Monday, October 7, 2013

Pet Peeves

by Arnie Fenner


I was actually going to title this post "Stuff That Pisses Me Off," but opted for something a little more sedate. Anyway...pet peeves. We all have them: you, me, everybody. The little irritants that make you shake your head or roll your eyes. And when it comes to Art, you bet there are some things that get my motor running. So...here are a few.

1]  People who have never drawn, painted, or sculpted anything pretending to be art experts. Everybody is welcome to love or loathe whatever they choose. But although academics or collectors or art dealers or fans might know bunches of artists and file away all sorts of minutia about this painter or that sculptor, that's not the same thing as being an "expert." They can certainly posit their opinions; some well-reasoned, some half-assed, but at the end of the day they're only expressing opinions either way. And everyone is welcome to them. But unless you've ever used a paintbrush, tossed clay, pushed a pencil, or designed type professionally you don't really know what it takes to create anything. And if you don't know what it takes for someone to turn a blank canvas into something people want to look at...admit you're not an artist and spare me your pontificating.

2] Masterpiece. Which, like "awesome" has gotten to be incredibly overused lately. Various writers have denounced the misapplication of words through the years and I can't say I disagree with them. So, yes, describing the Grand Canyon as "awesome" is apropos. Describing your shoes the same way, not so much. Anyway, let's just put it this way: we don't get to decide what is a "masterpiece." Time—lots and lots of time—and perspective decides. And if you have purchased an artwork—or, more, commissioned it—you definitely shouldn't refer to that work as a "masterpiece": you just look like a self-aggrandizing douchebag if you do. It's really the type of designation that comes, again, with time, perspective, and context and always from disassociated people with significantly more objectivity than the current owner possesses.

3] Artists who dis other artists or types of art different from their own. One of the things I talk about in my essay in (shameless plug) Spectrum 20 is the wholly specious "pecking order" for artists that people tend to follow—stupidly. Recently I read a post by an artist I respect—whom I know is better than the comment he made—who referred to an article about Modern Art and derisively said, in essence, that you wouldn't be seeing any of that sort of "crap" at the show he would soon be setting up at. And that disappointed me. Oh, sure, we can all trot out our Modern Art Silliness examples—whether it's a cross in a urinal or shit in a can or a bisected cow in formaldehyde—but pretentiousness does not cancel out pretentiousness: it just makes everybody look...childish. Art is art. The tool doesn't matter; the intent doesn't matter; the venue doesn't matter. Not everyone thinks the same way, not everyone likes the same things—and that includes art. Creativity—art—is not a single road: there are many divergent paths and it is not for artists to criticize other artists for the paths they choose to take. We don't have to like everything, but remember the old saw: When you point a finger—particularly a derisive one—there are three pointing back at you.

4] Trying to explain an artist's work by comparing it to that of another artist. I sort of referenced this in the essay about Jim Gurney in Spectrum 19 last year, but it's something that happens all the time, usually by the folks mentioned in #1. Look, trying to explain one artist's work by referencing another's is [a] lazy, [b] often (not always, but often) a disingenuous attempt to feign deeper knowledge than the speaker/writer actually possesses and [c] basically an approach which discredits (albeit unintentionally) the accomplishments of the artist being discussed. I don't care if you describe something as "in the tradition of" Alma-Tadema, Pyle, or Frazetta all you're really doing is dismissing the art you're trying to praise by implying it couldn't have existed without that of the predecessor. And I say that's BS. Anything—any artworks—that makes an impression, particularly a lasting one, is because of the intellect of the artist, not because of their real or perceived influences. Talk about the artist and their work, not "explain them" by comparing them to who they may or may not have been influenced by (most of whom the general public wouldn't know anyway).

5] Freebies. Would you go up to an actor and ask them to play out a scene in a movie, TV show, or play? Would you ask a singer to perform for you? Would you ask a novelist to write something for you? No? And yet people routinely approach artists at conventions and shows and ask for free sketches along with their autograph. Why? Because it's "easy?" Screw that. I know that some fans won't like to hear this (particularly since it will cut into their ebay sales), but artists aren't performing chimps and they shouldn't be expected to give away art for free. If the artist doesn't place a value on their work, even quick sketches...why should others? People shouldn't be expecting art for nothing, and I don't care whether you're in the U.S. or in Europe (where it seems it's an expectation of artists, at least at comics conventions). Period. Harlan Ellison has a rant (which I wholeheartedly agree with) about paying the writer: it applies to artists as well. If you want a sketch, offer to pay for it, rather than expect it as a given.

