Art Investors Blog

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Artist Interview | Andrew Norris

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

What is your art about?

My work is about the representation of masculinity from my childhood into adulthood. My earliest memory of the expectations of men is based on comic book superheroes, which influenced my understanding that men are supposed to be strong and dominant. As I grew older, I realized that I still had self-esteem issues that were influenced by the visual representation of male bodies–like ones found in fitness and fashion magazines. I work with oil paint on canvas to create compositions of superheroes imposed over male celebrities that exaggerate the ideal macho culture of our society.

What project are you working on now?

I am going off the idea of the work from my series, Toxic Masculinity, and building upon it. I am still very much interested in the male form and painting advertisements found in magazines that promote the toxic manhood ideology. I have stepped away from flat backgrounds and colourful outlines for imagery from pages of my favorite comics growing up. My concepts are still familiar, but I am looking at my work in a more personal way now.

How has your practice changed over time?

In college, I took courses on painting such as the old masters learning the grisaille and the Venetian techniques. This way of painting was a slow process with a conservative outcome of a clean painting. As I continued painting each male figure in the series, I would shorten the process gradually by skipping steps as well as using different underpainting hues. The most prevalent difference in my work now is a shift from a general idea of masculinity to a more personal dialog about my gender expectations.

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Within five years I would have, hopefully, gotten my MFA degree from one of the nine universities I have applied to. I would like to think I would be employed by then as a professor or an adjunct professor, and if not, then work at a gallery or museum.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.

During college, I took a trip to Atlanta with a group of artists and went to a few galleries there. I was able to see a Phillip Guston and a Fahamu Pecou at the High Museum which was an incredible experience.

What is your strongest childhood memory?

The best memory that sticks out the most is my school’s book fair, which had a book that contained all of the notable X-men. This allowed me to draw a full body image of many of the characters that are in my work now. I was always drawing; as a kid, I would usually close myself away with my comic books and just draw each character multiple times.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?

Of the few places I have been to in this world, upstate New York was a very inspiring place during my art residency. I didn’t do much work there because after graduation I needed a break.

What is your scariest experience?

In college, a group of some friends and I went into the lower levels of a building on campus. The building was abandoned and had a reputation for being haunted. It was around midnight when we went down the stairs, and we took out our phones to record the whole thing as we asked dumb questions. When we came back up we played the recording and a voice yelled back at us when we asked if anyone was there.

What superpower would you like to have and why?

I have always loved water-based abilities like Aquaman’s powers. Even though it’s not as impressive as Superman, there is always a job for Aquaman.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

Other than the obvious paint and brush, it would be music in the background.

Why do you do what you do?

I have found my artwork is a way for me to communicate how I was raised in an environment that encouraged a traditionally straight, male lifestyle. In the south, much like many places across the U.S., there is an assumption that we will stay in our small towns and raise children. There is nothing wrong with living that way; it’s just not for me. I want to challenge those ideas by showing an overdose of maleness that achieves an almost homo-erotic visualization. For me, this environment also establishes that men do not really show their emotions or talk about what they are dealing with; my work helps me express what I am going through and hopefully encourages others.

Andrew Norris was born in 1993 in Kingsport, Tenn. USA, and is currently based in Fall Branch, Tenn. USA.


Artist Interview | Emily Hoerdemann

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

When it comes to your art/writing, explain what you do in 100 words.
My work is characterized by its small scale, desktop paintings, and photo collages culled from the pages of fashion magazines and contemporary art auction catalogs. The fragmented photographs, absent of their identity, paired with anthropomorphic objects, organic cascading elements, and abstracted artworks by other artists are meant to address authorship, cultural curation, and sexual objectification. Without being overly sentimental, the collages capture the feeling of both glamour and despair, while maintaining a tenderness and composure.

What project are you working on now?
I am working on a few pieces of work that I’m really excited about. They all incorporate the same source materials—fashion magazines and art auction catalogs—so I consider them to be related. I’ve pushed away from my photography background for a while, but recently have embraced it in order to capture my desktop collages.

Why do you do what you do?
Because I have an intense drive to create. As obvious as it sounds, I think all artists have this intense drive to create—otherwise, what’s the point of doing what we do?

How has your practice changed over time?
I have allowed a bit of my over-controlled and rule-abiding practices to loosen a bit in order to embrace some more chance mark making and happy accidents.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
Painting next to my mom in her studio.

What is your scariest experience?
Moving to New York from my small mid-western town and only knowing a couple people. But it was the best thing I have ever done for myself!

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
I am constantly inspired by the people I surround myself with. I have a lucky job because I get to communicate with collectors, gallerists, and artists. Recently, I visited my undergrad college, Bradley University, and had the opportunity to walk through the painting class with Heather Brammeier who was my professor. It was very rewarding to be looking at the talent at my alma mater and talking with someone I admire greatly about my path since I was an undergrad. Hearing Heather tell me how proud she is about what I’ve accomplished pushes me to keep creating.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I would want a photographic memory. I think I would have been a much better scholar if I had that talent!

What is your pet peeve about the art world?
The art world is massive and terribly small at the same time. No matter how much you think you know or have experienced, there is always someone that knows more, has experienced more, and/or can do more. I think championing positivity and encouragement is key—but that’s lost on some participants!

What is your dream creative project?
Collaborating with others that are just as hungry to create something as I am.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
My home studio. Honestly, I am a homebody, so for me being at home in my studio and just creating until it “clicks” is always best.

Do you make a living off of your art?
No, and I think that affords me to be more adventurous and take my time. I make a living caring for other people’s art, and that can be incredibly inspiring.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?
Scissors! Everything is collage, whether it’s on paper, on wood, or photographed. Second would be my camera. Without it, I cannot make an entire body of work without my camera. My Photo Interventions series is analog collage work, but ultimately captured as a photograph and printed as an archival pigment print.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep going. Apply yourself again and again. Ask questions. And don’t wear uncomfortable shoes.

What are your hobbies?
I love my garden. Growing herbs, veggies, and peppers on my rooftop garden in Brooklyn is a big luxury in this city!

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Ideally, having more time to be creative on my own work. But I love having my hands in many pots, so I go where the inspiration takes me.

Emily Hoerdemann is a US citizen, was born in 1985 in Peoria, Illinois, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.


