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One of a Kind

Right off the bat, I told my wife, Max, if this ever becomes a job, I’m going to quit. After twenty-seven years of painting, I’m having as much fun now as I had at the beginning. I’ve never been starved for inspiration, nor have I had what they call “artist’s block”.

I attribute this to several factors:

  1. I’ve always painted what excited me on any given day.

  2. I’ve always wanted to paint it “all”; landscapes, portraits, figures, still lifes, florals and historical pieces.

  3.  I’m remained an incurable romantic.

  4. I’ve painted from Florida to Alaska, and in developed and third world countries.

  5. My ongoing love affair with my sketchbooks. I’ve got dozens of them, full of paintings and drawings, from all around the world. I also have a stack of sketchbooks, with paintings and drawings done in bars, clubs, cafes, and concerts.

  6. I worked hard to get proficient in three different mediums, resulting in signature memberships in the National Watercolor Society, the Pastel Society of America and the Oil Painters of America.

  7. Finally: I’ve never let myself become too comfortable with any given subject matter or technique. I’ve always forced myself to evolve, and take on new challenges.

Now, I have to confess, the choice of this approach to my art, like all choices, has garnered some trade-offs - especially in the growth of my career.

How was I to know that folks in the art world, and galleries in particular, really prefer to have their artists in the smallest identifiable “box” possible? They love crap like, “Eric Michaels? Oh, yes, the artist that paints the kitty cats on the pianos”. It’s easy, comfortable, recognizable and certainly easier to market. They get a bit edgy when it comes to an artist with a variety of subject matter, several mediums and a style that changes as it evolves.

For a number of contemporary artists, the mere mention of their name conjures up a particular subject matter, a clever application of paint, or some aspect of their work that has always been consistent and easily recognizable. Or they will model their paintings after the signature approach of a famous deceased artist: i.e.: Sorolla’s women in white dresses, with parasols, walking on a beach, or Wyeth type watercolors etc. I call this the “better idea” syndrome. The artist finds a unique formula and they ride it to success. Some of my close artist friends have done this, and have faired very well. I don’t make them wrong. There’s plenty of room out there for everybody.

Although the “better idea syndrome” can prove to be the fast track to success, I’ve noticed, there are some inherent problems. Some of my good friends who have employed this approach for years have grown a bit weary of producing virtually the same painting over and over. Their product has produced fame, wealth and a fabulous lifestyle, but the carousel is spinning, and they can’t get off. I wish I had a nickel for each time one of them has told me how much they wish they could paint something else.

The point is this: There are a lot of superb artists out there with fabulous techniques, and attractive “better ideas”. Beware of being seduced into wanting to be just like them.  Be an artist, not an artisan. You were born with a unique artistic voice.  No one will ever see the world through your eyes. No one will ever experience “what is” the way you do. Your distinctive contribution to the world of art enriches all of us for all time. You were born an original – don’t end up a copy. Take what you can from past and present masters, and amalgamate that into your own inimitable expression. Paint it “all”, and have fun!

Happy painting!