6] Absolutes. There's no such thing in the arts. "Best." "Greatest." "Finest." Yesh. According to whom? I was once asked in an interview, "What makes Frazetta the greatest fantasy artist of all time?" After a minute I said, "In art there are a lot of 'greats,' a lot of 'bests.' Frank was the 'greatest' Frank Frazetta there's ever going to be but, as much as I love his art and as important as I think he is, there has never been and will never be any singular 'greatest' artist, just lots of great artists who are great for different reasons." People love to make comparisons, people love to be able to point to a #1, love to make pronouncements and jump around like Miley Cyrus with a foam finger, but in art (as in any other life experience, whether the experience is a dance or a concert or a movie or a convention)...there's no such thing.

Of course, these are just a few of the minor things that bug me from time to time; mentioning them here won't make them go away. People will continue to do what they do regardless of my feelings...but it feels kind of good to at least have a say. I'm sure you have your art pet peeves. Feel free to share—calmly, please. You may feel better afterward.

52 comments:

  1. #4 is spot on, I have friends who do this constantly - it's frustrating trying to discuss a great new painting or artist I've found when all they seem to want to do is play Top Trumps in the who's who of art history. Figuring out an historical 'lineage' of a style of work is great, and it's inspiring to see how styles and techniques have developed over history, but it can so easily overshadow why the technique/style is considered good in the first place... because it just looks great! In the first minutes of looking at a piece of art I couldn't care less what technique or school of design the artist is following, or who taught them how to sharpen pencils, I just want to go 'wow, I like it!'

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  2. #6 Perhaps this is because the media shove a lot of info through our throats by means of lists and charts. Top hits, best selling paintings and books, manager of the year, company of the year,... this may just be a consequence of kapitalism. Regardless of the political/economical system, people in general will always follow the media. Who was it who said it? "Control the media and you control the people". Serve the people your info in the shape of charts and lists, and they will think in terms of charts and lists. We see mass manipulation like this every day in religion, economy, politics and what not. It sometimes irritates me that it is so hard to ignore since it is all over the place.

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  3. Another one we can add to #2 is the overuse of the term 'genius' - man that really grinds my gears! Louis CK had a good sketch a few years ago talking about this exact thing, how 'everything these days was awesome'. Pretty bang on.

    And don't get me started on 'Freebies', it's my number one peeve being a graphic designer. I had someone email me the other week asking for a logo and Facebook banner for their stock image company. When I replied saying that I would love to help them, and then immediately asked them their budget and gave them my rates, they came back with "Um okay, thanks - we'll get back to you." Which, having done this for a while now, I knew transpired as "Oh, we were expecting you to do it for free because one of our friends on Facebook recommended you." I know they aren't coming back, and the reason I add in my rates in every first email reply is to separate the parasitic 'freebie seekers' from actual paying clients. It just cuts down on my time being wasted.

    My favourite one is the whole "Can you do this logo? There's no money but it's good exposure for you (yeah, to more freebie jobs)." I just ask those people if they make a habit of going to restaurants, eating a meal then declaring they can't pay the bill but will tell their friends about the great free meal they just had. Same thing.

    Dammit Arnie, you just opened my Pandora's box! :)

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    1. For me businesses wanting freebies rockets way past "pet peeves" into "we're gonna fight" territory. As you of course know, logos—for anything—are incredibly valuable marketing tools and for any company, big or small, to try to get something for free...I'm with you: they can blow.

      But I think the whole "free sketch" bit helps to nurture the idea that freebies from artists are no big thing. It's like I—and you—said: people don't expect anyone else to give away their services or "goods" but have no problem asking artists to whip a drawing up for nothing. It's one thing if an artist chooses to do something unbidden for someone, quite another for the person on the other side of the table to expect it.

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  4. I completely get behind #3. I hate hearing any artist talk down about another kind of art. I hate hearing things like, Fine artists think all illustrators are whores, and editorial artists think fantasy artists are silly.

    Yes, there are individuals within any type of art industry that do that. But that speaks of the individual. What's really sad is when prominent people in an art industry do it, and set the tone for what kind of view others should have.

    They are NOT helping artists, they are dividing artists. And it hurts ALL artists, since it makes it harder for artists to stand together to effect better change.

    In the end, it all comes down to the function of image creation, regardless of the end use.

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  5. Well, #1 sort of describes professional critics. That's kind of a thorny issue; it's difficult to attack the concept of Criticism from the position of the potentially Criticized without making the integrity of the attack dubious (a notion critic on the defensive will readily jump at), but I've always been quite dismissive of the idea of a "professional consumer". John Cleese said that the ability to measure the value of something comes from the ability to actually DO that something; still, criticism circles have always existed, and our society steady momentum towards pretty much equalling 'creativity' and 'awareness of creativity' (I call it the Reign of Reposting) won't make it any easier.

