World View #7: New Age Pantheism

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I've been looking at the major World Views of western civilization and have briefly described the affect those world views had on society in general and art in specific. This is because, as an artist in Asheville's River Arts District, I see the effects and influences of world views every day as I enter into conversations with people visiting my art studio / gallery. So personally, I find all this fascinating because it helps me know how to interpret the art I see around me, not just in Asheville but in every art museum and art gallery I visit.

In discussing this subject, I left off with the world view commonly referred to as "Modernism". A modernist would look at technology and design, and assume that the problems of mankind could be addressed and solved with the tools technology brings to us, thereby negating a need for a "higher power" to "take care of us" (so to speak).  At the turn of the 20th century, society in general was quite optimistic about the many benefits the industrial revolution had been bringing to society, and many people were convinced that the "golden age" was unfolding before them. Technology and design were seen as finally creating a world of peace and prosperity that we've always longed for. That infatuation with this new "faith" ended abruptly however when the world plunged into the first World War, a massive economic depression, and then the second World War.

And so, by the 1960's, society went shopping for another world view, and the return to spirituality was at the core.  Enter New Age Pantheism.

Pantheism was an attempt for a society which was "weaned" (as it were) on Judeo-Christian assumptions (see my blog on theism) to return to spirituality, but return in a way divorced from the assumptions theism espoused. For instance, New Age Pantheism taught: 

All of creation is One.  

Since all is One, all is god.

We are god.

Morality was viewed in terms of gray, not black and white. So typically, if you ask a New Age Pantheist "is this or that right? the answer would be, "well, is it right to you?"

In the 1960's, we see a society disillusioned with organized religion but still hungering for all things spiritual. For a couple hundred years, it was "old fashioned" to admit this spiritual longing if you were an academic elite, but now, people were "talking faith" once again.

So with the birth of New Age Pantheism, we see we see a return to the “spiritual” once again (albeit a decidedly "eastern" form) and we see people unashamed to talk about their faith. And by faith, I can not use the "western" traditional view of faith (a faith based on an agreed upon, established and authoritative "truth"). To a New Age Pantheist, faith is "believing something is true even if there is no evidence that it is objectively true. Faith makes it true for you." And so, once again, you heard people speaking of "the miraculous" and that there was more to reality than just the material world.

As far as the effect on the arts, consider the poem “Life's Journey” by Joy Light

You are the earth, and I the sea,
You hold and nurture me
While I play restless in your arms.
The sun warms and lifts me from your gentle touch,
Into the vast oceans of the universe,
Where I dart and fly in my human race with time and space,
Until in the light I blend,
Misty eyed with nature I transcend,
Like a raindrop drifting in the wind,
Then touching softly your arms again,
Knowing now life never ends,
Feeling now the peace within

Although the tenets and assumptions of New Age Pantheism felt "new" to those in western civilization, they actually were borrowed directly from Hinduism and Buddhism and packaged in a way that would be palatable to the western mind.  So at this point in history, we had a milieu of world views competing for the minds of people. If you went to a university in 1965, you'd be taught naturalism in your science class, nihilism in your philosophy class, pass some Hari Krishna's in the hallway, and get lectured by your modernist parents about keeping your grades up so you can get a good job. This created a western society with very little "common" assumptions about truth, morality and spirituality. And THAT discord leads us to the last world view we will discuss next time: Post Modernism.

How to Make a Living as an Artist (Part 2)

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As I stated in an earlier blog, I was recently asked “How do you make a living as a full-time artist?” And honestly,  I wake up every morning absolutely baffled that I CAN make a living doing what I love doing.

I work here in the mountains of western North Carolina in the town of Asheville,  and largely because of that, I do not do art shows or art festivals. I really don’t go anywhere, because I can't afford to leave my studio.  Basically, I walk to work in Asheville’s River Arts District, unlock the door, turn the lights on, stick the “OPEN” flag out on the side of the building and then I start painting, and people (some locals but mostly tourists) come through my door and look at my artwork and by far, most of my sales come from people who walk in off the street. They are visiting Asheville, heard about the River Arts District and they want to make sure they check that off their “to do when visiting Asheville” list. If I lived practically anywhere else, this business model would not work at all. But because there are now about 220 artists within about one square mile who do this, and who go together on advertising to get the word out, people know about us and they visit (and purchase art!)

