Local or Regional – Splitting Hairs

Two kinds of artist can be part of any specific geographic location, one Local, the other Regional. Local is the most common. This is the artist who paints of a quality and subject matter that satisfies the common tastes

(Eiffel Tower) (Carribean) (Statue of Liberty) (Chicago Skyline)

of a region and its tourists. Charleston has its paintings of palm trees and marsh, and Maine has the waves on crashing rocks. Local need not be eloquent; he must, however, have the area’s landmark scenery as a priority – over great painting, over whatever might move his spirit – and a keen eye for what sells.

Aldro Hibbard

The Regional artist knows and feels his locale to the exclusion of all others. Tom Thomson, Harry Leith Ross, Aldro Hibbard, and even Paul Cezanne come to mind. He chooses to paint a beauty that is revealed by long observation – as if painting the dear friend, beloved and unidealized, rather than the starlet.

Local and Regional are often confused because they’re in the same place, painting ten feet from each other. But neither their paintings nor their audiences are the same. The audience of Local is relatively large and is more likely to pick up a piece of art on the basis of color and sentimentality, buying artwork created specifically for that market. Since most art is purchased while people are on vacation (it’s true), it goes without saying that they are going home with a pleasant reminder of their trip – a sunny

Harry Leith Ross

Eiffel Tower, palm trees over-leaning a clean Carribean beach, or a Grand Canyon sunset – often enough a reproduction.

Local’s audience is not intrigued at all by Regional’s paintings. ‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Tired Evening Light’, or ‘Wet Pavement’ would constitute a vacationer’s nightmare.

The Local painter is recording a place as seen from a tour bus window – painting 200 year old houses without plumbing problems, weddings without marriage, and Jamaica without poverty. The Regional painter depicts the life of a place not just its landmarks, so Local’s audience might perceive Dickensian when it’s looking for Disneyland. Tables turned, Regional’s audience finds the view from the tour bus vapid. Clearly Local and Regional serve their own, distinct audiences.

Paul Cezanne

Often, the Regional artist doesn’t understand (and neither do his family, friends, and neighbors) why the whimsical, colorful, frivolous painter is laughing all the way to the bank, easily selling relatively unskilled work day in, day out, while he can’t feed his kids. (Why don’t you paint those pretty pictures like Joe does? You know he’d probably give you some pointers…) Regional is trying to sell in his hometown just like Local. The wrong audience Regional’s audience is spread thin and cannot be easily pinpointed like Local’s. He’s got his job cut out for him. Where do fine paintings sell? Everywhere. One at a time.


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