We are live painters.

Some of us are studio artists who get a rush from taking our process out into public.  Most of us got our start at concerts, where the dynamism and interactivity of the live music environment inspired and motivated us in ways we had never felt before.  What all of us have in common is our love for making art in front of people – the intensity and immediacy of it, the excitement and energy of a live audience, and the opportunity to collaborate across media with each other and our favorite musical acts.

Andy Reed at Rootwire Festival 2012It takes a special kind of person to be a live painter.  It’s one of these emergent 21st Century art forms that remix performer and audience – exposing the mystique of the artist and inviting everyone else into the party.  Most of us are used to – maybe even tired of – explaining what we’re doing to unfamiliar fans and promoters.  Being an artist is weird enough; but being a live painter requires a person to actually thrive on the combination of fear and wonder that people inevitably bring to encounters with the strange.

Neither a movement nor a school of art, exactly, it exists on the cultural frontier in a kind of exuberant lawlessness.  There is no consensus among concert promoters about how to field the growing number of live art requests from concertgoers who feel the call to “graduate” from spectator into participant with no clear roadmap or elders to guide us.  Some recognize the value of the inspirational experiences we create – the way we can help them “build their brand” – and are immensely grateful to have us.  Others – those who do not see the long-term benefits of cultivating a rich creative community – grudgingly accept us as an unpleasant reality of the changing times…or, worse, treat us as pests to be kept out of “nice” venues and events where they would prefer to keep a clear boundary between “producers” and “consumers.”

We are, generally speaking, opportunists who will make great sacrifices to our personal comfort and security to share our gifts with the world.  And so, many of us are veteran shapeshifters, moving from paid gigs with artist credentials and production budgets to “renegade” sets where we have to sneak our gear past security, or act as diplomats between venue owners, bands, fans, and production crews.

178989_427927777267472_273952423_nOnce upon a time it was so rare to see a painter at a concert, some were happy to pay for the novelty alone.  Then the empowering message of live art took hold, and more and more events got so overwhelmed with requests they made a policy against it.  No clear gradient between amateur and professional exists, like it does among musicians.  Sometimes we’re considered vendors.  Sometimes we’re considered press.  It is our burden as “early adopters” to constantly assert our value, and to rise to the occasion by being both better artists and businesspeople.  Rarely – but more and more all the time – a festival will notice that the live painters are part of what keeps the fans coming back, and will decide to feature visual artists on an equal standing with the music.  Some of us have agents, now, and corporate clientele.  But even the most seasoned pros still believe in live art’s potential to tear down the barriers between us – to invite everyone into the creative process, and destroy the toxic falsehood that a creative life is out of reach.

After decades of treading in awkward cultural limbo, live painters are finally getting their moment in the sun.  With landmarks like the recent appearance by Further Collective at Yahoo! and massive showings of forty-plus artists at events like Gratifly and Rootwire Festivals, 2013 will be remembered from coast to coast as a time when something shifted for live art – a gathering and focusing of identity and intent that launched us over the threshold into legitimacy as a cultural movement.

We hope you will join us.

 

[slideshow_deploy id=’14624′]

.: Contact Michael for lessons or booking :.
.: Browse his gallery of live paintings :.

Read more about live art:
Painting While Dancing (essays)
The Field Guide To Live Artists (interviews)

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?

Loading Facebook Comments ...

4 COMMENTS

  1. […] When one embarks upon the path of becoming an artist, they know that they weigh the difficulties of supporting themselves against the passion for making art. To artists this isn’t a question even worth indulging. To give up making art would be for many the near equivalent of ceasing to exist. Painters don’t paint because they want to, they paint because they have to. […]

  2. […] [Michael] If I were marooned in time or something and would never see another person again, I think I would lose all distinction between art and life, completely. I would still craft and improve and imagine, but I would do it all for myself exclusively. So long as there are people around, they are a part of my process. It’s more interesting this way. […]

Comments are closed.