Print or Not to Print – The Dilemma of the Artist

For years I advised artists that once they commit to sell limited edition prints of their work they have set a course for their careers.  To some degree I still believe this, but now it seems easier to navigate the line of “Blue Chip Artist” and “Print Artist.”

First of all, there really isn’t a wrong decision as long as one is informed.  However, there is a wrong decision if your goal is to get into the finest art galleries worldwide while you are making a mark as an artist who derives his or her primary income from limited edition print sales.  In a nutshell, it wont happen.  Nevertheless, artist Jess Black has decided to sell prints of his work and remain on track to be tomorrow’s blue-chip artist.

Jess Black’s paintings are typically 48×60 in dimension.  They’re relatively large pieces on canvas and he’s fairly prolific.  The decision was made to release about four prints per year with each print being limited to 25 in the edition.  Furthermore, each piece will be Imageprinted as a 20×16 on paper.  There is no competition with the originals in both medium/substrate and price.  The most important factor here is that the exclusivity of the prints make them feel like a rare opportunity and he is not inundating the market with limited edition prints.  Furthermore, he is not establishing a reputation of being a print artist.  The latter being the most important.

Followers of Black have been asking for prints for a couple years now.  There has been reluctance to produce prints for reasons already discussed.  However, carefully managed we can open up Jess’ collector base and keep his work, originals and prints, exclusive. After all, several of his pieces have already been selected by Leigh & Luca – New York to become fashion scarves.  This collection is being released in June 2013 with 100% of proceeds benefiting animal rescue organizations.  People have lined up to buy the scarves with plans of framing them.  This led us to the inescapable conclusion that limited edition prints were in too much of a demand to ignore it.

Each of the limited edition pieces will be printed on high quality archival paper with a one inch border.  Jess will hand sign and number each piece as it is prepared for shipping or delivery. Each fine art print will arrive in a protective sleeve with a certificate of authenticity.  For more information visit his website at www.jessblackart.com

Jess Black and Jean-Michel Basquiat Comparisons Subside

Several years ago when Jess Black began to realize that art could be his career and his profile began to grow, inevitable comparisons to Basquiat started occurring.  Jess, who was at the time not familiar with Basquiat, quietly thanked people for what he assumed to be a compliment and then moved on.  Early on Jess made it a point not to become familiar with the works of those before him out of concern that his own work would become influenced.  He wanted his work to find its own path and to mature in its own way.

As Black’s career began to soar the comparisons grew with more frequency.  Eventually Jess watched a documentary on Basquiat.  Black understood some of the comparisons, but felt that his work was nothing like Basquiat’s.   Many have acknowledged the unique approach between the artists but have also stated that there is a similar “flavor” with Black and Basquiat.  They tell a similar story but their individual life experiences result in a unique telling of that story.  Here we let the readers decide if the piece by Basquiat (right) has any similarities in style to an early piece by Black (below).  If there are similarities, they do not end here.  Perhaps the most common comparison is something that Black feels is very personal to him and something from which he will not shy away.

Many have written to Black asking why he paints a crown next to his signature on his paintings.  The story is that Black was raised for most of his childhood as one of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”  Abandoning the religion at age 17, he moved to New York City.  One of his first friends and roommate at the time was Nakia Syvonne Secrest.  She had given him a gift. Black states, “I think it was my 18th or 19th Birthday.  Our group of friends were all young, poor models, actors, musicians and artists.  Her gift to me was an old copy of Le Petit Prince and she wrote a personal note inside the cover.  Nakia said he reminded her of me.  It was my first Birthday present that I could remember and I appreciated it so much that I had the crown tattooed on my arm the next year. So there you go, that is where the crown on my arm and in the signature of my paintings comes from.   To this day it is one of the more special gifts I have received.”  The crown to the right is hand painted by Black and is the logo for his company, Jess Black Fine Art, with business partner Jeff Steck.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, 20 years earlier, also used a crown next to or above his signature in nearly all of his paintings.  Basquiat’s crown was a tribute to himself and to all of the characters and influences in his paintings.  But with similar styles and nearly identical marks, how could anyone not make the comparison to Black’s work.

As Black’s career progresses the comparisons are becoming fewer and further between. The forthcoming launch of the new art collection, Leather Bound in Black or Red, is a personal journey about Black’s religious upbringing.  With most of the collection now completed, Jess is realizing that these paintings transcend his personal experience.  While each piece is specific to Black’s life, the collection is resonating with others who have also felt trapped pretending to be someone they are not.  These paintings will explore societal limitations but celebrate liberation.  This collection is for all people who have endured an unauthentic life out of fear of rejection.