Artist Interview | Kate Stavniichuk

When it comes to your art/writing, explain what you do in 100 words:
I am superstitious about what I do. Art is not just the work I love to do; it’s magic that lets people feel or imagine something invisible and hidden that I’m trying to show. Every art piece done by me has a special meaning. Even when it’s a portrait, I write the whole story without words. And only if you look at the details carefully, can you reveal the secret. You might think I only do abstract art. No, I’m a realist artist. But who said that reality is not magic?

I hate being the same; that’s why I like to challenge myself and choose different themes. I do believe that we attract what we think about or what we do, so I’m very careful with my choices. Of course, it doesn’t mean that all my artworks are bright and cheerful because sometimes art is just a mirror of your soul.

What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a new solo exhibition. Can’t say a lot about it because it’s a secret project for now. But it’s going to be a new level of my work.

Why do you do what you do?
I’ve been drawing as far back as I can remember; my works were exhibited many times, but I never thought it would be my job. That’s why I never studied art. I’m not from a rich family originally, so my parents wanted me to have a stable, good-paying job. But I kept fighting for what I do now. And then it just happened. I remember being in the last years of school; I started to earn money from my art. I became completely immersed in it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else but art.

I believe in destiny… that what is meant to be will always happen. I always wanted to know my mission in life. Maybe I haven’t found it yet, and one day I will change my ways. But for now, art is my life.

How has your practice changed over time?
I became more daring and confident as I did my art. I’m using new techniques and styles, and my life experience greatly influenced my art.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
I remember when I was a five-year-old; I got a present for my birthday. It was a big, very expansive illustrated book called Barbie. I really loved leafing through that book, and as I did, I had a strong belief that I could make a much better book with my drawings and my own stories. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did. I thought the Barbie book just wasn’t good enough. I made drawings of ladies and men on paper and glued them together. But I thought something was missing. So one night when nobody could see me, I cut some illustrations out of the Barbie book and added my own illustrations to the book. Barbie was completely damaged. My parents were so mad at me when they found out that I did that. I knew I would be punished, but at the same time, I was really proud of creating my own book. (Kate was laughing now as she said this.)

What was your scariest experience?
My scariest experience was my first solo show. I think a first show is a scary thing for every artist. You never know what to expect at your solo exhibition, especially your first time when you’re insanely nervous about literally everything… who’s going to come, what I’m going to say about my works, what if people don’t like my art or me? But at the end of the day, you’re tired and satisfied that so many people came to support you, and you realize they did love your paintings; and even if some of them didn’t, you don’t care anymore because you just completed a new step in your career. That feeling is amazing.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
I think inspiration is always about the places you visit or the people you meet. Once I met a very good person who supported me in a hard time (sorry can’t say the name). I was about to quit doing art because I had so many problems at that time and it was really hard to continue. But the person made me believe that I had to keep going, that I had to be strong because I am strong. His words inspired me to put myself together, and I did. Six months later I had my first solo show.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I am a woman. That’s my superpower.

What is your pet peeve about the art world?
Honestly, I don’t understand those artists who are chasing popularity on the social media. Those Facebook likes just make them crazy. They stop being themselves, stop being original, and start creating what attracts more people. Listen. People can’t tell you what is amazing and what is not and convince you according to their visions. Show the world your vision, what your soul is feeling.

What is your dream creative project?
My dream project is to own my own gallery and do workshops for artists and for those who just want to express themselves in art. I would love to help everyone believe in themselves and give them a push in the right direction.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
I think the most inspiring place in the world is where I am right now. And that goes for everyone else. People often complain that they are not in the right place, where they live doesn’t inspire them. But wherever you are, there is a reason why you’re there, so look around and you will see.

Do you make a living off of your art?
Yes, I’m a full-time artist.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?
The most indispensable item in my studio is a compressed charcoal pencil. It’s my favorite!

What are your hobbies?
When I was younger I had many hobbies, but now art is almost everything to me. So I don’t have much time for something else. But I do like sports, dancing, watching movies, etc.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never give up. No matter what happens, always stay strong.


Artist Techniques | Master Pastelist, Louise T. Webber, Shares Her Techniques

I prefer soft pastels over wax and oil pastels. They have been used by such notable artists as Degas, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, and Whistler and have been used for hundreds of years.

Soft pastels are a versatile dry-painting medium which comes in sticks and pencils. They are fragile and contain more pigment and less binder which gives them their velvety texture; their colours are rich and can be layered and blended easily, usually with a finger, tortillion, or stump. They don’t require the use of water, turpentine, or oils and there is no preparation required to start using them. Just pick up the stick of colour and start your painting. I especially like that there is no right or wrong way of using pastels, allowing me the freedom to experiment with their use.

I enjoy the texture of Canson Mi-Teintes coloured pastel archival and acid-free paper and pastelbord, feeling the tooth of the support as I work the pigment into my support with my fingers. This practice requires me to frequently wash my hands to keep the pigment from building up on my fingers and dulling other colours as I work on the piece. Extra pastel dust is knocked off of the painting by tapping the support instead of blowing it off as blowing can cause the dust to get in the air, and it can be a health issue if inhaled.

When my artwork is complete, I use Sennelier Soft Pastel Fixatif to protect it from smudging and environmental pollutants. In thin coats, it doesn’t change the colour of my pigments like most fixatives. The final step is framing. All my pastel paintings are matted and framed behind glass to further protect the artwork. The mat creates a space between the artwork and the glass so there is no rubbing and transfer of pigment to the glass, potentially ruining my artwork.

I sketch from life as well as using reference photos that I have taken. I keep a stockpile of photos from old magazines, books, newspapers, etc., that catch my interest. I use them to mix and match and build a composition and to get ideas when I have “artist block.” When I go for walks and drives, my Nikon is usually with me so I can take reference photos.

First, I decide the colour and type of support to use, considering my subject, the colours I want to use, and how they will relate to the background. I begin my painting by making a detailed sketch directly on the pastel paper with either a vine charcoal stick or pencil, a graphite pencil, or a pastel pencil.

After choosing my colours and separating them from my box of pastels, I start blocking in the background, using the colours throughout the skin tones to create colour harmony, defining the light and dark areas as I go.

I generally work from left to right to reduce the chance of smudging, completing each section as I go.

Completed painting sealed with Fixatif and ready to frame.

Louise T. Webber is a Canadian-born
International award winning artist

Artist Interview | Liisa Ahlfors

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.


