By Carolyn Edlund
What’s the secret behind creating art that inspires interest, excitement and conversation?
In my everyday work, I’m exposed to a lot of work that artists are currently making. And in looking at artwork every day, I see a lot of sameness. Similar subject matter, similar styles and themes. It can become a blur after a while. Yet many artists want their work to be memorable, to shine – and to stand out from the pack.
What gives art that “Wow factor” that causes your audience to sit up and take notice? What is that elusive quality that transcends the usual and makes your work truly remarkable? Seth Godin defines remarkable as being “beyond the edge”. Would you agree?
Does your work elicit remarks, and start conversations? Consider these artists, whose work is noteworthy:
Element of Surprise
Chris Maynard’s work is remarkable in large part because of the unusual material he works with – feathers. Add to this the complexity of working at a very small scale. Using eye surgery tools to cut and manipulate each element, he creates scenes depicting birds, often with a theme of transformation echoing the way he has transformed the feathers themselves.
Glen Kessler’s paintings are remarkable because they are not what they appear to be at first glance. Every abstract landscape turns out to be a closeup of a computer motherboard. His body of work makes a statement about technology integrating into every aspect of our lives.
Finding a Niche
Artist Bobbi Mastrangelo has created her own remarkable body of work based on sewers and drains, which are not popular subjects with artists. She has unswervingly devoted her career to recognizing the unseen beauty in grates, manhole covers and other mundane parts of publicity utility infrastructure. Her work has garnered an audience in that niche, and also landed her art in several museums devoted to the industry.
Mark Schwartz paints watercolors of high heels, and is widely known not only because his work appeals to shoe lovers, but his background as a shoe designer fits in perfectly with his theme. He has broadened his audience by doing what he does very well, understanding why his work is loved, and why it sells.
Memorable artists often exhibit a highly recognizable style which is theirs alone, and produce a considerable body of work in that style for greater impact. View artist Barbara Rachko’s colorful and vibrant Latin-inspired emotionally charged images and you’ll know that when you see her work again, you will recognize it.
Janice Shoultz-Mudd paints serene aerial landscapes, remarkable not only for their beauty, but the concept that inspired them – the earth as viewed on Google maps and from the Hubble Telescope. This style not only appeals to the art lover, but those left-brained potential collectors who can see how she transcends the mundane map and makes it into art.
Power of Personality
Free spirit Kat O’Sullivan of Katwise has a huge fan base for her popular handmade capes and costumes, and a backstory that draws in followers. As a world-traveling hitchhiker who once drifted from one Grateful Dead concert to the next and now owns a rainbow house, her story is an integral part of the purchase of her work.
Humble and unassuming, artist Roger Wood expresses an irresistible eccentricity in his work. His love of old gears, clocks and gadgets inspires him to create fantasy assemblages that resonate with fans. Roger’s public persona is that of a mad inventor with a sense of childlike wonder.
Remarkable art may have any or all of these characteristics, or others. It may be connected to a cause, be monumental in size, or the result of an innovative technique invented by the artist. Remarkable art works on several levels, with a concept that is deeper and more meaningful than what initially meets the eye.
Which artists come to mind who you think are remarkable? Why?