ONE OF THE DISTINCTIVE QUALITIES of our age for artists is the ability, the imperative, the norm of allowing viewers to see the development of ideas and technique over a period of years, in real time.
Cyberspace affords this generation of painters the possibility of sharing their process, giving audiences a rare, intimate opportunity to see how the work evolves.
There are serious drawbacks, of course. The computer or smartphone screen is woefully inadequate to presenting artwork, unless it is specifically created in and for the virtual world. Scale, texture, and smell of tangible paintings are indistinguishable online.
In the real world, a painting typically is exhibited on a wall, in a room with furniture and rugs, often enhanced with an artful frame, beautiful lighting, or both. In cyberspace, paintings are shorn of nuance or context.
Still, through cyberspace painters can reach more people today, more often, than any previous generation.
But there are risks for the painter. Personal and artistic development is uneven, for one thing, and mistakes are there for everyone to see.
Figuring out the best ways to post work online takes practice and time, and the technology’s limitations and possibilities are in constant flux.
The painter’s job becomes threefold: develop their art, learn how to make effective use of social media, and be an adept photographer of their work.
A poorly-exposed photo of a painting that turns out to be not as good as it first appeared, posted at a time of day when people are either not watching or who have recently had enough can be a waste of everyone’s time.
But in the end, the risks are worth it, and necessary, for both painter and audience. People get more and more of their information of the outside world online, especially culture, especially during the pandemic.
Yet for painters, there’s no substitute for experience. They can’t grow and learn how best to use the technology without plenty of practice, even if that means a few missteps along the way.
For viewers, the posts offer a unique running commentary on a painter’s life.
Not everything is a masterpiece, of course. But for better and worse, cyberspace is creating new ways to communicate, including a unique window into the mind of the artist and the creative process.