There is a whole Pandora's box of wild things in your ponderings Raya! I wrote the below regarding just one of them, realized I'd already written long past the attention span of most, and decided to just stick with the one topic here...
Raya wrote:- but there is a certain narrowness in the definition of craft that bothers me. Drawing is just one of many skills that artists use - why is it given so much more importance than others?
Just last night I finally went to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. If you ever watch the Tournament of Roses Parade on US television on New Year's Day, you will often see a shot or two of that world class museum. Yet in spite of the fact that I have lived in Los Angeles (Los Feliz, Hollywood, actually) for four years, it was my first time there. It so happens that I saw there, also for the first time, a real live Raphael, a little painting, a Madonna and Child, and in that little painting I saw something that is very relevant to this discussion.
As I said, that was the first time I ever saw a real live Raphael up close and personal. The wonderous thing about that painting was its ability to emanate
life as though it were a living thing! I had no idea it was a Raphael when it drew me to it from hundreds of feet away. I just walked into that big room with its many, many multi million dollar paintings, saw it, and walked right up to it. Normally, I do not much care for religious iconography. The tired old maudlin sentimentality or the thunderous proclamations of the One True Way or Else usually leave me cold as old stone, but this little painting had none of that. None at all. It was a painting done, by the feelings it evoked, in the purest of love. There were none of those silly halos or divine light from above. There was none of that "Poor me! Look what they did to me," nonsense. No. It was just a lovely young woman lush with the mutual embrace of her lovely baby boy, and their regard for each other was just the sweetest thing to behold. His little hands reached up to her face, just like babies do. She looked down at him just like mothers do.
You could almost hear her saying, "Oh, how I love you my darling!"
You could almost hear him saying, "Mama!"
"Humanism," they call it.
I looked at that painting for a long, long time. I got to know it well. I studied every detail of it closely. Here is what was remarkable: There was nothing astonishing about the technique. It was very good, but no more than that. It was really simply standard good workmanship for the period. In fact, there were little errors in perspective, places where the paint had been smoothed out a little too much so the highlights were lost, and by the warping of the panel, the back had not been prepared with the same care as the front. There were many paintings in that museum (and others) which exhibited better technique.
But that painting is
truly great. It is stratospherically greater than many, many much more skillful applications of paint. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful things I have ever beheld.
So that was something of an epiphany. The limits of craft. It will only take one so far. Beyond that, one will have to call on something that is not defined by skill, craft, technique or any of the many synonymous terms we use.
As to why "craft" gets emphasised over that "other something," well, I have it understood in a way that makes sense to me and speaks to me personally; whether it makes sense to others I cannot say, but here is how it looks. It appears that for many artists, I am sad to say, that the magic does not always come when beckoned, and so, to self righeous misery, go they who walk the path of technical perfection.
While I have no interest in ignoring the rest of the questions, I'll just leave off with that.