When it comes to your art, explain what you do.

I am a visual artist based in Tampere, Finland. My work is mainly inspired by the challenge of new environments. I am inspired by encounters with sites, situations, or objects, and I view each in its socio-political context; then I bind these stories together with simple shapes. I seek to separate the obvious things that attract my attention, disrupt the distinction between public and private space, and propose a temporal place where factual and sensitive realities coexist. Usually my works take a form of a durational installation made only for the space of its representation.


What project are you working on now?

Currently I am an Artist-in-Residence at SÍM, Reykjavík, Iceland. I am also working on a project with my friend and colleague, Anastasia Artemeva. We are collaborating on the shared cultural history of the Finnish and the Russians, and summer cottages and dachas. The project will be a participatory installation at Gallery Huuto in Helsinki, Finland, in the summer 2017.

Why do you do what you do?

I am challenged by each new environment. Rather than following a line of systematic production, I cultivate my ability to respond specifically to each new situation, space, or context. I see each new environment as a unique challenge, and I approach it accordingly because what may have worked in one environment does not always work in another.  The on-going challenge of new environments keeps me going and doing what I do.

How has your practice changed over time?

I have studied at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Tampere, Finland, and graduated from the programme of Fine Arts in 2011. I also studied various practices from painting and drawing to photography. When I was in the Fine Arts programme, installation and environmental art were most appealing to me. I worked as an artist for a few years before entering my master studies at the Aalto University, School of Art, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland, in the programme of Environmental Art from which I graduated in 2015. There I reconsidered my relationship with the gallery space, and came to conclusion I am still “inside the white cube,” even if my work is not. This conclusion took my work in a slightly different direction as I am now also working with the gallery spaces. Recently I made a large-scale, text-based installation, so using text is now what interests me, aside from a more material-based working method.


Describe a real-life experience that inspired you:

I used to dance a lot when I was younger. I even wanted to be a professional dancer one day. I have been thinking that this time-and-space-related practice I used to do for years, and from such a young age, is one of the reasons I turned to becoming an installation/environmental artist, why it is so important for me to do work that is related to one particular time and space/place, and why I value more of that particular experience rather than the object.

What superpower would you like to have and why?

Invisibility. I sometimes withdraw in social situations to observe. Observing would be much easier if I had the ability to become invisible!

What is your strongest childhood memory?

Long summer holidays of solitude and dwelling into literary worlds with my books.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?

Any place can be inspiring. The time that I spend in a place develops my relationship with that place; through that relationship I become inspired and create my art works.

Artist Interview | Bhavna Misra

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.


When it comes to your art, explain what you do.

I am a full-time artist and art educator based out of the San Francisco, Bay area. I paint sun-washed, colourful local landscapes that surround me and motivate me. I also work in portraiture and still life. My work is an emotional response to what I observe and experience. Through my paintings that I create in oil and pastel, I attempt to present the colours in their pure brilliance without losing the balance of accuracy and expressionism.


What project are you working on now?

Currently I am painting figurative portraits for my upcoming solo show at Olive Hyde Art Gallery in Fremont, California. The focus is on ballet dancers and performance artists in motion, exploring the elegance and rhythm of human form and portraiture.

How has your practice changed over time?

Over time I have learned to become more organized. I have devised steps to utilise the available time efficiently and distribute it better between work and family.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?

Any place that has space to rest my pad and time to draw is perfect for me. That’s all I need to become inspired and to get started. I have a home-based studio that opens into the backyard. It has an all-windows wall that faces south so the room receives natural sunlight throughout the day. It is a well-lit, airy place that is perfect for making art.

What is your strongest childhood memory?

It has to be raising a bear cub. My father was a forest officer, and he routinely went on forest inspection tours. Upon his return from one such tour, he brought back a bear cub that had been separated from her mother. The cub was very young and would have died if it was left in the jungle. We fed milk to the baby with a bottle and took care of it just like other pets that we had at that time. The cub stayed with us until she was big enough to be sent to the local zoo.


What superpower would you like to have and why?

If I could have a superpower, it would be to be able to control time and travel through it. That way, there would be no lack of time to do what I like to do!

What are your hobbies?

In my spare time, I like to go for a run, a hike. or take pictures.

What is your pet peeve about the art world?

Art marketing! Putting a business perspective on artmaking somehow drives or hampers the creative process, and I sometimes find it annoying.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Create when you are inspired. Create even when you are not!”

What is your dream creative project?

My dream project is to be in a safari and paint wildlife and animals from life. When I worked on Circle of Animals – a zodiac, cycle-based, animal-portrait series, I had a chance to explore deeper into the lives of various wild animals. I painted animals from pictures that I took during my trips to the parks, farms, shelters, and zoos. It was a great aid to my process, but it was nowhere close to being what it would be if I could observe the animals close up in the comfort zone of their natural habitat. One day, I hope to be able to fulfill this dream.

Do you make a living off of your art?

Yes, I am a full-time independent artist. I work for the County Library as an art contractor where I offer art presentations and workshops. I sell artwork directly and through online galleries, accept commissioned art, and take part in local art shows and fairs.


What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?

A sharpened pencil. It is the magic tool with which I begin my art journeys, and it still is the most essential tool in all of my adventures. It’s an inexpensive, low-maintenance, effective, and versatile piece that is a must-have for any artist.

Describe a real-life experience that
inspired you.

I used to make portrait sketches as a hobby. During the summer, when I was about nine or ten, we had a visit from an out-of-town house guest who came to meet with my grandfather who lived with us. The guest was a professional artist and an art teacher. He viewed my work and told my grandfather that he saw natural talent in me. His words stayed with me and gave me the confidence to one day pursue art as a profession.

Why do you do what you do?

Because I have received the gift (the power) to translate ideas into illustration. Having received this gift, I find it my duty and purpose to share it with others. Doing so helps me learn every day and grow as a better person along the way.

By Bhavna Misra

Bhavna Misra is currently based in San Francisco, California.


Artist Interview | Hari Lualhati

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

What do you do and what inspires you?
My artworks are inspired by powerful lessons I’ve learned from life. My paintings emphasize the value of life and incorporate elements like nature and animals to show that we are all connected. Layers of expressive brush strokes can be observed at each painting, together with my rich devotion to details. I paint with my heart. For me, a painting is successful if it can make anyone who would look at it feel the emotion that it’s supposed to give. It is like delivering a clear message by touching the hearts of the viewers.

