Scarcity Obscura Redefines Fine Art

Written by Maurice Cardinal

Technology is as tricky as it is tempting.

What it gives with one hand, it takes with the other.

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Pablo Picasso

We live in an era of market disruption in all facets of our lives.

Sometimes disruption is a good thing, at other times, not so much depending on your perspective about whether you want to follow, or lead.

Scarcity Obscura is one of those tech moments that causes fine art painters to lie awake at night wondering what to do, but apparently not Bansky.

I developed this new technological contemporary art process because I wanted to expand on the options for artists and collectors. 

Tech has always been a tease, and often an unfaithful lover. Just when you think everything is going along as planned, another technology wakes you up to the reality that life stands still for no one, and that there is always someone, or something better, or at least wildly different and expensive.

The “art” of painting is about as old fashioned as you can get. Little in that realm has changed mechanically for hundreds of years, except the canvasses and chemicals used in the paint. The process is still exactly the same. Stretch a canvas, toss in a few brushes, palette knives and paint, and practice, practice, practice in obscurity until someone notices you, or until you die.

Jazz musicians suffer the same for their art, but the reality is, it no longer has to be that way for either the musician or the painter. It’s time for a new process.

The most common lament from painters is that no one wants to pay fair price for their art. Wow, when did artists start setting their expectations so low? Read on to find out.

On the flip side of the coin, the most common complaint from mainstream art buyers is lack of trust in the contemporary art system. Proving provenance is expensive and incurs substantial funds that could be directed to the artist. Collectors also indicate artists aren’t as innovative or creative as they were pre-internet. It all looks the same now. They question how many canvasses of sunsets, fruit bowls, and flowers the world needs.

Artists argue that unique creativity is running thin and that everything has already been done by tens of thousands who have gone before. Consequently, frustrated painters mistakenly rationalize that they just need to do the same-old thing, except better, and make perfect what is supposed to be imperfectly authentic. It’s a common and fair philosophical argument because it’s kind of a correct statement–at least the first part. A thousand monkeys typing will cobble eventually a sentence disjointed together … or something to that effect.

There is however one area in the fine art world where creativity still knows no bounds.

Digital artists literally create art that dreams are made of, and then some.

Back in the day, when there were considerably fewer fine art painters, no one had this problem. Today however, everyone and their mother considers themselves a painter or a drawer of some sort, and the competition is fierce.

So, how does a traditional reclusive artist stand out from the very noisy crowd?

Simple. Technology! HaHa!  … sorry, that’s probably not very funny if you’re struggling.

It’s not difficult to argue that everything substantially aesthetic in the fine art world of painting has already been covered, and that humans at this stage of our existence have exhausted the gravy train. Other than the perfection of realism, there isn’t much choice except to resort to SHOCK & AWE, which often isn’t creative as much as it is exploitive. Far too much digital art is based on controversy or optical illusion, which quickly becomes boring. Yeah, we get that flashing red and green lines on a screen creates physiological latency in your brain, so does crack–move on. It’s a tech trick, not art.

Painters can either improve their hand skills and go hyper-photorealistic, which is kind of ridiculous today considering the advances in photography and printing – most art likers unfortunately don’t care whether it was painted or shot, and Wal-Mart proves it every day at $49.95. Plus, and maybe more importantly, painters who have invested tens of thousands of hours perfecting their hyperrealism style already have the market cornered. You can’t even wait for them to die to make space for you, because when they do, their estate will flood the market with canvasses that reflect the ultimate scarcity . . . death.

A high resolution photo, skillfully shot and digitally manipulated can be made to look and feel exactly like a great painting, which means that only art collectors with special acuity and appreciation for a painter’s investment in time, and who are willing to pay for it, are standing in the buyer’s lane. Granted, there still are many fine art buyers like this, but they are dwindling and inundated with thousands of painters, many who are cannon-balling off the high board for attention. Two decades ago a painter only had to compete with the other painters in their circuit. Today, the number has exploded exponentially, fractionalizing the fine art market beyond recognition. Local painters now compete directly with painters from all over the world in the name of globalization.

Contemporary fine art buyers today aren’t as interested in technical skills as much as they were in the past, because in developing countries, where artists work for a dollar a day, technoids, with skills like forgers, produce soulless form-paintings like machines. They flood the global market with incredible technical imagery that is stunning on the surface, but totally bereft of soul. We even have elephants and ants competing for art space, and now, also artificial art intelligence – AAI

The other choice, and the one that insightful fine art painters use, is to go deeper into their unconscious and look for creativity in a world that is hidden from casual viewers.

Subtlety, and intrinsic transparency are the new art black.

Art buyers today want to know that there is a story behind the painting, and also that the artist will have longevity and continue to tell their story for a long time, with variations of course. It’s an important element of provenance, just like wine. Provenance separates dedicated artists from the dreamers and drives up value. Provenance also means that artists have to reveal their vulnerabilities, just like lovers. Blockchain verifies authenticity easily and perfectly.

