"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The function of art

Today I was having coffee with an artist friend and had brought with me a recent portrait I had worked on. He thought it was wonderful and had great things to say about it, which was very nice. However, he then looked sad and said that it almost disheartened him as he was working on a couple of portraits and they came nowhere near this portrait. I was dismayed. The function of good art should be to increase the joy of creating, not stifle it.


Dean said...

No need to be dismayed. The greatest art is often daunting to those who look at it (as artists themselves) and think "I could never do that!" When you out-create someone, he feels overwhelmed. But art that does this to some, also challenges others to reach for bigger and better games as artists, and even those who are, perhaps briefly, overwhelmed will, with encouragement, use great works as beacons -- distant beacons, it's true, but beacons they can move towards. The works of art that drive us most to despair because of their beauty are often the works of art that most inspire us.

Also, you'll find that if you do a really fine job on a work of art, not everyone will be able to perceive it. There are millions of people who can't see why a Rembrandt portrait should be prefered to a black-velvet Elvis. After all, where's the velvet on a Rembrandt?

So when someone responds to your painting with "I'll never be able to do what you've done here!" -- that's someone who is closer to being able to do it than he realizes -- close enough to be aware that something has been achieved.

Just to be aware of it means he is already able to contribute to it (because that's necessary to make it live, and obviously it is alive for him), and what he can contribute to, he can someday create himself.

Any work of art will have that overwhelming effect on those people who are sharp enough to contribute to it, but not yet skilled enough to create it.

Me, I'm sure I'll never be able to create a velvet Elvis. I'd be unable to resist stroking the velvet (but not the pelvis), so that by the time I'd completed the painting, all the velvet would have been rubbed flat, like the ducklings in my childhood story books.

I recall, as a child, watching how fast my Mom's pen darted and swerved across a page (like a star quarterback on a open-field run) when she wrote, and I thought, "I'll never be able to write that fast." I recall, as a child, watching how easily and through what mysterious tiny adjustments, my Dad made our car zip down the road, and I knew I could never do that.

And now of course, I can't write and I can't drive...no no No, that's not the moral!

Amy said...

When I read about the friend who was dejected when he saw how good Pam's portrait was, I felt very bad for him. He should not be comparing himself to another artist - it's apples and oranges. Each of us does what we do, and should not want to emulate another. He should just keep working to be the best he can be, but stop comparing his work to someone else's. Work, work, work, to be the best YOU can be.