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Thread: What's your philosophy of art?

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    What's your philosophy of art?

    Hi CA, although I'm not exactly new to this forum, I don't post that often, especially outside of my sketchbook. I would say, however, that I am generally new to art. I only seriously began drawing around a year and a half ago, and this year, I became an art major and I am actively pursuing my art now. Since I started drawing a year and a half ago, my main influences have been one of my friends, and no other than you guys (CA). Consequently, the majority of my efforts in teaching myself to draw have been dedicated to anatomy studies, draftsmanship, perspective, line quality, and the like. I seriously owe it you guys for how much I've improved in this time. Now that I'm taking some art classes here at college, it has become apparent to me that I am a better draftsman than many of my peers. However, my approach to art is a lot different than other peoples'.

    Ok, now on to my point... Basically, my philosophy of art is strictly formalist and I'm all about representational art, realism, and "drawing things like look like what they are". I'm assuming (but not generalizing) that most people on CA have a similar philosophy to that, and that's all I've ever known. However, it is becoming apparent to me that that might not be all there is. Viewing art in this way kind of leads to a denigration of meaning. Art no longer means anything, it's just a bunch of pictures that look like what they are, albeit lots of times they look absolutely phenomenal. I like this kind of art. It's comfortable to me. I like looking at pretty pictures. That's what got me into drawing in the first place. However, is art supposed to mean something? Don't get me wrong, I don't really appreciate modern art and abstraction and all that kind of stuff. I don't understand it, but is there some sort of middle ground? For example, when Michelangelo painted Sistine Chapel, it definitely took amazing draftsmanship, skill, and knowledge of anatomy to paint. But, he must have also put a lot of thought into the symbolism and meaning of it.

    Basically, I'm a little bit lost right now, and I don't know what to think of art. Because, up until now my philosophy of art has been to paint strictly what I see, study anatomy, study perspective, and I've focused all on the technical side of art. It seems kind of empty this way, because any camera could do my job better than I could the way my skills are right now. I really respect your guys' opinions and I'm wondering what you guys thought.
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    Hm... I don't know about philosophy, but my goal in art has always been to capture expression and mood, and for this reason I generally prefer to draw in a more cartoonish style. I can do realism, sure, but it's not fun for me. I love the quick, simple, expressive lines of cartoons, how they boil everything down to a few simple strokes. And contrary to what people might expect, cartoons are harder than realism. Drawing what's there takes practice and patience and a keen eye, sure. But simplifying that to a form that's much less complex while still being recognizable is a lot trickier than most people give credit for.

    Most of what I do, the pieces that I enjoy most, are not high art. But I'm cool with that. They're silly and absurd, but honestly? If it brings a smile to someone's face than I'm fine with it. Not all art has to be about deep meanings or symbolism. Some art can be cute or silly or just fun.

    Which, I guess, if you want a philosophy... I think art should express something. Even if that something is just "damn look at the light on that glass, how freaking awesome is that?!" I'm not denying the usefulness of art for propaganda or to convey messages... I'm going into illustration, and communicating ideas through art is one of the best things about it.

    But I get frustrated at contemporary art where people make up bullshit just because it sounds cool and it makes them feel smart because the people who "don't get it" (ie, don't know the jargon) are supposedly idiots. You know who else did that? Nobility in the Baroque, because you had to know your stuff to understand the allegory in those complex paintings...except their paintings were actually interesting and took skill, not just a blank canvas with a bunch of "meanings" tacked on. D<

    I guess... paint what you want. Paint what you enjoy. Paint what you like. If other people like it too, awesome! And honestly, if you obviously enjoy what you do, other people will probably like it too. If you don't know what you enjoy, yet... keep at it. You'll find something that just clicks eventually.
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    You might find these lecture notes helpful: http://www.robolus.com/h.dunn-eveningclassroom.pdf

    I also would recommend The Art Spirit by Robert Henri.
    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by bandaidboy12 View Post
    Hi CA, although I'm not exactly new to this forum, I don't post that often, especially outside of my sketchbook. I would say, however, that I am generally new to art. I only seriously began drawing around a year and a half ago, and this year, I became an art major and I am actively pursuing my art now. Since I started drawing a year and a half ago, my main influences have been one of my friends, and no other than you guys (CA).
    maybe this is just a confusing way of stating it, but this comes off as "no other artists that have ever existed inspire me, because they werent on these forums"
    go to a museum man! snag some art books! holy fuckin' moses there is a whole world of art that CA can't even begin to scratch the surface of!

