Point of view is more important than raw talent
I was at the Broad Museum this week. It’s a gallery in downtown that displays modern art, which apparently isn’t very modern at all.
Did you know that modern art includes works created from the 1890s to 1970s, while contemporary art includes art created from the 1970s to now?
Isn’t that weird?
Modern art isn’t actually modern at all and contemporary art eventually won’t be contemporary. That’s crazy to me.
I waited two hours in the heat to get into this gallery and honestly, it was one of the most worthwhile lines of my life. I was blown away with the quality of the work.
There were mixed media pieces hung in the gallery. There were enormous chairs. There was one painting that was just a flat green. There were metallic balloon animals twenty feet tall.
The thing is, the work wasn’t necessarily good. I mean none of it measured up technically to Frank Miller or even Frank Cho. They are technically gifted artists making incredibly proficient art. The artists at the Broad couldn’t hold a candle to them in raw talent alone.
I felt something at each piece in that gallery, but it wasn’t about the technical proficiency of the work. What I saw had a point of view. Everything was meant to evoke an emotion or comment on the human condition. Every bio of every artist talked about the themes in their work and the commentary they were making on the world.
The Broad artists reminded me of zine heads. I love zines. Even though they aren’t as technically proficient as most mainstream comic artists, they mean more to me because they are so much more personal.
There was only one painter in that gallery with technical skill that could rival the masters.
He did a painting of a face that looked like it could have been a photograph…and it was hidden in the back corner of the gallery at the end of a long hallway. If you know anything about gallery hangings, that is not an important spot.
Meanwhile, the artist who just painted green on a canvas was hung at eye level when you entered one of the main gallery rooms. A painting hung at eye level across from a doorway is considered an important spot.
So while one artist was more technically talented, a painting of flat green background was hung in a more prominent spot in this very prestigious gallery.
Point of view. That green background painting talked to minimalism, calming your mind, and cutting out distractions.
The other painting was nice to look at, but there was no point outside of its own beauty.
That got me thinking about our own careers and why some very technically proficient artists can’t get work while some others have no problem rising through the ranks.
Then it dawned on me. It comes back to point of view.
It’s hard to have a point of view when you are starting out, but that’s what gets people over the top. Readers want to feel something. People are emotional beings.
The artists who chase fans fade. Some of the most talented artists I know can’t sell a single painting because they have no point of view.
The ones with a point of view stick around, even if they aren’t as technically talented as others. Look at Frank Cho, love him or hate him that man he has a point in his work.
There is a point to Frank Miller’s work. Alan Moore’s stuff means something. Jhonen Vasquez was trying to say something with his work. Skottie Young has a point of view, as do Neal Adams and Darwyn Cooke.
You can see it all over their work and that’s why they stand out from the rest. So don’t be scared to say something with your art, because it’s in saying something that you evoke a reaction. It’s in evoking a reaction that leads people to be drawn to your work.
When people say “You aren’t anybody until you have haters,” it’s not because haters are good. It’s because hate is an emotion. If you can evoke that emotion, it means you evoke others like love from people as well.
So I ask you, what is your point of view?
Russell Nohelty is a writer, consultant, and publisher. The books he publishes through Wannabe Press will rock your socks off, and the knowledge bombs he drops on The Business of Art are so intense you might get radiation poisoning.