Crimes Against Art

This week I’m rejoining my weekly painting group after hiding out from COVID for over a year and half.  It feels weird (and a bit scary) to be in a group again; although we’re all fully vaccinated and we’ll wear masks and stay distanced in the studio.

But, scarier still… do I even remember how to hold a paintbrush?  More to the point, should I be allowed anywhere near an innocent canvas?  I’ve committed a few crimes against art in the past, so art has good reason to be wary of me.  But then again, I’ve never really understood what constitutes Good Art, either.

I’m embarrassed to admit I took Art History (among other things) for four long years in university.  Apparently those courses were worthless, because I can’t see any artistic value in a canvas that looks as though a house-painter cleaned a used roller on it.  But the National Gallery of Canada snaps those puppies up for a cool 1.8 million apiece, and their most convincing argument that it’s Good Art is a snooty, “Well, obviously you can’t grasp the concept.”  Very true.  I can’t. But there must be something to it, because those two $1.8 million investments are now valued at over $100 million combined.

So how do I know whether I’m creating Good Art or birthing an art-monster that shouldn’t be allowed to live?  After in-depth study (and perhaps a teeny bit of hyperbole) based on the National Gallery’s purchases, I’ve come up with a foolproof formula for determining the Value of Art:  

Value Of Art = (Bullshit + Snootiness2) × Wealth of Investor × Ego of Investor

It’s important to note that bullshit comes first in the formula, and it has to be linked very early with the all-important snootiness or the whole endeavor fails.  That’s why there are millions of brilliant artists, but only a few who make seven-figure sales to the National Gallery.

If they want to hit that million-dollar price point, artists should throw around words like ‘luminous’, ‘weighty’, and ‘atmospheric’, add arcane phrases like ‘perceptualizing the human condition’, and then lay on the all-important snootiness:  “Of course, most people won’t grasp the nuanced complexity of this work.”  And they need to keep repeating that stuff, loud and proud.  Then all it takes is some rich investor eager to prove they’re more cultured than ‘most people’, and an art sensation is born.

Or maybe I’m just boorish and cynical.  (Okay, that’s not a ‘maybe’.)

But I am one hell of a bullshitter.  So… do you know any rich art investors with fragile egos?  If so, send them my way; ’cause every Friday afternoon I’ll be creating paintings that have a whole shitload of nuanced complexity.  Positively weighty, in fact.  I dunno about ‘luminous’, but with all my bullshit flying around, it’s sure to be ‘atmospheric’. Just don’t inhale too deeply…

Writing update:  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any progress on Book 17 yet.  Here’s why:  I’m concentrating on the screenplay for Book 1: Never Say Spy.  And it’s almost finished, woohoo! So if you know anybody in, or even loosely connected to, a movie production company, I hope you’ll put in a good word for me! (Or better yet, introduce me with an enthusiastic pitch for the screenplay. Hey, I can dream, right?)

35 thoughts on “Crimes Against Art

    • You’re right — there’s just that indefinable ‘something’ when the actors click. And that’s far beyond my expertise (and my ability to control). I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best! 🙂


  1. You are so fearless and awesome to be turning one of your books into a screenplay! I wish you all the best.
    I don’t care for art that’s stupid. And I think that’s what some of it is. Your formula is absolutely right for a lot of it. I remember an art installation that consisted of pennies – just a pile of pennies. That just doesn’t mean much no matter what story you spin about it.


    • Thank you so much, @jenny_o! I wish I were fearless, but that’s not the case at all. I just push on despite the fear, and sometimes “the scary thing” gets less scary. Or it doesn’t, and I crash and burn; but the nice thing about being middle-aged is knowing that no matter how catastrophic the situation seems, I’ve made it this far so I’ll probably survive.

      That pile of pennies must have had a huge bullshit and snootiness factor! 😉


  2. Haha I love that ‘formula’! And yes, I completely agree with your opinion on art…. if I recall correctly, there’s a painting somewhere with just a line painted on it and it sold for an obscene sum just ’cause the painter said it reflected the dawn of something or other. Crazy!


  3. Love this post!! I have always been amazed on what can draw top dollar in art and how it even happens. The good news for me is that I do it because I’m visual and can’t stop myself. Plus, I truly don’t care if someone likes what I do or not. I create to please me……not looking for wealth is what I truly mean??? On your screen play……I would love to see your books as a series. My best to you on that venture!! I have a thought on that, so stay tuned.


    • That’s great — thanks, Kirt. I appreciate your thoughts!

      I think art must be a lot like writing books: There’s a huge amount of sheer dumb luck involved. Sometimes a great book goes unnoticed; other times a mediocre book gets huge publicity and big sales; and every now and then a fabulous book gets exactly the fame and attention it deserves.

      I’m like you: I write to please myself, and that attracts readers who like my style. There’s no point in trying to write in a style I don’t enjoy, just in the hope of ‘making it big’. Even if I succeeded, I’d hate every minute of it; so what’s the point? People like you and I can just keep doing what we love, and loving what we do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If you make it to Netflix I’ll get it and that’s saying something as I’m waiting impatiently for lucifer to come out on dvd which reminds me I must check for series 5.

    Ive been painting but only my loft so it’s not like anyone else will see it

    Much love and hugs to all


    • Hi Karen! It’s nice to hear from you! Painting walls is one of my least-favourite things to do, but I’m always happy with the fresh new look when it’s done. Hope it’s going well for you — hang in there! 🙂


  5. Agree about art. Went to the British National Art Museum years back. So cool to see the real paintings instead of just pictures. And no stupid paint stripes. So happy to hear you are working on a screen play. Your have enough books to make one hell of a good Netflix series. Starting with one.


