26 Replies to “Advice Column?”

  1. Alec, another one I used in the 70’s (and this piece of wisdom still applies today)…..:


    all the best,
    Peter van Beveren

    1. That’s exactly the kind of wishy-washy advice columnist you should expect (especially if you’ve seen me in the classroom): “On the one hand, you might benefit from the community that grad school provides, on the other hand you might not want to take on that debt. What do you think is best?”

      1. unfortunately, that grad school question had to be answered long before your column potentially came into being. so, a followup: when one is preparing a thesis project, is it better to rip off the big brand-name stars (like robert adams or stephen shore), or perhaps to ape the slightly-less-well-known guys (i’m thinking like john gossage and michael schmidt)? your prompt reply could make all the difference.

    2. Tim, let me answer by mushroom analogy. A favorite meal in Minnesota is hotdish (called casserole outside the Midwest). A good hotdish combines multiple ingredients: leftover turkey, noodles, mixed vegetables, breadcrumbs, and whatever else you can find. But you don’t just throw all of this into a pan. You need something to tie it all together. The key is cream of mushroom soup. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Lutheran Binder,’ Cream of Mushroom (COM) is the essence of hotdish.

      My point here is that YOU are Cream of Mushroom. Only YOU can bring your unique dish to the church basement of grad school.


      Big Al

  2. Love the blog. Love the idea for the advice column. Will it be serious or humorous/ironic?

    The William Powhida list of tips to sell art is amusing and pretty accurate. Thanks for posting. The only thing I’d add to his list is artist branding. Art works are luxury products. Most people want to own art by well-known artists just like they want their designer clothes and cars.

    An interesting read on the business of contemporary art is “The $12 million Stuffed Shark” by Don Thomson. Not so much advice on how to be a successful artist but a sobering explanation – with evidence – on how the market for contemporary art operates.

    1. Well, when it comes to the ‘industry’ (belch), I’d have to use humor, but I’d address other matters (family, friends, romance) with sincerity.

  3. But who wants advice from some over-the-hill 40-something geezer? We all know photographers who really want to get ahead shoot cats, not bulls or roosters. Roosters are so 20th century. Maybe you should consider giving photography seminars at nursing homes instead? ;^)

  4. But what I’d really like to see is you doing a web talk show for photography. It would look like “dr Phil” meets “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis”.

    1. Do you really think you could be THAT annoying? That’s a rhetorical question, not a challenge. All kidding aside, I think you could dispense some quality advice that would be very useful to aspiring artists and photographers. But like so many things, producing a serious advice column would demand some hard work and time commitment. I would actually enjoy reading a serious effort from you — just make sure you really want to do it before jumping in.

  5. There was an awfully funny, Midwest-specific version of that Baldessari piece of Potboiler magazine printed in 1969. I will scan and upload when I return home to the archive this evening.

    Also, yes, I have dozens of questions about how to run my life and art that have no good answers. I would utilize this service.

  6. Does St. Paul have public access tv? or maybe the times would let you have a column like the old days of newspapers. also a side note you should try and do a drunk photo-history like one of those drunk history shows.

  7. I think it’s a great idea. You could certainly offer much advice through experience. The fan questions which you’ll undoubtedly get a few of will be pretty funny.

    Do you think think it is okay to drink whiskey on solo photo trips? Steinbeck put me off, see, as he didn’t allow himself to, getting about it Rocinante, figuring if he was drinking alone that made him something of an alcoholic.

    Do you speak any other languages?

    What time do you usually wake up?

    Quick, get it going, the questions are coming.

  8. Dear Big Al,

    In grad school one of my professors said the best way to become an artist was to embrace the great tradition of cultivating a sponsor, and marry someone with a trust fund. I thought he was joking…was he?



  9. Keep the questions coming. Please use standard advice column question speech:

    Dear Big Al,

    I am a ___ year-old _____ living in ______. My girlfriend has been doing something weird lately. In the middle of the night she gets up and ________. I’m worried. Does this mean he’s an artist or just some kind of freak? Please help.



  10. Dear Big Al:

    I am a (long-in-the-tooth, yet thin-in-the-waist) year old husband/father/writer/photographer/instructor/drinker living (currently, i think) in T-dot (Toronto). My teenage sone has been doing something weird lately. In the middle of the night, he gets up and (i have no fucking clue….um, maybe i do). I’m worried. Does this mean he’s got a girl (my wife and I suspect). Does this mean he’s binge drinking (but as responsible parents, we allow that, and talk about with him and he’s straight up with us, sort of, sober or otherwise). Does this mean ___…Um, what does this means. He tends to be incredibly moody on saturday and sunday ams (wait, PM, since he rises at noon). I know I am a freak (but I hope a good dad) and he has totally rejected the life of being an artist (even though his mother and I have worked our asses off to support his beautifully mad work, and helped him get published and exhibited-2 black family exhibitions to date) because he views his parents as cooky (yes, his work: ibid, binge drinking lexical tendencies). So, he’s told us, maybe architecture or building racecars is in the future (art forms both). So, my question Big Al is this:

    What the hell is going on with our kid?

    Sincerely and with great respect and affection,

    Bob Black

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