August 29, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF this letter is to acknowledge and to thank the many, many artists, both deceased and those still ‘fighting the good fight’ who have helped me over the past 40-45 years to understand and appreciate the process as well as the product.

Your influence began early, back in the late‘40s when I used to work as a handy-man in Woodstock, New York, clearing woodlots, mowing lawns, tending gardens for the summer residents, most of them artists who came up from the city to join the ever-growing number of plein-airistes flocking to the burgeoning art colony who wanted to spend their time painting rather than mowing their lawns. Even after the summer ended, teachers and students at the Art Students League of New York’s summer school a little way out of town, would spend week-ends and off-hours in town, most willing, even eager, to ‘talk art’ to interested listeners — even handymen at Deane’s, the popular diner on Mill Hill Road. Although neither a painter nor a student of the craft, I had from a child been able to draw, to replicate in pencil whatever I attempted to copy, and almost always carried a sketchbook with me — so ‘listening in’ to the conversations of ‘real’ artists was always too tempting to pass up.

When I began free-lance writing for local newspapers, I eventually focused on art and artists, profiling many of the “Woodstock artists”, spending hours at their studios or over the counter having coffee at Deane’s, listening to them presenting their views, art, journey, comments and work-habits eventually sharing them with my publishers.

Eventually, I grew more and more dissatisfied with the way my writing was being handled by copy-editors, layout people, and the ever-present errors (including the misspelling of the artists’ names in more than one instance) that were being presented to the public under my name. This led to my wife Cornelia and I co-founding our own arts journal — Art Times — in 1984. Over the years, I have since profiled over 100 artists both here and abroad. Some of my essays grew into introductions of monographs by various publishers and even into my own books on artists. Soon, I was interviewing artists in NYC and even as far as Europe and China. By being commissioned by Rosina Florio, past Director of the Art Students League of New York, to write a history of the League, the undertaking broadened my knowledge even further as many past and present League members added their stories to my growing warehouse of art-knowledge.

Through my experience with the Art Student’s League, I began hearing about other arts groups, some local, some regional, others national — even affiliating with some — for example the National Art Club in NYC after Will Barnet sponsored me, and especially The Salmagundi Club, a club that is nearly 150 years old and devotes its resources to artists and their art instead of sales and celebrity. Never much of a ‘joiner’, I was fortunate to become a member of the Artist’s Fellowship, which exists solely to give aid to artists in distress (probably the only meetings I enjoyed attending since each session ended in a specific and meaningful act — giving a hand up to deserving artists across the country). My associations with such art organizations expanded my knowledge of art well beyond any college courses I’d taken.

In 2005-6, I wrote a novel entitled The Mountain that attempts to trace the development of an artist (in literary terms, a “bildungsroman”). Set in the NYC and Hudson Valley areas it includes some history and background of Woodstock and its environs to ‘flesh out’ the influences on my protagonist, Jacob (Jake) Forscher (‘Jacob’ because he wrestles with the angel as do all serious artists, and ‘Forscher’ because, again like all artists, he is a delver, a seeker). The book came about after a conversation over lunch with the artist Jack Levine in a small restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village. As usual, the subject of art came up, and specifically Zola’s book The Masterpiece, ostensibly a book about his childhood friend, Paul Cezanne. I asked Jack if he knew of any books in English that traced the life and development of an artist. He could think of none that specifically did so, but several about artists in general. Thus the genesis of The Mountain. I chose the title to reflect Melville’s Moby Dick — in essence, the “Mountain” (Overlook, in the Catskills and visible from Woodstock) is Jake’s ever-illusive ‘white whale’, which he tries to ‘capture’ on canvas. His story, your story, is a fictional re-telling of what you taught me over the years — in fact, I felt very much like a mid-wife rather than an author in ‘creating’ my novel. The Mountain is available as a book on demand or kindle

So, my artist readers, if it were not for sharing those early encounters, the prolonged studio chats, the stories, the exhibitions, the struggles, the insights, the life-sharings for my profiles and books — if it were not for you, dear artist (whether we met face-to-face or only through your art), the artwriter Raymond J. Steiner would never have come into being.

Therefore this letter and my deepest thanks for all of your contributions to my education and for helping make ART TIMES such a valuable resource for artists around the world for over 30 years.

