“So What Sort of Paintings Do You Do?”

When I mention to people that I paint, the very next question invariably is “So what sort of paintings do you do?”

I find this question rather hard to answer.  Am I a Neo-Expressionist?  Am I a Post-Modernist?  Artistically speaking, what am I?  I have no idea.  In fact, I used to – and sometimes still do – think that I don’t have a discernable style.  As I state in my artist’s bio, I see myself as an artistic chameleon.  While artists generally have – or eventually develop – a distinct look and style, my approach, style, and final product are dependent largely on the subject and what inspired me at that moment.  I used to think that in some respects, no two paintings of mine are anything alike.

To not sound like a dilettante, I usually answer with conviction that my paintings fall somewhere between Pop Art and Modern Art.  I figure that’s a vague enough (non-)answer that covers a lot of artistic ground, and also satisfies the person asking the question.  

Friends and acquaintances who have watched my artistic progression over the past six or seven years have told me that I “have a definite style.”  When pressed further, I often get the lowest-common-denominator answer drenched with some degree of humor, “You paint women with big boobs.”

I laugh along.  However, more than half of my paintings have nothing to do with women.  Honestly, I wince at the over-simplification of my work as “tits-and-ass paintings.”  

I arrived at a more satisfactory realization and description as I redesigned my website earlier this year.  I admitted to myself that perhaps I do have a distinct style.  While my art does land at the intersection of Modern and Pop Art, more notable is its subject-driven nature and its underlying recurring themes.  My work tends to fall in one of four categories:  yes, women; NYC-centric urban themes; music; and stylized flowers.  Anything that doesn’t quite fit into these themes, falls in the one-off, catch-all “tangents” categories.  To ascribe strict artistic movements to my work is secondary and sometimes not even relevant.

I realized that perhaps the most defining aspect of my art - although not always readily apparent - is that I try to derive stylistic inspiration from high-fashion ads and photography, which I consider an art form in and of itself.  I try to turn the mirror on advertising and photography - and even the better aspects of Instagram - and deliver it back in paint form.  This is especially evident in my urban- and women-themed paintings, but finds its way into my other themes as well.

Be sure to check out the Paintings section of this website and drop me a line if you agree, disagree, or have any opinions.

Ravi Raman: Sell-Out

"ABC – Always Be Closing” is one of those sales clichés that people say, as if they coined the phrase.  As with most clichés, there’s more than a little bit of truth in it.  As an artist today, one has to…Always Be Closing.   If they have any aspirations of being a success – whether that’s defined financially, in terms of notoriety, or both – closing and selling become an intrinsic part of an artist's life.

Gone are the days when an artist could say with a snobbish affect, “I let my art speak for itself,” and wait for an audience to discover them.  Actually, was there ever such a day?  Fact is, the only way art will speak to an audience is if the artist gives it a megaphone.  To have a megaphone, the artist must find a venue, a social media platform, a collaboration - any creative application - to present their art to the most number of people.  That's how one gains exposure and ultimately makes a sale.

As much as I dislike the sales cliché, I am always selling, and when I’m not selling, I’m thinking of ways to sell.  There still are some artists I know who view my approach as beneath them or view me as a “sell out,” as if that were a bad thing.

Yes.  I am a sell-out and damn proud of it.  If I seem all too comfortable accepting the sell-out mantle, it’s because I have some experience in that role.  I spent years playing in a band and being willing to do anything to get noticed by the general public as well as record labels (remember them?).  I realized when I began to show my art that it was no different than music promotion.  I had to be a hustler to get noticed.  As a result, I will slap my art on anything, as long as I think it’s cool and won’t cheapen my work.  My only questions are whether by doing so I will expose my art to a greater number of people, and if it will lead to someone’s interest in purchasing one of my paintings.

So far, I've emblazoned my artwork on cell phone cases, silk scarves, and skateboard decks.  I continue to look for innovative ways to increase exposure to my art and ultimately to sales of my paintings.  If you want to purchase cases, scarves, or decks, head over to my "Merchandise" page.  (See what I did just now?  I "Always Be Closing!")

If Picasso had adopted a purist's view and only painted in his Bateau-Lavoir studio, and waited for the world to magically realize that he was a genius and a revolutionary, right now, you would be reading this wondering, “Who the hell is Picasso?”       

Rear-View Mirror View of ArtExpo NY

Now that ArtExpo NY is in my rear-view mirror, this is a good time to reflect on the experience.  Wednesday through Sunday (April 18 – 22) was life in fast-forward in a whole new and different arena.  Wednesday was set-up day, Thursday was industry-only day, and Friday through Sunday were days when I got to meet thousands of art lovers. 

 When the doors opened every morning, I no longer was an artist painting in isolation.  I now was a professional artist-slash-performer playing to a crowd of thousands.  In fact, it was not entirely dissimilar to my days of playing in a band.  Yet through it all, the singular point that was not lost on my fellow artists or me was that the purpose of the art on display and the accompanying performance component ultimately was to sell paintings and create opportunities, both immediate and for the future.  The purpose of ArtExpo NY, as with any art show or festival, is the commerce of art – the sale of art.    

