Before I began this art journey — back in 2015 — I really had no idea what it meant to be an artist. I naively believed that being an artist simply meant you were able to pick up a pencil and draw whatever you wanted, and that if you wanted, you could then go on to pick up a paintbrush, a colored pencil, an ink pen — anything, really — and create art.
That’s a short-sighted view of artists and arts, but back then, having never been an artist, I really had no idea what art was all about. Hence, this journey, this discovery of art. I’ve been eagerly hiking along this pathway for five years now. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve become an artist in my own right, and I’ve realized that the world of art is a lot larger than I’d ever imagined.
Before I go on, let me offer this warning: Some of what I write today might offend certain artists. That’s not my intent, however. I’m sharing observations and thoughts — some from my own experience, others from remarks people have made or articles I’ve read. There are bound to be differences of opinions where art is concerned. We each see art differently; we each have our own ideas of what art is.
To me, I’ve always seen “art” as representational. True artists, I believed, created works of recognizable people, places, and things. While I enjoyed a lot of abstract art — Jackson Pollock is a favorite — I saw those works from a slightly different perspective. Pollock and others like him were still artists because they had the ability to draw and paint in a representational manner. They chose to do otherwise. Their works weren’t so much paeans to the gods of art as they were hymns in praise of a greater creative spirit. Their abstracts had energy, life, emotion, color!
But all of those thoughts were from the past, from the days before I began learning and developing my own artistic abilities. I think my vision has now expanded. I understand the principles of art — the concepts of rhythm, balance, harmony, and other elements — so I can see them in many places.
So, what of acrylic pouring? What of my early-morning watercolor play time where I do nothing more than splash colors on paper and watch them dance around? What about alcohol inks dabbled into random creations?
Are those things also art? I think they are, but I’m not sure others agree with me.
And what about all those “fun” little art projects — like turning gourds in snowmen, birdhouses, or even lamps? What about tie-dye? Weaving? Embroidery? What about all the rock-painters out there? Are they artists, too?
I think they are. But, I’ve heard opinions to the contrary. According to some folks, there are arts and then there are crafts, and never the twain shall meet! At least not under the guise of our “fine arts” associations. I can see the thought process here, and maybe I’ll go so far as to agree that there is a distinction between art and craft, but one doesn’t necessarily exclude the other. They can’t be fairly judged against each other, but that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other… does it?
I’ve participated in art shows in which only “fine art” was accepted. I’ve also taken part in shows where there were separate categories for jewelry, fabric art, woodwork, and more! In fact, at a show last year, the “best in show” award went to a portrait that was “painted” with thread. In another show, the “People’s Choice” award went to a work of “fabric art”.
Yet, I’ve also heard judges disparage non-traditional art forms, pushing them aside as being “too crafty”, viewing them as lesser works because “it’s all random,” or finding them flawed because “there’s no meaning or intention there.”
With abstract art, we’ve all heard, I’m sure, those disparaging claims that “my five-year-old could have done that!” To explore this idea, please check out this article:
Don’t have time to click and read? No problem. Just take a look below. Which “work of art” was created by a well-known abstract expressionist painter and which was drawn by a child?
I recently received the latest issue of Artist magazine. You know how much I enjoy the magazine and how much I look forward to reading it! Each issue has a variety of articles on different topics, but there’s generally an overall theme running through it all. With the September issue, that theme is “everyday art”.
Boy, did that get me thinking!
I haven’t yet read through the issue and the different articles, but my brain has been going full-speed ahead, asking a lot of questions.
Is textile design an art?
Is needlework an art?
Is a beautiful bedspread a work of art?
Is the overall decor in a home a form of art?
I could, of course, go on and on to include many more “arts and crafts”, many of which might not normally be considered “art” — but where do we draw the line?
How about this… is this art?
I think it is. I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s masterful. I think it deserves to be called art, should be accepted in a gallery or a showing, and should be proudly displayed, but I also think it should have its own category.
I thought, too, of artifacts from different cultures which are collected and shown as art, such as those in the African Art collection I saw at the Albrecht Kemper Gallery in St. Joseph, Missouri. Seeing the exhibit helped me develop as an artist as I learned more about how our individual voices are expressed in art. Today, I think of this collection with the realization that these statues and other artifacts probably weren’t created to be art. They were useful items, decorative items, everyday items.
So, now, I’m sitting here today, once again pondering those unanswerable questions about what art is and what makes it art. It isn’t beauty. It isn’t color. It isn’t any single thing or any specific set of things.
All I can really say is that we each have our own ideas on what art is. We each know what we like and what we don’t like. I think, at some level, that anything can be seen as a work of art if that’s how we choose to see it.
What are your thoughts?