Some artists lean toward precision – each painting must improve on the last one, in demonstrating all the skills that go with proper rendition of a natural subject. Demonstrating a pre-occupation with technique.
A Photo-realist usually reveals his personality – to be one of a methodical and patient ‘reproducer’, with a perfectionist streak.
Other artists prefer the intuitive approach – or at least that is how it is usually described. Where the painting is allowed to emerge from his brushstrokes with no adherence to exact observation in reality – hopefully what emerges is something new, something fresh, something not seen before. Originality.
The danger for the ‘realist’ painter, can be lack of originality. The danger for the intuitive painter – lack of skill, or better put – the lack of the use of skill.
I tend toward the intuitive camp.
Here are two paintings to demonstrate what I mean:
Art is an example of something that has a ‘universe’ of appreciators, sellers, and practitioners with points-of-view, that scramble words and theories to give us an open-ended result.
Art is what it is. Art is full of diverse schools of thought and opinion. Art is craft perfection to some – intuitive expression to others.
One school seems to contradict the other. When really they are just different aspects of this activity we call art.
Pseudo-intellectualism versus non-explanation and letting the work speak for itself. Once we ‘verbalise’ we annul or diminish the visual expression, some conclude.
Painting is dead, but gets resuscitated perpetually.
Digital art has pushed us beyond even photography which was revolutionary when it first appeared – even though projection devises, Mr. Hockney has proven, were used by the legends that dwelt in the upper echelons of art mastery, before photography.
By using these devices are they any less the Masters they were, it could be asked?
In painting, some still hold to the Master and apprentice tradition, where, like the daily practice rituals of the great pianists, daily sketching to per-fect – perspective and placement of features, is still held as the raison d’etre of making art.
Some still hold that – reproductive mastery – of the ‘material’ person sitting for their portrait to be painted, requiring the perfect skill co-ordination of brain, eye, and hand is the necessary acquisition, before one can be called an artist.
Those who either don’t want to use their time to perfect the traditional exercises of the old drawing school approach, dare to find it boring, or believe we have advanced so much through the computerisation of all endeavours – consider it somewhat irrelevant today.
Originality is often defined well, or ill-defined. But basically man in art – is always looking for another way to display or present a different visual experience, infused with skill or otherwise.
There is a case to be made for ‘otherwise’.
In short art cannot be made to fit one particular mould, either in theory or in practice, as no such mould exists.
Once art fits a ‘one mould only’ academic approach, it becomes totally limited, and art cries out to be free again.
Some wrongly equate art’s freedom with the annihilation of morality – which is another subject.
As we look at the so called masters, we simply learn a different approach and outlook, that came to the fore at a particular time in art’s history, and earned them their fame.
So art is ‘take your pick’, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and art will always be that way.
Just make your mark – and, like the famous chair in Frasier that his father would not let go – at least you like it!
Did they get Dillinger?
The story behind this painting:
I held an exhibition when I finished with my day to day job as a typesetter.
The exhibition sold well.
Amongst my guests on the opening night was my elder brother.
There was eight years between us.
He suffered from a heart condition and passed in 2015.
We used to meet up once a month for lunch, and these were enjoyable times, with banter about whose turn it was to pay etc.
When we were young, he was always kind to his little brother, especially at Christmas, when I waited with anticipation to see what present he had bought me. He never disappointed (e.g. when I was 8 y.o. – he was 16).
I had two ‘not for sale’ drawings in the show. And he liked these because they were depictions of the street of our childhood upbringing.
As I would have explained – not topographical depictions. A drawing of a memory, not a drawing from memory. (Some of you might ‘get’ the difference).
But I wouldn’t let these go. So his eyes lit upon the painting above, and just before someone else wanted to buy it, he was able to stake his claim and it ended up on the living room wall of his home.
He too, like me, was ‘weaned’ on the old black and white gangster movies seen on TV.
He had three of my paintings in his home and joked about how when I was gone – they would be worth so much more. With reference to the old adage about an artist not being worth much until he was dead.
These paintings have been inherited by his son and daughter.
Be great to have my brother back – I would paint him as many ‘Dillingers’ as he wished (RIP).
Any great ambition I had to sell my paintings, and perhaps earn a living from doing so, got lost along the way somewhere over the years.
The ambition wasn’t big enough in the first place, to drive me to do all that was necessary to achieve such a goal.
The bible talks about seeking first the kingdom of God. And as far as I was concerned there was no other option, than to gladly do so. So spiritual ministry priorities were put first.
Consequently an 8 to 5 job in a newspaper office took the place of these ambitions as the responsibility of raising a family also came first.
So to sell a painting now is the result of some kind of connection with other human beings.
Whereby they see some of my work and would like to have it.
I do not spread the work around as e.g. in galleries etc. like I used to do. So I’m pretty much, an unknown – sliding into ‘oblivion’, in the background somewhere.
If someone through this blog wanted to buy a piece of work, this would entail individual email communications and financial arrangements. And gladly the forming of some kind of relationship.
I have in other words no selling mechanism of pay pal and all the rest of it, necessary, if you are running a business.
Sometimes my mind wanders to Van Gogh – a man who was on a spiritual quest and through the rocky road of life with its hurts and rejections – eventually found solace in his art.
As far as I can discern he lost his way spiritually, because in biblical language he sought God by works and not by faith.
It isn’t my intention to elaborate on such a statement in this post. I realise it is more complicated than my thesis might suggest.
But I do see in his life and can understand, why painting became his passion and means of self-absorption, and quest for achievement.
Even in his art he did not find the acceptance and praise he justly deserved.
I see life in that way, and am so thankful that I have found in Christ what I was looking for.
In the old hymn Be Thou My Vision we read these words:
Riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance through all of my days
Thou and Thou only though first in my heart
That succinctly sums up how the loss of ambition doesn’t matter, when it is replaced by the Riches of Christ. It is Christ who satisfies, not only in this world but in the one to come.
There is a place for doing things well, for creativity, and for enjoying the communication of life through the arts.
A place for someone to have goals and resolutely set out to achieve them (provided others do not get trampled-on along the way.)
But there is a fine line between seeking man’s empty praise and appreciating the love that others give, that makes us feel worthwhile and satisfied that we have something to give, through our expressed talent.
Life poses the question: ‘Are you ultimately empty?’
Perhaps – but there is a spiritual vacuum inside each one of us. That can only be filled through a relationship with Christ.
Realised ambitions will not take this vacuum away.
Brushes and paint lie dormant
Dormant man – fighting infirmities
They call it lockdown…
As it ventures to catch your brain
Shaking-off the shackles
Of indolent’s stealth
At least the eye can lift itself
To look again
At the industry hand and brain has formed
Former works – done for me
For me it oft seems a lesser reward
Determined by the fickle browse of
Never a unanimous verdict
Only one short-lived before it is changed
I will give you them all
Only say the word
And my gallery is yours
But I must not let my hunger
For man’s empty praise
Cause me to sell this birthright
For a mess of pottage