 If I didn't have this business model available to me as a real option, I'd probably be in trouble.

So the fact that I can make this business model work is largely due to where I live. But the details as to how the situation in Asheville makes my life as a full-time artist possible -- I don't see why that can't be replicated anywhere else. I really hope it can. There's nothing magical about Asheville (although some locals explain that Asheville is special because of giant crystals under the city. Ground penetrating radar has never detected said crystals, but I digress...

If I didn't have this business model available to me as a real option, I'd probably be in trouble.  Most other full-time artists around the country that I know get their work into as many galleries and art festivals as possible. I truly have all the respect in the world for artists who travel from art festival to art festival and have their work in select and profitable galleries and who make a living that way. I cannot compete with them. I mean, I have found a few galleries that now carry and sell my work but honestly, I make most of my own sales from my Asheville studio. I would love to find more galleries around the country that would represent me, but I honestly don't know how to find them, so I unfortunately cannot be much of a help with any of that.

But because I live where I live, I am literally "piggybacking" off the momentum every other artist here has created. It's symbiotic. Visiting artists have asked "is there even ROOM for another artist here?" and my answer is always "YES!" because it's like gravity -- the more the mass, the more the gravitational pull (i.e. more visitors recognize us as an arts destination) and that's a really good thing for all of us artists.

The other thing the artists do is to have "regular open hours" 

Why is Asheville so special? Well, for one thing, it is a tourist destination in and of itself, and that REALLY helps bring people into the area.  And here, the artists are working together and they are operating their business like a business. Let me explain.

First of all, most artists all rent studio space in the same part of town (not all scattered through the city). The artists have an organization they pay dues to and they (the River Arts District Artists) advertise and promote what's going on here. We have a printed studio guide with a map of where all the studios are, to make it easy for people. 

The other thing the artists do (well, enough of them anyway) is to have "regular open hours". I have my hours posted in our studio guide we pass out and on my studio door...10:00 - 5:00 every day but Sunday. So my studio is not just where I paint. I do paint here, but the public walks through my door every day, watch me paint, and they look at my finished artwork hanging on the wall. So it's kind of a cross between a messy studio and a classy art gallery that's open to the public. THAT is what I (and lots of other artists here) do.  And honestly, the only people I hear around me in the arts district that complain about not making sales are those who can only be here now and then. I totally get it that not everyone can or wants to do this full-time, but if you want to make a living with this more "retail" type art business model, you have to be open.  In other words: You cannot sell your artwork if your studio is locked up and dark.

Let me illustrate this point with a true story.  I was driving through an un-named state a couple years ago and saw a sign "historic arts district" and I thought "Oh COOL! Let's take a few minutes and explore!" So we did. My wife and I found the arts district and were really impressed with the concept. Turns out that the downtown area of this town was dwindling and the city wanted to re-vamp the area. So they sold studio space to several artists for SUPER cheap and even gave $10K per studio for upgrades and interior design.  And artists moved in! But when my wife and I were there (on a Friday), we spent an hour walking around the arts district and only one studio was actually open. If someone opens a hardware store or lighting store or barber shop or coffee shop on Main Street, they would have been there. They would be open. There is probably something I'm missing, but as a visitor, I didn't see how having closed art studios was helping to create a vibrant new downtown. I'll never go back. Not because the town wasn't cool (it was), but because it was a ghost town.

So my suggestion would be that you move to Asheville (I know artists who have done just that for all the above reasons I've mentioned).  But more realistically, I really think that wherever you live, you could try to get artists around you working together (in as close a proximity as possible). You could pool monetary resourses and advertise. Get the word out that you're there. Let the chamber of commerce and tourism office know you're there.  And BE IN THE STUDIO with lights on and door open and OPEN flag out front so people are invited in. That's what we do here and I know it works.

How to Make a Living as an Artist

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I was recently asked “How do you make a living as a full-time artist?” That is the million dollar question for a lot of really creative people out there, and there are so many factors involved in the answer. I’ve seen people become really successful with an art career and some miserably fail. It’s really not rocket science, but there are certain things you should do and some you shouldn’t do that can help or hurt your chances. Let me explain.

