Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pastel, Oil? - Don't Pigeonhole the Artist

Red Rock Evening, 12x9 pastel
Up for auction!  Starting at $75
Click to view/bid

Not too long ago,  I visited a gallery and struck up a conversation with the manager.  I was there just to look at art; I wasn't planning to try to get into the gallery.  But of course, when you talk to the manager, you want to give her your card.

She looked at my card and said, "Oh, we're not looking for a pastel painter at the moment."

But wait - I also paint in oil!  Although the card clearly states I paint in both oil and pastel, maybe she saw the letters "PSA" and "MPAC" after my name first.  Or, maybe my reputation preceded me.

Regardless, she pigeonholed me as "just" a pastel painter.

I've run into a similar situation with pastel groups when I approach them for lectures or workshops.  Sometimes I hear, "Don't you mostly paint in oil?"  They've pigeonholed me as "just" an oil painter.  I'm a little mystified at this, as I don't have OPA after my name.  Perhaps it's because people aren't seeing as many pastels from me these days on my blog.  (I've included a few recent pastel pieces in this blog to let everyone know I still paint in pastel.)

Porch Time, 5x7 pastel

The Barn in the Landscape, 5x7 pastel

I can honestly say that about half my output is pastel, and the other half, oil.  Maybe I do have a slight preference for pushing around paint, but I happily paint in either.  I'm a strong believer in variety, and when I get tired of pastel, I move to oil, and vice versa.

But it's easy to be pigeonholed.  Writers struggle with this all the time.  A novelist pens a series of  blockbuster crime novels, but when he writes a romance, no publishing house will touch it for fear of hurting a successful brand. That's why writers use pen names.  Some very successful, prolific writers have several.  Crime writer Lawrence Block, for example, wrote as Chip Harrison, Paul Kavanagh, Lee Duncan and Sheldon Lord, among others.

Maybe painters should have different pen names - or perhaps brush names - for different media.  From a marketing standpoint, it really is about branding.

By the way, speaking of writing, you might not know that I was a professional science fiction and fantasy author of short fiction before I became a professional painter.  I even had a short story personally selected by Marion Zimmer Bradley for her popular anthology series, Sword & Sorceress.  More recently, I self-published a novel, Dream Sector, which you can read about here.  I wrote it under my pen name, Mac Braxton.

But maybe I shouldn't tell you about my fiction writing; it might affect my brand.

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