What project are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a new series of paintings. Very interesting theme, and I’ve also incorporated new techniques that were never seen in my earlier paintings. I’m also preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition soon. I will post more details on my Facebook Artist Page.

Why do you do what you do?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been interested in art. Although I used to work as a graphic artist, product designer, and illustrator, I still painted in my spare time. It was only during 2012, that I decided to follow my heart, take this huge step, and only concentrate on my painting career. For me, this profession is a calling, you must have the dedication and must really love to paint in order for you to survive in this field.

How has your practice changed over time?
I’ve always strived to develop my skills by trying different techniques but making sure to have a distinctive style. When it comes to the themes of my paintings, they also change, as they are the reflections of significant memories in my life.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
My strongest childhood memory would be all those times when I competed for on-the-spot poster/painting contests. I remembered other events when I represented my school and, most of the time, I received an award. These are the things that developed my interest in art at a very young age.

What is your scariest experience?
One of my scariest experiences was when I had a dream that I was dying. I was being buried alive, and all I saw was black. Then, I suddenly struggled to breathe. I prayed and thanked God for everything, and surprisingly, after my prayer, I woke up from that bad dream and everything was all right. That dream has made me appreciate life more.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
There would be a lot of experiences that inspired me, but the ones that inspired me the most are those that were struggles which I experienced in life. The lessons I’ve learned from these life trials have always inspired me to create paintings about them and to be a better person.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I’ve always dreamed of flying with the birds. I think it would be a very good way of meditation and can be an easy escape from all the noise and business in this world. I also want the power of reading other people’s minds. I think life would be easier if I could immediately know the genuine intentions of a person without any pretentiousness.

What is your dream creative project?
It would be the project I’m working on right now, a series of paintings. but with a much bigger budget and being able to exhibit them all over the world.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
For me, the environment is really not a big deal. Any beautiful place would do as long as I’m happy inside,; then I’m sure I would be inspired.

Do you make a living off of your art?
Yes, but I also do accept illustration jobs.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Follow your heart.

Hari Lualhati was born in 1985 in the Philippines and is currently based in South Africa. Visit

Artist Interview | Jane Dickson

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

When it comes to your art/writing, explain what you do in 100 words.
I am a self-taught mixed media painter, Nature Spirit photographer, and aspiring poet. Whether it’s on canvas or camera lens, I approach my art with the same intention – to create or capture magical scenes of endless possibilities, and to offer insight and inspiration. When I start a painting, I work intuitively, building an abstract base of colour, working with brushes and fingers until I see images start to emerge in the paint. As the scene unfolds I follow along, developing the characters and bringing them to life! My Nature Spirit photography originally portrayed the “faces” I saw in the rocks, clouds, and trees, but more recently I have started working with a mirror image effect and the Nature Spirits that now appear are so fascinating!

What project are you working on now?
I am now working on a series called “The INKspirationals” using mainly acrylic ink and pen on art board. Like all of my paintings, I approach the blank page intuitively. With these pieces I drop inkblots on the board and see what images start to emerge in the paint as I play with it. I then use pen and marker to further develop the mystical creatures that have started to take form. I try not to censor any image that begins to take shape and, as a result, these scenes are often quite surreal! Usually, a few uplifting words or an inspiring poem will come forth to go with these pieces.

You Hold Infinite Possibilities

How has your practice changed over time?
Although I have always painted intuitively, much more detail has emerged in my art this year. The scenes and stories are taking on an even greater life of their own as I gain more experience with drawing and developing the characters.

Why do you do what you do?
During a time of grieving, I discovered intuitive painting, and it was such a balm for my soul. From that first painting I was so fascinated with the process of laying down paint on canvas and watching as magically faces and figures would start appearing in the abstract base. It was such a delightful experience during a difficult time, and that joy has remained with me each time I paint a new piece. I never know what or who will show up, and that keeps me completely engaged in the process and my mind open to new possibilities!

What is your strongest childhood memory?
I asked my mom one time what I loved to do as a child, and she said I loved to colour. I said, “All kids like to colour, don’t they?” She answered, “No, you REALLY liked to colour.” Then I remembered how I loved to draw the mountains with the sun peeking out from behind them. It was so surprising to me when I remembered that because it wasn’t until I was living in British Columbia, surrounded by the beautiful mountains, that I started painting and finding my way back to art.


Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
It was 2011, the first year that I really started painting in earnest. It was also a period of much grief and turmoil for me. I was going to meet someone at the Vancouver Art Gallery for The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art exhibition. My date never showed up, but it didn’t matter! I was so completely thrilled and moved by the work of Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Leonora Carrington, and others. I left the gallery feeling excited, inspired, and determined to continue focusing on my painting.

What is your scariest experience?
When I was twenty, I was in a motorcycle crash that claimed the life of my boyfriend. Regaining consciousness, I discovered that I had landed in the middle of the road, and I could see headlights approaching. That was a scary experience… and a life-changing one.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
Well, flying would be marvelous! Can you imagine? At a moment’s notice being able to take off for Indonesia, Italy, or India to experiment, explore, and experience! Or maybe soaring into Paris, Panama, or Peru to paint, play, or pray!

What is your pet peeve about the art world?
Being self-taught and finding my artistic passion in mid-life, I’ve never really felt I was part of the “art world.” I am mildly frustrated when an art degree is required or there is too much emphasis on technique over expression, but I realize quite quickly that is not the direction I’m meant to go. Apparently in some languages the word for “human” and the word for “artist” is the same. I do believe that artistic expression is our birthright, and I’m happy to see our cultural attitude changing with regards to art.

What is your dream creative project?
I have discovered that I’m really smitten with live-painting events! Although they can be somewhat nerve-wracking, I also love the excitement of them and being able to engage with onlookers and encourage participation from the audience. It would be amazing to be commissioned to paint a huge outdoor wall with a group of both emerging and seasoned artists of all ages. We would create a mystical scene of grand proportions that would be viewed by thousands and an inspiration to many. I can think of so many dream projects!

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
Although I have only been there once, Italy was a magnificent experience! I travelled there almost thirty years ago and have never forgotten the art, architecture, and the richness of their culture. Closer to home, I absolutely fell in love with White Rock when I lived in British Columbia. That little ocean-side town in western Canada captured my heart with the sun twinkling off the bay, the boardwalk, and the little shops of art and treasures. There is an energy there that is truly inspiring and revitalizing for me.


