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The Future of Decorative Art

I sent the following email to the Chroma teacher and working artists and I received a number of interesting responses so I have decided to put then on Paint Talk for you all to see.

I have known for quite some time that all of you have been having a tough time of it trying to adjust to a changing market where Folk Art is losing popular appeal. It’s always easy to deal with an expanding market, which is enthusiastic and leads itself forward, but it is much more difficult to deal with a contracting market, where enthusiasm is no longer automatic. Folk Art is not dead, it is still being done, but is no longer dominant and leaves highly trained motivated teachers looking around to create a mix of painting options which appeal to a wider audience, while maintaining Folk Art for those who are interested.

After discussing the current situation with a number of Folk Artists it seems clear to me that there is a growing trend away from Decorative Art on 3 dimensional objects towards what is considered Fine Art painted on a flat surface like canvas.

In decorative art today the subject matter and style can be taken from any source which appeals to the student wanting to learn how to paint. They usually start by tracing their designs from the source material and then progress to designing and drawing as they paint. This progression seems very logical to me, allowing students to move along a learning path and choose their own subjects.

This process of the student choosing the subject and the teacher teaching the skills should be a recipe for ongoing success that transcends the fickle nature of changing fashions and trends.
It can be a challenge to find new and interesting subject matter so to help you with this we created the Inspirations for Art topic.

I think that for teachers who are adaptable there is a lot of discipline and technical skill which can be transferred from Folk and Decorative Art to Fine Art, and you will be able to help your students more effectively than some Fine Art teachers can.

An example of skill is side loading which you all know about, but no landscape painter member of your nearest Art Society even knows what it is. However, I have seen a video of Arthur Boyd at work where he deftly paints some tree trunks, working from bottom upwards and sideloading all the way to show the direction the light is coming from. He does it so fast it looks magical.

Decorative Artists have a lot of valuable colour mixing experience, unlike some Folk Artists who always use premixed colours straight from the tube.

More exciting information with lots of new ideas on how to extend your techniques using all our other brands will shortly be coming your way so stay tuned!

See below some of the responses.

There are (12) Comments, Comments are now closed for this discussion?
  1. comment_1_5090

    Rachel Baker commented on February 7, 2008, at 2:15 pm.

    ahh, Jim. We were just talking yesterday about how our art has changed and the direction that it is travelling. I was once a traditional folk artist and now i find myself in an area that is somewhat not fine art but not folkart. I often go to art shows etc and try to find out what is availible in the market place. I started off adapting my traditional methods to larger canvases, adding 3 dimentional aspects to my artwork . Bit like giving an old house a facelife Using the new products availible can open a new world of creativity. Now after painting for many years i try to keep and open mind about what i should paint and the audience i am catering for. We live in such a diverse society that thats how our art must be aswell,diverse. Watercolour is my passion but it is not a medium that is widely appreciated at the moment so simular effects can be used on canvas and a more modern look can be achieved. My advise to all is think outside the box but draw on what experience you have had to create something a bit different.

  2. comment_2_5090

    Jim Cobb commented on March 12, 2008, at 2:22 pm.

    Email from Judith

    G'day Jim

    Thanks for the info above, couldn't agree more, the changes have been happening for some time, definitely heading more and more to the canvases and flat board painting into more of a fine art style with a decorative touch and multi media, textured type artwork in a modern contemporary style along with landscapes, seascapes etc which will always probably be with us so I look forward to your "More exciting information with lots of new ideas on how to extend your techniques using all our other brands will shortly be coming your way so stay tuned!"

    Because of the changes, I have endeavoured to extend myself by doing courses over the last 18months or so which is giving me the extra skills to walk along this changing path rather than just adapting our decorative painting techniques

    At the current course I am doing at Thebarton Senior College in Adelaide I am planning on taking my own Atelier Interactive to use, (introducing them to the teacher also in case she isn't using them for personal use). They use A2 at Thebarton, each of the other classes I have attended have been either in other Senior/Adult Entry Schools or WEA and they all use Chromacryl so I was very pleased to know that, I was as well impressed with the obvious market coverage Chroma have with school art - it's great to see

    Look forward to hearing from you
    Cheers

    Judith

    My Response

    Judith

    Good idea to get some extra training in Fine Art, but you may find you can teach them some techniques.
    Keep us posted.

    Jim

  3. comment_3_5090

    Jim Cobb commented on March 12, 2008, at 2:24 pm.

    Email from Joy

    Jim

    I am working on a new web page at present for my work and will add my name
    to the list of Fine Artists when it is ready. I have had my students for the past 12 years working on canvas and painting fine art, abstract, modern and realism.....along with the decorative art. So all is well here.

    Thanks for the news letter.
    Much appreciated.

    Cheers Joy

    My Response

    Joy

    It sounds as if you have all the ammunition needed. Can you share some images?
    If you (or anyone else) can’t load images yourselves, Email them to us.

    Jim

  4. comment_4_5090

    Jim Cobb commented on March 12, 2008, at 2:27 pm.

    Email from Rivella

    Jim

    Thank you for your informative email - sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you but my internet is having hiccups.

    I actually teach the way you suggested any way, and my students like it that way.

    Using a variety of Chroma products.

    I am still having trouble converting my photos to the right size to add to my web page.
    If I managed to do it properly, I have enclosed a couple of my paintings - Poppies using Jo Sonja’s & Interactive and finished off with Oils. and My turtle, done completely in Jo Sonja’s Artists Acrylics.

    Thank you for producing such good acrylic products.

    My I request that you look into producing a sharp cadmium red and also a cerulean blue in the Jo Sonja range,

    thanks
    Rivella

    Ps have to send you the turtle later

    My Response

    Rivella

    Cadmium red medium is never a sharp colour. Cadmium scarlet is a very sharp colour if that is what you are after.

    Re Cerulean Blue, you could look at the Atelier interactive colour which can be used amongst Jo Sonja colours, but I must confess I generally use Cerulean Blue hue in either of the brandings it is less expensive and just as permanent and the hue is a close match. I do use the real Cerulean blue on occasion as a glazing colour because it has translucency.

    Jim Cobb

  5. comment_5_5090

    Jim Cobb commented on March 12, 2008, at 2:30 pm.

    The other factor I wanted to highlight is that you are technically equipped to paint whatever you want, and your problem is to decide on subject matter trends.

    Consider your position using Jo Sonja’s vis a vis the many others, mostly in America, who are caught in the net of Donna Dewberry and DecoArt – they can download buttercups from the internet just as you can, but they would not know what yellow to use to paint them.

    Being trained to mix your own colours is the key. You can go from downloading images, tracing them and on to drawing them freehand. You already know how to paint. The bottle colour people can’t do anything without Donna telling them how to do each brushstroke.

    Naturally as a paint company we welcome the idea of trying our other paints and I think some of you would enjoy using Archival Oils, or Archival Oils over Jo Sonja’s underpainting, but don’t forget how versatile Jo Sonja’s is.

    It’s not paint, but ideas, and basically subject matter choices you need. Various “trends” have been mentioned and they need images to carry the message. Please use the Inspirations For Art topic to post your ideas and images for new and interesting subject matter.


    What do you think the future holds for folk and decorative art?



    Are you a decorative artists who finds yourself painting and more on canvas or board as a fine artist would and how do we really define what is fine art and decorative art these days anyway?



    What skills and knowledge do you think are needed to adapt to the changing market to have a successful future?


    Jim Cobb

  6. comment_6_5090

    Tracey Sims commented on March 12, 2008, at 7:20 pm.

    Hi Jim,
    There are many artists on the TAPP who have fine art skills and have been teaching fine art and decorative art in many mediums for some time. For those who don't have the experience there are several wonderful workshops and tafe courses available.
    Ther is also another area that the decorative artists may wish to think about and that is fabric art. Patchwork and Quilting are very big in the craft circles and painted quilts are becoming more and more popular.
    The Sunshine Coast Stitches and craft show is coming around soon and the workshop brochure is full of "Art" and "Textile Art" classes.
    Just a thought for those who may not have considered this in the past.
    I have forwarded some pics to Gill to have up loaded that I thought you might find interesting.
    regards
    Tracey

  7. comment_7_5090

    Jim Cobb commented on May 6, 2008, at 1:58 pm.