Raymond J. Steiner


Zero to One Hundred

August 18, 2016

(Some notes on the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour 2016)



Raymond J. Steiner and a visitor during the Saugerties Artists Tour

Well, for those of you who already put up with my complaints (spoken or written. See, e.g. October 2013 Online “Peeks and Piques!) and frankly tired of it, here I go again. As I’ve done for about the last 10 years (+ or —), I — or more strictly, Cornelia — signed up again for the Annual Saugerties Artists’ Tour, allowing my inner sanctum to be once more invaded by visitors from near and afar over a weekend (this year, Sept 13, 14). An ‘isolatoe’, a hermit, a curmudgeon who cherishes solitude and isolation (why I live on a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere, for God’s sake!), I am never easy with more than one or two visitors at a time — and preferably none. Cornelia tells me there were about 50 people on each day…hence my ‘title’ above. A writer who enjoys daubing landscapes when the dreaded “block” halts my thought process (more and more often, I’m afraid), I am not entirely easy to ‘strut my stuff’ for the curious…my “oeuvre” therefore is merely a personal catalogue of my writer’s block “breakthroughs”, a ‘diary’ of sorts of where my head was at that time. As you’ve all heard ad nauseum, I’m a writer and NOT a painter… so I won’t bore you by droning on and on…again. Rather, I’d like to admit (full disclosure here) that almost every time I succumb to Cornelia’s urging (and threats of no dinner) I often am treated to some ‘upsides’ during the ordeal — collateral boons, you might say. For example, some old friend ‘pops up’, or a niece or nephew — in this case, a brilliant ex-student who himself became a teacher due (he says) to “my” ‘influence’. So, it wasn’t all downhill this time — in spite of the 3-day headache that followed the weekend (including right now as I write this thing). Anyway…a few of my ‘diary entries’ managed to sneak out of my sanctorum. I hope they bring the respite they gave me when I daubed them.

High Woods, NY, 8/17/2016.



August 8, 2016

The past several years have brought on enough ailments (hand surgery, etc.) to hold me back from much of my duties as Editor/Artwriter for ART TIMES but also interfered with a good deal of my “play” time. Often, when I ran into writer/word-blocks, I would gaze out my study window and suddenly be entranced by a mesmerizing view — the sun glinting off a rock, a bush, Indian Summer colors — whatever — which made me grab a canvas, some colors, brushes and stuff and dash outside to “capture” whatever I was (or thought I was) seeing. I live in High Woods, NY which is indeed a place of “high” woods and I am surrounded by Mom Nature in all her untrammeled beauty — and so my forays outdoors usually end up as a “landscape”. Click here for RJS DMB show Brochure.

Since I schmear outside I am therefore sometimes referred to as a plein air landscape painter…. a pretty lofty title for a writer who finds daubing in oils a respite from over-thinking. Consequently, and to make a short story long, my outside excursions have also been curtailed by uncooperative body parts (BTW: if we are supposed to be earth’s animal #1, how come our Creator gave all our body parts different expiration dates? Annoying!).

On the upside of all this complaining, for the past couple of years I’ve had my sister’s eldest daughter periodically “dropping in” to urge me to give a few painting “tips”…. A late starter (as was I) she has been bitten by the “schmear bug” and wants to play in oils. Enter “Unka Ray”. For the past 2 years, she has managed to put a fire under my tush to go outside and paint! So we have been; and do from time to time. We’ve managed (or she managed) to do it enough times to “amass” enough of an “oeuvre” for her to get the idea of a joint showing at a local bank, The Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, in Woodstock, NY.

Hence, “Side by Side”, a taste of which is here shared with you. On the really up side is the fact that she has gotten me off my easy chair enough times now, that I find I can even go out alone again to shut off the mind-machine and go out and play. Brava Diane Baker!

Art Essay: Looking at art: A Guide for the (Understandably) Perplexed PART III: Artwriting

July 10, 2014

This essay first appeared in the ART TIMES Winter 2013

ARTWRITING—AND THIS too, comes in a variety of forms—seems straightforward enough. It is writing about art. As simple as this may seem, however, it is probably the writing about art that more than anything else has caused the ever-widening gulf that exists between art and the average person. If intended at first to clarify, it progressively made the waters muddier as artwriters tried to upstage the artists.

