Letters To A Young Artist

{ Introductory Lectures }


The art of influence is always around us, informing with gentle whispers. Inspiration may take on many forms and gestures which at first may seem obscure to understand. We are proud to exhibit a selection of  artist letters from Art On Paper magazine, a seminal Art publication which ended its print run several years ago. Art on paper focused on six specific genres within contemporary art. Prints, works on paper, books, ephemera, collage and photography respectively. Each visual taxonomy within the magazine’s ethos represented a conversation between the artist works in the studio and the public at large.

On the subject behind public perception towards certain forms of art making, process and personality objections, we say:

“The Rationalization Behind Certain Views, Must Be Define As:

What Ornithology Must Feel For The Birds.”

The exhibit on view is a selection of artist responses, along with the original letter from a young graduating Fine Artist  from the West Coast. The letter was mail to the Magazine editors for guidance on how to make it in NYC art world. In what can only be described as a brilliant move by the magazine editors, Peter Nesbett, Shelly Bancrof and Sarah Andress who passed on the young artist note to leading contemporary artist for advice. In addition, a gallery space, showcasing Art On Paper genres within my own creative investigation as a visual thinker will guide the non-art viewer towards understanding contemporary art.

I hope you will subscribe to #Art Journal magazine, a bi-weekly to monthly online publication focusing on the culture of creative ideas as fundamental particles of existence.

The Letter, 

From Art On Paper Magazine 

“Eighteen months ago, I graduated from art school and moved to NYC from the West Coast. I was exited about the prospect of living and making art in what many say is still the heart of the contemporary art world. The museums. The galleries and nonprofit spaces. The music clubs. A community of peers, I remember the exhilaration I felt when I first arrived, sleeping on a friend’s couch while I looked for my first apartment.

That seem like a long time ago. Since then I’ve been overwhelmed by the challenges of trying to make ends meet. When I’m not at my JOB- where I spend most of my time–I’m either out looking at exhibitions or I’m holed up in my room trying to make my art. In short , I’ve been spending a lot of time alone in a city teaming with people. The few  friends I have made are artist, many of whom are already showing and selling their work. Not me, although I’ve had the chance. Call me a purist, but I think it is important for artists to develop a true sense of themselves before showing their work, so as not to be tempted or tainted by commercial ambition. I struggle with many aspects of the art business, which at the moment appears to be ruled by fashion and greed.

Felling the need to be ruled by fashion and greed. Has already lived the life I am living, I decided to write a letter to an established artist whose work I deeply admire. Just the process of writing the letter was therapeutic, and I wasn’t expecting I would actually receive a response. But several weeks later, I did. I was shocked. Reading it, I felt buoyed, energized, and heartened by the engagement.

I began writing to other artist, one by one, selecting those who seem to have approached their careers with passion and integrity. Each response emboldened me to write again  and over time I accumulated almost a dozen letters from artist. The letters have promoted me to take a good look in the mirror, to question my fears, ambitions, prejudices, and assumptions”.

 Artist Rebuttal To The Letter,

John Baldedssary, Xu Bing, Guerrila Girls, Alex Katz and Yoko Ono.

{ John Baldessary }

Dear Young Artist,

” I Started my career as a young artist in 1957. Then, there was not the money in art that there is today. Therefore, one made art because one needed to do so. I taught public school five days a week and painted when I could. I got married and participated in having two children, which made it more difficult to make art. I lived in National City, California, not an art center.

My advice? Don’t go into art for fame or fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it. Being an artist is a combination of talent and obsession. Live in NYC, LA, Koln, or London. As for money: If you’re talented and obsessed, you’ll find a solution”.

Yrs in Art ,

John Baldessari 

{ Xu Bing }

Dear Young Artist,

“I did not answer you letter sooner, first because I am very busy and second because the honest and specific questions in your letter cannot be answered simply, in a few words. The situation, when those artist who have already succeeded when asked why others have not, have trouble answering the question despite their natural talents.

One can see from your letter that you are a person who has courage when it comes to your future and your artistic responsibilities. This is not something that everyone possesses, outstanding artist. You should recognize this. I have always thought that to be an artist, the first thing you must do is clarify what art is and what its principles are. Specifically speaking, you must identified what an artist does in this world and what relationship exist between yourself, society and culture. And even more specifically, you must determine your particular commutative relationship with society before society will repay you. I sometimes think: I have a house in which to live, a studio in which to work and food to eat–what has been exchanged? Museums and collectors are willing to buy my work for a high price, what have they purchased? The artwork itself is a mere lump of materials, is it worth that much?

Does value derive from meticulously cultivated skill? Many artist work more meticulously than presents society with a valuable way of thinking and is associated with a valuable way of thinking and is associated with a new form of artistic expression.

Every person who has studied art wants to become a major artist, but every person’s conditions are different. This includes knowledge, artistic sensibility, financial and family background, etc. Those who know how to work also understand that whatever limitations they meet can be transformed into things that are useful to them. Using a limitation well transforms it into a strength. In China I received a very conservative art education, and I didn’t come to America to participate in Western contemporary art until I was 35 years old.

