254: Art, or NOT art?

Google "modern art" image

Google “modern art” image

There is an issue that artists have been struggling with ever since the Impressionists got to start interpreting what they saw according to their own inner vision. The invention and perfection of the camera for the first time allowed artists to do other things beside record realistic images. Now, the camera can do that far better than most artists, so artists are freed to interpret what they see in their own special ways. It does not have to look like something anymore. Therein, however, lies the rub. The debate then (and now) is whether modern artists are really creating art, or just taking shortcuts to avoid developing the technique and skill of the old masters. You have to admit, most of what I have seen lately that passes for modern art is stretching the definition of fine art pretty far.

Is this stuff still art, even when it looks like an explosion in a paint factory (Jackson Pollock), or like some angry toddler had a temper tantrum in the studio? Well – yes and no. See, Jackson Pollock and other modern artists actually do know how to create what many of us would term “real art.” They have studied for years and paid their dues to skill and technique, and when they break rules or splash paint around, they have those years of theory and knowledge behind what they do.  That’s why what they produce “works,” and what the angry toddler throws around usually does not “work.” That is not to say that the toddler cannot create some very good stuff, because there is such a force in the world known as serendipity. That term means something good that happens randomly, almost by accident: like the toddler. Most of what the toddler does is crap, because they don’t have the years of study, skill and knowledge behind what they do.

By the same token, however, as an art teacher, I LIKE the idea that anyone can create art out of the box, so to speak, because it is hugely encouraging to my students when someone does something worth keeping as a beginner (even if it IS by accident). Sometimes the planets align, and someone new to creating art gets a “good one.” Most of what beginners do, however, is practice to improve their skills and technique. That is what the study part is for!

I tell my students I NEVER want to hear them say they cannot create art because (fill in any stupid wanna-be reason here). LOOK online at what real-life modern artists are creating, and tell me again that you cannot create something that good. It is very liberating to realize that you CAN create art as a beginner.

Now, go DO IT.


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