Art Market Blog – Interview with Artist Brad Bannister
When collecting or investing in art is is just important to understand and appreciate the world of the artist as it is to have an understanding of the art market. In order to give you all an insight into the world of the artist I interviewed the very successful abstract painter Brad Bannister whose website can be found here:
Interview with artist Brad Bannister:
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I have always been interested in art, I’m left-handed,
extremely visual in my perception and personality,
so my interest in art is probably partially biological.
I worked many years trying different media and styles
as I went. Developing a personal style for me has been
very tough over the years because of my natural
curiosity and tendency to overindulge that curiosity.
I was curious about too many media and styles so
my focus was diffuse, rather superficial in it’s
development. I scattered myself over painting,
prints, ceramics, sculpture, castings . . . I experimented
all the time. I did some good work, had some shows
and made some sales along the way but it took
nearly 40 years to get to where I am now. I feel much
more resolved about my work now than even five or ten
years ago. I’m working with an increasingly strong
vision, and feel above my questions and doubts now,
instead of below them. I can get into the creative zone
very quickly now. I know what I am going to do and
I can execute with real command. I struggled and
worried over the years as my style changed like an
amoeba. I produced unevenly, making half
statements, etc. – now I essentially feel on top of
the world with my work. As I examine my progress
and the progress of many other artists I see that this
kind of development is necessary and somewhat common.
How do you handle the business side of being an artist?
Not at all well. Again I tried a little of everything, with
occasional small successes here and there. I joined artist
associations, got some group shows, went to art fairs,
put on small studio shows, bothered galleries both small
and large, and even started my own website. But considering
the incoherence and vacillation in my style over those
years it is probably better that I did not get a lot of serious
exposure. Although I see that many major artists have
gotten early exposure for very unmemorable work however,
and it did not seem to hurt their careers. If you look
at the works of Max Beckmann, Kenneth Noland,
Jackson Pollock, Antoni Tapies and most other notable
artists you will see that they were getting recognition
early in their careers for completely unrelated styles that
lacked most of the power of their mature and celebrated
works. While their production was usually journeyman
in quality, it was more academic or experimental in
style, with as many problems as strengths. But as
for now, as soon as I finish my next series, I will make
the rounds once again to get good representation at a
solid gallery that can handle nonobjective paintings.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
My next series of paintings is in my head at present.
I will begin to get all my plans onto canvas in the Spring.
It is always exciting to work now. I don’t have to deal
with much frustration. When I begin, I know I can hit
a very good level of execution, and I will get to capitalize
on the surprises that always come up in the more
spontaneous parts of my working methods. This next
series of canvases will range from about 16″ x 20″ up
to 60″ x 48″ and 60″ x 84″. I am using a mixture of
techniques that I have mastered over the years, but I
will be ordering them in some new ways.
I have always preferred to produce a painting that
has some symmetry with the more powerful movements
found in a logo or an emblem or a sign. My interest
in textures, color and contrasts give the works a
lot of presence, but I am producing work that can
be seen in different settings very well. And over the
years I have tried to push toward a style that gives the
viewer an impacting experience whether they look at the
work from two feet or fifty feet. For me this makes
the work more dynamic and interesting than if it
can only be appreciated from one particular distance.
Lighting is a big item for me – I always try to produce
work that holds up under different lighting situations,
whether daylight, incandescent, halogen
mixtures, even partly fluorescent.
What has been the most significant event in your artistic career?
The most significant events in my artistic career have to do with
learning how to see a work of art. Without that kind of visual
learning I could not have progressed in seeing or creating art.
The best ways I have learned this ability is by conversation with
mature artists and gallerists who took the time to talk about
a work of art with me.
Most of those experiences were about the works of
other artists, but sometimes with my own work at an
exhibition or an informal visit to my studio. When
people who have a real understanding or well
developed taste for composition talk freely about
how they experience a work, it’s an education.
If that kind of expert or master enjoys questions
and discussion of their opinions, then it gets even
better. In developing this vision and my creative style I
preferred hearing the opinions of many different
experts because I could analyze by comparison
with my own experiences and that of several others.
What advice would you give to anyone aiming to become a full time artist?
The word ‘artist’ may need some definition here.
Some people feel that an artist’s career can include
teaching art or doing design work for a greetings
card company or a swimming pool contractor.
If you just want a full time job in a somewhat creative
field, then I would say go for it. But if being a full time
artist means selling your work is your only income -
then you better be rich or financially supported by
someone else. The alternative to that is doing anything
anyone asks for enough money to eat while you write
grants and sponsorships forms in all your spare time.
Most creative people, especially artists need to have a
real job and paint in their spare time. That may not be
the high status, romantic notion of the life of a struggling
artist but it’s a necessity. Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir,
Picasso et al had summer jobs, alternative careers, or
supportive families who took the very long shot on their
careers. Most artists, even very good artists, unhappily
lose money year after year. If you want to create art
at the very highest level that you are capable of
producing, then I recommend that you be realistic
from the very beginning. You must learn to appreciate
art by studying it. You must learn your techniques by
emulating the artists that are closest to your own
aspirations, an apprenticeship may be better than
an art degree for this. Then you must begin to
differentiate yourself from those favorite artists with
the strongest, most personal style that you are
capable of developing. Never be ashamed of your
sincere and hard work. Never be afraid to
change if it helps you to improve in your own opinion.
Listen only to people who you feel strengthen your
work. If you do this you will have the strength of
purpose to ignore fads, trends, quick money, stupid
advice and manipulation long enough to develop yourself
into a powerful artist, whether or not you get recognition
by a superficial media or a self-interested art
establishment. This may sound like Rudyard
Kipling’s poem, ‘If’ – I hope that it does.
Could you suggest some websites that artists might find useful?
Websites are really good for getting a quick look
at a broad selection of art. And you can usually
send a contact message to the artist, writer or
gallerist for questions or to make suggestions.
I use my website to serve as a portfolio for anyone
interested in seeing images of my recent work – http://abstractpainting-bannister.com . I seldom
make direct sales from that website although I
have sold a few every year over the years that way.
Most artists find that a website helps them
communicate with viewers, potential buyers, galleries
and other artists worldwide. The internet has
made a lot of things possible that were not available
to artists of even ten years ago. My favorite galleries
often have good websites – an example of that
would be Stephen Haller at http://www.stephenhaller.com/ .
The best way to find good art websites is by
typing in a search phrase on Google for whatever you
want: art supplies, art services, contemporary art
museum, modern art gallery, abstract painting, art
auctions, art colleges, etc. Just drag and drop
the icons from your favorite sites and you will
soon have a custom made library that you
can reference whenever you want. There has
been a flood of new photographer websites on
the web too if you like photographic arts. For a
banner ad to get viewers to my website I use
CAG Magazine at http://www.cagzine.com. I pay $6 per
month and get quite a bit of traffic that way. I do not
recommend Ebay as a place to look, show or buy.
I have tried it and I know many other artists who tried
it years ago. Over the last several years it has
degenerated into a very low quality way to see,
show or buy art. Also here are the websites of
some of my artist friends: Fritz Scholder
( http://www.scholder.com/) Frank Williams
( http://www.frankwilliams.ru/) Peter Reginato
Shawn McNulty ( http://www.shawnmcnulty.com/),
and Anne Stahl ( http://www.annestahl.com/).
Image: “Resort” by Brad Bannister
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.