Almost every day an artist will ask me how to get noticed. They never refer to it as competing, which is their first mistake. Too many myopically believe that their vision and skills are so extraordinary that their paintings will jump off the easel onto a gallery or a buyer’s wall. Their dreams are misplaced, and instead of looking for a new way of approaching an old process, they beat their frustration to death doing the same old things over and over. Some frustrated artists even accuse buyers of being stupid, which is mistake number two. Buyers today are in fact incredibly intelligent and demanding because they know what they want, and they don’t want what everyone else has, plus they want it easily certified … except this guy who represents at least half of the earth

Einstein was reputed to have said, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” I couldn’t agree more, but I’m wondering lately, are artists the chicken or the egg–does the business of art actually make some artists crazy, or just crazier?

The trick today isn’t in standing out in a large milling crowd. The secret is to find your niche audience within the chaos. Think of it like Tinder or Bumble, or any dating app. For all you know, your next big buyer is sitting next to you already. It’s up to you to reach out and make the first move. Again, blockchain on a decentralised, distributed web is the perfect vehicle.

Art is almost purely about culture, which means your art has to meet specific expectations. If you don’t understand and appreciate a buyer’s cultural influences, you will have a very hard time enticing them to purchase your art. Most art buyers are not machines that operate solely on profit. Artists need to know their market.

For every atypical painter out there, there is an even more atypical buyer.

Just like online dating; you have to find someone who is perfect for you.

Blockchain technology can do that, and do it perfectly.

Blockchain is disrupting the traditional gallery and art buyer’s model, and creating uncertainty, but at the same time offering a new way to do old things for artists who are willing and who have faith in their vision.

The third mistake artists make is to not believe in their own work, because if you don’t believe in it and invest in your career accordingly, no one else will, ever.

Serious art buyers and collectors are looking for commitment.

As I mentioned earlier, I developed scarcity obscura as a new technological contemporary art promotion process so artists and art buyers would have realistic choices in a world that is rapidly changing. It borrows from an old process that was used back in the day for entirely different reasons.

Scarcity obscura today, or yesterday, is exactly as it sounds. The process is all about creating scarcity by destroying an original work, purposely, by painting another image over it and creating hidden layers.

In earlier times artists painted over their canvasses because they either didn’t like the piece, or they couldn’t afford a new canvas. When one of these old hidden Masters is discovered today the value skyrockets. It’s buried treasure that buyers speculate about wildly. Contemporary artists destroy their art for a variety of reasons.

The old model scarcity obscura still has the same effect today, but for a different reason. The soulful energy of the painting buried underneath is still there, just like it was for the Masters, but today the contemporary version sends a different message. Today, scarcity obscura provides an allegorical glimpse into the unconscious mind of an artist by providing a highly personal vision that a buyer would never normally see. Some artists give it a negative spin, but scarcity obscura is the exact opposite, it’s additive to the experience.

Scarcity obscura provides contemporary art buyers with a sense of spiritual embodiment that helps define niche proclivity. You can call it a soulful or spiritual connection, or just plain ALT, or PUNK if that works better for you. The point is, artists, through technology now have a way to organically share more about themselves and the art they create.

Pre-internet, art collectors who couldn’t afford the original canvas sought out Limited Edition signed prints – basically, signed posters. Scarcity obscura provides the same model, except this time it is digital. The relatively low quality art posters we used to buy, were often very affordable. Today, digital fine art posters are extremely high quality, and still affordable! Thank you coders :)

Technology has disrupted the Limited Edition poster business of yesterday, and replaced it with a model that can now not only be printed in many formats – including hi-resolution, but also be displayed on large screen hi-def monitors and our phones. It’s an incredible new option when you consider that digital art files can also be bought, sold, and traded with little more than a click.

The best part of this for artists and collectors; Scarcity obscura Limited Edition supplemental art pieces, when positioned correctly, can boost the cachet, interest, and value of the original painted canvas not only the first time a certified copy is sold by the artist, but also each time it changes owners. If you do it right, the artist benefits each time it is sold and resold. The other difference is that artists can now manage the process relatively easily for themselves, and not have to pay a third party an unwarranted, inflated fee. When you cut out the middleperson, artists control the message and keep costs for the digital Limited Editions as low as possible. It doesn’t mean you cut out artist reps and galleries, because there is still a very important role for both of these groups. It just means that scarcity obscura provides a shift that returns  autonomy back to the artist. For clarity, some galleries are also already leveraging blockchain technology because they recognize the opportunity, so it’s important for artists and buyers to keep this in mind.

Working together is still an ideal strategy. 

The great thing is that NEW types of electronic blockchain-based galleries are popping up that serve artists and collectors much better than the backroom negotiations of yesteryear. Transparency is the new fine art model that will only improve over time as it matures, just like it did for the music, book, and newspaper industries.   

When developed and managed properly, Limited Edition fine art digital files can effectively deliver promotion that art collectors not only want to receive, but want to have hanging beside the finished canvas because it tells and completes the allegorical story.

Scarcity obscura is a new way for contemporary fine artists to connect with a new audience.

The question now is, are you a serious artist or buyer, or the same old same old?

Illustrations by Maurice Cardinal :: Photos Courtesy of Reinhold Silberman :: CLCKR -