You could say that artist, writer, curator, foundation leader and instructor Paul Dorrell lives an enviable life. He has enjoyed the best of both worlds — the comforts of family with wife Annie and sons in Kansas City, and the adventures of a free spirit, roaming America on a motorcycle and setting up stakes in a variety of settings — from Alaska to New York to Los Angeles, Seattle, Italy and England. His attempts to surf get jabs from the younger Dorrells.
It’s hard to conceive that the author of Living the Artist’s Life and founder of Kansas City’s Leopold Gallery was once a struggling artist himself. But through hard work and a positive outlook one doesn’t typically associate with “the artistic temperament,” Dorrell has overcome loss and failures to become a major player in the Midwest’s renaissance, fortifying his credibility with high-profile clients like Warner Brothers, the Kansas City Chiefs and H&R Block — in addition to designing programs for hospitals and helping youth in urban populations.
Business savvy and lofty achievements aside, Dorrell has a down-to-earth charm that defies mover-and-shaker/motivational-speaker stereotypes. In his training sessions, “you can expect the unexpected, an absence of snobbery, openness and a lot of unique instruction.”
Major players in Tampa Bay’s art scene have sung Dorrell’s praises, and the prestigious Morean Arts Center will feature Dorrell on Tues., Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. During the abbreviated version of his workshops, Dorrell will discuss surviving the recession, approaching galleries, utilizing the Internet, working with corporations to gain access to the budgets earmarked for art, and perhaps three of the most urgently needed of life skills: overcoming rejection, breaking out of one’s shell, and taking the plunge to make a living as a professional artist. CL caught up with Dorrell to get some preliminary pointers before his workshop in St. Pete:
On getting through to the Luddites: “Most artists are so driven by trying to do brilliant work, that by the time they finish each piece, they’re so aesthetically exhausted that quality photography doesn’t seem important. But it is. No work of art should go on Facebook, a website, postcard or in an article without being properly shot. Digital editing has made this easy. If artists don’t do this, all it does is create the wrong impression about their work, and sabotage what could otherwise be a brilliant career. Helping to correct this kind of thing is one of many reasons why I wrote the book.”
How friends of artists and communities can help local artists achieve more prominence: “With friends, just help artists with the practical stuff and leave them free to create passionately. I thoroughly cover in the book how to do that. With communities, make sure local corporations, firms and wealthy families actively support regional artists — especially those who have sacrificed for decades, have become masters, yet still are struggling. That is very common, yet so unnecessary in this wealthiest of countries. These steps help ensure that your regional culture grows and affects the whole area; without that participation — which means buying the work at appropriate prices — any given region will be culturally deprived, as will their schools, institutions, businesses and citizens.”
Individualism and societal-pop culture awareness don’t have to be mutually exclusive: “What I dig is staying true to individuality while merging with the mainstream; that is how one can inspire others, and sometimes even effect positive change, as The Beatles did — well, most of that was positive.”
What to expect at the workshop: “… Anecdotes and jokes, since to me art and teaching are at their best when fun. My mission is to help regional culture grow across the country, so that the smaller cities quit importing it from the larger ones. I’ll explain how my gallery has helped achieve that in our area, how we’ve broadened art-collecting, and have helped scores of artists make a living.”