As the Editor of painters Tubes magazine and a full time artists for 30 years, I have found that writing about other artists (in my case painters) gives me a sort of insider knowledge of how artists process their work, from both intellectual and physical angles. When interviewing other artists this special understanding forms the basis of our conversation(s) and helps me to get to the ‘pip-of- the-poodle’, as they say in Sweden. Little time is wasted on talking about the contingencies of painting- say, the choice of paint, the type of base preferred (board, canvas etc). Nor do I waste interview-time making a list of their education background, academic or art competition gongs, or any other ‘list’ that are usually intended to impress prospective buyers or potential representation of galleries.
I find that four to five hours is required to fully examine and get to the bottom line of the artists real reasons for living life an artist. What it is that drives them and provides the impetus to continue with ‘needing’ to create something original and authentic – This is often more complex than most people realise. Total confusion on the ‘why’ to create at all, is always that empty space that manifests itself as the struggle felt, as is the overpowering ‘need’ to gain not only recognition of ones peers, but also from total strangers, art agents or art galleries who may wish to actually purchase or value the work. Separation of the conscious ego from the subconscious creative mind remains an issue, as it has always been.
My conversations with artists helps me to confront some ‘hidden-agendas’ head on. ‘How to survive as a full time time painter’, for example, is often talked about, or rather, how difficult that is to maintain in the 21st Century. “Too many artists, not enough space to exhibit”, frequently comes up in ‘chats’ as an irritation, as does the gallery bias for one type of art over another or the ‘lottery’ of being singled out on the www for acclaim. Social Media addiction is always a problem for artists, especially for those that post every single brush stroke they make for the world to admire, i.e. “here’s one I started this morning..” type of post- (unfinished ‘updates’ of art is one habit that I personally abhor). Some writers of art prefer to ramble on the aesthetics of this or that work of art, using words that simpler descriptions would suffice quite adequately. And whereas that ‘academic way’ is probably a very 20th century way of writing about Art, it is still utilised today to avoid discussing the real practical issues facing painters. Or indeed what their Art is really ‘all about.’
The other difference, I have found, as an artist interviewing another artist is, I am truly interested in how a work or series of work came about, not in any ‘journalistic’ way, but as a fellow artist who experienced similar ‘awakenings’ or insights. It is also not that difficult for an artist who interviews another artist to quickly spot an ‘image-maker’ from an artist who ‘works’ to develop their Art rather than simply live off it.
For me, as the Editor of an Art Magazine, one that is devoted to ‘paintings and painters’ it seems clear that I should be looking to encourage other Artists to start to write about other Artists. If I am lucky enough to achieve that aim – I honestly think Art in general will be the better for it.
Header image of Giorgio Vasari an Italian painter, architect, writer, and historian, most famous today for his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.