My viewpoint is that wherever you live, you will face that place’s problems. If you have problems then you have art.

Just work hard, and don’t worry whether your talent will be discovered. With the speed and ease of communication today, tragedies like those of Van Gogh’s time basically do not exist. Museums and curators are the same as artist: They are anxious that no interesting work will come out. So long as you can bring forth something good, museum curators will come to snatch it away for exhibition.”

I Wish You Success,

Xu Bing

 { Guerrilla Girls } 

Dear Young Artist,

“We’re guessing you’re a woman, since the majority of art students have been female for decades. Get ready to work harder and for fewer rewards than the guys next to you. If you’re an artist of color, multiply those difficulties. We’re not going to advise you about your work, thats for you to figure out. Instead, we want to talk about why you should be an activist as well as an artist, and how you can find your own unique, outrageous way to fight injustice, like we did.

We put up our first  GG posters in the streets in 1985. We were looking for a place to put our frustration, but we also wanted to have some fun criticizing an art system that was so unfair. We never thought we’d still be at it in 2006! The overwhelming public response to out GG work has empowered us in our lives as activist and in our real lives as artist, too. Some of us want and have a piece of the pie, while others would like to blow the whole pie up and start over.

  Sure, the art world’s better now than ever before, specially at the entry level where everyone wants to see  what women and artist of color have to say. But galleries still overwhelmingly show white males, and up the ladder, at the level of museums, auctions and art history books, there’s a crushing glass ceiling, way worse than in a lot of other fields. Lets face it, its hard for anyone to succeed at making art, especially in a system that manufactures scarcity. Museums suck up to these art investors, ask them to sit on their boards and let them decide what to save for the future. We think that’s a lousy way to preserve our culture.

 So you need to make sure your work endures. Whether you do that as an art world insider or outsider, you’ll have to spend some time away from your work, out of your studio, communicating and engaging with whatever art world you decide to live in. Be aware of the system. Don;t be afraid to stand up and criticize it. Be inventive. Do some creative complaining! Calculate, embarrass, humiliate, when necessary. Make ’em laugh at themselves and maybe, just maybe, you can get the powers-that-be move, if only a few centimeters. And don’t forget to have fun doing it! That the very best part!”

Go Ape with Us,

Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz, Guerrilla Girls  

{ Alex Katz }

Dear Young Artist,

“Painting is a social act and develops out of a community. Find your community.

Trust your intuition and taste. Taste is a moral code.

Understand art that you don’t “get”. High art defines what we see. We see culturally. Seeing is a variable determined by that with which we are assaulted. A new vision and a new art should be the aspiration of high art.

Work as hard as you can to develop craft skills.

Read all you  can and remember that by the time you’ve read it a large part of what you read is absolute.

You have the audience you deserve. To enlarge or improve your audience requires all the energy you have. You get back what you put out.

If you fail, at least you should have learned  something”

Good Luck.


Alex Katz 

{ Yoko Ono }

To A Young Artist,

” You could be 18, 30 or 50, you are young to have decided to be an artist at this time in your life. First let me congratulate you on your choice. From here on, you enter endless magic life of being an artist.

The world is your oyster: It will provide you with unlimited material for your art. Look at it again from that point of view. Suddenly the world is a different place, so interesting, so beautiful, and so mysterious. Have fun with it. And share your fun with us.

You, as an artist, will unfold the infinite mystery of life and share it with the world. It may just be two people your work will communicate to. Don’t be upset. Be upset if you are not happy with your work. Never be upset about how many people have seen it, or how many reviews it has received. Your work will exist and keep influencing the world. Moreover, your work will keep changing the very configuration of your world no matter what kind of attention it gets or doesn’t get. So even when you are an unknown artist, be caring of what you make and what you give out. Your work, no matter what, affects the world, and in return, it brings back 10 times what you’ve given out. If you give out confusion, you will give yourself confusion. If you give out something beautiful, you will get back 10 times more beauty in your life. That’s how it works. You are now like a tree  in the park. Your existence is making the city breathe well. So relax and be yourself. Rely on your instinct and inspiration.

Go with it!

By the way, my thanks to you for being an artist. I am aware that I will be one of the many, many people who gets the benefit of your decision. I wish you great success”

Yoko Ono,

{ Gallery  Space }

The gallery on view is a visual representation, exploring Art On Paper magazine genres. Prints, Works On Paper, Artist Books, Ephemera, Prints and Photography. These themes shape my artistic influence as a visual entrepreneur while reaffirming existing foundations within the culture of  contemporary art making. I am not tied to a specific genre or idea which has always allowed me find innovation in form, line, shape, color, texture and composition.

These are the structural visual cues by which I make art today, while continuing to push new boundaries with my work as an artist.

That is to brainstorm, design, test, publish and iterate within a digital or analog context, representing core elementary particles as building blocks in contemporary art.

{ Xerox Transfer Digital Monoprints }


{ Works On Paper }


{ Artist Books }


{ Ephemera Short Film }


{ Photography }


{ Collage }

Next Steps


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Categories: Art, Art Criticism, Art On Paper, Artist Books, Culture, Curatorial Exhibition, Digital MemoirTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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