A few years ago, a gentleman came into my art studio and told me he was an artist and wanted to talk to me about getting his paintings into my “gallery”. He then proceeded to remove several oil paintings from a cardboard box to show me. I had to explain that this was my studio (where I create and sell) my own art, and not an art gallery per se. And honestly, the level of skill I saw was not something that would inspire sales and sales are the only way an artist can make a career out of creating art.

Just because you want to sell something
doesn’t mean anyone will want to buy it.

I am reminded me of an experience I had when I was four years old. I wanted some money to fund a trip to the store for candy and baseball cards, so I cooked up a scheme involving a handful of rocks. See, I decided I would set up a card table out by the street and make a sign that read “ROCKS FOR SALE”. These were super cool rocks (I thought) and I was sure someone would agree (enough to part with a quarter). No one even stopped to look at these gems-in-the-rough. No one. Important lesson learned: Just because you want to sell something doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will want to buy it.

In my opinion, if someone desires to make a living creating and selling artwork, they need to be willing to seek solid artistic training, critique and learn the basics of promoting their business. 


If you want to create and sell your artwork as a career, get training, and pick your school carefully. Not all art schools or art programs teach actual skills. Visit the school and take a look at the student art and ask yourself a question: “Does this look like something people would actually purchase?” Some of what I see at art colleges look like the students are having a truly cathartic experience creating some really edgy art, but unless that’s combined with real skills learning, how do you make a living with that when you graduate? This is why so many art students graduate and end up flipping burgers. Training is really important. Look, if someone works on my car or repairs my air conditioner or operates on my brain or makes me Beef Wellington at some expensive restaurant downtown, I would absolutely expect they were well trained and have some real ability. Same with art. Same with everything else we do.

I can hear someone say, "So you just dismiss everyone who's self taught? You think we all need art degrees?" And I would answer a definite "no". I basically invented (self-taught) my whole technique I use (with the help of the foundation I received with my training). I'm not discounting the concept of "self-taught" at all. I just think that a person can go a lot farther in any profession we're talking about it if that person got some coaching, and the easiest way to get coaching is school. There are actually "rules" in art that would be really helpful for an aspiring artist to be very familiar with.  Knowledge of those rules will help you create something amazing. When I was a kid, I was bored with normal tomato soup and so...I decided I would experiment with adding orange juice to it. I learned very quickly that certain flavors blend well together and others definitely do not. There are rules. An art degree is definitely not the only way but it's the easiest way. If you don't go that route, try to find a mentor. All I'm saying is that in addition to any possible self-teaching, get trained. Get input from others (and especially experts), which conveniently leads me to my next point:


If an artist has an arrogant personality that doesn't listen to or seek out critique, I don't think that's going to help them move forward. (I have more to say on this subject in an earlier posting if you're interested.) To make a living doing this, you have to listen for criticism and not just TO criticism. Sometimes what an artist wants to paint may be really therapeutic, but won't be sellable. When you look at art creation as a career, you have to find a balance -- it should be both inspiring to you and inspiring to the viewer of your art.  

I’ve had one artist a couple years ago visit my studio and ask if they could make an appointment to ask me for advice as to how to make art his career. That was totally flattering and I liked the fact he asked for an appointment (that was respectful). When you show someone respect, they will be much more likely to help you out with some advice. So seek out other artists and/or gallery owners. If they’re too busy, they’ll tell you, but you may get some really great advice this way. 

The other thing you could do would be to enter your work in juried art shows. If your artwork is consistently rejected or consistently gets attention and/or wins an award, that will be a real gauge as to whether your abilities are what they'd need to be. 


Get professional looking business cards and create a website. The website should have your artist statement, bio and lots of photos of your work, and how to contact you. Do you do commissions? Explain how that works. Don’t be afraid to look at other artist's websites and make notes of what you like and don’t like. If you can’t afford to pay someone to create a website for you, there are DIY website programs out there and they’re fine. Just make it simple and clean and informative. 


After training, critique and creating professional-looking self promo tools, you’re ready to begin actually putting together your career. In my next post, I’ll discuss the variety of ways you might do that and explain what I did (which was a bit less “conventional” than most professional artists out there) but it worked really well for me.