jim was once rejected by a gallery that only wanted american artists trained in florence.
separately, he tells of the head of an art department at one of the universities around here, who paints just like the head of his art department did when he was a graduate student in the mid ’80s, who in turn learned to paint like the head of his art department did back in the early ’60s, who was taught by guy back in the late ’40s who’d learned to paint back in the early ’30s. an image search of their works illustrated the pedigree.
sometimes when you get art instruction, you’re volunteering to learn to paint just like they do, and when you go out into the world to spread your knowledge, you’re following the conventions of the art school you went to. in this sense, you’ve bought into a franchise.
the painters trained in florence all look like florentine painters, they all have that slick, atmospheric, romantic thing going on. and painters trained as fantasy artists have a different slick atmospheric romantic thing happening. people who learned from the once-ubiquitous walter foster books still paint that way. people who learned to paint with bob ross make happy trees.
it’s understandable that we would find franchises in the art world. we find them everywhere else. people love franchises. they offer security and a ready market. you know exactly where you are, you can compare and compete with people on exactly the same playing field, using the same rules and conventions – you have a whole community of like-minded people doing what you do, following an established path to success. that’s why there are so many tax preparers. and office workers. even being homeless is a franchise these days.
there are a million different franchises to choose from, no matter what your practice, be it making money or making art. but you don’t have to play the franchise game at all, you can practice your own unique brand of outsider art and be completely fulfilled doing that. doing whatever you find the burning need to do.
the thing about franchises is the standard of work they require. some folks just can’t meet that standard. something about them, something physical, but usually something mental or temperamental, some disability prevents them from performing the task competently, repetitively, exactly as prescribed every time. and these people are usually spit out by the franchise system and left to make it on their own.
the failures and cripples that don’t measure up to the franchise standard fall into three basic categories. there are the true failures and cripples who become subsumed in their addiction of choice and fall by the wayside. then there are the vast numbers of people who hold down shit jobs – the guys on the discount warehouse loading dock – who spend their energy mindlessly for minimum wage, and do all their living and networking, all their creative work, outside of their day jobs, with friends and colleagues who sell their energy to the man.
a few franchise-disabled people become stars precisely because of their inability to be like everybody else in a franchise group. they may not be acceptable to franchises, but they have too much drive to float around, and so they create something themselves.
but for that vast sea of people who don’t come up to the standards of existing franchises, it could be that it’s just a branding issue. a franchise like dragon.con is a case in point. they were a bunch of geeks and freaks who decided to hold a convention every year for people who don’t fit in. and 45,000 of them bought tickets to this year’s convention. if there were an idea that attracted all these franchise outsiders, they’d line up to join. it would have to be a brand of cripples and failures, but if the rules were loose enough…