Discovering the Artist within me (Part II) – Classification.

Artists are classified. Period.

Ironically, periods are what classify artists, as do schools and styles. And if you apply paint on canvas, you’ll automatically be classified as a kind of artist, or your art shall be called a mix of styles.

In past several days, I  have had the opportunity of interacting with an amazing young woman. I draw and paint what I want, and having never set foot in an art school until recently, I’ve been both positively and negatively blessed. Positively because I still think the way I want to and I continue to question what I don’t understand, and negatively because the techniques of art are difficult to come by.

This young person is a vibrant combination of intellect and creativity, and her thoughts on art are mature beyond her years. My learning from her has led me reflect upon what My illustrations done for the purpose of exemplifying articles and news, and my caricature renditions of people for the purpose of satire and/or humor notwithstanding, I draw and paint:

  • My thoughts that often take the form of expressions, faces, mountains, animals of all ilk.
  • My memories that fluctuate between the light and dark but often get personified/morphed into my physical experiences.
  • Motion, speed, acceleration for everything around us is perpetually in motion.
  • Colors – washes, splashes, blobs…but all to bring out my thoughts in a visual format.

My young friend tells me that the artist within me may have surrealistic leanings. I do love Dali’s surrealist renderings, but I’m not sure if I would eventually paint like that. Dreams are different from thoughts – thoughts are anchored in logic; dreams break those anchors, allowing the thoughts to fly aimlessly, meeting other thoughts that they were never supposed to meet, and populating a landscape to give birth to surrealism. The elements of surprise, the realistic treatment of people, animals, and objects – they were the hallmarks of Dali’s paintings.

Oh, now that I’m reminded of Salvador Dali, I must show you the caricature that I did of him a few years ago. A simple pencil rendering, nothing much – but one day, I shall paint him the way he would’ve painted himself, surrealistically.

-artist-salvador-dali-mustaches-moustaches-surrealism-surrealist-caricature-of-dali.jpg

My take on Dali’s work has always been of wondrous respect.

Right now, I stand on a spiritual event horizon. If I cross over, I may not return; if I don’t, I won’t know what lies on the other side. But from the windows of time that rush past me at lightening speed, I’ve been able to catch a few glimpses and those glimpses must be translated into sketches…those sketches might get me my visa to the other side. I just hope that it’s a tourist visa and that it comes with a free return ticket.

 

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Discovering the Artist within me (Part I) – Art? What’s that again?

Art is something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings… Merriam Webster.

By this definition, everything that’s created with imagination and skill,  and which either looks/feels good or expresses an important idea or emotion, can be classified as art. For this reason, I suppose, a piece of music that makes the listeners swing and dance (looks/feels good) is art; a caricature-composition that obviously requires a lot of imagination and skill to create and which expresses an important idea, is art; a dramatic scene in a movie that is directed with imagination and acted out with skill, and makes people bite their nails (expresses/conveys important feelings) is art.

By this definition, what may be art for you might not be art for me, for the expression must be understood and felt. By the same definition, something that’s created with imagination and skill, but is neither beautiful nor expresses an important idea or feeling, isn’t art; nor is something that’s created without imagination or skill but expresses and important idea or a feeling – (a pamphlet, a news item?)

As I go through the history of art, learning from it in bits and pieces, I realize that art is evolutionary. What is considered art at one time and place may not be considered so in another. In the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth century when art separated itself from the visual renderings of religious nature, and began acquiring a personality of its own, most of the works that were acclaimed internationally, had one or both of these characteristics.

  1. They evoked an emotional response in their viewers.
  2. They were aesthetically pleasing.

The degree to which each of these characteristics would be experienced by the viewers varies, and yet, these are the two basic reasons why people buy the art of an unknown artist. (The known artist’s work is often bought by art-investors who “invest” in the works of an artist who’s expected to become a star. These characteristics don’t matter then.)

Let us look at two interesting works. (I’m not good with the names of the art-periods and the art-schools, and as I’m studying them mostly to “feel” art, I won’t force myself to remember them.)

The Scream by Edvard Munch.

This painting by Munch reminds me of my times of hopelessness. Most of us have been through dark times in our lives, and while we could argue about the degrees of darkness that one may have experienced, for each individual his darkness is made of the deepest darkest black. Munch’s Scream for me is soundless and endless. It draws a strong emotional response from me.

And this is my response to the painting, not to the artist, nor to the artist’s own pain. I knew nothing of Munch when I had first seen an image of this painting.

The Scream definitely isn’t aesthetically pleasing to me. I won’t want it on my living room wall because every time I’d look at it, I’d be hurled back into that half-forgotten pit of darkness. And yet, for me, it’s a work of art. While it may be pointed out that it’s illustrative or even symbolic and thus doesn’t open itself to multiple interpretations, I still consider it art, for it even darkness is interpreted differently by each one of us.

American Gothic by Grant Wood.

