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Art and Technique

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Art and Technique

Postby Raya » Wed Mar 17, 2004 11:46 am

I
In an online visual art community, people were rating each other's artwork. One person wrote:
3/10 if you worked from a photo, 9/10 if you actually drew it.

II
In a different community, a fellow posted some of his photographs and took pains to insist:
The mist and lighting effects were created by just me, the camera, and stuff in the room - no Photoshop involved!

III
When I started off with one of my art teachers, I was in a phase where I was producing mostly abstract paintings. One day he decided to interrogate me about them - he seemed surprised that I had responses to every question: that I had solid themes in mind, that I knew why each colour and form and texture was in place.

"Just admit it," he said finally. "You're only working in abstract because you can't draw."
"Can't I?" and I showed him my sketchbook.
He was amazed - "Okay, so you can draw!" - and only then did he respect my abstract work.

* * *
In all of these cases, I found myself thinking: what difference does it make?

In III: why should my teacher suddenly have found my paintings worthwhile after learning that I could draw? It didn't change the paintings or what they stood for!

In I and II, the final form of the artworks were there, whatever the techniques used to create them.
Why did the observer in I feel he needed to know how the work was created in order to respond to it? Why such a dramatic difference in his ratings depending on the technique?
Why was it so important to the artist in II to impress upon his viewers that he didn't use the obvious method for achieving his effects?

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Art and Technique

Postby Lex » Wed Mar 17, 2004 9:44 pm

Raya wrote:In I and II, the final form of the artworks were there, whatever the techniques used to create them.
Why did the observer in I feel he needed to know how the work was created in order to respond to it? Why such a dramatic difference in his ratings depending on the technique?
Why was it so important to the artist in II to impress upon his viewers that he didn't use the obvious method for achieving his effects?

What are your thoughts?


A lot of people believe that to be an artist, in addition to being able to produce aesthetically pleasing effects, you must actually possess an uncommon skill. Technology, such as photography and computer processing, can make something so easy that anybody can do it, which means that it requires no uncommon skill. If it can be produced by a person with no skill, i.e. not an artist, then it must not be art.

Raya wrote:In III: why should my teacher suddenly have found my paintings worthwhile after learning that I could draw? It didn't change the paintings or what they stood for!


Of course not. They're non-representational, so they don't "stand for" anything! :wink:

Sorry, couldn't resist. Maybe the teacher has more respect for you as an artist since he knows you can draw, i.e. you possess an uncommon skill, and therefore projects that respect onto your abstract work?

This "skill" thing is probably part of the reason why people don't like abstract art, BTW. It's harder for most people to judge when abstract art requires skill, and therefore whether or not it is "art". For instance, some people swear up and down that Pollack had more skill than a lot of his copy-cats. I can't see it, and think that the only advantage Pollack had was that he had the advantage of novelty while his plagiarists didn't. But I can tell that somebody like Renoir, for instance, had much more skill at representing the human form than a mediocre artist, like, say, Adolf Hitler.

What it comes down to is:

Does only the aesthetic effect of a piece determine whether it is art, or are there other factors?

For instance, would you consider a paint by numbers copy of Van Gogh's Starry Night that looks just like the real thing to qualify as art every bit as much as the real thing? If not, why not?

Is a beautiful flower "art"? If not, why not?

What about abstract art that supposedly takes skill, but does not possess any aesthetic qualities? For me, this would be Paul Klee. To me, his paintings look like scribblings. If we go by aesthetic effect alone, then either I am an aesthetic moron, or Klee's works aren't art. Is this valid?
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Postby Saiph » Wed Mar 17, 2004 11:15 pm

Whenever we praise something we are only praising our own taste.


When I say: Bosch is magnificent !!
I am really only saying: The work of Bosch appeals to my sense of beauty.
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Postby threewood14 » Wed Mar 17, 2004 11:43 pm

I just want to say one thing. I'm not sure if it will make you think, but it might.

"Everything is relative!" claimed Einstein. What he is saying is his theory of general relativity. It said that the faster something travels, (veolcity) its mass increases. Its mass will be infinite if it reaches the speed of light. This would require an infinite amount of energy which is not possible.

It also said that the fathur away one is from a large body(such as earth) the slower time will affect it. (The twins thing).

But come to find out, general relativity does not apply to only fancy physics. It applies to everything. For example. One could ask himself (am i hot?) he could be at a beach baking in the sun in 100 degree weather. Now what if he was in the sun (just use your imagination) would the beach be hot? No! Of course not! THe beach would be freezing! It is all relative to wear he is. Now of course the amount of change is also relative, but always relate it to humans when in this thread.

It also applies to ones conception of art. It is al relative to how the person views something etc etc...