What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?
Myself! This is a good example of the adage “just do it.” I must show up to make and create or the vision to inspire is wasted! As far as tools and supplies go, it’s so hard to choose just one item! With this current series I’m doing, I absolutely love working on Canson watercolour art board with Liquitex acrylic ink and Pigma Micron pens so these items feel indispensable at the moment.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Done is better than good.” In other words, don’t let procrastination and perfectionism (different sides of the same coin) keep you from making and creating. The satisfaction of completing a work of art or project is priceless. Chances are that as your craft evolves, you won’t be satisfied with older work anyhow. So start now, keep creating, and your work will just naturally improve over time.

What are your hobbies?
In addition to the visual arts, I have a lifelong passion for the healing arts, and a great interest in spirituality and shamanic work. Recently I have been into vegetable and herb gardening and continue to be interested in foraging for mushrooms and edible plants. I love hiking the woods and around waterfalls searching for faces in nature and taking mirror image photos.
I also enjoy expressive dance. I am a lifelong reader too and currently gravitate to travel and art memoirs.

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I envision living closer to nature and fully supporting myself with my art. I see myself engaged in collaborative work with other artists and I have a vision of being involved in large-scale work. I am the creatrix and facilitator of “Art From Your Heart” intuitive painting play-shops, and I would like to take these events “on the road” to continue sharing my love of intuitive painting.

Jane Dickson was born in the 60s in Dunnville,
Ontario, Canada and is currently based in
Beamsville, also in Ontario, Canada.

Studio Spotlight on Rusty Sherrill

A loft to get lost in | Rusty Sherrill

After graduating from art school in Tampa, Florida, I worked briefly in my home state before moving to California. I worked as an artist in the clothing industry for 25 years before striking out on my own. Now I am painting full-time, showing in galleries, and working on my novel, Kid Nitro and the Sinister Slorp.

My studio space is a loft. My wife and I moved to the mountains four years ago for the peace and quiet, and because it’s a lot cheaper than Orange County! All of this helps my creativity. My studio is a place where I go to lose myself in my own world and thoughts.

My creative vision allows my imagination to run wild to see what happens. I draw from a childhood love of monsters, aliens, superheroes, finks and weirdos. Combining those images with my arguably adult mind, I convey different perspectives on very serious subjects. I aspire to make people think in a way they might not have before by reaching out and grabbing them with powerful images. Then I pull them into my world where they are free to find their own way, explore and discover new things, wallow around in this place for a while and see what happens.

By Rusty Sherrill
Rusty Sherrill was born in Lakeland, United States in 1962 and is currently based in Big Bear City, United States.

Artist Interview | J Howard

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.


When it comes to your art, explain what you do in 100 words.
I could tell you how far I have come and what I have come from. I could share with you my journey as a mental health physician and how art has healed many through its use. But what I would like to share with you is how I identify myself, not just with my art, but in it and through it, that my purpose is to reach individuals deeply and spiritually. To share not just a visual, but an emotional experience. I am not a young artist by age or training, but I am emerging with a message.

What project are you working on now?
I am currently working on a series entitled, “Voices of Humanity.” In addition to this project, I am compiling pieces for the Women Painting Women Exhibit in Clarksville, Tennessee, and a solo show the first of 2017 in my home state of Texas. It is entitled, “Texas Speaks.”

Why do you do what you do?
Art plays many roles in society and, at different times, can speak to issues in areas such as religion, science, politics, and history. No matter what venue, my art can provide thought-provoking commentary and innovative perspectives on a vast array of ideas. People often forget the significance of art in the discourse of social, cultural, and global concerns. Art clearly has the power to spark ideas and challenge prevailing opinions, and as an artist, I become the point of delivery.


How has your practice changed over time?
Although I began my training at a very early age, my practice as an artist has had two lives. Trained in oils with a rich background in drawing, I have evolved into someone who really must get their hands “in it.” I first began as a studio artist with the responsibility of recreating life and movement with inanimate objects. Through the observation of reality, I became a lover of Photorealism, which has given substance to my art career’s second life. As a pastelist, I can draw on my strong illustration background while really using my hands to apply the colour and create rich images that have a sense of storytelling.

What are your hobbies?
Cooking and hunting for antiquities.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
Traveling and seeing things creatively and always having a sketchbook.

What is your scariest experience?
Nearly dying… twice.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
Each time I travel to a new destination, I am inspired by the people, food, entertainment, and environment. I think the beauty of Kona Hawaii last year moved me creatively more than anything. As a mental health physician, I am inspired by the many survivors I encounter on a regular basis who give me a purpose and a mission that drives my voice within my art.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I would like to have the superpower of speaking every language in the world and communicating with anyone, no matter where they are from, to have fluent conversation and share stories.


What is your pet peeve about the art world?
Unfortunately, the art scene is quite fickle and trendy with judging in a realm of subjectiveness that is beyond comprehension. It has an air of snobbery that makes an emerging artist’s attempt at becoming known and favored very difficult. Art as a whole is rooted in cultural diversities, but seems disjointed at times. With my grounded sense of reality, I feel that, for the moment, there is no place for me, but I have a voice that will one day be heard.

What is your dream creative project?
To have a solo show that speaks to the world in a very profound way, shown in a prominent gallery, in a well-respected art community.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio or practice?
My purely organic soft pastels. Having an autoimmune disorder means that commercial grade soft pastels are life threatening. The other would be natural light.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Degas once said, “It’s not what you see, but what you make others see.” A very good friend recently told me that the most important thing I can do is be true to myself in my art. To make sure that above all else, my voice is heard over the judgment of others who feel that art should be traditional in how it is created. I also have to remember that just because someone or some gallery tells me “NO,” it does not mean that I cannot do it; it just means that I am not going to do it with them.

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In two years I see myself retired and a full-time artist showing everywhere. In five years I hope to be able say I won the Hunting Art Prize and the Dave Bown Project. I also hope to be able to say I was a winner in the Art Comes Alive competition which is sort of an Academy Award for an artist. I plan to establish my own gallery where I can support emerging artists in a very loving and supportive manner. But most important, I plan to just experience real joy for the rest of my life.