When this painting was first displayed, it aroused emotions of different kinds. Mostly because the Iowans felt that it didn’t really depict the kind of people they were. And yet, after almost ninety years and tens of thousands of miles away, this painting still evokes an emotional response from me. It makes me think of life as a book filled with pages that the read the same throughout. It slaps me across the face to wake me up, and sends me scrambling to find a notebook or a sketchbook; it reminds me that life isn’t about living in comfort and dying within…because that’s my personal takeaway from the expressions I see on the faces of the farmer and his daughter (or Wood’s dentist and Wood’s sister.)

The emotional response isn’t as strong as the one evoked by The Scream, but it isn’t as dark either. If I could afford it, I’d love to own the American Gothic. The painting also has a stronger aesthetic dimension for me. I love the skill with which it’s painted, and I love the overall composition. The straight verticals, the neat and clean house in the background, the expressions on the two faces, the metal of the pitchfork, everything’s been painted with such finesse. I love it!

Over the next few weeks, I intend to look at other major artworks and measure my own responses to them, because I really want to figure out what my own view of art is.

Comments and suggestions to help me on this journey would be appreciated from the bottom of my heart 🙂

 

Definition of Art…The Practical Standpoint!

Long ago I wrote a post in which I attempted to define art, purely from a theoretical and also idealistic viewpoint. You can read “Definition of art – A Theoretical Standpoint” here. In that post I had promised that one-day I would write its sequel, which would present the practical viewpoint. This is that post.

Warning:

  • If you are a budding artist, full of hope and brimming with confidence that you’d follow in Hussain’s or Raza’s footsteps, step back now. Don’t read this post. You can come back to read it after you’ve spent at least a decade trying to figure out whatever the heck didn’t work for you. It isn’t for you.
  • If painting is your only skill, and if you’ve got some surety that you’ll have someone to support your artistic pursuits all your life, without of course, expecting success in return (you know about Van Gogh, I presume) still this post isn’t for you. You might yet become what you aspire to be.
  • And finally, if you are indeed someone who comes from a well-connected family, even if you don’t draw, I’d recommend that you paint a few canvasses. The exhibitions, the fame, and even the sale of your paintings; they’ll all happen without your ever discovering why.

However, if you aren’t among the three types listed above, instead you are the more common type (the stereotypical struggling, starving artist who has crossed into his thirties and has a wife and a child to fend for,) you might want to print this post and tack it to your soft-board…or in the more realistic scenario of your not being able to afford a soft-board, you must fold the printout and put it in the only pocket of your trousers that still doesn’t have holes.

Here’s the practical definition of Art.

Art – A Practical Definition:

Art is what sells at the famous art galleries for sky-high prices.

Practically speaking art is nothing more than this.

How you get to sell your art in those famed galleries could be a matter of:

  1. Luck
  2. Slog
  3. Both
  4. The X-factor

Let me explain the above four points in greater detail.

Art Element 1: Luck

You’ve got this fabulous collection of innovative work, and you are wondering how to exhibit it. You get a call from someone who’s seen your work, admired it; and who knows someone who is somebody in the artistic circles. This person comes to your studio, checks out your work, swoons, and decides to exhibit your work in a prominent gallery. Voila! Lady Luck has short-listed you. Now your chances are bright that you’d indeed get lucky.

I’d put your chances that you’d turn lucky at about 1 in 10,000

Art Element 2: Slog (Euphemistically known as Hard Work.)

You’ve got this fabulous collection of artwork, and you lug it around to every gallery, famous, not famous, and infamous; show your work to every body from the doorkeeper to the owner, and you get the boot.  Then one gallery decides to give you a group-show. You don’t sell anything. Then the next year you lug your work around to every gallery – finally, you get a group show, and you sell one painting. Every year the number grows. After 10 years, you get your first solo, and you sell one painting. You go on doing solos. The number of paintings sold grows. Then when you turn 75, you’ve got a 50% sellout! Wow! You are an artist!

You can now tell your family that finally it’s your turn to take care of the expenses. You can now also tell your elder brother that he needn’t send you that Dole-the-Family-Artist check every month.

Art Element 3: The Combination of Slog and Luck

Now if you work hard and you get your solo in a year and a sellout in 10 years; you are a lucky slogger. Chances that you become a “real” artist who earns his bread, butter, mayonnaise…and then later his house and car, in this way – Better than pure luck, worse than only slog. Somewhere in the middle, if you ask me.

But if you’ve got that magical x-factor, then…before I kill the surprise, let me tell you about the x-factor.

Art Element 4: The X-Factor!

The x-factor is a publicly unknown factor, which is seldom made known to the general public by the artist, but which can be discovered if only the public had a keen eye.
The x-factor may include one or more of the following:

  1. High-society connections
  2. Money, money, money
  3. Empowered (and empowering) relatives
  4. The unmentionables (couches?)

I really don’t think that one post is sufficient to cover all these components. I might tell you some stories with the names changed to help you understand why these factors are so effective. I mean you really have work hard not to succeed, if at all you had the x-factor!

