Kara Lysandra Ross interview (Part 2)

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Kara Lysandra Ross is the Director of Operations for the Art Renewal Center (ARC). This important organization is playing a leading role as mouthpiece for the realist movement. Criticized and ridiculed for decades, realism is experiencing a dramatic resurgence. ARC has not only set high standards in the arts, both for teachers and professional artists, but they also make information available to the public in the form of art images (thousands of them by the world’s greatest artists). Also, they promote the schools that have proper training methods. There are articles, books, and information on upcoming lectures and exhibitions…and ARC works hard to promote the work and accomplishments of other like minded organizations. Staying on top of the movement as a whole, while being an important influence, also guides their work. It is a tremendous resource for everyone, not just artists…and it is Kara Ross who handles all the day to day management of this valuable organization.

If you are not familiar with the Art Renewal Center, believe me, you are really missing out on an art education. You will be amazed with what is available to you there.

So, I’m grateful to again present Kara Ross for the second half of our interview. If you missed Part 1, I encourage you to read it first, right HERE.

Kara Ross-3

Why, at this time in our history, is there a move away from non-objective art toward realism?   There is a strong move towards realism because people are tired of looking at things that do not require skill. I am sure that in the beginning and even into the 1960s and 1970s, it was exciting to experiment by throwing paint or painting dots and squares, finding found objects and putting them on pedestals, but now, that type of art is just dated. It is not representative of the 21st century. I read an article not to long ago in Times Magazine that was an interview with Damien Hurst. He was talking about a series of paintings he was working on that was the largest collection of paintings of spots ever created. Furthermore he went on to say that he only painted a small portion of them and hired other people to paint the vast majority. When the reporter asked him who he found to help him with the work, he said he tried to find people with no artistic talent to show that anyone can produce this type of art. I could not help thinking, “Aren’t you embarrassed to say that you are selling paintings created by people who you admit yourself have no artistic talent?” So people can paint spots, so what. The only amazing thing about it is that people are still being duped into spending tens of thousands of dollars on things they can produce themselves in a couple hours.

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - "Au Bord du Ruisseau (At the Edge of the Stream)" - Oil - 1875

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – “Au Bord du Ruisseau (At the Edge of the Stream)” – Oil – 1875

William Bouguereau seems to be almost a “guiding light” of the ARC philosophy, is that correct? If so, what makes his work so special, almost a standard?   William Bouguereau was picked as a sort of mascot of ARC because he was the most wronged by the modernist movement. During his own time he was raised to the highest levels of fame and his name was known everywhere like the names of Picasso or Andy Warhol are today. No one was as famous or as beloved as William Bouguereau and no one was more vilified by the modernist art establishment. Even today you have museum curators who hide his work in the basement. For example, Mr. Irv Gingrich wrote me, who loves Bouguereau’s work, and said that one of the curators of the L.A. County Museum told him that Bouguereau “intentionally sexualized children in his paintings”. This is why she did not want his painting hanging in the museum. She made the claim that the painting the museum has, entitled The Story Book, was sexual because the girl was wearing a nightgown, which revealed her shoulder. This is a bizarre conclusion. The painting is of a young child around 5 or 6 years of age, who has gotten ready for bed and is eagerly holding a book for a story to be read to her before it is time to go to sleep. This is something that parents do for their children in countless homes across the globe. It is done out of love for ones’ child. What type of person looks at a 5-year-olds’ shoulder and thinks it is sexual by nature? It is a strange and disturbing conclusion. Certainly Bouguereau, who was known to be a protector of children and of the poor, who gave freely of his time and money to countless charities, who was a house hold name and a beloved patron of France, would not have drawn or intended such a bizarre conclusion. Bouguereau painted this painting to remind viewers to love and care for their children and to urge onlookers to hark back to the joys of childhood. In truth, Bouguereau was the best and many people feel this way. He was original without being original for originality’s sake; ambitious with meaning and purpose; at his best technically flawless, and more then that, he captured the human soul. He is idealized by much of the realist movement because he is everything modernism is not.

