appreciate the quotation from Van Gogh – it’s an admirable sentiment, almost a romantic one. Maybe Vincent did paint his dreams. His method couldn’t ever work for me, because I usually forget a dream as soon as I wake up. My nearest equivalent, dull though it may sound, would be to say: “I come up with an idea and then I paint my idea”.

Vincent van Gogh

Everyone knows that Vincent had no commercial success in his lifetime, although he always hoped that he’d make money. Lacking any business sense, he sold only one painting himself and his brother Theo sold a few for him. It’s both sad and ironic that Vincent’s paintings now sell for tens of millions of dollars.

Clearly, Vincent ended up painting only for himself, expressing the way he reacted to the world around him. Yet he died unrecognised, penniless and mentally ill.

Thomas Kinkade

At the other end of the spectrum, there are artists who aim for, and achieve, commercial success. For example, Thomas Kinkade. He wasn’t so well known outside the USA, but over there his work was hugely popular and he became a multi-millionaire. However, despite all the public approval, the American art establishment shunned Kinkade, which made him a bitter, unhappy man.

The middle ground

There’s a wide middle ground between the two extremes represented by Van Gogh and Kinkade. I believe that, ideally, painting is about expressing yourself in a way which satisfies you but also appeals to other people strongly enough for them to want to buy some of your artwork.

What’s your view?

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