Pretentious Artists: Behind the Beret

Art culture can sometimes be a curious beast to those looking in from the outside. You know what I’m talking about. The French berets, miles of scarves tossed over shoulders, the swirling wine glasses, fancy cheese munching, cigarette smoking, the thick eye liner, the skinny pants, dark sunglasses, and layered shawls. These bohemians dripping in fringe flock to your favorite cafe, capitalize on all of the best tables, and contemplate life while sipping espresso and strumming guitars. They cluster in front of enigmatic and convoluted paintings, tilting heads and stroking chins, pondering aloud about the meaning and intent expressed by the artist in question. There is an endearing term used by those outside of the circle to describe these people: “Pretentious art f*cks.” But is that really accurate? Does being an art lover automatically make one pretentious, or is it a misconception forged by those who have no interest in the art world?

Ok I’ll admit that even I sometimes grow weary of the angst and philosophizing that is often associated with being an artist. All of that introspection can get exhausting after a while. And the wine hangovers from all of the gallery exhibitions? Those are the worst.

When attending college to earn a degree in fine arts, I had to take class after class of painting, drawing, photography, design, art history, and art theory. I was up to my ears in concepts, expression, critiques, and philosophy. I eventually got so fed up with the emphasis on “content, content, CONTENT!” that I rebelled in my senior year. I decided that I was going to make a painting just for me. There would be no hidden meaning, no parallel concept or metaphor, no inner expression or statement that exposes the tragedy and failings of society. I was going to make a painting for painting’s sake. Here was my piece:

Flaming Lips, painting

“The Flaming Lips” by Julie Jennings. Oil paint on canvas. (Work in progress)

It was a painting that displayed one of my favorite bands, The Flaming Lips. The only point I wanted to convey with this painting was the fact that there was no point. I just liked the band’s music. Of course, I got creamed in the critiques and blasted for my lack of content, but I was expecting that. And I was OK with it. In fact, it was very refreshing and freeing.

But when I’m not in these moods, I can concede and agree that the main purpose of art is to express a point or a feeling. That’s what makes it so powerful. And part of being a creative individual means that you’re going to be different from what is considered “normal” in society. Let’s face it; the majority of artists are on a different wavelength than the average person, and we like to express ourselves not only in our paintings but with our attitudes and attire. Some believe that this state of being is merely an attempt to fit a stereotype or to call attention to one’s self. Although true for some, it is essentially an act of creativity and individuality meant to express one’s identity. It takes a bold person to step outside of the “norm” and to distinguish his or herself from the crowd.

Being an artist means that you’re inherently different. It comes with the territory. It’s up to those around us to perceive us as they choose. Yes, there will always be that pretentious “art f*ck. ” But every group, no matter what the organization or common interest, has someone that gives the rest of us a bad rep. And it’s like they say: “There’s one in every family.”

As for me, I’ll wear my beret with pride, thank you very much.

Article reprinted from and (c) Chromatic Spark (


2 comments for “Pretentious Artists: Behind the Beret

  1. Artlover
    December 11, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Yes, thank you for saying that out loud. I have had enough of the apparent philistinism in society, and those who have no understanding of contemporary art are critiquing artists, calling them pretentious, simply on the account that they don’t understand it.

  2. s
    November 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Artists, such as actors and writers, are pretentious when they try to act as though they’re more intelligent about subjects or careers that they don’t know much about, profiting from fooling masses of fans who watch their work by exaggerating their prowess (e.g. saying “our show is science fact” when it isn’t, or “my wife is a tech genius” when she really is only a liberal arts major who is only knowledgeable in using the computer or social media, not building or programming computers); it’s insulting for people who actually majored in the subjects.

    I respect British actors who are unpretentious, self-deprecating and acknowledge that they’re not skilled in subjects that their shows are based on, things that they didn’t study in university. American actors should learn from them, instead of arrogantly acting as though they’re skilled at everything.

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