William Adolphe Bouguereau ( 1825-1905) - "The Story Book" - Oil

William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – “The Story Book” – Oil

What are ARC’s future plans?   Where do I start? We would like to open a museum one day to show all the amazing work by Living Artists as well as the once forgotten artists of the past like William Bouguereau and his other 19th century contemporaries. Apart from that we are always expanding. We will continue to grow the Salon and get more press involved to help promote the movement. We will be adding and expanding the ARC Museum with special attention to under appreciated artists of the past as well as more and more Living Masters. We will soon be incorporating videos onto the ARC website, and of course will continue to expand the biographical information and art research content of the website. We would like to locate and add more like-minded organizations and atelier/academy schools to our circle of communication, so that we can all grow and thrive as a more organized movement. We are also planning to start an ARC Approved Gallery list to help collectors find the most reputable galleries and connect artists to galleries as well..

What’s it take to be a great artist?   I would say, talent, dedication, and a willingness to take constructive criticism. Any artist who thinks their painting is perfect and that they have no room for improvement is both wrong and unlikely to ever be one of the best. It is important to put ego aside and be able to look at ones own work objectively, taking what others have to say into consideration. I am not saying that the constructive criticism will always be right; just that the artist needs to be willing to listen and try to see if there is any validity or way to improve from what the objective onlooker is saying. Talent goes without saying, and an artist needs to both be technically proficient, know his/her craft, and be able to capture something beyond the image. You can be a good artist with one of these parameters or the other, but to be great you need to have both. It is not easy to be an artist and like anything, one gets better the more they do it, so dedication is also key. A hobby artist is not going to ever be as good as one who make it their full time job.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) - "The Finding of Moses" - 55"x 84" - Oil (1904)

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) – “The Finding of Moses” – 55″x 84″ – Oil (1904)

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) - "Marianne Leaving the Judgement Seat  of Herod" - Oil (1887)

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917) – “Marianne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod” – Oil (1887)

If you could spend a day with any three artists past or present, whom would they be?   Although I always love spending time with living artists, I think it would be a little strange to single out anyone specific here since I only get to name three and I would hate to leave anyone out. I have gotten to meet many living artists, and look forward to meeting many more.  However, for the artists of the past, I would have to say first Edmund Blair Leighton, since I’m doing a biography and catalog raisonne on him, and research would be a lot easier if I could just ask him questions directly rather then chasing bits and scraps all over the Internet and across the Atlantic. Second, would be Frank Dicksee, since he was Leighton’s best friend and one of my favorites, and lastly, if I could set language barriers aside (assuming you don’t mind since I have already set aside the veil of death), I would say William Bouguereau and Jules Lefebvre together. Two amazing artists. Bouguereau would be higher on my list, but after spending thousands of hours with my father on the catalogue raisonne, I have developed a love hate relationship with him. It was well worth the work, but the job was a very tedious process.

How are ARC images obtained, and how accurate are the color images compared with the originals?   The images on the ARC site come from many sources. Brian Yoder and my father have been collecting images for 30 years. We have many transparencies. We also have been given many images by other art lovers, most recently 30 examples of Marie Bashkirtseff’s work (1858-1884) from Fonthill Press. We try to keep the color as accurate as possible but of course we can only be as good as the images we receive and we’re always looking for more sources.

Any restriction on the use of the images?   Yes, we have published a policy at the following link. HERE

Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884) - "Portrait of Madame P.B." - Oil (1881)

Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884) – “Portrait of Madame P.B.” – Oil (1881)

Raphael (1483-1520) - "Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione" - Oil (1515)

Raphael (1483-1520) – “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione” – Oil (1515)