    Consequently, the majority of my efforts in teaching myself to draw have been dedicated to anatomy studies, draftsmanship, perspective, line quality, and the like. I seriously owe it you guys for how much I've improved in this time.
    excellent, a perfect place to begin. get a good foundation of the basics and fundamentals and the rest of your endeavors will draw forth from your understanding of 2D design.

    Now that I'm taking some art classes here at college, it has become apparent to me that I am a better draftsman than many of my peers. However, my approach to art is a lot different than other peoples'.
    what exactly do you mean your approach is different? you just said you were working on basics. are other people in the class drinking paint and vomiting it onto their paper instead of doing a still life? at that stage everyone should be on the same page, ways you can utilize the knowledge youre gaining should be constant in your mind, as you gain skills through practice you can apply them to further concepts. i digress lets continue...

    Ok, now on to my point... Basically, my philosophy of art is strictly formalist and I'm all about representational art, realism, and "drawing things like look like what they are". I'm assuming (but not generalizing) that most people on CA have a similar philosophy to that, and that's all I've ever known.
    okay, no problem. you like representational works, thats fine...
    However, it is becoming apparent to me that that might not be all there is.
    amen!

    Viewing art in this way kind of leads to a denigration of meaning. Art no longer means anything, it's just a bunch of pictures that look like what they are, albeit lots of times they look absolutely phenomenal. I like this kind of art. It's comfortable to me. I like looking at pretty pictures.
    what the hell? ART NO LONGER MEANS ANYTHING? JUST A BUNCH OF PRETTY PICTURES? what kills me is that you then say you like that kind of art! you like shallow conceptless trite craftsmanship with no emotion! what sort of art are you talking about? as all art ive seen is a product of an artist, and as such reflects a human process. even the most anti-emotional art, say flat shapes painted mechanically, tell a great deal about expression. there is no point to art if it has nothing to say. all art says something, even if that voice is about subtlety and pointless futile nature of art. all art tells a story. if it doesnt then it isnt really art is it?

    That's what got me into drawing in the first place. However, is art supposed to mean something?
    not only does it mean something, it can mean everything if done properly.
    Don't get me wrong, I don't really appreciate modern art and abstraction and all that kind of stuff. I don't understand it
    LEARN to appreciate it. there's a whole lot to be learned from stuff you hate. analyze structurally what about it does not appeal to you. deconstruct and tear it apart, know your enemy through-and-through, take those weaknesses and feed upon them. do not discard something because of mere ignorance. chances are (and i'd bet money on it, if i wasnt broke) that you will appreciate and come to have a respect and admiration for nonrepresentatonal art.

    .. but is there some sort of middle ground? For example, when Michelangelo painted Sistine Chapel, it definitely took amazing draftsmanship, skill, and knowledge of anatomy to paint. But, he must have also put a lot of thought into the symbolism and meaning of it.
    youre mixing multiple things here now. on one point youre talking about a degree of representation and the artists liberty in abstracting reality, but youre also tossing in concept and meaning.

    the concept of a piece has very little to do with the stylistic nature of the finished product. i can make a comic about AIDS and abortion, but draw it like Peanuts. that might not be the best format to elicit that statement, but the point remains that i could right? finding out what stylistic and procedural aspects need to be used to best express and communicate your idea is what art is all about. the most core aspect of art is to present a thought, an idea, and have the viewer react to it.

