Diptych, Opportunity?, and mass appeal vs. originality

About a month ago I met a friend of a friend by chance while hanging out at Cafe Palm who has offered me an exciting and philosophically provocative opportunity.

Here is the tale, and some beginning stages of two paintings to come:

This delightful fellow got ahold of my Aprilart “flippy books” (always in my purse to help me answer the question “oh, what kind of art do you do?”) and, after some serious flipping, declared that he liked my style. He then handed me his business card, explaining that he’s an agent for artists to produce work for large-scale distributors like Target and Pier 1 Imports, as well as online art-sale galleries. Perhaps we could work together, he said. Always one to jump at an opportunity, I said “OK!”… then, “so how does this work?” He’d send me an ‘assignment’,  he said, and see how I did.

He took some time to frame the business for me. It’s not about being “original” or making art that’s “meaningful” — this business, he said, teaches artists about being responsive as an artist to what the public wants and what the market demands, and letting go of your need to stand out.  While some parts of me resonate with what he’s saying–I do think the art world gets a little masturbatory and avante-garde-obsessed, there’s something underneath I’m still trying to work out which doesn’t sit quite right… as far as my own art-path goes.

In any case, I accepted the mission. . The assignment was a 30’s era diptych (two-paned painting) of a man and a woman in a bar. It’s very stylized and tells a story.

While a little intimidated having NO experience with this, I actually had a lot of fun figuring out how to get started.  In fabricating an image to use for my paintings, I had to think hard about who of my network of friends and acquaintances would look JUST right to pull off…  and, where would they pose? I felt like a director casting roles and thinking just the right location for a movie.

I rolled ideas and faces around in my head, as well as the appropriate place, and BAM! finally came to the perfect combo:  John Lichtenstein (local indie-experimental music innovator best known for his tireless re-creation of The End of the Dial Tone) and Erin Murphy (also indie music leader, founder of The Closet and singer/songwriter for the bands Bard and Mustache and The Equines… also happens to be my neighbor).  Erin has impeccable style and knows how to get dressy and mold herself into striking  mood poses which always betray her irrepressibly creative and playful personality.  John… well, John just has a great look, is fun to work with, and is pretty much always down for doing creative stuff.

For location, I settled on Sarasota Vineyard, a wine bar where I once worked that has the perfect old-timey, respectably polished interior and whose owners Jo and Andy are always warmly welcoming.

The shoot itself was a great time — Erin showed up with lots of costumes, but the one she had on was perfect. We shot a few poses, then had wine together and chatted for about an hour (I had the Chocolate Box Shiraz–and highly recommend it!)  Jo, the owner, came outside to join us, and we talked Sarasota scene, venue and show ideas. It felt good to connect, as we’re each busy folks helping make different projects happen locally and often don’t find the time to breathe, talk, and imagine new possibilities together.

Everyone was eager to see the outcome of the shoot (the final painting)–so that also felt good.


So here, at long last, are the images. These are JUST the beginning — I’ve just sent them to the licensing fellow for approval.

(I plan to make the paintings slightly impressionistic, with a little red added here and there for warmth and flair. The computer and server in the photos won’t be in the final paintings…)


What do you think?  I’d especially appreciate your feedback on the topics of:

– Art for “The Masses” vs. art made for art’s sake…  and, any “middle way” you’ve found between the two?

– Art licensing — have you had experience with this? Helpful stories,  advice?

– Feedback on the compositions themselves [be honest]. Including what I might name this piece. Maybe because it’s such an ‘assignment’, I’m having trouble with a name. “bar talk” is all I can think of… but that doesn’t feel right.




This entry was posted in Being an Artist, People Who Inspire Me, Stories Behind Artwork. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Diptych, Opportunity?, and mass appeal vs. originality

  1. Interesting subject. The snooty element of the art world where art is produced and accessible only to the wealthy elite is offensive. The immense amounts of money that can be involved may also direct art into fakery.
    Art should be democratized and accessible (intellectually and financially) to more people. Licensing artistic designs for corporate production can help upgrade the quality of design available to the masses. Is that bad? Only if the promise of $ distorts your style and debases your art.

    • April says:

      Donald, I think that’s a great point — “Only if the promise of $ distorts your style and debases your art.”… which, in many ways is up to us as artists whether we allow that to happen, right? Yet I find some value in having space in our society where creative things can emerge from within artists without pressure or concern of monetary gain and public opinion. Perhaps there is room for both, and it’s not either-or–perhaps some artists can make space in their life for both and even enjoy the dual potentially good pressures–one of thinking about what might speak to many people, and the other pressure that to free oneself of that and create freely and spontaneously.

      The main thing, I guess, is authenticity…

    • April says:

      also, I just looked over your website and LOVE your work!!! I think I saw the bathing man picture at the Art Center awhile back?

      anyway, I really appreciate the time you take to put words to your art — I think that’s a powerful way to build a bridge of communication and mutual delight between artist and viewer. I think something more happens both in ourselves and in the viewing when we take that extra step… it shows friendliness and consideration… Some folks have said they think work should speak for itself, and maybe for some artists that’s part of their presentation style, but I personally want to be of the more open style.

      specifically, your writing here communicated this ‘accessible’ spirit:

      “Compared to images with an unambiguous subject, abstract images can be more difficult for many people (perhaps most people) to appreciate and understand. One goal may be to find a middle ground where allusion to a subject adds substance and depth that complements the simpler pleasures of line and color.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *