....And then my professor began talking. The first words out of her mouth were, "I'm sure many of you have had previous experiences with painting. So, I'd like to start this class by warning you: If I see anyone painting in the style of Bob Ross, I WILL fail you." I remember leaving that first day in shock. What was so wrong with Bob Ross? He was a magician of painting! Later in the semester, this professor cautioned us to never EVER become like Thomas Kinkade--a sell-out. Her justification? He had his paintings EVERYWHERE--calendars, greeting cards, hand towels, t-shirts, etc. He painted what he knew would sell. And he has sold A LOT. In my professor's eyes, Kinkade was NOT an FINE artist; Kinkade was a COMMERCIAL artist...A mass-marketing sell-out. Now, since I was, at the time, a first-semester freshman, I left that painting class feeling like Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade were total sell-outs. They weren't true artists--painting whatever they wanted to without worrying about whether or not people would LIKE it. I would NEVER be like that. I was going to paint things that I wanted to paint--things that would shock people and change the world.
Now, years later, I have had some time to really think about that painting class, and I regret having walked away with that mindset. I know that my point of view would not agree with those of others in the art world, and I'm okay with that. In my opinion, Bob Ross was INCREDIBLE. He inspired and educated so many people to create! Sure, they were copying his painting style, but you know what? They were EXCITED about it. He made art seem effortless. He was a joy to watch. He brought art making to the masses in a friendly way. We NEED more people like Bob Ross, because he was able to share his art with thousands of people in a friendly, non-assuming way.
In the art world, the more copies of your work that are out there, the less valuable they are perceived. So, it makes sense to me that many people in the art world would consider Thomas Kinkade to be a sell-out, because he mass-marketed his work. He had copies of his paintings on EVERYTHING. In fact, a quick google search comes up with the following Wikipedia description of Kincade: "He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company." So, really, mass marketing was closely linked with his work--he was famous for it. And, in my opinion, that is the genius of Thomas Kinkade. His work is recognizable by people who would never come close to considering themselves art connoisseurs. Through mass marketing, he was able to share his art with more people than most "fine" artists could ever achieve. Amazing.
Now, I'm not saying that television/youtube painting channels, and/or mass marketing is the appropriate path for every artist. However, in my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your work with as many people as you can--whether your purpose is to shock or awe. Over the years, I have discovered that, while I do not want my art to shock/disgust anyone, I do believe that my art can facilitate change. It is my hope that my art will bring joy to those in need of joy, and inspiration to those seeking inspiration. In that small way, my work brings about a change, and THAT is the power of art.