Chances of your becoming a famous artist if you have the x-factor: 9,997 out of 10,000!  (I keeping the 3 out of 10, 000 chance as my Get-out-of-Jail-Free card.)

Before I end this post, I’d like to publicly apologize to all the successful artists including the dot-dabber, the horse-rider, the box-maker, the shit-sprayer, the bone-master, and the can-caner!

But…you want to say something. Say it.
Okay. I’ll say it for you. You wanted to say that there are so many of those artists that don’t really appear to have the x-factor…

Observe and Identify…the x-factor.

Really?

  • Figure out whether the lady in question is the wife or the daughter of a diplomat,
  • find out whether her mom is a famous writer and how she was born in a mansion that’s right there in the heart of the city,
  • figure out how an Indian woman born a 100 years ago could get her nude pictures shot by her brother and not get shot in turn, only because she was born a princess;
  • decide why though you can draw and paint almost as well or better than a South Indian king, but you end up in a two-room apartment with a broken, discolored center-table in your drawing room (just in case you are wondering whether I am talking about the table in my drawing room I should tell you that I am talking about another, perhaps a lot more talented gentleman who is about 15 years my senior.)

Begin joining the dots my friend, and turn wise BEFORE you turn old. If you are young, I’d recommend that you try your best to attract a useful spouse who comes in either with connections or with money. If you fail at that, then the best thing that you can do is – join an advertising agency and build the right contacts.

Don’t bet your life on that one random event, which has a 1 in 10,000 chance of coming true (the chance could be even lower for all I know – I just picked a reasonable sounding figure…) If you can draw, first find a job with an ad-agency, an animation company, or a publishing house – and then try to win that lottery.
Or…
Check out one of those reincarnation schemes that assure your rebirth in a family of your choice. What? There aren’t any reincarnation schemes in the market?!! That’s too bad – isn’t it?

A Special Note for the Cynical Reader:

I am not biased against the fine art of selling the fine art. I have also written a moderate, optimistic, theoretical definition of art, which you can read at: “Definition of art – A Theoretical Standpoint”. I hope it will establish me a rational, left-brained, right-handed, useful, non-sinister member of the world community.

Definition of Art…The Theoretical Standpoint!

Note: This is the first post in a two-post series. Read “Definition of Art…The Practical Standpoint” here.

What is Art?

This is a question that will result in a different answer each time someone tried to answer it – and this itself is one the core characteristics of art.

The Definition of Art

My Definition of Art would be:

Art is an expression of the creator’s imagination, presented through a form that generates an emotional or cognitive value for people by opening itself to multiple interpretations.

Definition of Art Explained

Let me explain this definition.

Art is an expression: Art has to be expressed in some form. An idea in the head of the artist isn’t art – to be considered as art it needs to be expressed in a form that allows it to reach people. The form could be visual, written, or even performed.

…of the creator’s imagination: The expression should involve imagination. (View Salvador Dali’s Gallery here.) The imagination component would manifest itself in the selection of colors, the composition of an artwork, the sequencing and presentation of content, or even the moves of a dancer.

…presented through a form that generates an emotional or cognitive value for people: Art has to be presented through a form that generates value for people, or it isn’t art. An expression of imagination that revolts people can’t be called art – unless the revulsion is interpreted as value by someone…then for that person, it could be art. (Read about “Artist’s Shit” by Piero Manzoni here.)  Something that generates absolutely no emotional or cognitive response too can’t be called art.

…by opening itself to multiple interpretations: Art leads to multiple interpretations. Something that is interpreted in exactly the same way by everyone isn’t art. It may have a lot of functional utility though, for instance, the letters of the alphabet or the numbers 0 to 9 have their unique interpretations, and they don’t qualify as art.

However, if someone takes one of these numbers (or all these numbers) and expresses it in a manner that the expression generates an emotive or cognitive response from people and results in a personal interpretation for everyone…then the expression would qualify as art. (Refer to Robert Indiana’s Works.)

Note that I don’t speak of good art, bad art, or even popular art here. I am merely trying to define art by stringing all its components logically.

An Example of Art Analyzed!

Let me now review Mona Lisa, the most famous “artwork” in history, against this definition.

Mona Lisa is an expression of  Leonardo da Vinci’s imagination (note that though it’s a portrait – yet it goes beyond just a photographic depiction), presented through a form that generates an emotional or cognitive value for people (through the form and content of the painting,) for people by opening itself to multiple interpretations. (The curiosity that Monalisa arouses through her mysterious expression, her almost androgynous face, her clothes, her lack of jewelery, and even her background – leads a viewer to his/her own interpretation of the painting, which in fact is the emotional/cognitive value.)

More Definitions of Art:

Find more definitions of art at the following links:

Well…

that was an academic-looking post, wasn’t it?

Await the next installment, “Definition of Art…The Practical Standpoint!” for a more humorous take 🙂 – Published:) Read “Definition of Art…The Practical Standpoint” here.