J Howard is a US citizen, was born in Houston, Texas, and is currently based in Alvin, Texas.

Artworks in series

Many art consultants encourage artists to create their works in series. Advantages of creating artworks in a series include building a recognizable, cohesive body of work and having art dated to a certain period.


Picasso had his Blue & Rose Periods where he produced first the series of paintings that were predominantly blue. Then he created a series of paintings that followed the Blue Period and they were predominantly done in rose (shades of red). In a strange sort of a way, understanding a series is quite similar to that of a courtship process.

Allow me to explain:

  1. Boy Meets Girl | You see the artistic process from the beginning to an end. From Genesis to Completion. How the idea is originated and how it triggers other successive ideas.
  2. Getting to Know You | You begin to understand and appreciate how the artist defines his/her idea by saying everything without using any words. In other words, a story emerges.
  3. Experiencing Intimacy and Deep Connection | You become intimately familiar with the subject matter and experience a Eureka! moment. The journey that leads to a destination. The mystery is resolved bringing forth a sense of contentment.

At first glance, one series by an artist may not look much different from their other works. You are perceiving their branding, their style and overall consistent quality.

A series, however, has a special focus in regards to subject, size, colour, or concept. To illustrate, Red Delicious apples are different from Granny Smith’s. They both are apples and similar in size but both belong to different class or variety. In other words, a series exploits different perspectives and angles of the same thought, subject, or theme.

A full body of work of an artist may have some overlapping elements, but each series will have a special uniqueness that distinguishes them from the others.

By Roopa Dudley
Award-winning artist and an author of A Strategic Painter: Mastermind Your Craft.

Appropriation art: concept or theft?

Every few years, appropriation art “bad-boy” Richard Prince releases a new body of work that pushes the boundaries of what constitutes an original artistic concept and what constitutes theft of ideas. Every time, the controversial works prompt a discussion as to what legally defines appropriation art, and what ethically defines it on a cultural level.

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At its most basic, appropriation artists take another artist’s creative product and transform it into a new piece. As opposed to referencing works cited or quoted in a written work, appropriation artists are typically in no way required to make reference to the original piece’s context or artist.

Legally, appropriation of a creative work must meet several requirements, which often depend on local laws. First of all, the transformation element is essential. In the U.S., if the new work transforms the original piece, it falls under “fair use.” This means that the original work is used to create a new work, therefore, the appropriation artist is protected from prosecution. Essentially the piece has been re-contextualized to hold new meaning.

Often, this is accomplished by adding something to or changing the original artwork’s presentation. In Prince’s notorious “Canal Zone” series of 2008, the artist took photographer Patrick Cariou’s published photos, blew them up to large-scale, and added additional painted and collaged elements on top of the photos. Cariou sued, claiming that his original works were being used for pieces that were being sold for millions of dollars, but the court found that Prince’s work met the requirements for fair use.

While Prince has been pushing the envelope when it comes to appropriation since the 1970s, many famous artists have used the technique in their works – some even finding themselves faced with lawsuits, like Prince. Barbara Krueger, whose large-scale text works often use collage images for the background, won a 2000 case filed against her by a photographer, and Jeff Koons was victorious in a 2005 case brought against him, also by a photographer.

In fact, appropriation goes back even further into art history. In the early parts of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp made waves in the art world with his readymade objects. In his works, Duchamp would use objects like bicycle wheels and shovels, and present them as artistic concepts, essentially transforming them by presenting them in a new context, and signing them as he would a traditional painting or object.

His contemporaries working in cubism like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque also experimented with collaging existing items into a work – without necessarily even altering the original objects. Surrealist and Dada artists continued this experimenting with using appropriated objects in different media.

By the mid-20th century, artists like Robert Rauschenberg used silkscreens of texts and images in collage and paintings in addition to repurposing objects like beds for installations that predicted the trend that would re-emerge in the 1990s. In the 1970s and 80s, artists like Elaine Sturtevant recreated original artworks like Andy Warhol’s Flowers (1965) by hand painting them.

While the legal definitions of appropriation offer some guidelines, there is still a split in the art world as to whether appropriation art is ethically acceptable. For example, Prince’s most recent series of others’ Instagram photos on large format canvases incensed many who were featured in his works in addition to a number of art critics, because he didn’t ask for permission to use their images while selling his versions for six-figure sums. On the other hand, Sturtevant’s work was celebrated in a 2014 career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

It’s likely that whether appropriation is acceptable or not will be debated for years to come as technology allows for even more ways to access and manipulate others’ creative products. That being said, these works tend to do just fine in the global art market, and many are highly sought after by collectors in some ways because of their controversial nature.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Pictured above (frame excluded):
Apple and Bag #1 by Glenn Leung

Collecting in the postmodern context

As contemporary art forms challenge traditional methods of productions, collectors are faced with how to purchase and display hard-to-show-artwork. Performance art, video art, and large-scale installations are at the center of the discussion on the topic, as all three formats are often well-represented in today’s galleries, institutional shows and even at art fairs. Many collectors are interested in acquiring these pieces, but how do you hang a performance on the wall?

Performance Art

Traditionally, performance art has been sold and archived through photography and video. Marina Abramovic may be best-known for her feats of endurance and personal expression, but it is the photographs of her performances that sell in the marketplace. Now, artists like Tino Sehgal have revolutionized the way performances can be commoditized by selling instructions to how the pieces need to be performed. Granted, not everyone can hire someone to continuously perform a piece on loop in their living room, so there is always the question of what the purpose of acquiring such work is. Instead of buying an object, the purchaser instead owns the rights to the piece’s concept. The benefit? A number of exciting artists are producing work in this medium, and as museums are becoming more interested in exhibiting and acquiring performance pieces, many find this to be a solid investment.

Video Art

Video art is a bit easier to collect than performance art since a purchaser is getting a piece of work more tangible than a concept. That being said, the logistics of displaying video art are a bit more complicated than hanging a painting. Typically, collectors will receive the video in a playable format – once tapes, then DVDs, now often digitally – which can then be displayed on a device of their choosing. Some dealers who specialize in new media provide video work to collectors on limited-edition flash drives, which sometimes are a work of art themselves.

