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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Preserving the Artist's Mystique

Be Mused

Preserving the Artist's Mystique: Don't Bother

Artist's Mystique - Salvador DaliDear Muse,

I was thinking of putting parts of my artist's sketchbook online at my art website, but my friend thinks that this would be a mistake. Her reasoning was that that it would 1) take away from the artist's "mystique" and kill what could be a potential buyer's piqued interest, and 2) miss an opportunity to "hook" a buyer or potential buyer by giving them private glimpses of the artist's sketchbook and making them feel part of an exclusive club. What are your thoughts?

There have been plenty of artists — especially modern artists — who've gone to great lengths to make themselves seem more alluring and distinctive. One of the most noteworthy is Salvador Dali, and, although it is widely believed that he was simply insane, I'm not so sure. He continually and masterfully cultivated his own mystique. Dali once wore a boiled lobster on his head for a press conference, and, at the Sorbonne in Paris, he lectured with his foot immersed in a pail of milk. Moreover, as Carol Strickland writes in The Annotated Mona Lisa, "At the 1936 London Surrealist exhibit, Dali made a striking entrance with two White Russian wolfhounds. Wearing a diving suit topped by a Mercedes radiator cap, Dali began to lecture. Since the suit was bolted shut no one could hear him. The seal was also nearly airtight, so Dali began to gasp for breath, flailing his arms and begging the audience to extricated him. The spectators — thrilled with this exhibition of asphyxiation — applauded wildly until someone finally popped his lid off. All agreed the performance was highly convincing."

I suspect your friend believes that artists whose lives and work seem difficult to comprehend (or, in your case, even access!) are "deep" thinkers to be held in high esteem by an elite few. Her heart's probably in the right place; after all, she just wants your art to appear as valuable and unique to buyers as possible. But many artists who rely too much on appearances are simply trying to compensate for their own lack of raw talent, and I doubt you want to be perceived in that way.

Besides, you have more pressing concerns than preserving the artist's mystique. If you're an artist just starting out, hiding your work in hopes of appearing more mysterious — and thereby more desirable — is especially risky. After all, how can a potential buyer's interest be piqued if he doesn't know you have something to sell him?

By doing your very best work and putting your sketches online, you can showcase your artistic style and, hopefully, attract new buyers in the process. In the interest of compromise, you might consider putting up only a few sketches at a time and showing the rest by appointment only. If you do decide to put your sketches and photos of finished works online, don't forget to include your copyright notice, and use only small, low-resolution images to discourage illegal copies.

I don't want you to be too caught up with your Internet concerns because there is still no substitute for showing your work in person, in real-time. Get your art — and your name — out in the community by landing some exhibits in local coffee houses and art galleries. To this end, you might also donate select works to charity auctions. In general, focus more on the quality of your work rather than your own image and success will surely follow. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

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