In pursuit of the elusive and sought-after sale (I made one), my days were long and arduous.  In addition to showing my paintings, I also displayed a permanent-press smile on my face.  The heels of my feet were on fire from standing virtually in place for hours on end.  I spoke to each of the thousands of visitors to my display wall as if they were the first and only people I had spoken to all day. 

Yet for all the obsession with sales, ArtExpo NY also had an overwhelming sense of community among the artists.  Generally, it’s rare for artists to meet.  Here, there was the surprising realization that, as artists, we are not alone in our ambitions and the need to have our art connect with the rest of the world.  Moreover, there was the realization that artists – each with a uniqueness to their work – from every corner of the planet all share that quality. 

In a brief five-day period, we artists met some kindred spirits, shared a unique experience, and now we plan to take those experiences and new-found friendships with us into the future. 

So was ArtExpo a success?  In a word…yes.  And I had the best time.   

The Road To ArtExpo NYC

April 19 – 22 are going to be something of a homecoming for me, as I show my artwork at ArtExpo NYC. 

New York City was my stomping grounds dating back to the days in high school when my best friend and I would take the NJ Transit train to 48th Street to window-shop with wide-eyed amazement at all the guitar and music equipment shops.  During and after my college years, NYC bars, clubs, and music venues were where my band cut its teeth and became a well-oiled music machine.  While the band didn’t become an international household name as we’d intended, all the experiences, adventures, misadventures, and pure joy we had in NYC during those years still hold fond memories and a special place in my heart.

Going back to NYC to promote my art – only this time in the paint medium – feels joyously reminiscent of my Music Years.  In fact, I’m approaching it in identical fashion through shameless, shameless self-promotion to anyone who'll give me even a moment to shamelessly self-promote.  I've invited everyone including family, friends from NJ and DC, gallery owners/employees, local press/bloggers, real-estate firms, and NYC-based celebrities, all with the singular goal of gaining greater exposure for my art and hopefully making a few (or a lot of) sales along the way.  

If you’re reading this, I’m inviting you as well!

ArtExpo NYC                                          For complimentary tickets:
April 19 - 22                                            rtunes68@gmail.com

11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Booth 516-S   

Pier 94
711 12th Ave.
(55th St. & West Side Hwy)  

Painting What I Want vs. What I’m Asked To Do

Most of my art reflects whatever it is that I’m inspired by at a given moment.  To anyone who knows me personally, it shouldn’t be a jaw-dropper that my inspiration comes largely from:  City Life, Pretty Flowers, Prettier Women, Music, and Random One-off Stuff.

When I paint something I’m inspired by, I don’t concern myself with whether others will like it or if it will sell.  I learned from years of playing and recording music that you can never create art – music or otherwise – with the audience in mind, because you have no idea how someone will react.  There is no “formula” to guarantee that everyone – or anyone – will like something you create.  You can never second-guess your audience.  You only can create what pleases you and have faith that your work will affect or inspire others – even one person – in a positive way. 

Where the wrench is thrown at the monkey is when I’m asked to do a commissioned painting.  While some people will give me an idea of what they envision – subject, colors, size, etc. – and then allow me wide discretion, others are very specific.  In those situations, it’s no longer painting solely based on inspiration, but painting something that someone wants me to paint, and doing it to their specifications, expectations, and satisfaction.  Initially, there's an artistic resistance to doing such a painting. 

However, artists – especially this one – generally have egos that walk into the room nine inches before they do, so adulation and the need to please others become significant factors.  That is when I make a conscious effort to shift focus from pure inspiration to execution.  Inspiration then comes from the challenge of creating what someone wants me to create.  The challenge itself is the inspiration.  It’s a shift in mindset.

All this brings me to a painting I am about to begin.  A friend asked me to paint a picture of his children’s elementary school for a fundraising event.  From an artistic vantage point, nothing could be less inspiring or more mundane.  However, as I’ve chosen to approach it, I’m inspired by the challenge of actually painting a credible picture of a school.

Stay tuned to this website and my Instagram page (@rtunes68) to see how the painting turns out. 

If It Looks Good, It Is Good

How do you differentiate between “good art” and “bad art”? 

As far as I’m concerned, good art is whatever appeals to you.  Bad art is whatever doesn’t appeal to you.

Art scholars, critics, and even collectors have perpetuated the myth that they alone, possessed with an exclusive knowledge and education of art, know what art is good and what isn’t.  Yet even among the “art intelligentsia” there is no universal agreement about art or artists.  One person’s view that Basquiat’s work is that of a (deranged) five-year old is another person’s masterpiece worth north of $110 million.

If even the intelligentsia aren’t in total agreement, then why should the opinion of the casual passerby at an art gallery be any less valid? 

Sadly, this sort of elitism has the chilling effect of making art seem out of reach for most people.  Art is no different than music.  Yet people freely give their opinions of a musician or song or band in casual conversation, but are hesitant to be so candid about art.        

The significance and influence of an artist may not be debatable, but whether their art is “good” or “bad” is wholly in the eyes of the beholder. 

Eddie Van Halen famously once said about music, “If it sounds good, it is good.”

The next time you see hesitate to go to a gallery or form an opinion on a painting or artist, apply Van Halen’s musical approach to art... 

If it looks good, it is good.