Friday, June 06, 2008

Fine Art vs. Commercialism

Hello everyone! Happy Friday to you!
I got an interesting comment on my blog yesterday on my bird cage cards from "anonymous." She/He says: "Reminiscent of Gwen Frostic's work. huummm. Gwen's prints are the best, think I rather prefer her cards for buying. I find your work is very cold and barren. Almost Soulless."

I'd like to say thank you for pointing out Gwen Frostic's work. I'd never actually heard of her until this comment so I went ahead and Googled her. Her beautiful prints have a rich watercolor feel and bring out such beautiful colors of nature in birds and botany. So delightful and a feast for the eyes.I urge you to check out her work; particularly her cards HERE.

Clearly, Ms. Frostic's work is the result of many hours of intensive work. Soulful work. This is fine art at its best. She has then turned her art into cards and calendars and all manner of wonderful products to make a living from her work. Kudos to her and I hope to have my own successes with my own work one day. However, currently I have not been working on my fine art. It's been placed on the backburner for a while now. All my paintings and drawings from the past are stored away in a special case; save for one small watercolor painting that is framed in my living room. Someday soon I will take out my pencils and brushes and paints and enjoy it all again. I have made the choice for now to create little letterpressed greeting cards that are just plain fun for me to make. I either illustrate the subjects myself or I find free clip art that I make unique compositions with. Do I put my soul in it? Hardly. I'm having fun! I'm enjoying myself! I'm doing what makes me happy. Yesterday, I was printing a little card that will be coming soon...little hippos by a palm tree. Cartoonish yet cute. Is my soul there with it? No. I giggle at the thought. My happy helpful commenter was correct: I didn't put my SOUL in my cards. I make my cards purely for the fun of it and with the hopes that others out there will enjoy them too. I put my SMILE in it. Little paper bits to send around and urge a smile from others. Nothing more and nothing less. I do not take my little cards too seriously. I think the topic of fine art vs.commercialism are important..It's vital to know the difference between what is meant to be a soulful expression and what is meant to be a fun expression made specifically for a commercial product in an effort for fun and to help make a living.

The comment raised another important topic: How do artists gain inspiration? and Has someone copied my work or have I copied someone else's work? These are issues that we freelance designers worry about and wrestle with. There are so many ideas out there and many have been done several times over. On purpose? Sometimes. But I think most of the time it is unknown. It is impossible to see every piece of art that has ever been created and make sure your special piece isn't similar to another. It sometimes happens. My happy helpful commenter implied that my work was like Ms. Frostic's. I'm flattered! But I do not see the comparison or similarity. I guess I have a bird on my card. That's about it. I found the cool bird on a royalty free clip art subscription-only website and just plain liked it. I'm happy to have learned about Ms. Frostic's work though; it is incredibly beautiful and really speaks to me. Something to note is that we all get inspiration and ideas from each other and from somewhere else. We as artists develop our own particular style over time. Sometimes two different artists will have similar styles. For example, when I looked at Ms. Frostic's work it immediately reminded me of the work of CharleyHarper. They aren't exactly the same style, but they reminded me a lot of each other. Her work is more painterly and less geometric.

Ms. Frostic's work:

Charley Harper's work:
Are they the same? No. Are the birds in dynamic and expressive poses? Yes. Are their angles exaggerated? Yes. Are the birds of the same species? Maybe. But they are also different in lots of ways and I could go on and on.

These are all topics that have been floating around in my head for a while now and I'm glad my happy helpful commenter reminded me of them. I've said how I feel about these issues; I'm curious to know what all of you out there think about these topics in relation to YOUR life and occupations? Enjoy your weekend everyone! I will be hanging out with family...I plan to go to a town carnival and then off to a fun paper store to see what treasures I can find. I'll be back Monday with pics of a paper treat from "Japan" at Epcot. Be well and here's a smile!


Kathleen said...

Well kudos to you for turning a rude anonymous comment into a productive post! Your new cards are lovely, and I too can not quite grasp the similarity between you and Gwen Frostic's work...who I'd also never heard of. Just keep doing what you're doing:) Have a lovely weekend!

Erin McCall said...

Hey Megan:

First off, I don't think your work is cold and barren - in fact, I think it is lively and bright, cheery. I admire the way you use color in your work, and the playful quality of your designs. So don't let this person's comments get you down.