    This comment came in via email

    Hi,
    I'm 42 and dabbled with folk art maybe 15 years ago, selling some pieces at markets and filling in for the folk art teacher at TAFE now and then.
    I found myself raising a son on my own, physically and financially and so i moved onto other things like full time work, joy oh joy. Now that my son is 17 i am about to pick up where i left off.
    My Jo Sonja paints are all in good nick, well most anyway ;o) I've been dabbling in ebay selling some cottage craft (sewing) and i have been watching the market for the last 12 months to see where i can fit in and what appeals to the buyer and of late, paying attention to folk art trends. Anyway my observation is that folk art is not dying at all. It has definately changed is all, and i think for the better. When i started it was just flowers, flowers, roses, teddies and flowers. Now there seems to be great sales in gingerbread people, long shaped angels, swags and verse. I guess there is a cross over with scrap booking too if you can find it. Combining painting with fabric, incorporating country stenciling, blessings are big and feel good verses. When i mention the selling side of things, i also take from that what people's preferences are not just the money side of things. My advice is to have a look on ebay once a week and see what is selling and then you will see what is popular to teach. Teachers would also be competing with the internet now and it is so easy to download electronic patterns for little cost so i think traditional folk art technique combined with the latest trends is important. I've been on ebay in America too as we seem to follow them in most things, they have a wonderful selection of books that we don't really have here with lots of ideas. I am particularly fond of Primitive craft at the moment and depending on the theme, it sells quite well. American Primitive is great. I am waiting for a Folk Art teacher to create our own Australian market for Colonial Primitive ;o)
    Anyway, i'm off to bed to dream about how to make my tea stained little fabric sheep and how to paint their faces black, and then there are my folk art angels with rusty tin wings, and ideas for folk art door crowns in primitive themes, and crackling some paint around the outside of wood with a beautiful painted angel in the centre, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz hope i have provided some food for thought, my best wishes to all and to all a goodnight, kind regards, Cathy. oh one more interesting thought. One of my sisters knitted a beautiful purple and mint green teapot cosy for me, i love it and when i showed my younger sister in law, she said she didn't have a teapot so would not like one. My sister in law said that her generation uses tea bags.
    That sentence still makes me smile because i think there is the key. You have to mould your craft to your audience. What we like ourselves is not necessarily popular so it proves we need open our eyes as wide as possible and ask younger people for their opinions ;o)

  8. comment_8_5090

    Carol Anne Swan commented on May 25, 2008, at 12:11 pm.

    Hello Jim,
    It has been my aim this week to pluck up courage and take part in paint talk. I know how much work has gone into setting up a site like this, how disappointing it must be for you to realize that the teachers you have been supporting for so long are reluctant to take part in it all.Maybe they feel a little intimidated as I have done. Folk artists have been looked down on by some fine artists for some time now, so naturally if you tell someone that they are not as good, then after awhile they believe it. I would like to reassure folk artists that they do have the ability to go further if they have the desire.
    I have been teaching Folk Art since Australia discovered it, along with many other talented teachers, we were so hungry for knowledge we even went to Europe to study. I love it still, I hope it never dies. I remember when we were in Germany painting in a museum, we were sitting amongst some furniture that was painted in the 16th century, my heart still flutters when I think about it. It was then that our teacher said to us, "I am honoured to be teaching you Australians", he said, he felt that we were the keepers of the art.The days have gone when you had a twelve months waiting list of students wanting to learn. I do however believe, we as folk art teachers have introduced a great many people to the wonderful world of art. Those that have wanted to, have moved on. It wasn't until I was asked to contribute some of my watercolours to the Artist's Palette that I was asked by Fine Art Societies if I would teach. I have on many occasions found that folk artist are very capable.Don't be intimidated, everyone has something to offer.
    Regards to all.
    Cas

  9. comment_9_5090

    Carmel commented on May 30, 2008, at 12:20 pm.

    Hi Jim and Everyone,
    Yes I have found that over the last few years there has been a real change, however my students have always found a challange for me, they went through stages of painting Draugh Horse and yes does that leg belong to this horse or horse or that one? one horse was to easy they wanted groups. Then it was sheep? .
    We have had lots of fun changing and I found that my newer student don't have the brush stoke technique that my Folk Art Students do. Neither do the high school students, when they find out how to load a brush they get very excited. They sometimes don't like the idea of going back to brush stokes but then see the advantages.
    On the other side my Folk Art students still want to rely on pattern and paint colours that have been already worked out for them.
    Painting from a photo they want to make it exactly like the photo, or picture. Slowly they are gaining my confidence in themselves and finding out what colours they like and how to mix them, but it has been a very slow process.
    Love this site and the fact we can share. But it has taken me awhile to get the confidence to say anything.........so repliers please be gentle......just joking.
    Many thanks to Jim and his team and all members.
    Carmel
    Albury.