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    1. Genearlly speaking, critics tend to study the thing they are criticizing. Some critics first tried to be artists, and realized they didn't have it, but were good at evaluating it.

      You just just as well toss in Art Directors with critics, if you just go by the standard of never having drawn or painted.

      It's quite possible to know what it takes to make a good image, without having made one yourself, from studying (and maybe even trying). But the ability to actually do something to be able to judge it, I don't fully agree with.

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    2. just because some Art Directors don't paint doesn't mean they don't make art in a different medium.

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    3. Oslaf--Well, we could easily spend lots of time talking about art critics (some of whom are spot-on while others are full of hot air), but if history is any indicator it is that the views of critics evolve over time. The best example, I suppose, were the critics that savaged various French painters and insulted their works as "impressions"...and now?

      Tim--Well, I'm sure there are exceptions, but all of the art directors I know ARE artists and designers of one sort or another so they know what is involved in the creation of art. And I think you're slightly misinterpreting my point in #1: I'm not saying you have to be an artist to "judge" a work of art (as I said, everyone is welcome to their opinions), only that you have to be an artist to fully understand what it takes for someone to create it. And, of course, my feelings come after reading all kinds of silly posturing and assertions from nincompoops over the years. I have a lot more respect for "experts" who understand the creative process because they've produced art (Vincent Di Fate is an SF example that comes to mind) than I do for those who designate themselves as such simply because they've bought a painting or watched a few episodes of Sister Wendy. :-)

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    4. I got your point, Arnie. I wasn't agreeing with Oslaf's point stricter view of it.

      You allow for someone that doesn't actually do, but understands what it takes.

      Many of the Art Directors I've worked for, don't consider themselves artists at all. That doesn't mean they didn't try art at some point. But where they currently are in their career, they aren't creating art, but sure do know what is good and what isn't.

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  6. Yeah, number one is the stickiest for me. It would be one thing to say that they are posers if they pretend to know how to make a painting having never hefted a brush but criticism, much like teaching, could be another matter. I have met some teachers whose work is well below average. Their creativity lies in communication possibly much like some critics. It's the recognition factor, usually honed by actually working, that one should have in order to make sound judgements. I suppose for me it all comes down to the kind of critique one is making.

    Good art directors are among the most creative people and do not belong in this conversation. But here's a wrench in the works; if one is a better artist or art director does that make one a better critic? And if not then why the need to have made art at all?

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    1. Oddly, #1 doesn't bother me that much. I consider myself an illustrator more than an "artist", and and such, feel like I am specifically creating an image for an audience. Since my audience is usually the general public, I feel their opinion (even an uneducated one) is still just as valid as an experts... sometimes more so. It's THEM I'm trying to appease.

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    2. It's not an "audience" that I'm referring to: they respond—or not—to an artist's work instinctually and truthfully. The people I'm referring to are those who feign some deeper understand or insight that they don't actually possess and who try to shape opinions (by getting others to fall into lock-step with their preferences or prejudices) as well as elevate themselves in the process. An honest audience I respect; pretentious poseurs, I don't. And you are too an "artist, Dos Santos, goddammit: illustrators and graphic designers and action figure sculptors and photographers and calligraphers etc etc are ALL artists! :-)

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    3. And, of course, I meant "understanding" in line 3. :-)

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    4. I put 'Artist' in quotations for a reason. You have to say it with an aloof, Trans-Atlantic accent. You know, a REAL artist... someone who would NEVER sell-out by doing commercial work. (Oof, there's a peeve of mine!)

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    5. Is the accent like Thurston Howell the third's from Gilligan's Island? :-)

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    6. No one did it better than Thurston III.

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    7. What makes anything good has nothing to do with money changing hands, and everything to do with the work itself. So Dan, you are most certainly an artist, and no pretension is required to say so.

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    8. I think That Dan is most certainly an illustrator and not artist. Nothing to do with money changing hands but with the subject of his work. It is paperback cliché, it is ridiculous (in a good way) and it is fun. And it is illustration.

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    9. If Dan has to be labeled an illustrator over being an artist makes no sense. Today, saying you're an artist is like saying you're human. It's open to everyone for any reason given to the point it's meaningless. So, Dan gets to say he's an illustrator on top of being an artist. Not everyone can do that. We just really haven't taken the time to create new categories for a lot of the "art" out there.

