JERRY GOROSKI is the consultant appraisar to whom I refer inquiries about Scriver bronzes. He is formally trained and certified to do assessments and knew Bob Scriver as well as working for the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls. His gallery is called "Open Range Art."


Friday, February 03, 2006


From the NYTimes: “New York State has imposed a moratorium on new commercial colleges in the state, in the face of explosive growth in their enrollments and increasing reports of problems.” These schools are consuming more than $100 million in state aid. With so many young people believing that they’d better find a way to make a lot of money quickly, schools other than the academic are promising results. These schools include art schools. Art as business.

For a long time “abstract” has almost defined expensive art -- the Picasso/Pollock complex. But all the time, in the background, representational art has gone along on its own track -- both as illustrations in magazines and in the field of Western art. Many of the most famous Western artists are in fact illustrators from an earlier time. Howard Terpning is predicted to be the first living Western artist to be paid a million dollars for a painting. Though he sells in the hundreds of thousands of dollars now, a million is still a little optimistic. He has also “home schooled” two daughters into high-priced artists.

With Western art auctions handling something approaching sixty million dollars a year and such news as Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of George Washington selling for 21.3 million dollars, the attention of many people is attracted. The image of the impoverished artist wavers a bit. Painting doesn’t seem so hard -- maybe a few lessons. Not much expensive equipment needed. You can do it at home on your own time. Just paint what you see, right?

In academic circles it may still be hard to find teachers and courses that are more than theory and experiment suitable for abstractions. But there ARE commercial art schools that teach a person to paint realistically with sophistication. In fact, Terpning originally studied at the American Academy of Art, which was founded by an advertising man named Frank Young in the early 20th century specifically to train commercial artists who could do layouts and so on. Young charged low tuitions because he needed the talent to be there to do advertising work, his main income.

By the time Frank Young had passed on and his school had been passed down through the generations, the tuition was four or five thousand dollars a year. But then the school was sold to someone who was interested in the school as his profit base: the tuition went to $13,000 a year. The tuition is now $27,000 a year. And they get it. There is no academic degree now, but the school has realized that if they include a minimal number of math and lit classes, they can qualify for receiving student loan money from the government. Hello, New York!!

Down through the ages, would-be artists have gotten their educations by attaching to a “master” and following him (usually male) around in a studio or atelier until they’ve learned the basics -- maybe even done some of the prep and background work for the master. But now many successful artists are not entirely willing to accept apprentices. The more popular pattern is the painting workshop in some attractive spot where the students pay a lot of money for an accomplished artist to teach them for a few weeks. Some artists spend as much money scouting locations and making arrangements for housing, etc., as they do actually painting and teaching, but they clear hundreds of thousands of dollars. And maybe they pick up some good customer or gallery contacts.

Another model is that of the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Art. ( For $400 a year you can attend open, uninstructed studio sessions with live models. Instruction is in addition, maybe $20-$25 per student per session for ten weeks. This approach is recommended by Brian Minder (blog at with examples of his painting). Brian is a civil engineer part of the week in order to pay for being an artist the rest of the week. He is totally opposed to going into debt, having seen too many people crash and burn.

Brian’s hero is a painter named Richard Schmid, who is sometimes presented as a Western artist. Schmid -- in a world where many artists think only of their income -- has been generous with his help and support for artists at the Palette and Chisel, which has created a kind of “school” or “group” that paints together and keeps up with each other. Brian names Clayton Beck, Dan Gerhartz, Nancy Guzik, Rose Frantsen, Scott Burdick, Susan Lyon, Ken Cadwallader, Romel de la Torre. No tuition was involved. (Note women are included.)

In addition, Schmid has written a number of books, one of the most significant being Alla Prima: Everything I know About Painting (ISBN: 0966211715). A used copy of this one will sent you back $300 on, but artists say it is a key source of advice. There are also Schmid books on landscape and on nudes and many artists do DVD’s (rather than tape cassettes) that are demonstrations. I’ll append an account of the annual Schmid Auction in Bellvue, Colorado, where he used to live. It’s a benefit for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department that raised $265,000 last September. (He lives in New Hampshire now.)

But there are not enough Richard Schmids to go around all the anxious and aspiring wannabe artists who run up huge debts at commercial art schools without any promise at all that they will be able to earn a living, much less pay back the thousands of dollars. The more who read about the money a Schmid or Terpning can make, the more who fantasize about their own future, the more the field is crowded with competition. Despite their dreams and hard work (and not all work that hard) in the end they may need to assume a new identity or emigrate to a new country or take bankruptcy.

Bob Scriver and I used to talk about the two kinds of artists. One sort loved being an artist and had the studio, the costume and the palaver all ready to go. You might say they were “all hat and no painting” after the cowboy who was “all hat and no cattle.” Painting, to them, was a kind of lifestyle. The other kind just wanted to paint -- didn’t care where or how so long as they were warm and fed. These are the ones who eventually are worth a lot of money.

Art today is often judged by its price -- the public seems to believe that a painting that auctions for a lot of money is a better painting than one that doesn’t meet its withholding price. In the past, valuing art was put into the hands of authorities -- professors and professionals who spent time reflecting upon and defending aesthetic standards. The danger then was that the view became narrower and narrower until art began to asphyxiate in the repetition and tight boundaries. Eventually, that triggers a counter-phenomenon like the wild explosion of energy and experiment at the beginning of the 20th century.

This is the way Minder’s reflections go: “The problem is that everybody thinks that they are the “One,” that they have a chance at greatness. There is no humility and very little of the idea that you may love the arts and even be competent in one of them, but you still have to step aside for others who are more talented. Or that you may have to make sacrifices in the material world to satisfy what uplifts you spiritually.”

This is from Art of the West magazine, Jan/Feb. 2006:

Art lovers from throughout the country spent a record-setting $265,000 on paintings and sculptures at the 10th Annual Richard Schmid Auction in Bellvue, Colorado, last September. Proceeds from the auction help to suport the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, which depends entirely on donations to protect the homes and people in more than 100 square miles west of Fort Collins.

The one-day event culminated in Schmid’s Whetstone Brook oil painting selling for $80,000. Another of his paintings, Roses, sold for $20,000. Other top-selling artists included Schmid’s daughter, Molly Schmid, Nancy Guzik, Rod Salter, Nancy Seamore Crookston, C. Michael Dudash, and Joseph Todorovitch. They joined 137 other artists who participated in the live and silent auctions.

’This is America at its best,’ Schmid said as he watched the art auction. ‘It is amazing how the power of art can unite a community.’

Wes Rutt, president of the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, said, ‘Our record-setting results confirm that this event has become one of the most anticipated and well-attended art auctions in the West. Since our fire department receives no tax dollars, it is Richard Schmid, the talented artists throughout the country, their generous patrons, and everyone who attends the auction who deserve credit for making our volunteer fire deparment one of the best in the state.’

The fire department will put the net proceeds of more than $129,000 towards the purchase of a fire truck that can spray fire-retardant foam on homes.

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