  6. How cool you are trying your hand at a screenplay. Wishing you heaps of success with the pitching. And, how lovely you can meet your fellow painters again and get that inspiration “rolling” again. I had to check out the article you linked to. Interesting. Art, surely, is subjective! And, insanely expensive at times.

    Book prices, however, will never increase in value like that. Why not? It’s the same product it will always be (except, if you keep “perfecting” the cover, like me), just like those paintings and it’s an art form too…


    • You’re right about book prices — they just stay the same. (Or even decrease relative to the rest of the economy.) Plus it’s getting harder and harder to find visibility now that there are so many great books available on the market. But, we’ll keep on keeping on!

      Thank you for your good wishes for the screenplay! Keeping my fingers crossed…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m on the same page as you regarding opinions towards art. I guess I don’t have the required snootiness to be able to sell my art at those insane prices. Heck, I’d be happy to sell enough to live on. Anyway… glad that your art group is meeting again. One of my pottery classes is going ahead but the other is not. Sigh…


    • I’ll be so glad when COVID finally backs off and we can do all the things we normally do! Even before the pandemic I didn’t go out much; but that was by choice. With my typical contrariness, now that I can’t go out and do stuff, I want to. Go figure.

      And I think you may be right about the snootiness factor, because your art is amazing. Time to go find some snootiness courses… 😉


      • I think you are right, on both counts. I didn’t go out much either but I’m feeling the itch to go SOMEWHERE that isn’t work or home. I am fortunate that I didn’t lose my main job during the shutdowns but I do miss the “fun” job I had teaching pottery. Not only did I get to play with mud, I got paid to do it! One of my teaching jobs will be back this September but not the other, not just yet. Not sure if choir is going to happen. Maybe on the 15th, I’ll find out. That when NS moves to the next re-opening phase.

        As for the snootiness courses, I’m not sure I could live with myself if I actually went ahead with it. Maybe my art will fetch decent money after I croak.


  8. I’ll go check my rolodex and if I can find some art investors for you, but I should warn you, some aren’t a fragile as they used to be. I don’t know any movie companies but I once made a video of the grandkids … just say’n I’m now an expert.


    • Thanks, Dawn! I’d be thrilled to see Never Say Spy made into a movie, too; but there’s a very large gulf between screenplay and screen. Only a depressing fraction of a percentage of scripts ever get produced and aired. But what the heck, if I don’t try, my chances are 0%. I’ll take that tiny fraction of hope! 🙂


  9. My only art crime might be against the art of music. One might say my playing was atmospheric–it stunk up the whole atmosphere in the room. If not the entire neighborhood. I’ve gotten rusty, so there have to be other wonderful adjectives a person may describe it as.

    Although I shouldn’t nitpick. My youngest graduated from art college back in May, and she’s on her second job that might only be loosely related to art. Thankfully she inherited my mother’s art skills (she was a commercial artist). I’m so bad at art, I couldn’t draw a pistol out of a holster…


    • Bahahaha!!! I’ve never heard that one before — love it!

      On a positive note (sorry, couldn’t resist), I’m sure your music skills aren’t as bad as you say. According to the theories of illusory superiority and the Dunning-Kruger effect, you’d only be that bad if you thought you were really good. In theory, anyway… 😉


      • It’s the instruments…I swear it’s the instruments! 😁 Although there’s a ring of truth to that. When we moved in here in 2010, I ended up having to sell the “family” piano, and aside from a Yamaha keyboard sitting in the house (which is my kiddo’s), there’s nothing to play. I can’t play well without that key action I’m used to. I may get one of the Yamaha digital pianos with the right key action, as it’s easier to relocate when moving households.

        Woodwinds? Forget it. I sold the two horns I had, and several years ago picked up a flute (which unfortunately needs some work)–I may upgrade this situation. I tried out an Akai EWI (electronic wind instrument) but it just wasn’t a good fit for me, although it was a bit fun. (I’d have to unlearn some habits to play the EWI.)

        I guess I’m a better listener than player, when it’s all said and done. And I am enjoying writing about it every so often.


        • I know what you mean about the key action. I have an upright Yamaha piano (which I love), and a Yamaha electronic organ. The key sizes and shapes are identical, but I play the organ keyboard VERY differently than the piano keyboard. At some point when we downsize, I’ll likely go to a digital piano/synthesizer with “real” key action, but hopefully that’s a while in the future. The only thing I look forward to is the headphones for the digital piano — so I’m the only one who has to hear my mistakes. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Screen play? Book 17? Painting?
    Slinking away now. Though I AM an appreciator and you, and people like you, give my special talent a work out.
    And I whole heartedly agree with your comments about many multi million dollar works, hissing and spitting as I remember that Van Gogh sold ONE painting in his lifetime.


    • It doesn’t seem fair, does it? It was the same with the National Gallery’s two purchases – both artists were dead by the time their paintings were bought, so they never got to reap the benefits of their work. I still can’t grasp their artistic merit, but I wouldn’t begrudge them the lucky break of ‘making it big’!


  11. Diane, I freaking LOVED this!!!! You are hilarious! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

    So looking forward to seeing you on Friday🎨

    Jo A

    Sent from my iPhone



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