WHERE ARE ALL THE MEN?


The art class has just begun at June Wilson’s Studio gallery in Latrobe, Tasmania, Australia. This is the back half of the gallery and it’s well-appointed with everything needed for art teaching.  Tasmanians love their food as you can see in the foreground and that’s only starters. There was morning and afternoon tea as well! A great venue, great people, great hosts, great food and a great day!!

My coloured pencil workshop on Saturday was a great success. My 16 female students worked hard and achieved a lot. But where were the men? Why is it that so few men in Australia work in coloured pencils, or indeed practise any form of art? Is this situation typical throughout the world!

I’m sure there are a raft of reasons, but I think back to my art school days. We began with 24 students and 19 of us graduated. As far as I can recollect there were only 5 males in that group.

It seems that the arts struggle to attract a large male following. Our society here in Australia is relatively young, and our stereo-typical male is physical, hard-working, yet laid-back. There has traditionally been little encouragement for men to express their feelings or creativity in a “public” way.

Is it really true that women are more ‘right-brain thinkers’ than men, or has this been the result of cultural influences over time?

Coloured Pencil art is not popular with men, and if one is to be brutally honest, it’s not the first choice of many artists, male or female for that matter. Oils, watercolours and pastels are far more popular.

Is art in general, not ‘blokey’ enough for men? Are men destined to be builders and repairers? Is art too sensitive a pastime for the male species?

It’s a lot to do with status in the community. Some parts of Australia are very ‘arty’ and attract both sexes to actively participate.

Cp artists like myself just have to keep extolling the virtues of our preferred medium and encouraging as many men as we can to join our workshops. I get about a 10% response from men and I’d love to see that increase.

Art is often seen as a ‘hobby’, especially with retirees. Men build things, with many joining ‘Men’s Sheds’ throughout the country. Women tend to favour arts and crafts.

Cultural history and attitudes play are very important role in any society. The arts aren’t that ‘big’ in Australia and have never been high on the list of desirable occupations or hobbies..

What can we do?

Encourage, encourage, encourage…

Richard

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About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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4 Responses to WHERE ARE ALL THE MEN?

  1. Hmmm a very big subject Richard and having no anthropological experience in this area I can only place on the table here a couple of personal observations and thoughts.

    1.The first thing that pops into my head when you speak of art classes of this type and workshops is an image from any one of the Jane Austin stories. I don’t know why, but it invokes imaginings of young ladies fulfilling accomplishments and idling away the hours in cultural refinement.
    2. When I was very young and out of school I undertook a design and decorating course a) Of about 24 participants, only 2 were male b) I discovered tech drawing, loved it, and wondered why it was solely the domain of the boys college.
    3. Also around that time in my spare time I took some art classes locally. Granted it was during the daytime in the middle of the week but it also was exclusively female.
    4. When I was very little, about 8yrs of age, I had an uncle take up drawing and painting and he was very encouraging of my art and would provide me with special graphite pencils etc. I don’t think he has painted for a long time now.
    5. Naturally I know quite a few male artists (professional) but of the men whom I know that “dabble” in art, they choose to do more graphic design, comic/cartoon or tattoo art rather than say watercolours or sketching etc.

    What does all of the above mean? I don’t know, it is merely my personal experience and maybe many other experiences will help of to find the whole.

    I do have to wonder if, speaking very generally, that there is a gender stereotypical acceptance that ladies may play at art and it is seen very much as a hobby of the gentle whereas men are expected to be more exertive (not a real word, I made it up but I think you know what I am expressing) and goal/object/practical outcome orientated. The age old “women nurture, men provide” scenario if you will. Art is an expression of passion/emotion/the subliminal/spiritual so is that why in the “hobby” category do we see it as a female dominated domain?

    • artkleko says:

      Wonderful comments, Tanya, thank you! There is a lot of truth in what you say and you have given us a great deal of food for thought. Trends come and go, but cultural attitudes are slow to change. With an ever increasing amount of leisure time I wonder if the arts will grow in popularity especially with men?

  2. Hi Richard!

    Well I live here in Ireland and am female but the artists I know are mainly men except that since I went online I now know both men and women artists! My son is a pencil artist too and absolutely loves using pencils, using polychromos mainly. He finds them ‘organic’ and feels that they are part of his arm now he says as he always has a pencil in his hand! He never studied art but from watching me painting over the years and his upbringing of being always involved in watching and looking at nature, beach, woodland, going on nature walks etc., he just decided to take it up and it is now part of his daily enjoyment, he is very dedicated to it.

    But in one of my artist friends’ art classes, it’s always women that go to them too. Maybe its a ‘macho’ thing and they think of art as a frivolous womanly type of pursuit but he has never had a male join up yet! He gets a great enjoyment from teaching the women and says he knows everything that’s going on in their world as they are great chatterboxes about practically everything during these classes!

    I think, here anyway, that men artists are the ones that have studied art and then when they leave, they continue their art on their own and do not join classes. The ones that are retired do not take up art classes because as you say, they make things with thwir hands or spend time in the garden, garden shed etc., and the women over here too take up the art, crafts etc., it seems to be the thing to do!

    Other than that Richard, I find your work stunning – absolutely beautiful and I look forward to seeing each latest piece on the Art-a-holics site!

    Warm regards

    Eileen Keelan

    • artkleko says:

      Thank you, Eileen, for your excellent response. It’s been very interesting reading about the various situations around the globe regarding the role of men in art.
      I also appreciate your remarks regarding my work.
      Warmest regards, Richard.

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