As an artwriter, this is not an easy thing for me to say—yet the evidence is strong that it is writing about art rather than art itself that turns away—and keeps away—the public which not only deserves to know art but for whom its creation ultimately lies.

An anecdote: I was at an exhibition of the work of Guiseppe Boldini, one of my favorite 19th-Century Italian impressionists, when I overheard a lady nearby say to her friend, “I know I’m not supposed to but, you know, I love his work!” Now where do you suppose she got the idea that she was not supposed to like what she was evidently enjoying? You got it—she had obviously read somewhere that 19th -Century representional art was just so “not today” and felt guilty that she was showing her “old-fashioned” taste. Boldini, don’t-y see, is totally passé.

Let me tell you another story: I was once sitting with the painter Will Barnett and, as it so often does between artist and artwriter, the topic of art criticism came up. I asked Will—a man of wide experience and not a little wisdom—to what he attributed the growing importance and power of the art critic today. “Simple,” he said. “One word is worth a thousand pictures!”

This reversal of the old “One picture, one word, etc.” took me by surprise and I asked him to elaborate. Will had spent some fifty years as an instructor at the Art Students League in Manhattan, and his tenure there spanned the years both before and after World War II. The G.I. Bill, he explained, and the financial aid given to veterans, opened the possibilities of a college education to a great many people who might otherwise never have gone on to “higher” education. “What happened,” Will explained, “was that we turned out a higher proportion of readers in our population. However, becoming more literate as a nation, did not necessarily mean that there was a proportionate upgrading in the ability to read art. Unfortunately—at least for the artist—a great many people simply assumed that if they could read about art, then it meant that this was the same as understanding art. So, people just read the critics—and let them tell them what they were looking at.”

And, it’s even more reprehensible when critics presume to tell you what you ought to like or dislike.

How did this all come about?

Let’s take a brief overview of history. As we learned earlier, the making of images has been around since pre-historical times. We can’t exactly tell when it began — as noted in the Chapter on Image Making (Part 1, Summer 2013 Issue), our best guess is about 35,000 years ago — but we do know that it pre-dated speech for a very long time. Nor can we tell exactly when speech was invented, but we do know that mankind had been perfecting the spoken language for a very long time before artwriting was invented. As far as we can tell, the first writing about art appeared in the West during the Renaissance with a man call Cennino Cennini. This is not the place to go into detail here, but Cennini’s book seemed to have opened a Pandora’s box of wannabe art “experts” that is still spilling over today.

At first, it seemed innocent enough: a savvy traveler would become an advisor to some emperor or king, telling him which artists in which provinces were “hot” and recommending them for the royal palace. Today, in addition to those artists who have been image-making since time immemorial, we have artwriters, curators, art merchants, collectors, restorers, connoisseurs, historians, aestheticians—the list goes on as we grow ever more inventive. If we can’t all be artists, well, we can at least learn how to be middlemen—and, so we do ad nauseam. Heck, even artists tried their hand at using their quills rather than their brushes from time to time (probably when commissions were slow coming in)—but, generally, the better ones stuck to their trade.

Once critics began to recognize their growing power as interpreters of art, they simply took off. A whole new branch of “expertise” grew up, with “artwriting” becoming a skill in itself—complete with its own jargon, cast of “stars,” and specialized magazines. Eventually, these “specialists” wrote mainly to impress each other, leaving those who depended upon them for guidance, information or explanation out in the cold. And, like I said, once they got tired telling each other how they ought to see a work or art, they began telling you.

A comment by one of these “specialists,” in fact, was a major spur for my writing this article. Quoted in the New York Times, this “specialist”—whom we shall leave unnamed—said that art criticism today could be separated into two kinds: “searching but impenetrable” and “readable but stupid.” Now how inviting is that to the newcomer to the artworld? If you can read it, it’s stupid, but if it’s searching—i.e. seriously looking at the art, well then it’s impossible to understand. Now isn’t that helpful!?! To paraphrase one critic that I do respect — Walter Pater — he maintained, “What … art has to do in the service of culture … [is] satisfy the spirit.” Nuff said!

Meanwhile, back at the studio, artists continue to make pictures much in the same manner that their stone-age predecessors did on cave walls—except now, they have better materials to work with. Just imagine how one of today’s “impenetrable” but “searching” artwriters might have fared if he had prattled on with one of his explications to some bystander back then! (That is, if they’d invented speech yet).