PS. I know I used theoretical physics in the philosophy section. Sorry! I just use it everywhere I go because it seems that every concept applies to everything. Like things are stronger if put together...
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Postby benissimus » Thu Mar 18, 2004 3:37 am

I really believe there is a great deal of falsity and superficiality in the ways people judge art. Many people seem to care more about technique and the critical thought behind the creation, because these are things that can be judged and also are things that are appreciated by most modern societies more than innate skill. Still, there is some validity to assessing method and the other posters make further good points.

In example I for instance, not knowing the actual artwork, I would assume that much more imagination would have been involved in producing all of the components of the image mentally than if the artist had created a facsimile of a photo. Certainly, a vivid imagination is paramount to creating an entire scene or even a single object, accounting for lighting and shading and all of the other intricacies of nearly any realistic setting. Therefore I assume the judging person prefers to assess mental synthesis and imagination rather than give much notice to the quite difficult skill of transforming the three dimensional into an accurate two dimensional portrayal. I wonder what this person thinks of the artist who draws something while looking at it in person; is this just like looking at a photo and is it "really" drawing?

In your real-life example III, all I can say is that your teacher seems to me to be a buffoon, given your limited description of him :roll:
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Postby Raya » Sun Mar 21, 2004 6:48 pm

I do agree that there is something about art appreciation that is subjective. Indeed, people don't even agree on what counts as art!
Perhaps this is at the heart of the problem (if I may call it a problem): that different people, in interacting with art, base themselves on different criteria.

One way of looking at art - a very popular way - is from a technical perspective.

John Boardman, in <i>The Intimate Philosophy of Art</i> wrote:The imagined physical sense of how difficult it is to control oozing and runny stuff on a bit of stretched cloth adds to our admiration of the achievement of the painter. [...] There is always delight in professional competence in manual skill.

Be that as it may - technical skill on its own isn't enough to make something art. Technique is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
But - a means to what end?

It seems to me that modern art - the sort which seems very simple technically - is about stripping away the complications of technique and finding simpler solutions to this 'end' which the artist is trying to achieve.

John Boardman, in <i>The Intimate Philosophy of Art</i> wrote:The complaint, so often brought against contemporary artworks [is] that 'a child could have done it'. The sophisticated response (doubtless correct) is that a child would not have thought of doing it (exhibiting a bare canvas slashed a few times, painted completely red).

There is a certain ingenuity to simple solutions to complicated problems - you wonder why didn't I think of that? But just because a solution is simple, doesn't mean that it is easy to arrive at.
So it is, I know, with much of my abstract art. I can agonise over how to portray a particular idea, and when the moment of executing the artwork comes, the product may turn out to be very simple.

Yet viewers concerned only with technique will not notice that ingenuity at all.

From the artists' point of view, it can be devastating that nobody (or only a few) seem to "get" our art. We tend to think of it as people not knowing how to look properly - but isn't that an absurd notion!
Or is it?

Have observers got it wrong to look at art in the way they do?
Have artists got it wrong to create art that only few can "get"?
Is it even possible for people go wrong with how they look at, or create, art?
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Postby Emma_85 » Sun Mar 21, 2004 8:28 pm

It does seem that people value the artwork of 'skilled' people more. They may even value a piece they don't actually like, just because they think the artist is skilled. Internet is a good example... on gfx they are always on about did you use photo reference? and then if someone did, it's not worth as much, or on epi they're always saying anyone can just use a photo, but you should be able to do it just like that. These people also seem to ignore the fact that in the past quite a few famous painting were done with 'help'. Constable's painting 'Haywain' for example... he sketched the scene on glass first, that's like tracing. OMG! He traced, that's worse than using a photo, that is the biggest crime on epi or gfx! :roll:

I agree with you totally on that Raya.

Now, I don't think they are right to judge artwork on how it was made if you know what I mean. But as for them not understanding abstract art... well, I really think that it depends on the picture. Sometimes I think the artist did a great job in making sure that his art was somehow moving... other times I think what the artist did was dumb, because I just can't imagine that I would have been able to understand what that work was about even if I'd looked at it for ages and thought about it. The only way to understand it is to consult a book or sometimes to read the artist's bio.
If that's the case of course the artist has the right to do such art that can only be understood by few, but then he must not wonder at the fact that only a few understand it and that if his art carries any sort for message that those people who get the message probably already knew what ever if was he wanted to say. I believe that the artist should (not should have to, but I just think that maybe it would be better if they did ...) think about who they are making their art for and make it accordingly. You cannot expect everyone, most of who do not know anything about art history and don't think modern art is worth it, to understand something really abstract. My art teacher put it this way: there was some artwork at a display at the Speyer market place and he was buying his groceries, when he heard the old market women comment on the 'stupid, dumb' modern art. He explained the art to them, and suddenly they didn't think it was dumb anymore, and thought they if they spent some time at the library they might be able to fully understand it. The problem is that if artwork is not easily accessible then people won't understand it and so hate it.
So I think that artists should consider this when they paint and if they want others to understand it make it 'simple'. That doesn't mean it can't be abstract, it just shouldn't be too difficult to either decipher, or if all it should to is to make you think, then that's what it should do - and if it doesn't then maybe it's not such a good piece of art.
Hmm... but that again leads to the question what is good and what it is bad art?
Those are very difficult questions, I'm actually sure I don't know enough to give a good answer, so feel free to ignore what I just said :P .
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Postby threewood14 » Sun Mar 21, 2004 8:50 pm

