The Laws of Nature

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Your Contribution to the Dialogue

Painting by Richard Diebenkorn

Frequently, I ask my workshop students to consider how their work contributes to the global dialogue of art. This means examining their work for its purpose. Does it truly reflect their own view of the world or is it imitative? The former lends authenticity to the work and has the best possibility for contributing to the dialogue. Each artist has something unique to share, even if the medium and techniques are traditional. What we have to say and how we say it are essential, in my opinion, to creating work that is truly meaningful.

I was never taught this in college, or even in any of the art workshops I took years ago. We students were given assignments that led to the mastery of technique and little attention was given to helping us develop our unique viewpoints. I never thought about it much until fifteen years ago. That made all the difference. I make no claims toward greatness, only that my work truly reflects how I see and think. That’s satisfying.

Recently, I saw a painting in a nearby art museum that had several technical flaws, but the overall effect was intact anyway. The viewpoint of the artist spoke to me and evoked a feeling. So, I started to wonder about the importance of the technical aspects of the painting. I’ve always felt that the best way to effectively dialogue through my art is to eliminate as many technical errors as possible so the viewer doesn’t miss the message. Then again, artists who are only technicians bore me to death. There’s a fine line there, somewhere.

What do you think?


Casey Klahn said...

I agree 200%, Kathy. I taught my first workshop last month, and I focused on the artist's ideas. The goal was for the art student to say something unique.

You said it on technique. I have also heard speakers who were poor orators, but who spoke from the heart.

Mark Sheeky said...

It seems that most art schools seem to encourage self expression and avoid teaching technique, but I think you need to know what you're doing enough to convey what you want. An author needs a good command of English to write. I see a lot of paintings that appear to convey something... but it turns out to be a different thing to what the artist intended! If it conveyed -something- well is it "bad art" if it didn't convey what the artist wanted? It probably is.

Or to use Casey's example, it's hard to speak from the heart if you don't know the language. You can try, and you might get somewhere, but you can't express yourself as well as someone with a large vocabulary and a good command of English. Technique is important.

Carolyn Abrams said...

I have come to appreciate the delicate balance between the two. If one gets in the way of the other something is lost. It is very difficult to have a vision of what you want to "say" but when you translate it on the canvas it misses the mark or in some cases by the grace of God it is more than you hoped for.

Studio at the Farm said...

I believe an artist needs at least a modicum of technical expertise. And I agree with you; art without passion is "dead".

Dan Kent said...

Welcome back!! I missed your debut your studio.

I do not believe that I will ever have the patience to create work without technical flaws - even if I learn the technique. Flaws are human, and in my mind are what make human art unique from, say, computer generated pictures. It also provides uniqueness.

I am still in the initial learning stage, here. But I endeavor anyway to follow my own path, to be purposefully communicating my own message, and struggle not to be imitative - even when I imitate to study a technique, for example.

And, btw, in this regard, your last post hit home for me. I have been pulled this way and that recently through the admiration of multiple artists with a variety of techniques and mediums. I expect to pick and choose what I need and what feels most comfortable to me in order to be authentic over the long term.

Robin said...

I am grateful that I can still learn regardless of my age! I used to paint for the fun of it, then I painted to learn technique (which is what most of my art teachers spent time developing) but most recently I am focused on making art with purpose that is identifiable (at least it is to me) but this is a whole new world for me. I always wonder who determines how meaningful one's work is anyway, but I guess if it matters to at least one person (me) that's enough.

Mary Paquet said...

Very interesting discussion. The balance between the two is very fine indeed. Now that I have returned from over three months of travel, I will have many opportunities to express my unique views. Hopefully, there is some facility with technique to convey my message

hw (hallie) farber said...

I can't say that my work has a purpose or contributes to dialogue of art, but it does reflect my own view. I can't even guess what my art means to others--they bring their own experiences to viewing. I'm sometimes surprised at how much they see.

Unknown said...

Hi Casey - I'm so happy to learn that you're now teaching workshops!! You have so much to offer. And, I like your direction. Good analogy, too.

Hi Mark - I agree!! Nicely stated.

Hi Carolyn - good point! I, too, think it's a delicate balance.

Hi Studio - thanks! I agree.

Hi Dan - you've hit on something that I also think is important. The idiosyncratic markmaking of the artist is important as well, because it tells us so much about the individual artist and makes the work unique. That's one thing we shouldn't lose as we learn technique! Thanks.

Hi Robin - all good points, and a great topic: who determines what's meaningful? I think we should address that in my next post. Thanks!

Hi Mary - congratulations on completing your three month tour!! I'll have to read up on it :-)

Hi Hallie - au contraire! Your work very much contributes to the dialogue of art because it is authentic!