What is the value of being recognized as an ARC Living Master?   ARC Artists/Living Masters get their own section in the ARC museum with 25 images or so of their work on display, a biography and contact information, so that interested individuals can contact them, or the galleries that represent them, directly. As mentioned, we get a lot of visitors (approximately 5,000,000 annually) to the ARC website, which for most artists gives them much more exposure than their personal websites which receive only a fraction of that number. We have a steady flow of collectors, dealers, and press who visit the ARC website and view the ARC Living Master’s gallery. I actually get contacted with some frequency by dealers or collectors looking for a specific artist’s work, and sometimes as well, I have been told that an artist was contacted by a gallery shortly after being placed on our website. We also publicize, through the ARC Blog, any awards or exhibitions in which our ARC artists/masters participate. Our Facebook page, weekly e-newsletter, and ARC News Flash, all go out to our 30,000 registered members. If an affiliated ARC Living Master ™  or ARC Associate Living Master ™ teaches privately or does workshops, we list them on our atelier page under master classes. We know that a lot of the ARC Approved Schools get a significant number of students from being present on the ARC Website. Our ARC Living Master ™  and ARC Associate Living Master ™ also get the advantage of being able to advertise their workshops on ARC and in the blog/newsflash if they would like.

How are those selections made, and how is consistency maintained?   An artist who is interested in having their work shown on the ARC website must submit an application. A panel of at least four of our judges then reviews the work. We have a re-judging process that occurs every four years. Here is a link to the application page with details. HERE

How important is marketing for today’s artist?   Marketing as with all fields is very important. You have to be able to get your name out there and your work seen. Of course this makes the assumption that an artist wants to be famous and wants their work to sell for as much money as possible. If the artist does not care about that and just wants to paint because they love it without any monetary concern or strong desire to get the images into the public’s eye, then it doesn’t really matter.

Jean-Leon Gerome _(1824-1904) - "The Carpet Merchant" - Oil (1887)

Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904) – “The Carpet Merchant” – Oil (1887)

What is the best way to go about it?   Internet is of course key. Apart from recommending that artists apply to be shown on ARC, Facebook and personal websites are also important tools. An artist has to be active. It is important to have public showings of the work. Exhibitions and gallery shows are valuable additions to the resume. Winning awards in major competitions like the ARC Salon, or even minor competitions is of course an opportunity to gain publicity and press. To be written up in a magazine or newspaper article is also a huge plus. The more active an artist is, the more people will learn of their work and the longer and more impressive the artist’s resume will look to potential buyers and gallery owners. If a gallery can point to a painting and say “this just won a major award, or did you know this artist was just featured in this magazine?” it will be a selling point and make it easier to sell an artist’s work.  That being said, the artist’s work needs to speak for itself as well. Powerful and beautiful works of art have intrinsic value and people recognize that. For a talented realist painter, works can tend to sell themselves, but one still needs to get the images and paintings out their for people to see.

Kara, thank you for this important interview.

Images courtesy of the Art Renewal Center (ARC)


As many of you know, the Art Renewal Center hosts an annual International Salon. This next one will be their tenth. The deadline for the current Salon has been extended until January 31st. If you are inclined to enter, below is the information.

This will be our 10th annual competition in which some of the best contemporary realist artists in the world compete for recognition, cash prizes, and a chance to have their work seen by some of the more than 5,000,000 annual visitors to the ARC website, as well as in other reputable venues.

This year we will have press coverage in six magazines; Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine will be publishing an article on the top winners of the 2013/2014 Salon. In addition, Plein Air Magazine will be giving out a special award to one artist to be featured in their magazine. Also, for the first year ever, American Art Collector MagazineWestern Art Collector MagazineAmerican Fine Art Magazine, and International Artist Magazine will all be giving out awards as well. ARC Director of Operations, Kara Lysandra Ross, will write an article on the top winners for the Epoch Times, a large international newspaper that publishes in 19 languages.

The Best in Show winner of the 2013/2014 ARC Salon competition, in addition to $8,000, will be awarded with a fully produced and released video DVD produced by Streamline Art Video showing a demonstration of their technique, an interview with the artist, and a profile of the artist’s work as a key featured part of a DVD on the ARC Salon.

This year we are offering $61,450 in cash awards, though with purchase awards sometimes being well above the minimum stated, the total amount is often much higher. For example, in last year’s competition, paintings valued at over $200,000 were purchased. Participants can compete and win in 7 categories, Figurative, Imaginative Realism, Landscape, Still Life, Animal, Sculpture, and Drawing.

To view the full prospectus, click HERE


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE




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