Thursday, January 14, 2021

Letters to a young artist: The nature of praise


Dear Young Artist:

One of my co-workers is a birder. And so if I am trying to identify a particular bird I took a picture of, or if I have a particularly good picture of, for instance, a hawk, I might show him the picture. Other animal pictures come up as well. For instance I showed him a picture of a coyote I took as well. He was so impressed with that one that he said this to me:

You could sell these pictures!

In more than forty years of making art I have heard this comment countless times. It seems very flattering. And I suppose it is flattering, in its tiny, tiny way. It is a comment you may hear many times in your pursuit of a life in the arts.

But it's a paltry comment. It is a paltry comment because it splits the difference between the two comments you will actually want to hear:

That's beautiful.


I would like to buy that.


And it admits, nor rises to neither.


  1. I have seen photos of yours that I would pay money for, i.e. buy, if the price were reasonable. I'm thinking primarily of birds, maybe flowers. I even know where in the apartment I would hang a series of four or five or maybe six framed 5x8s. Seriously.

    1. That's such a nice thing to say.

      How would "free" be as a price?


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.