What do books and art have in common?

Hubert Shuptrine at work
Hubert Shuptrine at work

HUBERT SHUPTRINE was a great Southern artist.

And he taught me a lot about art.

He taught me about the reality of art.

Shuptrine was hailed around the nation as America’s next great artist when he came out of College.

He won a blue ribbon in every art show he entered.

His wall was filled with awards.

His art was modern.

It was contemporary.

It was abstract, an odd concoction of colors and patterns that dazzled the mind.

Time Magazine wrote articles about him.

So did every art magazine in the country.

His work adorned their covers, and the critics loved him.

The critics praised him.

The critics worshipped his art.

But Hubert Shuptrine woke up one morning and realized the hard, cold truth of life.

“Critics,” he told me, “don’t buy art.”

He had become what he had never wanted to be.

Acclaimed but broke.

Hubert Shuptrine was a starving artist.

He promptly erased the theory of modern, contemporary art from his mind. He threw away the colors and patterns of his abstract patterns. Shuptrine began painting watercolors of the rural South, much like Andrew Wyeth had visually captured the back country scenes of New England.

Hubert Shuptrine began painting images of the rural South.
Hubert Shuptrine began painting images of the rural South.

Time Magazine forgot he ever existed.

The critics turned their backs on him.

He never won another award.

He never took another blue ribbon home.

But every painting created by the brush strokes of Hubert Shuptrine sold for $30,000.

Sometimes more.

And his coffee table book, Jericho: The South Beheld, became at the time the best selling art book of all time.

Wyeth was second.

I once asked him: “What is the difference between a good piece of art and a bad one.”

“It’s simple,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If you like it, it’s good,” he said. He shrugged. “And if you don’t like it, it’s bad. It doesn’t make any difference who painted it, who owns it, what it sold for, or what artist’s name is scrawled on the bottom.”

I feel the same way about books.

The genre doesn’t matter.

Neither does the author.

Nor does the story.

If I like it, it’s good.

That’s why I am fascinated with indie writers and eBooks. A new world has opened up.

It’s filled with books I like.

It’s filled with authors I like.

It’s filled with books I like.

And if I like them, they’re good.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

Maybe, it never did.

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