      And for fun, there's a great scene in the movie Local Color about art critics you might enjoy. If you're a painter you just might enjoy the whole movie.

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    10. To clarify, yes, I think an Illustrator is just a type of Artist. And yes, I -am- an artist. But that's like calling a square a rectangle. Squares are so much more unique than that! And illustrators are a very special breed of artist that I am so particularly proud to be, that I distinctly associate myself with this tiny sub-genre within the craft. We are blue-collar artists, who specifically CHOSE this genre. No one just 'accidentally' becomes an illustrator. It's a life-consuming goal for most of us... and I don't think the majority of 'artists' can say that.

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    11. Well said Dan. Illustration has this long and rich history going back to the caves why aspire to something else?

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    12. ...and I shall henceforth refer to Dan as "Square." :-)

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  7. Hey Arnie, thought provoking article.... I have definitely been gulity of #2. However, when I tell another artist that their work is "awesome" or "really great" it is because I really, genuinely like it and appreciate all the work that went into it. In the arms race of superlatives, if you refer to a person's work as "good" or "nice" it sounds more like you are damning them with faint praise rather than complimenting them.
    In terms of #6, I think that Frank Frazetta has become the "Stairway to Heaven" of fantasy artists. In any top 100 list of Rock and Roll songs you generally only need to worry about placement of songs 2-100. I am a big fan of Frazetta's work like most other human beings so I don't have a problem with it, but I think that if I were Michael Whelan, Greg Hildebrandt, etc., etc. I might wish there wish that there was a little more discussion.

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  8. This post is interesting because this kind of discussion has been going on for as long as I've listening both as a fan and a proffessional. So, I throw in my two cents for what it's worth.

    1. Any opinion is valid to the person making it, being a professional critique or a novice. I get to decide what to take from it like anyone else, I decide what it "means" to me, and keeping an open mind, I have never failed to learn something from most critiques. I listen most to the novice because they encompass the largest of the various "groups" I'm trying to reach with my message and also represent the consumer, of whom I'm usually being paid to attract with my illustration. I come at it from my view of music, I'm not a profession musician, but I know a bad note when I hear one and I have my own tastes which determine what compositions I enjoy.

    2. Language can only go so far in our communication with each other, because we all have our own frame of reference for words that we assume a similar meaning or definition for. A good example is the word "sex" We all "know" what the word means, but what we usually lack in a conversation is a frame of reference regarding how that word is truly defined by the other person. When someone uses the word Masterpiece, I usually take it as extreme enthusiasm, and then I ask some questions to determine a frame of reference, what constitutes a masterpiece to that person. I think anyone has the right to give this accolade to a painting they have viewed. Time defines this label for the academic crowd by the academic crowd, which is a whole other beast with its own rule of validation that changes as our perceptions change or the political wind depending on your view ;)

    3 and 5. agreed!

    4 and 6 I think this all comes down to personal communication, we can use generalizations from time to time, and I think comparing artist to artist is as natural as it is true. Art technique and tradition is passed down through time, and some artists reflect this more than others. What i have come across more often then not are artists who do their best to deny their influences for whatever reason. Reference falls into this same category. They want to be perceived as the sole creator of their work and view this kind of comparison as offensive. What I find funny about this is, regardless of influence or reference, the work "is" their own. How could it be any other way unless they purposely tried to reproduce another work without giving the artist credit in the form of a study. Once in awhile someone will approach me at book signings or conventions and list off what they think are my influences. I take this as a attempt to better understand the "origin" of my technique or just an attempt at finding a common understanding about the work and in some cases, the person is just trying their best to provide a frame of reference for how they see or feel about the work. I find this kind of feedback useful as it helps me to understand the view being expressed and the degree of exposure the person in front of me has had to art wether it being illustration, comic, or fine etc. However, few understand how influence works, for instance, ask most older comic artists what their influences are, and you will often hear "Alex Toth" in the list, yet very few of these artist's work remotely reflect Toth on the surface of their work. Does that mean they are lying, of coarse not, So I usually use this type of conversation to discuss influence and how that usually translates for most of the artists I've talked with over the years and this helps focus the conversation on the decisions I made while working on the art .

    I must admit, I have a "greatest list" and a "best" list, though they change all the time, it's part of the fun of being a fan, and only reflects my personal view... like this reply

    thanks for the great post Arnie!