    Basically, I'm a little bit lost right now, and I don't know what to think of art. Because, up until now my philosophy of art has been to paint strictly what I see, study anatomy, study perspective, and I've focused all on the technical side of art. It seems kind of empty this way, because any camera could do my job better than I could the way my skills are right now. I really respect your guys' opinions and I'm wondering what you guys thought.
    well even a camera has a point of view which was directed by a human in some form. perspective of a scene, a way of looking at the world from a certain place.

    youre on the right track and it sounds like youre needing that extra shove though the door to breakout into a world of understanding and appreciating a more diverse world and history of art. there is nothing wrong with formal studies, it is the backbone of describing form. youre simply getting bored with such a direct analysis of reality. use those aspects of reality and filter it through your creativity and emotions. the technical side of art as you put it can break your spirit rather quickly, it takes a flavor of madness in itself to pursue, and it deserves respect...

    ...but i think what you need to do is make a mess. get away from lines and form for awhile. consume yourself with the other elements of design: color, value, contrast, shape, texture and so on. understand how you can utilize these aspects into creating a strong composition with harmony, balance rhythm patterns, etc. youre honing yourself too finely upon one small part of the realm of art (even though it is crucial).

    get out, read some books. get inspired. assimilate, emulate and replicate, sharpen your tools and ability to describe reality in means other than simple direct translation.

    and have fun. good luck
    Last edited by Grief; October 16th, 2008 at 09:18 PM. Reason: werds r hard 2 tpye
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    Quote Originally Posted by bandaidboy12 View Post
    It seems kind of empty this way, because any camera could do my job better than I could the way my skills are right now.
    Even if you are painting from models and other concrete subjects, you should be more than just a replacement for a camera. A camera will never do what an artist does, because as much as it can be within it's flawed capacity, cameras do nothing but record what's in front of it. An artist sees something that other people might not notice, and then finds a way to bring attention to it. You see a relationship between curves, and slightly exaggerate them to get a better flow. Maybe you see a color relationship and accentuate it by bring some colors up while toning others down. You make a million subtle choices and decisions as you paint so that the end result is more than a photo is capable of.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bandaidboy12 View Post
    Now that I'm taking some art classes here at college, it has become apparent to me that I am a better draftsman than many of my peers. However, my approach to art is a lot different than other peoples'.
    Probably because you've been eating the pritty shiny packaging and not the actual food inside.

    Basically, my philosophy of art is strictly formalist and I'm all about representational art, realism, and "drawing things like look like what they are".
    That's not a philosophy, that's a method.

    However, it is becoming apparent to me that that might not be all there is. Viewing art in this way kind of leads to a denigration of meaning. Art no longer means anything, it's just a bunch of pictures that look like what they are, albeit lots of times they look absolutely phenomenal. I like this kind of art. It's comfortable to me. I like looking at pretty pictures. That's what got me into drawing in the first place. However, is art supposed to mean something? Don't get me wrong, I don't really appreciate modern art and abstraction and all that kind of stuff. I don't understand it, but is there some sort of middle ground?
    I have a friend who is in this spot. However, unlike you, she refuses to even question her position that art is all about the pritties. Thus, her artistic development has come to a standstill and she's stagnating, and her art lacks anything interesting or meaningful. Sadly, even though she is one of the greatest technical artists I know, because of this she is unlikely to succeed in her economic endeavours with her art. And I detest going to a gallery with her.

    She was once bitching to me about the stagnation of her art, after we had been to a gallery and I realised never again. I had shown her abstracted works, especially large-scale flat-colour ones to try and stimulate her mind into thinking about art laterally or at least in a different way than the heavily structured stuff she was used to. She just spent most of the time bitching about how creating such works takes no effort at all so they weren't "real" art.

    I dutifully bit my tongue like a good friend and didn't say the harsh things on my mind at the time, but if I had been a little more polite I would have told her that unless you can understand and appreciate the significance of other forms of art to your own specialised skills, you'll never grow as an artist. This takes just as much time and patience and practice and skills as the technical side does. It takes reading and actively pursuing the art world and looking for material outside the main discourse of art and reading philosphy and expanding your mind.

