Finding the Personal in Art
For Artists and Collectors

Other essays in this series

Finding the personal in your art is finding yourself, finding who you are, what you like and what you do not like.  This is true for both artist and collector, whether you create art or you collect art. 

Finding the personal in an artist’s work is finding out who the artist is, where the artist is coming from and what shaped this artist’s aesthetic approach.

Finding the personal in a collector’s work is finding out what this collector likes.  Iit is finding out who this collector is, where he or she is coming from and what shaped this collector’s aesthetic approach. 

As we can see from this brief introduction to creating and collecting art there are really very few differences between the two. Collecting art is just as creative of a process as creating art.  In collecting art the medium is the collection process, while in creating art the medium is the specific art form chosen by the artist.

2-Of personality and personal style
Personal style means personal involvement.  As an artist you cannot ask your audience to be passionate about a subject that you are not passionate about representing.  As a member of the audience you cannot become passionate about a subject that is not representative of the artist’s passion.  In either instance you have to be personally involved with the subject that you are working with and you need to have a personal perspective on this subject.

Being involved is easiest when you do something that you truly like.  Creating or collecting art is about doing what you love, both from the perspective of the artist and of the collector.

Doing what you do not love is not any easier than doing what you love.  What is sure is that doing what you don’t love will waste time that could be spent doing what you love.

For the artist it results in wasted creative energy.  Energy spent doing what you don’t love could have been spent, with greater rewards, doing what you love, creating work that you are passionate about instead of work you think people want you to do but that you really don’t want to do.

For the collector, collecting work that you are not passionate about, work that does not address your personal taste, interests or passions results in spending money building a collection that is about what other people think you should collect rather than about what you really want to collect.  Don’t do it.  Start by immediately collecting what you really like –what you love—and let others think or say what they may.

3-Artists and critics
Let critics be critics and artists be artists.  As an artist you cannot please everyone.  Art is about passion, as we just saw, and passionate involvement generates passionate reactions.  A passionate artist will generate a passionate response to his work, provided that this passion is present in the work. 

Passions can go both ways: positive or negative.  You cannot therefore expect everyone to love your work.  Some will and some won’t.  As an artist your audience are people who love your work.  Those who don’t like your work need to find an artist they love instead of bugging the artists they don’t like!

As a collector the same phenomena occurs.  Your collection is your art form, your medium if you will.  It is the result of years of work and, if assembled according to your taste features works that you love, it represents your personality.  In other words your collection is as much about you as it is about the artists who created the work.  It represents your passion towards the arts.  In turn, critics may like or dislike your collection.  What happens is that as a collector you become in a sense an artist and in turn you attract an audience.  In this audience there will be critics.  Here too it is important to remember that your true audience consists of people who love your work, who love what you collect.  Those that do not like your collection need to move on and find collectors whose taste is similar to theirs.

4-Creative and critical modes
There are two modes in art: the artistic mode which is focused on creativity and the critical mode which is focused on finding what is right and wrong in the work; the former is intuitive, the later is analytical. 

As you look for pieces to add to your collection, or as you create new work, it is important to stay in a creative mode.  You do not have to be critical of the work at the time you are creating it.  Your goal is to be in a state of intuitiveness that lets you direct your steps towards expressing what you see and feel, or towards finding that piece that truly talks to you.

Only after this stage is completed should you let your critical side come through. For the artist this means that a certain number of pieces will have to be either rejected or corrected.  For the collector this means that a number of pieces will have to be returned, or will not be added to the collection.

5-Technical and artistic
For both the collector and the artist it is important to talk about art from both a technical and an artistic perspective. Many are guilty of approaching art as being just a creative or just a technical endeavor.  Good art is both technically proficient and creatively interesting. I expand on this concept in other essays, for example in The Eye and the Camera and Of Cameras and Art.

6-Projects and energy
Projects are central to art. They important for both artists and for collectors.  Projects focus your energy.  They allow you to narrow your field of study and focus more attention onto the subject of your choice.  By reducing your focus you increase the depth of your work.  You work deep instead of wide.  The outcome is sophistication instead of superficiality.  This applies both to the work of the artist and to the work of the collector.

Your project should be about what you love.  Do not wait until later to start work on what you love.  Time is running out. It is already later than you think.  It won’t get any earlier.

Many want to work on multiple projects at once.  They want to multitask.  Keep in mind that multitasking takes training.  If you have never set up or completed a project, start with setting up and working on one project and see if that just doesn’t about do it in terms of filling out your schedule.  Only if you find yourself moving ahead of schedule with a given project do I recommend you start a second one.

Also keep in mind that starting on a second project does not mean abandoning the first one.  Make sure you set a deadline for your project and that you meet this deadline.  If you do all this you will find out that working on several projects at once is extremely challenging, even if you do this full time. If you do not do this full time, working on a single project is the approach that will generate success.

Many artists make the mistake of waiting “until they have acquired better skills” to start working on what they love.  They do not realize that you get better by working on what you love, not by working on something you don’t care about.  Artistic practice doesn’t have to be done on something you don’t care about. Practice is best done practicing on what you love. You won’t damage it by practicing on it!

Similarly, many collectors make the mistake of waiting until they have enough money, or knowledge, or both, to collect the work of artists they love.  Here too knowledge and funds come from collecting what you are truly passionate about.  You will know more and more about this work by spending more time researching it, by looking for specific pieces and by exchanging information with other collectors.  You may also find forgotten or overlooked pieces that have a high value.  Here also, the most effective way to practice is to focus on the subject that really matters to you. There is no need to practice on something you don’t care.  You will waste resources –- both time and money—on something that doesn’t matter to you while you could have used these same resources to further your interest in the work that you are passionate about.

Artists and collectors face similar issues.  In the end both are artists.  One expresses himself by creating art, the other expresses himself (or herself) by collecting art.  The medium of the artist is the specific art form chosen by this artist. The medium of the collector is the collection as a whole.  This collection represents the personality of the collector just as much as the works of art represent the personality of the artist.  The choice of what work to include in a collection is so vast that it is natural that the selection reflects the personality of the collector.

Both face similar issues in regards to expressing their personality through their work, be it the work of creating new pieces for the artist or the work of adding to the collection for the collector.

Both face the issue of dealing with critics and having to find an audience who shares their love for the subject they represent, or collect, as the case might be.

Both face the issue of having to defend their personal choices. For the artist, this means being able to support certain artistic choices, such as enhancing photographs or being part of a specific art movement.  For the collector this means having to defend the choices made in regards to the subject of the collection as a whole, or in regards to specific pieces, or specific artists.   Clearly, art is about personal taste and therefore not everyone likes all art.  For example, a cubic artist may face criticism from people who love impressionistic art and vice versa.

In the end artists are also often collectors as well and collectors often practice art themselves.  While their main occupation remains one or the other, it shows that the line between the two is undefined.

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona
October 2008

About Alain Briot
Originally from France, Alain Briot has lived in Arizona since 1986. In 1995, after working on his PhD Alain decided to focus on photography full time. Alain creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers tutorials on composition, printing and marketing photographs. Alain is also the author of Mastering Landscape Photography.  His book is available from Amazon and other bookstores as well as directly from Alain.  You can find Alain’s detailed biography on this web site as well as information on his current work, writings and tutorials. 
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Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2008
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