Installation Art

Installation art again gives purchasers a tangible object to acquire, but displaying and storing the work is a challenge. Because of their size and display requirements, large-scale and site-specific installations are often collected by institutions with the resources to accurately recreate the original pieces. Some gallery owners embrace this, knowing that most collectors will not purchase installations, but will rather seek out smaller works by the artist, and focus instead on getting larger pieces into museum collections. However, others are creatively working with artists to break down installations into individual pieces that are then sold off to collectors. This practice is a bit controversial, as critics believe it weakens the intention of the original piece.

Artists like Sol LeWitt creatively solved the issue of selling ephemeral installations like wall paintings by creating instructional guidelines for reproducing each work, which constituted the collector’s “art object.” Similar to purchasing performance art, the collector owns the rights to the work and is the only person who can recreate it authentically.

It remains to be seen what new boundaries will be pushed in contemporary art, and collectors will likely find themselves faced with new challenges in displaying purchased work. That being said, the difficulty of showing a piece of work shouldn’t be a discouragement from acquiring it; there are new ways of sharing art thanks to technological advances, and many dealers are finding new ways to assist collectors with their new pieces.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Framing the masters: Behind the scenes of frame restoration and curation

It is early morning in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. In a few hours, the corridors of this national gallery will be filled with thousands of visitors who flock daily to witness the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh, among others. But, for now, the museum is empty, but for two people who carefully lift a painting — ‘Landscape with Rocks and a Waterfall’ by Gustav Courbet, 1872 — down from the wall.

They work quietly and carefully. It is not a sinister scene, but more of a Cinderella story. It is Hubert Baija, senior conservator of frames and gilding at the museum, and an intern from the University of Amsterdam. They have come to see whether a frame in their possession fits the painting.

“We suspected it was the painting’s original frame,” Baija says. “And not only did it fit, but we also saw that a strip of paint on the inside of the frame matched an old damage on the painting. So we knew the painting had been framed in this very frame before it was fully dry.”

Baija, 61, is tall and angular, calm in demeanor and very softly spoken, but the gleam in his blue eyes as he recounts this incident reveals what a thrilling discovery it was. “It was very exciting,” he says.

Getting the frame right, according to Baija, is an essential part of experiencing a painting authentically. “A frame can tell you many things about a painting,” he says. “Among them, when it was created, where and for what purpose.”

Appreciation for frames is relatively recent in the art world. “There was a period up until about 50 years ago when the frame was simply what the painting came in,” Baija says. “But now the frames are art pieces in their own right, and acquiring a new frame is just as exciting as acquiring a new painting, and all the better if you can reunite a frame with its original painting.”

His work demands that he be part art historian, part scientist, part artist, part matchmaker. “With framing, we try always to display paintings in their original frame,” he explains. “And we have many paintings in the museum that we know are together with their original frame.”

With works from the Middle Ages, Baija explains, it’s more likely to find an original frame with its painting. It’s in the later periods—starting in the 17th century—that it becomes more problematic. “Until then, paintings were mostly religious works, and would not trade owners and be reframed,” he says.

Changing owners and framing styles make it far more challenging to find paintings in their original frames. “When we can’t, we try to find a frame from the same period and geographical location as the painting,” Baija says. “If we can’t do that, sometimes we commission a new frame to be made.”

Baija came to be passionate about art and frames in particular in a rather indirect manner. “I wanted to be a geologist from a young age,” he says. “I was fascinated by dinosaurs. I spent hours preparing fossils, labeling and naming them. And in fact a lot of that work actually trained me for my current profession.”

He is a lecturer, author and speaker of six languages, and studied chemistry and physics before beginning a successful career as a painter and illustrator. “In the end,” he says, “art won.” For 25 years, he has worked with restoration projects at Holland’s national museum, including consulting with curators specifically about frames.

Some of his work can be done with the naked eye, if you know what to look for. For example, two paintings by Cornelis Engebrechtsz hang side by side in the Rijksmuseum: to the right, ‘Christ’s Second Visit to the House of Mary and Martha’ (c. 1520) is still in its original frame; to the left, ‘Christ Taking Leave of His Mother,’ is not.

“You can see this because the painting on the right no longer exactly fits,” Baija says, indicating that the painted wooden panel is now slightly narrower than the frame due to shrinkage over time. “The other painting fits perfectly, so we know it’s a newer frame.”

Other times, he says, initial appearances are deceiving, as is the case with Lucas van Leyden’s triptych, ‘Worship of the Golden Calf’ (c. 1530). The frame is made of oak and covered in black ebony. Its condition is perfect.

“At first everyone thought this must not be an original frame,” Baija says. “But we had dendrochronology [dating an object by using the characteristic patterns of annual growth rings in timber] performed on the wood and indeed the tree was felled as little as seventy years after the painting. This meant that we have a very valuable early reframing of Van Leyden’s work.”

Such realizations are very satisfying, he says. “It’s a mystery to solve, and it is really a great feeling to make this kind of discovery.”

The Ateliergebouw—the conservation lab of the Rijksmuseum—is where Baija spends most of his time. From the outside, the building—which faces the museum—is unassuming, but inside is a vast, six-level space with two towers. It is filled with lab equipment, studios and workshops, and underground storage areas with a passageway to the Rijksmuseum across the street.

After passing through strict security—you can only visit the Ateliergebouw by appointment—you enter into a clinically bright, quiet corridor that is like a medical facility for art. It’s hospital white and temperature controlled, with labs full of surgical microscopes and lamps. In the paper restoration area is a small incubator that would not be out of place in a premature baby ward.

The silence is one of reverence and concentration, but is occasionally broken by an excited whisper or friendly hallway encounter. Baija is truly in his element. “We have fascinating conversations in the personnel restaurant,” he says. “Everyone is working on something interesting, and making new discoveries. We are a close group.”

There is high-tech equipment for pigment analysis and imaging solutions, including a digital microscope that can produce 3D images, much like Google maps, of the topography of an object. “So you see,” Baija says, “how my early interest in geology fits in.”

What can be revealed through this relatively new technology has had a major impact on restoration knowledge. “It is really amazing,” Baija says. “We can make an X-ray based analysis at an exact point of an artwork, and see what elements it contains. In combination with other information we can deduce which materials the artist used.”

And like a forensics scientist, Baija has used technology to make new discoveries about gilding practices of hundreds of years ago. “There was an early period of Auricular framing in the Netherlands where the work wasn’t very durable,” he says. “In the same period in France you saw very delicate carving work and sophisticated gilding and texturing that held up very well over time—and in the Netherlands you couldn’t see the carving in such detail because the deteriorated frames were so often regilded.”