Let’s set the stage: Ogg, an eminent art critic, and a viewer, Moog, stand before a cave painting of a buffalo.

“Hmmmm…” says Moog.

“But look!, says Ogg. “Note how the artist nuanced his lines from sure to uncertain and melded it into the ambience of both his mood at the moment and of the curvature of the cave wall…nothing less than pure genius!”

“Hmmmm…” says Moog, thinking to himself ‘impenetrable’ and ‘stupid’.

“Philistine!” mutters the critic as he stalks away.

“Still looks like a badly drawn buffalo to me,” says Moog scratching his head.

If Moog were alive today, he might turn to you and say, “What’s the big deal? We got eyes. Let’s use ‘em! If we don’t like what we see—let’s go to the next cave!”

All in all, this wouldn’t be terrible advice. If you prefer pictures that look like something you are familiar with, no one—not even the “specialist”—can tell you that you ought to like something else. No more, for instance, than someone can convince you that you ought to enjoy turnips if, in fact, you can’t stand turnips. Sure, you may grow to tolerate different kinds of art—and even turnips—but you can do so only at your own pace and only if you are so inclined to do so. There exists no law—at least not as of this writing— that dictates taste. Never was and, to my mind, never will be. You have every right to walk into an art show, shrug your shoulders, and walk out— or, like the lady at the Boldini exhibit, enjoy it — regardless of what the “specialists” say! Remember—writing about art is one thing. Looking at art is another. And, most important, making words and making images are two different artforms. And, genereally speaking, one picture is worth a thousand words. Being able to comprehend the one does not necessarily mean that you can the other.

Now that that‘s all clear, we will turn to art venues in our next and last installment.

Meanwhile, trust the instincts of Moog—who passed them along to you with the rest of your genes—and use your own eyes.

This is Part 3 in a series of 4 parts:
Image Making
Art Writing
Exhibition Places

Why artists and artwriting?

February 1, 2014

MY writing about art and artists began for me about 30 years ago, but had an impetus that had begun many, many years before that. The making of images, ‘art’, had been with me since childhood, reproducing comic strip characters for hours on end while lying on my living room floor. Drawing was not something taught — or   encouraged — by the nuns at the parochial school I attended, and, at times, would even get me in “trouble” when my sketches would appear in the margins of my books (sketches that were, more often than not, caricatures of the nuns themselves). The taboo on wasting my time on “such nonsense” was seconded by my parents who never dreamed such activity by a growing boy was of any use — “learn a trade” was my father’s mantra — consequently, none of my early drawings survived (besides, this was still the time of ice boxes which, being wooden, would not support magnets to hang up photos and kids’ “artwork” and stuff). As I grew older, I would almost always have a sketchbook with me (probably introduced into my life by some uncle or aunt who appreciated my ‘talent’), and, while in the Army, did my own ‘comic strip’ (“The Arctic Trooper”) for our Company newspaper while serving in the Arctic and also used to make a couple of bucks drawing caricatures of my fellow soldiers with a magic marker, using their t-shirts as my ‘canvas’. Eventually I advanced to more “realistic” sketches of people, places or landscapes, but none of this ever came to anything since, when I finally got to college in the early ‘60s, a glance at my ‘portfolio’ of trees that looked like trees, or cows that looked like cows, prompted an art professor to tell me that “this isn’t art!” OK. This was the age of rampant “modern abstraction” so I meekly and quietly opted for Literature (writing, mostly poetry, ‘bubbled up’ during my Army years) as a ‘major’, earning a B.A. and M.A. in Liberal Arts and teaching English for awhile at the junior, senior and college levels.

