Sunday, October 14, 2012


"Redhead Girl" Samuel Silva

     Two contrasting sets of artwork that illustrate a point I made during a recent lecture. The topic was on why someone should take an art class from me - specifically a non-art major. This begs the question why bother taking an art class at all from anybody - and I answered by providing specific examples and instances where having some practical if not functional background in art would inform and enrich the opinions and experiences of someone not pursuing a career in the arts.
     Exhibit A, posted above with a side-by-side comparison of the original reference photograph, is currently making the rounds on the internet. The one on the left is made with a ball-point pen, and on the right is the reference photograph. This and other drawings of Samuel Silva are being oohed & aahhed not solely on account of their hyperrealism (re: acrylic paintings by Jason de Graff - seen below - and also the pencil drawings of Paul Cadden) but also because they were achieved with the pedestrian tools of a common mortal. This adds insult to injury for the people who normally feel that creating art is forever denied to them by rubbing it in how someone - obviously more gifted and talented than they will ever hope to be - did it even using the most barbaric and rudimentary instruments.

"Nancy's Room" Jason de Graff

For most folks outside of academia the excesses of abstract art is a complete and total mystery, appreciated by the same crowd who possesses an aestheticism that rates chain restaurants as better than anything that would ever come out of their own kitchen. Emphasis on kitch. But for me it's works such as these that beg the question why?
In lieu of photography such efforts are commendable only as far as obsessive attention to exacting and exhaustive detail. While they demonstrate mastery of a medium they are infused with about as much vitae as a stuffed taxidermy mount.

Next is Exhibit B: occupying the complete opposite end of the spectrum of talent and taste, these are samples from the rage comics meme which are remixed ad-infinitum amongst the Internet. Utilizing rudimentary cut & paste digital skills these icons are on the same level as works enshrined upon refrigerators by proud parents of kindergarteners. Though as someone who's seen firsthand hundreds of such pieces of a beginner's caliber in person in the capacity of teaching, I know that many of these efforts required comparatively large amounts of conceptual gruntwork to execute. The problem is a generation that is being incubated in a culture which spasms of creativity are expressed by freely borrowing and synthesizing elements to express their meaning. Not that there's anything wrong with mashups, but I am frequently dismayed at the loss of potential which is stunted and abandoned by using short-cuts that don't require any actual creation of anything, like maybe learning how do draw a face and different expressions. The veneer of any given meme wears off pretty quickly, and images such as these rapidly begin to visually stand for laziness instead of some hipster redefinition of creativity.

Together these two contrasting examples serve to literally illustrate the point (flogged here before) why folks should take more art classes, and what art teachers in turn should realize what their job entails. During that presentation I made to faculty and students I was tasked with making my classes relevant to the general public. One of the images I used to accentuate the issue was the recent exhumation and reinterpretation of cave art imagery.

Upper Paleolithic, or Donna the Buffalo meme?

Above and beyond the debatable attempts to transpose contemporary meaning (a bit of a stretch at best) onto prehistoric works, it occurred to me how the vast majority of artists working today should be so lucky as to have any of their pieces discussed thousands of years later, much less next year. So no worries on rarefied talent being an indicator as to enduring interest or guarantee of fame. Doesn't mean one shouldn't stop trying to better one's work.

It's assumable "it works" applies equally to the vehicle as the drawing.

Somewhere along the continuum of Exhibit A and B lies a happy medium (no pun intended), a personal call as to when to stop self-improvement and call it good, or, as per the posted sample above, good enough ("It works" and "It works for me"). However a theoretical mission statement in an art classroom, in an art studio and in every artist's brain should be to simply to see more people engaged with more art - not just creating it, but using it.


  1. First you have to find a cave with really excellent atmospheric conditions and not too much traffic. All the good ones seem to be taken.

  2. My cabins have always done okay enough. Definitely have the caveman end of things covered.