Post from February, 2019

How Much Skill Do You Need?

Monday, 18. February 2019 0:20

An old article on the hyperrealistic work of Leng Jun circulated through my news reader this week. Hyperrealism is probably the epitome of drawing and is practiced by only a few artists. And while such work is interesting, even amazing, it seems to exist for no other reason than itself. Perhaps that is enough.

The real question in my mind is how much skill does an artist need? Certainly not all artists have to draw as well as Leng Jun or any of the other hyperrealists to create their work, but how well do they need to draw? Do they need to be able to draw at all? It seems that if one is a visual artist, drawing is a basic skill. Even Banksy has an opinion on the matter: “All artists are prepared to suffer for their work but why are so few prepared to learn to draw?” (from his book Wall and Piece).

For that matter, how much skill does any artist need? The intuitive answer is “as much as s/he can get.” But is that the right answer? Certainly every artist needs some skill, but does very artist need as much drawing skill as Leng Jun? Some would say “no” and cite successful artists who seem to have excelled without being able to draw. Some would even use Picasso as an example; those, however, would have demonstrated that they were not familiar with his early work. The man could draw, perhaps not on the level of Leng Jun, but certainly competently.

Others, of course, would say “yes” and point to that exact same early work, arguing that had he not been able to draw well, Picasso would never have gotten to the pinnacle of his success. But did Picasso need the extreme technical mastery that Leng Jun’s work requires? I would argue that that artists do need competency in basic skills; however, they need not be “the best” at any one skill unless their specialty demands that.

Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of John Chamberlain’s sculpture but probably do not know that I have had welding training (I do not claim to be an expert, but I am competent). I have examined Chamberlain’s welds on a number of his works carefully and can verify that he was not the best welder on the planet. He did not need to be; he needed to have enough competence at welding to assemble his sculptures securely enough that they could be transported. And that he did; he had no reason to reach the level of competence expected of, say, a gas pipeline welder.

So the answer to the question, how much skill does an artist need? is that s/he needs a level of competency that allows him/her to produce his/her work without first having to improve his skill level. Certainly, artists-in-training should seek to master skills basic to their art, but have no real need to go beyond that. There is much more learn about to creating art than an extreme skill level. There is creativity, thought, expressiveness, and ability to communicate just to mention a few. To do the sort of work that he wants to do, Leng Jun needs a very high level of drawing skill; other artists, doing other sorts of drawing/painting do not need that level of expertise. For example, LeRoy Neiman needed drawing skill to produce his paintings, but because his work was far more expressionistic, he did not need the same level of that particular skill; it did require, however, other things.

So as we prepare ourselves for our next projects, it is well for us to remember that we need not be absolute experts in every skill that our work requires; we do, however, need a level of expertise that allows us to create artifacts to carry our ideas to our audience, with maybe a little left over.

Category:Creativity, Education, Quality | Comment (0) | Author:

But I Followed the Recipe

Monday, 4. February 2019 1:52

How many times have we heard that? How many times have we said that? Whether it concerns our grandmother’s blueberry cobbler or a new cocktail, we often find that even though we followed the recipe exactly, it doesn’t taste quite the same. And it won’t—ever. The reason is because every chef, cook, mixologist, or bartender puts his/her own personal touch on everything s/he makes. It can’t be helped. This is why you sometimes order the same drink at the same restaurant, but it doesn’t taste like the one you had the last time you were there: different bartender.

The same thing is true of art.  We can’t not put our signature on the things we create. We can try to eliminate any vestige of our own ideas from the work in order to create “true” reproductions, but it is very unlikely that we will succeed. No matter how much we study those we consider “masters” or how precisely we copy their style, we will never exactly reproduce their images or sculptures or plays or sonnets. And even if we could, we would have only succeeded in making a copy of someone else’s original.

If we take another tack, we might determine the formulae that others use in creating their work, but, when we apply that one of those formulae, like the cook or bartender with someone else’s recipe, the results will be different. And that is not a bad thing, for no matter how we might try to copy, we are sure to be disappointed; nature almost demands that our work be unique.

This is not to say that we can learn nothing from studying the work of others. Indeed, we can learn much. Writers often say that to be successful, we must be readers first. We can even imitate what we study, and that too is informative; in attempting to reproduce the works we encounter, we learn much about technique and about the implementation of that technique. But while it is likely that our “reproductions” will not be perfect, it is equally likely that as learning tools they are unparalleled.

And having learned from certain artists, we move on, for we find that there is an unending stream of artists whose work is worth studying. And once we move past imitation, what we then produce can sometimes reflect what we have studied, much as we often find bartenders creating unique drinks that are a riffs on old standards. This is a practice often observed in the work of jazz musicians. There is no reason our work cannot do the same.

But ultimately, we have to take what we have learned and apply it to our own original creations: work that is not a copy, not an homage, not a riff. And that is just as well, because no matter how meticulously we attempt to use some else’s recipe, in the end—unless we develop skills in forgery—we produce our own work. Better to embrace our individuality from the beginning. We may study others, absorb the lessons, but finally we must work from our own recipes to create our best work.

Category:Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

hogan outlet hogan outlet online golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet golden goose outlet canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet hogan outlet