I dunno about you but this may have an impact. If one expects something to be good and it turns out that it is not what he exspected, it is bad. But if he did not exspect much and he viewed the same picure, he may think its good!
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Postby Lex » Sun Mar 21, 2004 9:02 pm

Emma_85 wrote:These people also seem to ignore the fact that in the past quite a few famous painting were done with 'help'. Constable's painting 'Haywain' for example... he sketched the scene on glass first, that's like tracing. OMG! He traced, that's worse than using a photo, that is the biggest crime on epi or gfx! :roll:


I believe that Constable's reputation has gone down considerably since that has become common knowledge, too.

I do believe that we're on to something here, though. It's easy to determine that a person who makes a very realistic image without the help of technology is skilled, since everybody knows how things are supposed to look in the real world. It's not easy to determine whether an abstract work took skill or not, since they don't have a real-world referent, and most people don't understand anything about art technique. I know I don't understand much. Since most people judge the "artness" of art based on the skill it took, and since it's hard to appreciate the skill that abstract art takes, it follows that most people won't appreciate abstract art.

So, as an artist, you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to create art that only another artist can appreciate?" I, for one, am of the opinion that making art that only other artists can appreciate can make art ingrown, solipsistic, even incestuous. Not healthy.

OTOH, you can fall into the danger of making art that only non-artists can appreciate. This has its dangers, too. If you pander too much to popular tastes, you'll end up painting very realistic but entirely "bourgeois" pictures of Lassie draped in the American flag, the spectres of dead soldiers looking out at their loved ones from within the polished surface of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, and other assorted sentimental crapola like that (at least here in America you will), and you'll make lots of money, and because you like the money you'll crank them out fast with no concern for artistic merit, and you'll sacrifice your integrity as an artist. Not healthy.

There's got to be a middle way, though.
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Postby Kalailan » Wed Mar 24, 2004 3:33 pm

Wow, nice, i just thought of this topic a few days ago...
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Postby alauda » Sun Mar 28, 2004 6:45 am

I saw this thread some days ago and was much meaning to respond, but time and work conspired to make me tardy.
Raya wrote:When I started off with one of my art teachers, I was in a phase where I was producing mostly abstract paintings. One day he decided to interrogate me about them - he seemed surprised that I had responses to every question: that I had solid themes in mind, that I knew why each colour and form and texture was in place.

"Just admit it," he said finally. "You're only working in abstract because you can't draw."
"Can't I?" and I showed him my sketchbook.
He was amazed - "Okay, so you can draw!" - and only then did he respect my abstract work.

.... I found myself thinking: what difference does it make?

I've wondered the same thing myself, yet I confess I am guilty of exactly what that teacher did. One should be able, one thinks, to simply see a piece as is without background knowledge of the artist or some sort of explanation about the piece (if it so unusual that there are no prior understandings). One would think. But I find that ideal is in the wishing rather than the fact.

I have a number of friends who work only in non representational ways, and every one of them will frankly state that they are quite unable to work in any other mode, whether by temperament or lack of craft. The temperament I can understand: What's so damn great about reality that we have to enslave ourselves to its re-creation? Yet the lack of craft... Well, hmm, I guess I look a bit askance at anyone who cannot show that.

There are times when there is so much noise and so little signal. Perhaps some kind of quick bogus filter, even if not enlightened, helps to separate the serious artist or serious student from the posers.

Cheers,

Alauda

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Postby Raya » Sat Apr 03, 2004 5:03 pm

I can understand about "so much noise and so little signal", and the desire to recognise 'real' art from its imitators. I can even understand about people using skill as a filter -
alauda wrote:Yet the lack of craft... Well, hmm, I guess I look a bit askance at anyone who cannot show that.

- 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?

Why do people feel that one has to learn to draw/represent first, and that only when this skill is mastered can they be allowed to choose abstraction?
Do people really think it is easy and effortless to effectively render a theme visually - without recourse to images, words, or any other such symbols - but only with line, form, colour, composition, texture? Indeed, from a conceptual perspective, it can be much easier to just deal in the representation of familiar symbols.

Yet nobody ever turns on the representational artists to ask them whether they have mastered the ability to express themselves in abstract elements, before they chose to work in representations...
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Postby alauda » Sun Apr 04, 2004 9:48 am

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.

Cheers,

Alauda
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Postby mercutio » Thu Jun 10, 2004 4:07 pm

If a man hacking in fury at a piece of wood makes therein an image of a horse, is that image a work of art?
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