    But if you're lazy like her and don't do that, then you won't grow. *shrugs*
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    You're on your way to becoming a quite efficient art-producing machine. Good. The better your manual skills, the more time you have to think about other things.

    The other things are somewhat like the question you asked above...

    Except--there ain't no philosophy of art. You think. You feel. You do. You either do it successfully or not. If not, you try something else. Repeat til you die.

    This process is called interpretation. The world around you and all the things on and off it don't know what to do or be unless you tell them. That's your job for the rest of your miserable life. Ain't that great?

    That's probably as close as you're gonna get to a philosophy of art unless you have plans on eating your furniture to get a permanent buzz on. Otherwise, you're an interpreter. To be a good one, you have to open your mind and let all the stuff that exists flow in, even the sewage, so you can sort it out and make sense of it. In the process, you'll be learning how to be selective in matters of importance, communication, emotion, and all the more mundane things that make up what you do.

    Congratulations. You are now an "editor" of the universe. Don't fuck up or I won't know whether to get up tomorrow or not...
    No position or belief, whether religious, political or social, is valid if one has to lie to support it.--Alj Mary

    Ironically, the concept of SIMPLICITY is most often misunderstood by simple-minded people. --Alj Mary
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    If it looks good, it is good.
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    Thanks everyone for the replies, I really appreciate it. I realize "philosophy" might have been the wrong word, and maybe method or focus might have been a better word.

    As for getting out, reading books, getting inspired, interpretting, etc, how does one apply that? How do I practically go from doing all those things to making art or painting a picture? It's not as concrete as something like studying anatomy, painting still lives, or doing a master study. It's a lot more straightforward and concrete to perfect technique because you're actually "doing something". Basically, I'm asking how to apply knowledge.

    I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get better, but when it comes to something that's not concrete, I don't really know what to do. Also, I still don't really know where I want to take my art in the future, so I've mainly been focusing on improving my technical skill, draftsmanship, and observation skills, because I know that will be applicable in any kind of art. I guess I just need some guidance as to where to go from here.
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    You will find you subconsciously start to incorporate theoretical ideas you expose yourself to and find fit with your worldview into your art.

    I also think you need to expand your idea of what "perfecting technique" is. Pollock had his technique as near perfect as the drunken bastard was ever going to get before he died, and yet he was a realist in only a very very vague sense of the word. It's not about making something that looks like something else, real or imagined. It's about giving your work a purpose.
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    so you're not talking about aesthetics, but rather an approach to making images?

    as a general note, be careful when you affix 'philosophy' to another word, it can open up a whole new can of discussion-worms. it shifts the discussion from a pragmatic stance to an intellectual, theoretical whirlpool
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    Art is a word we use to describe a form of communication. What really irritates me is when people try to define art by how that communication is done. To me art is the ability of someone or something to express things to others. There are people that make pictures, there are people who link words together and then again there are people who move others just by being.
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    A question for you:
    When you are painting or doing a study are you intent on capturing the image perfectly as you see it? Or do you change things? Do you ever think "I'll just narrow those hips a little, and maybe darken her hair so it frames her face better"?

    I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get better, but when it comes to something that's not concrete, I don't really know what to do. Also, I still don't really know where I want to take my art in the future, so I've mainly been focusing on improving my technical skill, draftsmanship, and observation skills, because I know that will be applicable in any kind of art. I guess I just need some guidance as to where to go from here.
    It's probably time for you to start applying what you've learned from all of those studies. If you aren't sure yet what you want to do with art, try some stuff out. Try drawing some comics. Try illustrating a scene from a book or short story. Maybe do a series of paintings along a theme, like some cause you believe in, or even just trying to capture an emotion or mood. Spend some time thinking about what will go into your art, rather than how it's made. Figure out what you want to communicate, and then figure out how you'll work those elements together. Any kind of commerical art is about solving these types of problems.
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