Information about Black’s newest collection will be released on Sunday, December 18, 2011.   For additional information on Jess Black please visit www.jessblackart.com

Removing the Uncertainty of Buying Art

First and foremost buy what you love

If you see something you love, buy it; don’t worry about whether it goes with your colorscheme.  Any high end interior design magazine will provide examples of this fact.  Art is art and works regardless of your decor choices.  If you need it to match you can always repaint a room or the wall on which the painting will be hung. Repainting is easy, but finding a piece of art that you love is not.

Mix up eras and styles

Again, don’t be restricted by your home decor. There’s no rule that says you can’t put modern art in a traditional setting, or vice versa.  Some of the most amazing homes have a wide collection of art.  The variety in genres is more interesting.

Size matters

Keep proportion in mind when you buy art for a particular spot. A small painting, for example, looks out of place on a big wall.  Be familiar with the dimension range when you are looking for art to go into a particular space.  Most serious art collectors buy what they love regardless of size and make it work after the fact.

Buying for investment?

Don’t buy art just because someone says it’s a good investment; there’s no way of ensuring that it will increase in value.  It’s almost like buying stock.  If you are buying hoping for increased value you need to consider how long the artist has been working, plans for his or her professional future and any significant changes in the art’s current value.  For example, while Jess Black has been painting for many years, he has only seriously been working as a career artist for a year and a half.  He has still not reached the pique of his career.  Over a year ago paintings were selling for $2,000 that today comparable pieces would sell for $3,800.   Nevertheless, If you’re going to buy art make sure it’s on a piece you really love.

Does the amount of time it took the artist to create the painting affect value?

No, not really.  Artistic endeavors are usually mood driven and sometimes paintings are created naturally and quickly because the artist feels especially inspired.  For example, a painting that Pablo Picasso created in under a day sold at auction for $106.5 million.  If the painting is good, regardless of the time it took to create, it will be a good purchase.

Is Jess Black an Apostate?

For most people the idea of an art collection that challenges religious doctrine is not particularly ground breaking.  However, after multiple failed attempts at reaching out to several support groups for former Jehovah’s Witnesses I began scratching my head.  I realized that it is quite possible that no one has ever openly challenged the practices taught within this religion out of fear of losing even more than what they have already lost.

When we distributed a press release in August about the theme of this collection it was immediately picked up by Jehovah’s Witness groups as well as anti-Jehovah’s Witness groups.  Our website (jessblackart.com) experienced over a 1000% increase in unique hits.  I checked it three times.  The JW groups shared it with their followers but essentially had no comment.  However, we received several private messages about apostacy.  You take the good with the bad.  The anti-JW groups commented on Jess Black’s bravery in actually calling the religion a cult.  Still others would comment how nice it was that a former JW has made something of his life.  For someone like me who was raised very loosely as a Presbyterian (so loosely I had to verify spelling) the controversy of someone leaving a religion or speaking out against it did not resonate.  I mean, haven’t celebrities made careers of rebelling against Catholicism?

Jess has repeatedly told me, and I believe him, that I will not completely understand because I was raised very differently.  He explains, “When you are part of this religion it becomes your entire life, it’s not just a Sunday thing.  There are definitely good things about it, but overall I wasn’t buying what they were selling.   Because you are not allowed to socialize with others outside of the religion you become somewhat sheltered.  When one wants to leave the religion the church teaches all the others to shun you.  This shunning includes your parents and sibling and all of your friends.  It is believed that the fear shunning instills will bring you back into the religion.  Otherwise, you can find yourself suddenly cut off.   No one ever really says that they are shunning someone but instead would describe people who question their faith or leave the religion as having the wrong or bad heart condition.  As a child I never understood why God would choose to afflict one person over another with a good or bad heart.  Early in my teen years I realized that most of this was bullshit.  I faked it for years.  At age 17 I told my parents just that.  Oh, I also told them I was gay.  I was scared, but staying and living a lie was scarier to me.  I dealt with about six months of hell and moved to New York on my own before my 18th birthday.  I have no idea how I had the guts to do that.  I left the religion before I was formally labeled an apostate or anything like that.   I too have opinions about what is right and what is wrong.”

Heart Condition is the name of Jess’ latest painting, which explores the struggle of deciding to stay within the religion or breaking free and becoming your own person.  This is all part of the “Leather Bound in Black or Red” collection.

As the collection grows it can be viewed at http://www.jessblackart.com.   Exhibition plans in Los Angeles are tentatively scheduled for November 2011.

