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Definitions, continued


A wise man once called me too honest. He was one of the most brilliant painters that I was ever friends with. Our art discussions would last through pots of coffee and into hours much later than they should have. We attended opening receptions together, had a painting class together, and would meet after class to comment on each other’s work. And, using all of that newly learned vocabulary from class, we coached one another.

We each became romantically involved with other people, and drifted apart, though we crossed paths in the art building on occasion. Since I worked full-time, and supported a sister, my time became a premium commodity. As he was preparing for his senior year exhibit, he asked me to look at the work. Expecting what I knew of his paintings and drawings I was surprised to see that what he was going to show were collages. They were well-executed, perfectly framed, and I hated them. They were cold. They didn’t lack his intellectual and conceptual acuity, but they lacked the depth his paintings always had.

I was asked what I thought, and I told him. And, my art-related vocabulary had matured. I said numerous times, “They are good, but…” He let me finish. He acknowledged all that I said, and agreed. But, he also shook his head, smiling and said, “But, sometimes I think you’re too honest.”

I’ll wear the “too honest” badge proudly.


I will address what I said about “hacks” in the last post on this subject. “Hacks” are not producing honest art. “Hacks” are also lazy. Two traits in some people that I find disagreeable. One criticism I received was for labeling. I don’t like labels, either. It’s just easier I guess, than saying lazy liar.


Criticism, given constructively, can provide the best “aha” moment an artist can get.

Most of us work alone, and have to trust our own judgments/instincts regarding the “everything” about our current work. Last year, a very respected colleague expressed to me that she would love to see my oils look more like my watercolors. She felt that the fluidity in my watercolors didn’t exist in my oils.

Lightbulb!! x 1000000000.

I would have never considered pouring paint thinner on a canvas lying flat, had that never been said to me. I do it all of the time now.


Academic critique is not anything close to what we can do in an hour and a half with 15 people present. The last academic critique I went through lasted 4 hours and there were about 25 grad students involved.

And, I never envisioned anything like that last night as I was writing. The first one I attended, I sailed through with my three Graduate Committee Profs. But, there was the crazy woman with the animal diptychs that wanted to remove my head and arms, so I might never paint again!! (She had gone before me so I had no chance to reciprocate.) I took a break to smoke a cigarette after the beating, and my mentor followed me out into the hall to make sure I was OK.

The next MA critique, even though Don begged me not to, the crazy zoo animal lady was not so lucky. But, I did keep it short.


So, again, what is good art?

Had Theo not had art dealer connections, what would have happened to Vincent?

Who makes the determination that a piece is good?

I think it up to the artist to deliver their best, in all of the technical, more easily defined qualities. Is it honesty and hard work? That might be a start.

As I have already stated, one of the artist/colleagues I most admired respected my opinion to the utmost, and I know what should be there, but can I always be subjective about my own work? I doubt any of us can be 100%, and that’s where I think these Artshare meetings need to bring a bit more to the table than just being a “show and tell”.

So, my goal is to be as good as I can be. To know as much as I can know, and hopefully be able to impart that knowledge to those with less experience. And, hope to have more “aha” moments.




Good art, a definition, with more questions, Part Deux

As I was waiting to get out of Tire Warehouse’s parking lot, I scribbled a few notes to myself to add to this conversation.

First of all, I think a big consideration in how work is discussed begins with why it was created in the first place. If the intent is just to allow the maker a mode of expression for whatever reason, I don’t think a question of quality, relevance, etc. really need to even be part of the program. I applaud anyone who makes anything just for the sheer joy, peace, cathartic release, etc. that art-making most certainly gives the creator.

Most of the people I am referring to in these groups are not solely creating to create. Bigger statements are being made that usually include a planned price tag, a venue or hopes for one, and all the professional/business stuff that goes into this, as well. I solidly fall into this group-solidly-even though I make pieces that are really personal, too. Those stay at home when I am sharing work with groups.

And, we all make stuff for sale and that is strictly its purpose. I am going to cross a somewhat debatable line and call this merchandise, not art. If the purpose for a piece is solely to be a money-maker, I feel that compromises have been made, and the emotion that goes into the creation was probably not there. Been there, too.

I know people also who have developed saleable formulas, and create work that fits in that formula, sometimes repeating a palette over numerous pieces. This formulaic, no thought, no emotion production is what I call “hack”.

A type of art that I don’t see as fitting “hack”  are images/themes that seem to be repeated by many artists. The same subject obviously is moving more than just one person-that doesn’t dilute the importance of a piece. This can be misunderstood by some as only done to produce a sale. Let’s face it, many people really love florals as their subject, for example, and that does not make them a “hack”.

So, once determining the purpose of the work, where do we draw the line on how precisely those of us who have the academic jargon and knowledge go in our critique? How fair would that be? And, how do I know what will even make sense to someone without formal training?

I personally think these kinds of meetings should help those participating grow artistically. I might be jaded, but I am seeing little in really useful observations in those that I belong to, at present. Granted, we all work in this vacuum that sometimes includes whirlwinds of self-doubting thoughts, and it is nice to hear accolades. Those of us who have not seen a classroom as a student for eons may actually revel in constructive criticism and suggestions, too, rather than being told that our “colors sing”.

But, all of this aside, what makes a good piece of art, when it is made as art? Who determines that? When do you know as an artist that you have a solid concept, that you have executed it in a way that visually demonstrated it, and the application of you medium is appropriate to all of the above ? Shouldn’t this also be part of these group discussions? Or am I getting too academic?



The definition of “good” art, Part 1

I think this may be a rambling essay that spans several days, but this idea came in a dream-and it makes sense now that I am exploring a great variety of mediums and styles, to figure out which direction to pursue.

What defines “good art”? Great art resonates, and you know when you see it. It doesn’t always have  a”wow” factor, but it always makes you think about it. Some calls you back for another look. A masterpiece takes all of that to the stars.

I belong to two art groups, both of which have a “share your art” element. I know many regional working painter, sculptors and photographers, so my Facebook home page is always covered in art. I do see my share of “meh” art.

It seems that too much of what is said is supportive, when maybe constructive criticism is necessary. But, when and where should that happen-or should I be brazen enough to tell someone that I think they are producing “hack” work? I honestly think that if someone doesn’t speak up, certain people will never realize their full potential, because they will never step outside their “safe” zone.

So, should we feel safe when we make our work, or should we feel challenged? I think the latter, because without a little change, where is the growth?

To be continued…