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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Shadows and Light!"

What makes visual art, good? How do we determine the quality of something subject to the viewer's aesthetic or intellectual preference? While there are no standards that apply to all art, we can develop our own based on generalizations. Hopefully, we can omit the poorly executed, boring, and unoriginal from our selections for Trillium. So the essential questions we need to ask are:

What does well executed art look like?
What makes it intriguing, provoking, or interesting?
What defines originality in the work?

A skilled artist’s work will show two elements of execution: time and dynamics. It is usually easy to tell, even in contemporary artwork, how much planning and process went into the work. As an artist, I can tell you that a lot of hours go into a single piece. Though it may seem like the art took minutes to create, the creation process begins in the musings of the creator, and can compensate for a less precise process. We should also keep in mind the dynamic value of the painting. Does it offer depth and values (shades of light and darkness)? Darkness and lightness can be represented with endless shades and colors, available to any artist. Those who utilize them create dynamic and attractive art. Dynamics may also refer to the subject and type of the art. A subject can be dull or incredible, depending on skill and style.

As for what makes the art “pop”, we need to banish all thoughts of bathroom decoration art. We don’t want another Thomas Kinkade just for the sake of pretty decoration, do we? Art should be intriguing. This could mean that it is uniquely aesthetic, provoking, confusing, sensual, texturally exciting… Any way of reaching the viewer counts. The important thing is to avoid mistaking symbols for art. If someone paints a skull with a rose in the eye socket, a great deal of style and remarkable execution are its only hope for redemption. A smiley face, Jolly Roger, hand or eye study… All of these are symbols and practice that should not pass for a finished piece. Especially to those with an artistic eye, these are as incomplete as a car with no body.

This also leaks into the originality factor. We should be looking for pieces that seem new. The artist’s style and imagination make it original, not his skill. There are very skilled painters who create illegal replicas of famous art to be sold as the original piece would sell. A replicated theme, subject, or entire piece might be incredibly well executed. However, it will always be an imitation or overdone concept, ruining the interest factor of the piece. We should not take such submissions seriously when there are creators out there with styles unimagined and new to the masses.

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