Jess Black: Examining an Authentic Life

The launch of the new art collection, Leather Bound in Black or Red?, is a personal journey about Artist Jess Black’s religious upbringing.  With two paintings completed, Black is realizing that this collection transcends his personal experience.  While each piece is specific to Black’s life, the collection is resonating with others who have felt trapped pretending to be someone they are not.  These paintings will explore societal limitations but celebrate liberation.  This collection is for all people who have endured an unauthentic life out of fear of rejection.

The newest painting reveals Black living a life of oppression, conforming to arbitrary standards that force him to swallow his own truth.  A truth that if discovered will result in his abandonment and end his life as he knows it. Dressed in his Sunday best, Black replaced his head with a programmed television.  Painted in the lower right corner of the television is the word “Propaganda.”  The faint depiction of his face in the monitor is marred with tape placed over his mouth to silence “his truth” from being proclaimed.  His body is that of a goat, because in Matthew 25:32 it reads “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides His sheep from the goats.”  Note that it is not His sheep and His goats.  It reads that sheep will go to heaven for being His followers and goats will be condemned for turning away from God.  Unknowingly by others, Jess is taught that he is a goat, though assumed to be a sheep.  He does his best to hide his truth in his best sheep’s clothing.

As we look beyond his body we see stacks of houses.  Each house has been visited door to door.  There are houses of those saved and houses, marked with a red X, of those who will not be saved.  Other people with television heads adorned with halos and labeled as “brother” or “sister” are standing on the same soap box where our hero gently rests his hoof.  These societal siblings appear blissfully unaware of the horns growing from their increasingly conflicted “brother.”

This painting also gives hope for liberation.  His tie is melting away indicating a fading of his imposed dogmatic shell.  Black also incorporated his tattoos in the painting; tattoos he acquired long after rejecting his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.  He explains, “The tattoos represent the real me shining through.  They symbolize who I am supposed to be, not who they want me to be.”  He continues, “This is the first time I have put all of these feelings into art.  It’s the first time that I am sharing so much about my private life.”

For more information on how you can view or own an original painting by Jess Black, please visit http://www.jessblackart.com

Jess Black Describes the Painting that Launched the Crusade to Produce an Entire Collection about Being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses

It all started with one painting.  A very personal painting that was part of another, somewhat unrelated collection.  This painting became important.  Because of it’s diminutive size it was originally hung in the back of the gallery.  Black politely insisted that it be placed on a more prominent wall.  This painting, titled Lip Service, is a reflection of the artist’s childhood and the launching pad for Black’s new collection exploring his experience as a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion he rejected at age 17.

The idea for this collection came some time ago.  The decision to move forward with the idea was finalized about a week ago.  The initial press releases have created all kinds of reaction from all over the world.  The website, http://www.jessblackart.com, has experienced a 900% increase in unique hits from countries all across the globe.

The reaction is what Black anticipated.  He explains, “So much about being a Jehovah’s Witness is about conforming.  Jehovah’s Witnesses have no problem judging others.   They disguise the judgment by saying ‘Bad associations spoil useful habits,’ which essentially means to them that anyone who is not a Jehovah’s Witness will be a bad influence.  The fact that they are now being openly judged by someone who knows what it’s like on the inside will turn a few heads.  I feel like my moral core was established in that religion for which I am grateful.  Nevertheless, at age 17 I rejected this religion because I didn’t believe in it.  It felt like a cult.  No, it was a cult.  It is a cult.  I felt guilty and scared because I knew I would be shunned.  I knew I was abandoning my life as I knew it. There was a mourning period of what I lost.  In time, however, my life became so much better when I no longer had to edit who I was.”

In Lip Service Black created a general concept painting.  It is filled with biblical references related to his experiences.  On the woman’s shoulder is a man in a tie referencing field service.  His head is replaced with a television representing a tool the spews programmed information.  Across the television screen is the word ‘Propaganda.’  The woman’s lip read ‘Sin’ and words like ‘Fornication,’ ‘Temptation,’ and ‘Why?’ are scattered throughout the painting.  A bare breast is shown not for sake of nudity, but as an act of freedom.  Black explains, “She’s showing her breast because she wants to and that is all the permission she needs.”

The new collection promises to be exciting.  Jess stated that leaving the religion was a very difficult time in his life.  He explains, “I needed to be prepared to handle the sea of emotions that will wash over me.  I don’t want to cause problems and I do not want to offend people I care about who are still part of that religion.  But it is time that I purge all of this once and for all.”

