Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What is Art?

Most artists I know do not feel comfortable even owning the title, "Artist".  I think in the back of our minds, we always feel a bit like a fraud.  Proper artists are somewhere else, wearing black turtlenecks and berets, sniffing the bouquet of a glass of wine, and sneering down their noses at a plate of inferior cheeses.

(Most of this I realize is just the crazy in my head, typed up with a bit of tongue in cheek so hopefully no delicate feelings will be crushed here.)

In my head, this is how it works.

At the top are the fine oil artists.  Fine oil belongs at the top because proper painters have been using oil since the beginning of art.  Creating an oil painting takes time.  Everything  must be carefully planned out in advance.  Preliminary sketches must be made.  Applying paint to the canvas can take days and weeks.  The oil paint takes time to dry.  Patience and skill are the cornerstone of the fine oil painter.  They are the creme de la creme.

Next come the watercolorists.  Watercolor is soft and misty.  It's the favorite medium of sweet ladies in smocks, mistily gazing at a pretty still life of flowers and fruit.  But again, planning is essential.  Layers of watercolor must dry between applications.  It's not something you can finish in a day.  The swirling colors may be happenstance but the main heart of the work is something that be carefully thought out.

Lower still on the ladder are the acrylic painters (spoken with a tinge of amused disdain).  After all, acrylic paint dries quickly.  An acrylic painter doesn't have to sit around waiting for days or weeks.  They can complete their work quickly.  Oh, the shame of it.

Not to worry, though, if you love acrylics, you're still better than the sketchers, the wielders of pastel pencils and charcoal. At least, painters have to use a brush.

Don't even get me started on collage artists.  Give them some scissors and glue and suddenly they think they're making art.  Some might throw in a little paint and term it "Mixed Media Art" but we know better, don't we.

Then, we have the photographers.  A lot of art associations won't even let them in.  Maybe they know about things like shutter speeds and tripods.  Sure they talk a lot of nonsense about framing shots and spending hours in the field just to capture that one perfect shot.  Does that mean they are really artists?

Then, we have the newer kids on the block: the digital artists.  

They take a photograph and play around on the computer.  Aren't they just mixed media collagists without the scissors and glue?  Why don't they just take their work back to the kindergarten classroom where it belongs?

So, that's how I imagine the classification of art and artists work.

Note I put myself waaaayyyy on the bottom because that is the way the artist ego works.

What I do could best be described as lowbrow photo-surrealism.

Sounds sort of pretentious, right?

I work with photographs, often my own, sometimes, antique work or public domain.

I use a hodgepodge of imagery, Victorian portraits, botanical drawings, whatever fits where I need it.

Basically, collage without the physical scissors and glue.

In my better moments, I think that I do have a strong point of view.  My work is consistent and cohesive.  I think I have something interesting to say.

In my weaker moments, I lament that I am a fraud that really should be in a kindergarten classroom.  

Digital art doesn't belong on a gallery wall.  

Someone should be hanging it on the refrigerator and patting me gently on the top of my head.

Still, I cannot seem to stop so I hope it's a really big refrigerator.  I have a lot left to say.

1 comment:

  1. You left out a category; artists who paint with their heart... they don't care what medium or who see or what they think or where it gets hung, they paint/ create because it fills the overwhelming need the have to take color, light, form, vision and emotion, and shape it into something physical in order to share a part of themselves that can't be expressed otherwise.
    If you love your art and it's part of you... create it. If someone doesn't like it and says it's not good enough... as my husband would say "That's what your middle finger is for dear."