Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Again, Tim gives me a topic for a post.

Today's topic is art appreciation. More specifically, one of the things I wonder about as I keep working on this art thing, is whether it is making it harder for me to appreciate art. It used to be that I was mainly critical of myself. Well, I had high standards for others as well, but nowadays I find myself looking for mistakes or looking for things that could be done better in almost all the art I see. It's a rare artist who is so good that I can't find anything that, maybe, could be done better.

Note, of course, that "could be done better" is absolutely not the same as "I could do that better."

Probably I'm not even right about whether these things could be done better or not. I might think that Drew Struzan's Blade Runner painting makes Harrison Ford's nose look bent, but maybe Harrison Ford's nose is that bent. Or maybe it looks best that way. I might sometimes think that Cory Walker's sketch hands are kinda off, maybe because of the squared off fingers. But maybe that's really a good way to draw them in that context. (Cory's sketches, by the way, are awesome beyond compare. Visit his blog and go back through his old pics. Bold design, confident lines and firm anatomy, with just the right touch of stylization, all in a two inch high "sketch." Argh!)

Then there are the guys who have an approach that is so essentially messy, or have their personal stylistic "mistakes" that actually end up making the picture better. Paul Pope, Eric Canete and Ben Templesmith come to mind. Each masterful, in completely different ways, because of the way they inject energy or personality into their work.

Sometimes I think maybe this critical eye helps me appreciate more. I'm not so easily impressed by lazy work, or even by earnestly assiduous work that (unfortunately) turns out mediocre, but when I see something great, something that really works, I am moved. A few years ago I would have said, "That's a good picture. I like that." Now, I can't find the words to express the feeling I get.


Tim Akers said...

Well, I'm pleased to be inspirational. Glory.

I can only talk about this in terms of writing, but that's something I've definitely struggled with. Writing seriously has ruined a lot of reading for me. A lot of things, really, because now I approach every storytelling exercise with a critical eye. I'm finally at peace with differences in artistic style, so that I no longer think that something is bad because it's not how I would have done it. Instead, I think "Well. That's not how I would have done it."

colin said...

I ended up going off on a different tangent, but originally I was going to bring in the parallels with writing, because I'm seeing the same thing there, too. An awareness of the underlying machinery creeps in. For stories where that machinery is not perfect, it can be distracting. On the other hand, when the machinery is really working well, when the parts mesh smoothly and completely, having some sense of what's going on under the covers can enhance the experience.

But it is, I guess, a different experience from just reading a story. Difficult to go back though. Maybe impossible.

With art it did take a while to get around the feeling that something wasn't good just because it wasn't the way I would do it. I'm getting there. With writing I need a little more practice before I'll be able to see that clearly with any reliability, I think.