When it Comes to Art Buy the Best that You Can

There are many reasons to buy art.  The best reason to buy art is because you love it.  But if you plan on becoming familiar with the art world I highly recommend you learn a little about artistic technique and that you buy the best that you can.

Recently we had a potential client come to the studio to view several works by Artist Jess Black.  He appeared enthusiastic about several pieces, he was familiar with the prices when he made the appointment, but at the end of the viewing he stated that he needed to measure his available space before he commits.  We have been showing art for years and have learned that serious art buyers already know their available wall space or simply don’t care.  Several days later he sent an email explaining that he discovered a warehouse art sale where he would purchase his art for as low as $40 and thought it might be something that Jess Black should explore when showing his own art.

Does anyone believe that a mass warehouse sale is where one will be able to buy high quality art?  It’s not impossible, but it’s not likely.  Is it likely that an artist who is rendering works considered important in the contemporary art market and receiving international press will be selling at a warehouse with works by hundreds of other artists? Again, not likely.  This comes down to becoming educated about art before making your first major purchase.

Years ago I considered an abstract painting an abstract painting because they were all the same to me. I rarely recognized talent in them and had no visceral response.  An artist I worked with who rendered stunningly beautiful figurative pieces explained to me that abstract is the most difficult of all art styles.  I thought this was impossible.  Anything can be an abstract where as his paintings looked like photographs.  He told me that in abstract there are no rules, nothing to tell you if you are doing it correctly.  To render a high quality abstract one must be a master at composition, understand the interplay of colors and be brilliant at blending. For it to be good one must bare his soul or the painting will look boring.  He stated that he paints from a photograph and that anyone who was good in art school can do what he does.  In time I learned how to recognize talent in abstract paintings.  I learned that abstraction is visual emotion.  Each painting is a small part of the artist’s psyche, which explains why some artists have a difficult time selling certain pieces.

By contrast, most of these warehouse sales are filled with poorly rendered and mass produced paintings.  However, they do not appear poorly rendered if one is uninformed on art and this is a first time purchase.  In a few years the purchaser will be like how I was and will no longer want these items on his or her wall.  The art they should have purchased from the artist’s studio is no longer available and has likely already increased in value. There will always be emerging artists out there with fair prices so all is not lost, but it goes back to buying the best that you can.  Buy quality and be happy.

Art varies in price due to the cost of producing it and by client demand.  A new artist who has no gallery shows under his or her belt will likely have lower prices, but the art will not typically be as mature as it’s going to be.  Personally, I enjoy buying from brand new artists.  I speak with them, learn about their artistic goals and I follow their career paths.  To me art is personal.  If I do not like the artist, I will probably not like the art for long.  This is a very American attitude because in older countries the more eccentric the artist the more coveted the art.  Artists like Jess Black are still fairly new but now have a handful of solo shows in art galleries, local and national press coverage, and are demonstrating an upward career trajectory.  These artist are safer to buy from from an investment perspective because their art has already increased in value but the career has not piqued.  These artists also have more sophistication in their work because they have been doing it for a while and are learning who they are as an artist.  One should also look for these artists to continue to evolve.  Collections should change.  If year after year the artist is producing identical looking works then that career may be stagnant until a little reinvention occurs.  Stagnation is a career killer.

Jess Black is about to release a new collection that explores the oppression and conflicts he felt as a child being raised a Jehovah’s Witness.  This is very bold for him and he has already received international press interest after sneak peaking only one piece.  The greatest artists in history all went through phases and artistic periods.  Today’s artist should be no different.

Something else that has validated my belief in Jess Black’s talent is that he is now copied. Artists that I have been watching are familiar with Black’s work and occasionally comment on the Jess Black Fine Art Facebook page.  I have also noted that many of them now incorporate some of Jess’s signature style into their own paintings.  What I take from this is that Jess is so good that other artists are copying him and that some of these other artists are out of ideas.  Again, the more immersed in the art world you are the more of these discoveries you will make.

Finally, another category of art is the Blue Chip artist, also known as “Dead Artists.”  These artists are names with which many are familiar.  These works are typically priced in the five digit range up to seven digits.  People buying the works of these artists are usually well versed in the art industry or simply want to buy what is perceived as the best.  Examples of blue chip artists include Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Again, one should buy the art they love and can afford.  The more you learn about art the more your taste will become discerning.  Art collecting can become a passion and it can be an exciting world to be part of.  I would be happy to answer any questions that any of you may have.  If I do not have the answer I will get it from a qualified source.