Friday, July 25, 2008

Art is so subjective...

What can I say?

I'm a 37 year old self-taught regular guy who's strongest ability happens to be art. Or it might be better stated: "I can create stuff". As far as the word "art" goes, I have been learning just how subjective that can be!

Ever since I can remember I have always been able to create and draw well... Throughout most of my life, I never had any technical understanding about what it is I can do, EVER.

Only recently, over the past few years have I been learning what others in industrial and institutional establishments have set in place as to what the "standards" are regarding that "technical understanding" of what makes art what it is...
And boy... Has it been WEIRD for me. Sometimes good... Sometimes bad. It depends on the perspective of the person(s) I am dealing with. But the closest thing I can come to for any "absolutes" regarding the matter is to observe half of it in statistics, and the other half in philosophy...

The first half, statistics-- is referring to the general populace and it's reaction to the art... Do they like it? The answer is yes. The vast majority of people who observe what it is I do has an extremely overwhelming reaction to my work. The smaller percentage that does not tends to have a very critical reaction to the work, but mostly from an institutional or industrial bias... Meaning that my worst critics are my peers. Some in fine arts, some in commercial art, but all somehow coming from a standard that they base their own experience and perspective art truly is.

And with that, we are left with the other half of the mix: the philosophy. It's a typical pattern of human nature. It really reminds me a lot of religion and politics... You get a mix of opinions and bias based on the circumstances, educations, and sometimes insecurities of the individual who presents their opposite view of what you believe in, or what makes you who YOU are.

But ultimately, I have learned there is one trait that can really help an artist cope with it all... At least for me... And that is humility. In other words, knowing you are not the best... Your knowledge or experience isn't THE knowledge and experience behind it all. Basically, just have an open mind. An interesting but HARD thing to do, is try and put yourself in the reversed role of the critic who is panning your work. Switch it around, and pretend it is his/her work and it is you saying these exact comments about them.

For example-- recently I did a google search for "chrisscalf" to see how well statistically my website (or terms relating to my website) come up... It was only a few results down that caught my eye: one of the links was a prominent CG forum where someone had found my youtube vids and was posting links for others to check it out. But I as read down-- what had started out as a compliment from this individual who seemed impressed soon evolved into an awful scrutiny from others that ranged from a questioning the authenticity of my art to extreme critism of my use of color and proportioning/composition skills. In a nutshell: they tore me to pieces.

Naturally, it bummed me out. But I quickly joined the forum to defend first and foremost my authenticity as a REAL artist and not a FRAUD. But even though I winced and wanted to lash out-- I stayed humble and accepted the criticisms of my work and admitted imperfections that I am aware of in my work.

Though I wish more of the people would have responded, I did get one person who replied in a friendly manner, and seemed to be doing his best to make somewhat of a peaceful retraction of the fraud speculations. However, this person also continued to offer a novel's worth of advice for bettering my art skills... From various resources in anatomy training to better choice of color composition.

The person meant well, and spoke very kindly-- but this is where the statistics contradict the philosophy: Here I was-- for a moment-- reduced down to the mindset of an art student-- or a person who was just about to begin a career in art...

Yet as a contradiction by reality, I was already a professional working in the field for years on countless commercial projects regarded highly and persistently sought by clients for my judgement and ability to do the very things this individual was criticizing me on.

It was a very weird feeling, and interesting situation to learn from. Not about art, but just how we as artists (let alone as human beings) treat each other in the field, even if the statistics say that we are doing fine with our own unique abilities.

...But that's why I value the importance of humility. So many times have I encountered situations like this... And I personally know other artists who have gone through the same thing, or do the very thing to others. It's best just sit back and try to find those faults that the critic is seeing... It slaps the ego a bit, but useful info can be gleened. And it can also expose the critics perspective and where their bias is truly coming from.

For me in the situation outlined above-- I got yet another reminder that sometimes when I draw without reference, my lack of anatomical knowledge shows. This person recognized that and wasn't the first one to point that out in my work. But at the same time, this person had also recommended a further study in my use of color-- which in fantasy art painting is completely subjective. (I have always felt that art derived from the artists imagination best depicts the artists feel and mood, especially in their use of color) And while I accepted this person's view that there are different teachings of "color theory", this was not a recurring weakness I had ever been critiqued on, but rather a strong point of praise from 99% of my clients. Therefore, statistics outweighed an isolated this person's personal perspective that was perhaps based on his own art educational experience.

But all in all, I observe the whole occurrence that took place in this forum and only wish that humility was used in the critics who scrutinized my work... The use of the words "in my opinion" or "from what I've learned" or even "from my experience" are all good ways that I wish they would use. But like religion and politics. It's human nature... It'll never change.

Anyway-- that's my stance... That's basically who I am as an artist, and where I come from. But that what these blogs are for, right?

About the Artist...

Blah, blah, blah... (in other words, I'm still working on this part...)