Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

The expert versus the model

2010 . 03 . 01 - Comments / Commentaires (5)

When I was a senior in college, I attended a lecture by a visiting artist. I had been to similar talks in past years, but I walked into the lecture in 2002 with an agenda. I wanted to pick the artist’s brain for everything she had done to make the transition to professional in her first few years out of school. Imagine my disillusionment when the artist responded to my questions with “I don’t remember” and “I sort of fell backwards into a lot of opportunities.”

With that kind of guidance from peers, it’s no wonder that artists look to experts for direction, and the experts have noted the need. Our field has become so full of career coaches that there’s hardly room left for the people who actually make art. But, while these artist advocates may be filling a hole in their market, they aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be. No matter how researched and accomplished creative coaches may be, they still aren’t models of their expertise. They have to tell us what to do because they can’t show us how to do it.

Lee Pelton

Gwenn Seemel
President M Lee Pelton
acrylic on canvas
38 x 30 inches

In 2002, I may not have had a blueprint to go by, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to make the transition to professional. And this painting was my first step: it was my first business-minded artistic act. Not long after the disappointing artist lecture, I approached my University’s President about doing his portrait because I realized that adding a recognizable face to my portfolio would be vital to making a living as a portrait artist. This piece means a lot to me. It is a reminder of what it felt like to be starting out, casting about for artist role models.

When I started Face Making, I wanted my blog to be the opposite of what that visiting artist had been to me. I wanted it to be a way to share what I had learned over the years as well as everything I was still learning, but from the very beginning I was careful. I wrote in the first person instead of in the third.

Saying “you” makes what I write advice, and it separates me from my audience in an unnecessary way. It automatically turns me into a bit of a despot, giving orders and sounding patronizing. It also implies that I require that remove, that I need to prove that I’m an expert. On the other hand, saying “I” means speaking from experience. It means that I don’t ever have to be right—just right for me and informative for you.

- How to make a living as an artist
- On blogging and being a better artist
- The most important person in the world.

CATEGORIES: - English - Business of art -

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(5) Comments / Commentaires: The expert versus the model

-- joshua -- 2010 . 03 . 01 --

A huge distinction (you vs.I) that is esspecially important on the internet, which is FULL of impersonal advice and opinions NOT based on personal experience.
Personal experience by an expert is Rare on the net. Hence the need to go to this site and to refer other artists to it.

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-- Rick Huddle -- 2010 . 03 . 01 --

I worked with an artistic/biz coach. I got a lot out of it, but spent a LOT of money on it, too. I still have mixed feelings about it- esp when, a year after I quit working with her, she ended up taking a job away from me. It didn’t exactly feel like she had my best interests in mind, at that point.

part of me thinks that any time we spend a ton of energy, we get a lot- that the artistic coach can be a real sham. Just work, instead of spend money.

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-- Kelly in AK -- 2012 . 02 . 16 --

My transition includes (it’s not complete by any stretch of the imagination) not cheating myself when it comes to pricing and making sure my work is worth the price.  Archival or long lasting or durable depending on what the item is made of or how it will be used.

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-- Gala Gauthier -- 2016 . 05 . 12 --

I’m new to the blogs of Gwenn.
( I ) feel like what she is saying is not (this is how to do it ) but ( this is how I do it )
I like hearing her point of view … out of her eyes, how her skewed perspective changed from where she was standing in her life at that time she was observing it.
she (is) engaged in living out her life with us all in the petri dish.

To understand this .. we all have our own Skewed perspective.. that changes every time we turn the kaleidoscope. but I Love looking at the patterns it makes smile

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-- Gwenn -- 2016 . 05 . 12 --

Yes, Gala, that’s exactly my intention: not “this is how to do it” but “this is how I do it.” It’s interesting what you say about the petri dish, because I do view life as a kind of experiment and I do tend to be sort of scientific in how I approach my progress through the world. smile That said, I hope you don’t feel like I see you all in the petri dish but not me. I’m definitely in the petri dish too!

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