The writing of my first artist profile, Vladimir Bachinsky (1983), in itself had a kind of serendipitous quality about it, its “production” a somewhat offhand affair that, at the time, seemed to pop up out of nowhere, an assignment from an editor who had been publishing a variety of my essays (Lifestyle Magazine) that neither of us knew at the time would become the only kind of essay I would henceforth contribute, viz., “Artist’s Profiles”. I had been freelancing my essays (to Lifestyle as well as other publications) during my years as an English teacher, but the writing of the Bachinsky profile opened my eyes to the fact that I could henceforth combine my love of art and writing by concentrating on ‘artwriting’. In 1984, Cornelia Seckel and I co-founded ART TIMES and the continuation of my profiles were now augmented by regular art reviews and critiques. Both my early love of art and later love of writing, however, seemed to me to emerge from a much deeper urge than to simply ‘draw’ or to ‘say’ — an inner source of power that, throughout my life, has goaded me on to uncovering the “perfect” image and the “perfect’ word that would reveal a profounder ‘meaning’ to my life which transcended what I had been taught as a child and what I had gleaned from a somewhat erratic and peripatetic way of life as I grew older, on through my 5 years of service in the Army (with an almost 3-year hiatus of ‘bumming’ my way across America between bouts of active duty), and finally on to my ‘settling’ down as a teacher in my early 30s. The ultimate answer to “Who am I?” became (and remains) my constant goal and purpose, my ‘reason for being’. My ‘search’ which included exploring many belief systems and ‘paths’ over the years even brought forth a book in 1978, The Vessel of Splendor: A Return to the One which, although originally intended as a personal “meditation”, I realize now is almost a prescient ‘blueprint’ for my 30 years of profiling artists, since the quasi-autobiographical main character is commanded to “Plumb their souls…search that Sacred Spark in your own kind and to kindle it into a mighty flame…”. Somewhere along the line, I began to believe that it was the image and not the word that “was the beginning”. Words, I discovered, simply obfuscate (as anyone who has heard a politician campaign or an art critic drone on instinctively knows) — words are simply too squirmy, too slippery, too vague to communicate “truth’. Thus, for me, “In the beginning was the image” and this ‘image’ inspired (i.e. ‘breathed into’) the true artist who was delving the unknown rather than catering to the known market. So, the Bachinsky profile not only showed me that I could combine my love of art and writing, but, as I interviewed more and more artists both here and abroad (I’ve lost count) I became convinced that, if I chose the right artists to profile, I could facilitate my search by understanding theirs. Their “inspiration”, if “divine” as was believed during the Renaissance (hence, ‘breathed into by God‘ — or however you choose to identify or characterize our ultimate Source), seemed that they had an ‘inside track’ that could help me clarify and determine mine. Whatever my artwriting has done for others, it has been largely self-serving (except for the times I chose the wrong artists to write about — my bad, of course, since it took some time and experience to learn how to “read” art, and I was certainly off the mark at times). I’ve learned a great deal over the past 30 years, but, at 80, I still have to confess that my own path is still murky. A few more artists like Susan Hope Fogel, profiled in our upcoming Spring issue, might just get me through the mystery.

What makes Art ‘Art’?

November 1, 2013

FROM TIME TO time I’m asked: “What do you think of this painter?” or “Do you like the way he/she did that?” or “Who’s your favorite painter?” I’m always stuck for an answer….it’s not always how or what a painter paints….it’s often what he/she doesn’t paint that captures my imagination, that makes the work linger in my mind…and no one artist does it all the time. Conversely, a painter might include something that seems illogical, gratuitous — even undermining — to what appears to be the intent. This can stop me in my tracks. Why? (And I’m not speaking about ‘shock’ value here — if you can ever call shock a ‘value’) As usual, I’m not able to speak coherently about my ‘oddities’ (read ‘biases’) in artwriting, but perhaps an example might work. Some years back, I was invited by the Pastel Society of America to do a “walk and talk” at one of their annual exhibitions at the National Art Club in NYC and, as usual, it was not only an extensive show but an excellent one, full of fine art from all over. So, not an easy one to ‘critique’, even if only vocally as I “walked and talked”. Let me say from the outset, that I’ve long begged off from judging or jurying art shows: first, I am familiar with the work of so many artists that it becomes ethically iffy to pick and choose from among so many ‘friends’ and, second, I think it impossible (for me) to make choices when most shows are a potpourri of mediums and themes — how judge a pastel from a piece of sculpture, a painting, a collage, etc., etc.? And how to weigh a representational piece of art (my usual ((biased)) preference) against an abstract? A figure study from a landscape? Thankfully, at least the “walking and talking” only had to deal with pastels (although a veritable mish-mash of themes). Anyway, I found myself mulling and musing as I made the rounds, and, as so often happens whenever I visit a gallery (or exhibition), occasionally ‘stopped in my tracks’ by — by — truthfully, I don’t always know what. I’ve been writing about art and artists for nearly 35 years — even doing a little daubing myself when the spirit moves me — but I have never been able to isolate —or speak (write) about — what it is that makes me think: Now this is art! I have a suspicion that it has something to do with that word ‘spirit’ in the last sentence and how it prompts me to paint — but that’s just conjecture since who knows exactly what that means? I recall reading about a League instructor who, when critiquing his class, said to one of his students after singling out his painting, “I don’t see you in there.” Hmmmmm. Another way of saying I don’t know what “moved” you to do this? I see no ‘spirit’? I’m unable to positively state hard and fast guidelines (and, especially to put it in writing)…but somehow I “get” what he meant…I think. Back to the PSA’s exhibit: I vividly recall two works that were not hung very far apart but, in terms of technique, were worlds apart. One, a rather large still life, was masterfully executed — a nearly flawless example of fine draftsmanship; the other, a somewhat smaller one that depicted a vase of sunflowers — good, but certainly not on a par with the former. Yet, it was the sunflowers that stopped me. Again, the former was beautifully done, but — well, there was no you in there (whoever that ‘you’ might have been). It simply presented itself as a conglomeration of the usual objects set out on a table for the purposes of painting a still life. For me, an empty masterpiece. The sunflowers, not quite as meticulously rendered, were fairly nondescript, but on one side of the vase there was a broken-stemmed flower that hung over the side. Huh? Why that broken sunflower? Not sure…but it stopped me. It engaged me. It puzzled me. It spoke to me. It nearly shouted, “Hey! Look at me! I’m not as beautiful as my neighbor over there, but look at me!” Why did the artist choose not to set up the still life ‘properly’? And why should that matter enough to have caught my attention?

