Saturday, 24 August 2013

A few thought about Jack Vettriano

Jack Vettriano
Every one knows who Jack Vettriano is, he consistently outsells other artists both in original work and in limited edition prints of his work. He is one of the most commercially successful artists of all 

( above a couple of the seaside scenes he is so famous for)

He comes from a working class mining family, he has never had any formal artistic training and no one from his family has ever ventured into the art world before. As artists go, his commercial success is phenomenal . He has one other distinction, he is shunned by most critics and galleries, his work is not hung in any of the major galleries and it’s very difficult to find any serious art critic who has any thing good to say about his work.

So… where do I stand on this?? Well I never paid much attention to his work, obviously I’ve seen it, who hasn’t? Initially I thought there was something slightly, nostalgically appealing about his work, (or at least the ones that haven’t descended into some sort of school boy, fantasy, soft porn). Not that there is any thing wrong with school boy, fantasy soft porn, its just that not being a school boy, it’s not really my cup of tea. However; once I began taking a closer look, I could see where the critics are coming from. Viewed close up, I understood why it’s been called ‘painting by numbers’. I still think that ‘painting by numbers’ snipe is particularly cruel but I understand why it was said.  His work IS reminiscent of that old childhood favourite. 
It is  particularly noticeable in paintings like this one, look at the shirt, the hair, the ‘shadow’ on her face, even the pattern of light left by the lamps, that shirt in particular is exactly what I remember from my old painting by number sets. It used to fascinate me the way you could fill in blocks of colour using a colour chart and end up with something that, from a distance, looked like  shading and shadow.  In fact this particular painting almost looks like comic book art. Not that there is any thing wrong with comic book art, providing its not masquerading a something else.  I also looked at some of figures, and I have to say, some of them are quite anatomically incorrect. 
This young woman has the most peculiar neck and shoulders I’ve ever seen. I know sometimes artists DO draw figures that are anatomically incorrect, but this man only paints figures, he specializes in figure painting, and he has done enough by now to learn how to draw them properly. Anyhow, the point is, I understand why critics dismiss his work and seem irritated that it is so popular. I understand why major art galleries reject his work despite is appeal with the public.


And that was more or less my critique of him, and then I watched this video documentary. This is the whole thing from YouTube split into 4 sections, I know people don’t have the time view an hour long documentary but if you dip into it, listen to some of the things he says, you will understand why I came to have a grudging respect for the man and his art
He comes over as a genuinely nice man, a very down to earth man, a self taught man who comes from a humble background with no ties past or present to the art world. He explains how he started painting by meticulously making copies of old impressionist paintings. He became relatively good at copying and started to think about creating his own original work. He claims to have had no style of his own or any idea of subject matter. From what he says I think this romantic, nostalgic style was not a gradual development from something else, he thought about what he would like to paint, thought about what makes him happy and then thought… ‘’I know’ women and romance’, that’s what makes me happy so that’s what I’ll paint’’. I think that’s a simplified version of his thought processes but it’s more or less how he ended up painting as he does. He has been criticized for copying figures for his earlier paintings from old artists copy books, they were books filled with photos, drawings and designs ready for commercial artists to copy from. These days people just use the internet. He has no shame about using these books; his attitude is … so what?? That’s what the books were intended for. These days he pays a photographer to take specific photos of models, whom he also pays. He then uses the photographs to paint from. He says he likes to paint from photograph, he likes to get to know the model, he chooses their clothes, chooses the location of the photo shoot and then goes with them on location. But he doesn’t want the model sitting next to him for days on end while he paints. He likes to paint in his own home on his own. I completely relate to all of that. That’s exactly how I like to paint, from a photo, preferable one I’ve taken myself, at home, alone, usually on my kitchen table with the front door locked and the phone disconnected. Yes………..I relate to his working method.
I also admire his attitude toward the critics. His attitude seems to be; ‘At least I’m out there doing it, I’ve got what it takes to do what I want to do and make a success of it. I’m not hurting any one, I’m earning an honest living and I don’t just sit around criticizing others. He is proud of himself and what he has achieved. I think he is proud of the fact that he has achieved world recognition without any formal training and without any help from any one. And for that I think he deserves to be proud of himself. His attitude is who cares if you don’t like my work, I like it and my millions of fans world wide like it. 

I think he is someone I would like to meet. I also think he is someone I would like and respect. I may never hold his work in such high esteem as his fans do, but that doesn’t really matter. He is happy, his millions of fans worldwide are happy, he is one of todays most successful artists, he is earning a more than decent living doing what makes him happy without exploiting anyone plus his work ethic appears to be as intact now as it was when he was a miner. What more can you ask?

Every one has seen his work, there are probably more of his contemporary prints in homes and offices across the world that any other artist dead or alive. He is somewhat of a phenomenon. He is loved by his public and equally despised by the established art world. 

This is the painting of Kara Tointon, the actress he painted in the documentary, Its called, Suddenly one Summer.

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