Second, I had a few negative comments on my blog earlier this year (perhaps from the same person? :) ) and although I believe blogs should be a forum for discussion, I also think that if you are going to make comments, particularly comments implying copyright infringement, then you should man-up and reveal who you are. If you have something to say, why hide behind "anonymous". So, I deactivated the "anonymous" button on my blog so that people can't comment without identifying themselves. It's too bad it came to that, but it did.

And thirdly, if anonymous was to go to Etsy and search for "letterpress birds" (or even just "art prints birds") he/she would be overwhelmed by the variety of bird prints out there. Is everyone using Frostic's work as a reference? I highly doubt it.

Most of us designers/printers take copyright infringement very seriously - especially those of us who have been ripped off before. Personally, I don't think your work is "reminiscent" of Frostic's work at all, other than the fact that your subjects are birds.

Anyways Megan - good work - and let the rest of them take a long walk off a short pier.

nikole said...

First off, I have to say how much I love this post and what it says about your outlook on the world - your kindness, the gentleness of your spirit, your compassion. You are an amazing, bright, creative woman. Your work reflects that.

I too received a fairly nasty anonymous comment on my weblog this week, and I didn't react nearly so well. I admire your response. I started furiously typing out a response that wasn't nearly as graceful as your reaction - and, in the end, I decided to just let it go and not respond. It really singed me though, and I still get a bit worked up when I think about it.

You are a fantastic artist and you have such an incredible, bright spirit. Whether your work expresses your soul, or simply your smiles, I hope you don't let this negative energy affect you.

Shine on.

PG said...

That was a pretty polite and restrained response to a rather impolite and ignorant comment. Can't see any similarity myself - other than it is a bird! And as Erin said, if you search for birds on Etsy, or birdcage, you will be there all day ploughing through the results! There are ideas which turn up time and time again, it is almost impossible to create something which is 100% original. As for your being cold - well, your design is a design, not a painting, but that doesn't lessen it! In fact, it is delightful.
I often wonder about these anonymous people, whether they think they are helping the artist they think they are defending, or even if it is the artist themselves - either way, I have yet to read a sensible or relevant comment by the all-prevelant 'Anonymous'.

Megan said...

Wow guys! I'm so touched at your feedback and kind words!!! You're the best! I'm blown away by your loving comments and I'm so thrilled that my work is coming off just how I'd like it to. It means so much to me. I would have preferred that this person didn't feel they had to be anonymous. After art school I can take anything said to me (one time I had a professer rip up my project into little pieces in front of me and the class. But I still got a B on it after I handed it in enclosed in a plastic baggie!). I just wish critical feedback to be productive and not delivered in a spiteful manner. I live by the adage "if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all." As tempted as I get, I never want to say something rude back because I'll just feel bad about myself after. I considered not saying anything at all but that just wasn't happening. I waited a day for the steam to escape my scull and replied with a clear head...this gave me the chance to say what I really wanted to say underneath all the anger. Onward and upward! I'm glad I'm not alone with rude commenters. When you get a rude comment it feels like such a slap in the face and I always feel so singled out and isolated. I have to remind myself that it is one person out of piles of other wonderful people. I try to focus on all the lovely comments people have given me and not let them get poisoned by the one bad one. Thanks again!!!!

design for mankind. said...

Aww, Megan--- reading your comment just confirmed the sweet person that you are. You're entirely right--- anonymous comments hurt more b/c they're anonymous. Why is it that we're hiding behind our negativity?

As far as seeking inspiration goes, you give an excellent example between Charley Harper and Ms. Frostic. You are wise beyond your years.

Keep plugging away, and I hope the positive comments outweigh the anonymous. ;)

Love to you.

good thoughts said...

simply put - you rock!! way to handle the situation with composure and grace meg! keep it up!!

Laura said...

Very well thought out post on an interesting topic. I like the contrast of putting your smile into your work vs. putting your soul into it. I think that's a nice distinction to make. If we put our soul into every thing we did, we'd probably be exhausted all the time. However, putting our smile into it is refreshing, enjoyable, and can be just as rewarding. This is probably how I approach a lot of things--especially since I am a dabbler in so many different things, but a master of absolutely none!

Poppy Letterpress said...

What a graceful response. You said it perfectly.

I agree with the other comments here, you handle it so well and showed what a truly beautiful spirit you are.

I received a terrible comment on my blog a couple of months ago from someone accusing me of stealing their designer's work. If they'd done their homework, they realise that their designer actually paid for the image (same as me). Using the same element in a different way is not copying a design, it's simply using the same resources. Anyway, it took me a long time to calm down and respond, though I wish I could've responded as gracefully as you have here.