WHY MILLENNIALS DON’T BUY OUR ART: They Don’t Appreciate the Value of a Real Artist

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

WHY MILLENNIALS DON’T BUY OUR ART: They Don’t Appreciate the Value of a Real Artist!

Maybe being a “real artist” isn’t a special, private club with high membership fees.

(5 minute read)

Continuing the series about why millennials don’t buy our art, and continuing last week’s column about why (or whether) millennials don’t appreciate or collect real art and real artists.

Some folks commented that young people today just don’t appreciate the hard work, commitment, and time it takes to get good at making our art. The words “real art” and “real artists” came up a lot.

I grew up with the belief that I could not be a “real artist” until I learned how to draw, how to paint, and until I obtained a degree or two in art.

When I couldn’t get into art school, my lifelong dreams were shattered. I was accepted into a couple of bona fide art schools, but I chose to go where my best friend, my secret crush, and my actual boyfriend went. And I couldn’t get in. I was allowed to take a few actual art classes.

But some teachers could be disparaging and quite critical of students. I was never one of the “favored few”. As a young person just out of high school, I did not have the backbone, the conviction, nor the talent to take that as a challenge.

Instead, I took it as a life sentence of “not a real artist”.

So, for those who did get into art school, and/or those who have independently taken workshops and classes along the way, I envy and also respect your determination, dedication, and persistence in educating yourself the expected way.

Except for the occasional dip into that pond, I had to find my own path.

So, here we go:

4)  Why is a “professionally trained” artist automatically worth more respect?

There are plenty of self-taught artists who have mastered their medium through practice and diligence. Not all artists can afford a college diploma, nor expensive art classes. I’ve always been baffled by CVs and resumes that list the well-known artists the person has studied under. Either I don’t know them, or I don’t see that artist (the one writing the CV) is that much better than someone who studied under someone less well-known. To me, it means the artist had the time and money to take workshops. Some artists restrict their teaching to artists who are already “good enough”. Many don’t. I admire everyone who has found a way to get better.

And not everyone who puts that time, money, and effort into getting better, actually does get better. Hard to accept, but true. Even if they do get better, that doesn’t necessarily mean the connection of the art to an audience is actually stronger. I have bought artwork that is “primitive” in nature (although “primitive” doesn’t automatically mean “not as good”, see #4) because it spoke to me. For me, it’s not just about skill. It has to resonate with me on a level I may not even be able to verbalize. (In fact, this is a quality a well-respected psychiatrist shared with me about why they collect my own work.)

Also, some media are easier to practice than others. They may be easier to master. But as in my case, that “less respected because it’s easier” may also simply fit the nature of the artist themselves. I loved doodling, but hated drawing from life. I hate, hate, hated painting.

I loved shaping things with my hands. I loved the ability to go back and correct errors, to see where the shape-less lump of clay could go, if only I did this instead of that. And I loved not having to buy a kiln, try to find a safe place where it could fire, to unpack the kiln after firing and realizing the glaze did something vastly different than I intended. (My father-in-law took up ceramics late in life. Mastering the glaze was his major challenge. And when that glaze took a surprising turn-for-the-truly-interesting, he was frustrated by his inability to recreate it decades later.

That would have driven me nuts. Polymer clay met my personality, my nature, and my intentions much better than earth clay.

That’s why I constantly rail (as one commenter has said) that ranking media is a simplistic way to approach the question “Which medium is best?” The better question is, “Which medium is best for you?”

Next comes an even harder question:

5)  So who is a “real artist”?

We all have our definitions, and these reflects mine:

“I learned that an artist is not necessarily someone who has studied art, but one who has something to say, and has the courage to say it. I learned that an artist is someone who makes art in order to save her life”

                                                        –Marlene Azoulai

“If you bring forth what is within you what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” –Jesus, from the Gnostic Teachings.

Your mileage may differ, of course.

To continue our discussion, check in next week with the third part of this originally very long article about real art and real artists.

Remember you are entitled to your own opinion, and this advice is worth every penny you paid for it!

In fact, it’s not even “real” advice. Just an opportunity to challenge our assumptions that hopefully will lead to a happier place in our life with our art.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it. And if someone sent you this article and you liked it, you can sign up for more articles at Fine Art Views or more from me at my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com. 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

5 thoughts on “WHY MILLENNIALS DON’T BUY OUR ART: They Don’t Appreciate the Value of a Real Artist”

  1. I love your opinions, Luann. I’m a professional artist who did go to “art school” but I have to say, some of the most talented artists I know do not have an academic degree in “Art.” They are terrific at their chosen artform and some are even more inventive and willing to change their approach and explore other ideas than some artists who have been “taught” the “right” way.

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  2. LOL…worth every penny I paid for it! Absolutely worth that and more! Still chuckling there.
    Yes, there is a “thing” about what or who is a “real” artist…art or craft and all that bull hog wash sort of thing. Makes it tough, but the bottom line is as you said.
    And the true bottom line for me is: Does it make me say WOW! Do I want to keep looking at it, touch it, study or just admire it? Whether it is called art, craft, made by a big “name” or someone who I never heard of…doesn’t matter. Do I want to LIVE with it? I’m loving this series, Luann. Thanks.

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    1. You got it, Carla! Last night I went to a local arts org meeting, and heard a member of the steering committee say essentially the same thing. That “professional” has a big range in meaning, and “real” ditto. It was wonderful to hear! As is your comment today. Thank you!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a serial crafter/artist. Making art when I was in medical school saved my life! There were semesters when we had 10 courses, 23 GRADUATE hours!!! I had a wonderful book about hand building with clay, and the book had a section about using iron, cobalt and other elements to color the clay. Well, that was right up this Chemistry majors alley. I colored the clay, threw plant pots, added paired “flat donuts” to the edges to hang the plant pots in the windows of my tiny apartment. That way I could just bisque fire my pots and the roots could breathe. During busy 100 hour a week rotations, I hand built vessels in my apartment and took them to the Student Union to be fired. Later, much later, I had a grown daughter and we took a pottery course at the college and had a blast. I dreamed of getting a MFA in Ceramic Glazes, using my knowledge of Chemistry. Then my daughter suggested I try Polymer Clay, which I could bake in my oven at 275 degrees. I took to it and began making jewelry. In my youth I’d haunted the Hall of Minerals in the Natural History Museum in DC and I began to make “minerals” from polymer clay: Lapis Lazuli; Sodalite; Apache Gold. Then I figured out how to make Opals from polymer and artist pigment. That was a thrilling adventure. Today my love of minerals and nature is manifest in the jewelry I make with gemstones, pearls and fossils. My love of ceramic glazes, which are essentially glass, has been transformed into a love of lamp work beads, which make their way into my jewelry. You can see it in my Etsy shop at SusanDolphinDelaney. And I still practice medicine.

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