This, he uncovered, was because early Dutch Auricular frames were gilded using only glue as a primer, no chalk, and eventually the glue would crack and break off. It is a finding that may be hard for someone not sharing Baija’s passion for frames and art history to fully appreciate, but for Baija and his peers it is groundbreaking, and one of the reasons Baija is the most respected framing expert in Europe.

Outside of work, Baija acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard for him to give a lay explanation when someone asks him at, say, a dinner party what he does for a living, and he must fight the urge to get too technical. “Indeed,” he says. “That can happen.”

There are special labs for every walk of art—paintings, metal, glass, furniture, textiles—in which scientists in lab coats labor delicately and scrupulously. It offers a visitor a rare view of fine art, one that Baija delights in. “It is wonderful to see a tapestry from the back,” he says. “The fronts have all faded, but the backs are so colourful.”

Still the function of art restoration is not to make everything look brand new again, and like the doctors they emulate, restorers must pledge to “do no harm.” Baija says they cannot “make things back to how they originally were, because we can’t really know for sure. You can get very romantic ideas, but we do not do anything unless we are certain that we are restoring and not editing.”

Meticulous records are kept of any kind of work or treatment given to frames in the Rijksmuseum collection. “We work very diligently to record everything that we do, everything that we touch, so that people who come after us have a clear record.”

Sometimes too much historical accuracy is the wrong approach, he says. “Frames that have been gilded to look as they would have in the time the paintings were made now look too shiny, too new—the frame and the painting should look the same age.”

Other times, the choice of frame can add to the essence of a painting, even if the period is not technically correct. Such is the case, according to Baija, with ‘Willem I, Prince of Orange, also called Willem the Silent’ by Adriaen Thomasz Key, 1579. Although physically the antique frame is probably a pastiche, combining elements from different centuries, Baija thinks it is a fitting match psychologically. “He has such a tight expression, and the frame has these sorts of bolts on it, keeping the viewer at even more of a distance. It works very well.”

Baija is an encyclopedia of frame history, but his relationship to the frames is also quite personal. As a restorer, he has had the opportunity to work on many pieces, including restoring a gilded section of ‘Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata,’ Lorenzo Monaco, c. 1420. Baija is pleased with his work, but deeply privileged by the opportunity. “To do something like that,” he says, “is really amazing. Truly wonderful.”

And he finds wonder in far more subtle contributions. While dusting “The Massacre of the Innocents,” [Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, 1590] one morning,” he says, “I saw the tiny handprint of a child on the bottom rail of the frame. And that is something really poetic.”

For twenty-five years, Baija has been a protector of the Rijksmuseum’s rich collection, and it’s work he takes very seriously. Concern for art—for preserving these historical expressions of humanity—is inherent in mankind, he says. “Even at the onset of World War II, fine art was a priority—the Rembrandts were all rolled up and hidden away in 1939.”

The strict security measures in the Ateliergebouw and the rigid research and careful labour of restorers like Baija speak to the collection’s worth. “The value of what we have here is far greater than money. You cannot say, for example, ‘Okay, I guess we will have to buy another Milk Maid by Vermeer.’ No. We have to take care of it.”

By Tracy Brown Hamilton

Tracy Brown Hamilton is a freelance journalist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Salon, The Irish Times and Time Out Amsterdam, among other publications.

Alternative markets: An introduction to art brut and self-taught art

These days, it seems everyone is talking about the art market, as celebrities try their hands as curators and even past political figures put paint to canvas. From the staggering auction prices to the ongoing social to-dos of the art fair, the art market has created a verifiable social subset and cultural scene.

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However, as prices continue to soar, more and more people are looking to alternative art markets to acquire original art from notable artists at prices that are more attainable (a relative term if ever there was one). Some markets focus specifically on one medium, such as prints and reproductions, while others, like the art brut or outsider art market, are defined by the context in which the works are created.

Art brut, or outsider art as it was presented to the American market in Roger Cardinal’s seminal 1972 work, has long been celebrated in Europe, but has become much more popular in recent years in Asia and North America as an emerging market, both as a subset of contemporary and modern art and as a category within itself. It is typically defined as the artwork of individual creators who are removed from mainstream society and traditional art influences, such as individuals with mental illness or those who are imprisoned.

Folk art, while often being grouped under the outsider umbrella, has a bit more of a history as an established market. Different regions around the world have tangible objects that represent a socio-cultural history, whether they are sold to tourists as trinkets or collected in major museums. However, scholars in both folk art and art brut are quick to distinguish what actually differentiates the two on a technical level; folk art is intrinsically tied to an audience and the inherited processes of a community, whereas the outsider artist is celebrated for his or her individual process of creation, unique to his or her idiosyncrasies.

While certain examples of regional folk art have been demoted to kitsch, there has been a move in the last century to incorporate this artwork under a fine art umbrella. Starting in the early 20th century, modern artists looked to “primitive” forms of artwork found in regions considered “tribal,” but the surrealists were really the first major group of art historical figures to champion art brut.

In some ways, surrealism is known for its distortions and otherworldly representation, but the surrealists were actively looking to represent an inner man, and turned to psychoanalysis and psychiatry as fields for inspiration. While not associated with surrealism, Jean Dubuffet was a contemporary and friend to many of the most notable artists of the time, and it was through them that he became aware of art being created in psychiatric institutions.

For the rest of his life and career, Dubuffet devoted his efforts to collecting and promoting artists living in institutions from all over Europe, and he established the Collection de l’Art Brut, which is currently located in Laussane, Switzerland, and remains the preeminent resource for art brut.

It makes sense then, that in some markets, the work of patients or eccentrics that inspired modern and surreal artists is now being featured alongside those works both in exhibitions and in auction houses. As prices continue to rise for modern masters, there is a definite move toward finding alternatives for both investment purposes and to acquire original work. Auction houses around the world, from Christie’s in New York to Tajan in Paris, now feature some of the best examples of art brut, both in dedicated sales and in larger regional or modern sales. This work continues to hold appeal both for its raw nature and for its expression of unfettered creativity.

By Rachel Cohen, LCAT, ATR-BC

Pictured above (frame excluded):
A Little Glitter Never Hurt by Whitney Trisler Causey