Raymond J. Steiner

Two Books You Ought to Take a Look At.

July 1, 2010

TWO BOOKS CAME recently across my desk — a novel, The American Painter Emma Dial written by Samantha Peale and Seven Days in the Art World, an insider’s look into the high doings of the art world by sociologist Sarah Thornton — and I highly recommend both to my readers. First, the novel — The plot revolves around a woman who works as an “assistant” to a famous painter, her job to actually execute the works for which he is both lauded and handsomely paid. She does the work; he gets the acclaim. She gets a salary; he earns a fortune and fame. Although its main character is a woman artist, its appeal and relevance goes far beyond the age-old plight of being a female in a male-dominated world. I believe it ought not only be read by women or by artists, but by anyone interested in the inner workings of what is commonly called the “artworld”. In fact, I would not even limit it to those interested in art, its making, its selling, or in the underlying machinations of the myriad people and groups that serve as middlemen between creator and buyer. Peale goes far deeper than the vagaries of a world that depends on hyped advertising, celebrity, gullibility, ego-building, elitism, and money. Rather, she delves into the mysteries of creativity, human folly, unfulfilled dreams, self-betrayal, naiveté — even submission to a cause one cannot believe in. This might be fiction, but it has a wealth of truth to ponder. Peale is a graduate of The New School and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has an insider’s handle on how the system works. Like her main character, Emma Dial (who works for the likewise fictional character of “Michael Freiburg”), Samantha Peale is an artist who once worked for the real-life Jeff Koons. Thornton’s book, Seven Days in the Art World is a work of non-fiction that can sometimes sound like a world that must be make-believe. A sociologist that has weighty credentials in the artwriting business, Thornton takes the reader on a seven-day tour of sites — an auction house, an artist’s studio, an art fair, an art class, etc. — where art is made, touted, sold, discussed, taught, interpreted and analyzed by those supposedly “in the know”. Incisive, sometimes almost tongue-in-cheek, always informative, Thornton serves up as objective an insider’s view that one can come away with from a world that literally deals with illusion — i.e. art. In her chapter in which she visits the studio of an artist (in Japan), we see Samantha Peale’s fictional plot come to vivid life — a world-renowned artist relying on assistants to do the actual work of making a work of art. This practice, incidentally — made popular since Warhol and his “factory” — is justified by reference to the historical use of apprentices in the studio/workshops of past masters where, often, the presence of the “master’s hand” is conjectural at best. Taken together, both books are eye-openers for both the general public, a public often at the mercy of pundits who almost always have an axe to grind, and the average struggling artist outside the “mainstream” trying to find his/her way. You wont regret the time taken to read these books.