  10. comment_10_5090

    Robyn Sherer commented on June 9, 2008, at 12:59 pm.

    Hi All - I went to the Super Art show in Melbourne yesterday. It was supposedly the final days Sale and all canvases were $100. There was a huge number of people there and many were buying so it was interesting from a marketing and trends perspective. Quality and originality were obviously not necessary as these pictures were pretty rough and mass produced. All the canvases were highly textured - some had a very gritty appearance. Stencil art of famous musicians and film stars were popular as were abstract pieces and stylized scenes. There were a few 'realistic' pieces as well, however, as these were very poorly painted this may have affected their popularity. The favoured colours seemed to be warm and earthy, (burnt sienna, norwegian orange, indian yellow, etc), and also brown and blue or pink (brown earth and aqua or rose pink) . The very large canvases(1.5 x1.5metres and bigger) were the most popular. Obviously people are into one large, feature piece rather than several smaller, more detailed works. Although these paintings were advertised as 'handpainted' in quotation marks, and were signed by about a dozen, supposedly local, artists, I get the feeling they were copied, conveyor belt style, by painters overseas. This suspicion was deepened when I noticed some signatures were misspelt! Copyright was also broken all over the place - for example there were many Little Miss Mischief and Mr Trouble paintings.Although the work was not of high standard I'm glad I went - a useful insight into the latest trends.

    Robyn Sherer
    Tecoma

  11. comment_11_5090

    Carol commented on July 1, 2008, at 12:54 pm.

    In the above posts, I saw the question regarding the differences between "fine artists" and "decorative" artists. There are several factors to consider here. Part of the answer can be traced back to the formation of the guilds during the renaissance. At that time, the support for the arts came primarily from the church and the royalty (who had all the money and power), often one and the same personages or families. To ensure continue funding or patronage, the artists appealed to the church and royalty, arguing that the esthetic qualities of their work ranked them above the other crafts. This created the uniquely Western European concept of the "fine arts" having greater stature than other expressive forms. In short, this was an economic and power play to continue funding for the arts and elevate the status of the artists themselves.

    Second piece: If one traces the development of the finely inlaid furniture beginning in the 16th century, you find, for example, in Germany, such furniture could only be owned by royalty and not by the rising burger class. Painters took on the challenge of duplicating those designs with intricately painted pieces as found in Lipp's outstanding books on the Austrian State Collection. These pieces combined elegant thematic painting of designs that replicated the ornate inlay work, and were frequently enhanced with portraits of the owners painted by a separate artist. Sometimes these panels depicted the four annual seasons and tied them to the cycles of human life.

    The decorative art form known as "folk art" emerged to convey the essential life lessons to the next generation at a time when 98% of the population was illiterate. These expressions took many forms in many cultures, with painted furniture and related articles being two pronounced and surviving applications.

    In American Indian life, those art forms appeared on clothing, dwellings, pottery, on literally every facet of the culture. After all, none of the American Indians had a written language until Sequoya invented one for Cherokee.

    What this says is that artistic expression is part of who we are, and no one form is better or "finer" than any other. If one examines art literature from Oriental cultures, you will find that there is no distinction made between "fine" and "decorative" art. And, quite frankly, in my humble opinion, there is no real distinction other than the historical/political/economic one cited above.

    To paraphrase Count Basie, if a piece of art looks good, then it is good.

    With over 2200 books on the folk and decorative arts and related materials in our library, this is some of what we have gleaned. So, decorative artists, feel good about yourselves!

    Carol and Mike Baran, Madison, Alabama.

  12. comment_12_5090

    Diaedwards commented on August 7, 2008, at 9:27 am.

    Hi, all, I think that the whole conversation rests on whether you want to be a really good artist/painter, or whether you are just doing all of this for fun. If you want to be a professional artist then you must study, take classes, go to museums and study art books and try to improve your painting with every piece that you do whether it is a wooden box or a fine linen canvas.
    If all you are trying to do is paint something quickly and sell it then there are probably much better paying jobs that you can get and should get. Folk art was never just slopping on paint, it was something that often unschooled people did to create something they loved and want to embellish.
    Folk art has gotten a bad name when it is simply something someone does to pass the time or to make a quick sale. It takes years and years to become a really good folk artist as it does a fine art. I can say this because I am both and have worked all my life to learn, improve and paint better, irregardless of what the public wants or buys. They are looking at trendy stuff anyway, and I want to paint things that stand the test of time.