The use of social media to propel street artists to the status of underground cultural icons, increased public interest in muralists such as Fintan Magee and what it takes to succeed.
What does it mean to be an artist? This is a debate that philosophers have had for millennia, yet is still as interesting a question to ponder today. The most simplistic answer to this very question is, according to the dictionary, that an artist is ‘a person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.’
I am personally of the opinion that if you produce original artwork for the sake of making art, you are an artist. What would we have called the likes of Van Gogh, who produced thousands of paintings and drawings in his lifetime but only sold one? Do we only consider him an artist post mortem, once the world finally recognised him?
Like it or not, the world has changed significantly since the 1800’s, it is no longer our personal views, or some few lorded gatekeepers in society that determine who meets the standard. In the online era, it is us, the general public, who give a thumbs up or down to our favourite artists, big and small, to affirm them and support their ambition.
Meeting a Mover and Shaker
Filled with curiosity to explore what it takes to be a successful street artist in this generation, I spoke to Fintan Magee, the Australian muralist who has been touring the world selling his artwork in solo exhibitions and leaving his trademark murals in his wake.
At age 13, Magee started writing graffiti but outgrew this artistic style by the time he hit his mid-twenties. It was then that he began to develop an interest in other forms of public art and where his own style evolved. Considering himself a low brow artist, he drew influence from illustrators or people that are outside of the ‘high art’ spectrum, including Australian artists Michael Luenig and Sean Tan.
“I just really like making art, sometimes it’s healthy not to question your motivations too much.”
As Magee is both an indoor and outdoor artist, I was interested in learning what inspires his pieces, whether this differs depending on the location and if it is an exhibition or street piece. On inspiration, Magee has a refreshingly chilled view, saying “I just really like making art, sometimes it’s healthy not to question your motivations too much.” Although, location does weigh in and he tries to draw inspiration from his surroundings.
Social Advancing Artists
One factor that we know is working very much in favour of artists today is the proliferation of social media and the internet. “It has changed how art is seen and sold and how art interacts with the general public,” says Magee. “Also, muralism has had a huge resurgence because of street art in the last ten years. So we are seeing a lot more sanctioned and commissioned works now.”
If anyone can attest to the rising popularity of muralism, it is Fintan Magee, who has secured commissioned work worldwide, from Italy to Australia, Germany to French Polynesia, and many more countries in between.
As an avid traveller, Magee always had his sights on merging his passion for travel with his mural practice, which he has successfully achieved.
“I know it sounds cliché, but all it is is hard work… one thing that all successful artists have in common is that they all work very, very hard.”
When asking if there was a formula for his success, Magee offered “I know it sounds cliché, but all it is is hard work. I know a lot of artists that have found success for different reasons; some are good at creating controversy, some are great at promoting themselves, some are very skilled technically some develop their concepts very well. The one thing that all successful artists have in common is that they all work very very hard.”
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Looking to the Future
While hard work is the key to success, it doesn’t stop self-doubt creeping in from time to time. “It’s easy to be self-critical when everything around you is so subjective,” says Fintan.
For the future, Magee’s plans are to simply “Keep working, I am trying to focus on studio work a little more this year. That’s my main focus right now.”
Already moving forward on his 2018 plans, Los Angeles based readers can show support for Magee at Thinkspace Gallery, Los Angeles in June.