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    1. Thanks, Doug. I think one of the reasons #4 bugs me is that when the comparisons are made there often seems to be something of a subconscious pigeon-holing in order to understand what an artist is doing rather than attempting to understand the work on its own merits. And, again, often when comparisons are made between artists (or art movements), they're usually done without visual reference and the vast majority of the public won't know who the speaker is talking about. Which means they really haven't made much of a point (other than to make their audience ask, "Huh?").

      And with #6, sure, we all have our favorites. I certainly have mine. I just don't think there's an unequivocal indisputable #1 in...pretty much anything, simply because personal likes and dislikes always enter into it.

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    2. I think I misunderstood your context on #4 and I agree, thanks for clarifying :)



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  9. Freebies. Yes. That, forever.

    I was told flat-out by a smart teacher in art school to say no every time a family member or friend asked me for free art. I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED. Just within the last year have I gotten to the point of saying a flat "NO." It's no good to make everyone happy but yourself...

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  10. I've been doing album covers for awhile, now, got lucky with a Major Label band, 3 covers just for them, so I became visible to the world at large, thinking I can get some good paying work and be seen by even more people. Imagine my surprise to have wannabe and very young bands writing to me wanting FREE covers. It reminded me of something Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead said a long long time ago. If you want something for nothing, jerk off. (Hoping I can say that...)

    Something else that maybe fits in with #1. I did a show a long time ago, happened to be there when some trailer-trashy woman looks at one of the paintings, sez "I could do THAT...." I said "No you can't," and we went around like that a little while. But you'll be able to appreciate the irony that that painting became part of a major-label album package a few years later. I think it's important to consider who laughs last..........

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  11. On #3 do you mean to say that a judgement about the moral quality of art is illegitimate because all artistic statements are equally valuable, or are you simply against the tendency to reject artistic statements over superficial grounds (choice of media, genre, etc.)? Respectfully,

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    1. Zach, I'm not talking about moral judgements, but rather a sort of blanket disrespect based on sensibility. I don't like it when gallery artists slam illustration or when illustrators slam gallery artists. I don't think any art can be routinely dismissed simply because it's not what the speaker likes or does or chooses to do. Is all illustration crap or magnificent? Nope. Is all Modern Art crud or significant? Nope. And sure, it's perfectly fine to express your opinions either way...but I'm discouraged when I see artists deride—which is much different than fairly criticizing—the art of their fellow creatives. Others may not feel the same way, they may think it's all fair. And that's okay, these are only my pet peeves after all. :-)

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    2. That's a great distinction. Derision seems to have become a replacement for reason. The same holds for the ironic flippancy that seems so widespread. I think C.S. Lewis agrees with you when he says: "Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it."

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  12. Bravo to this post in it's entirety. And thank you.

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  13. Number 4 rings true for me in one circumstance in particular: Gary Gianni's introduction for "Joseph Clement Coll - A Legacy in Line." I absolutely love Gianni's work, but the intro he wrote for that book always bugged me. His entire intro was a comparison of Coll to Franklin Booth. Both of them obvious greats, but I felt that it undermined Coll's work to at least some degree. Although, I am sure that was not his intention.

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  14. It's interesting to find that two of your pet peeves revolve around syntax, the evolution of our language to where people throw down "awesome," "epic," or "masterpiece" every time someone posts a picture of the dinner they cooked. I entirely agree with your points and enjoyed reading this.
    On a semi-related artistic note, do you feel it's appropriate or inappropriate to describe music by comparing something you hear to another artist? Does the difference in artistic medium (sight vs sound) make a difference or do you feel that the rule should apply to non-visual art as well?

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    1. Hmmmm. I've never really given it much thought, probably because I have no musical skill whatsoever. But I guess my feelings would be pretty much the same, regardless of the form of expression. If someone—a painter, an actor, a musician, a film maker—produces exemplary work I think it somehow undermines (perhaps in a largely subliminal way) the accomplishment when trying to explain the work by using that of another as some sort of quality yardstick. Inevitably you wonder if "A" measures up to—or "surpasses"—the achievements of "B": it's human nature. Who is "better"?

      It is always fair to knowledgeably cite influences when talking about an artist's work of any discipline, particularly when they bring up the influences themselves. I mean, you can't really discuss The Beatles without acknowledging the influence of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, just as it's widely known that The Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS had a profound effect on McCartney and helped inspire SGT. PEPPER. Which is absolutely not the same as saying The Beatles were "like" Elvis or that "She's Leaving Home" is "like" "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

      Jeez. Bill Carman should be doing the talking about some of this stuff: he's a jillion times smarter than me. Not as good looking, granted, but infinitely smarter. :-)

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    2. Thanks for your thoughts and specifically the examples! I can see your perspective much better and agree.

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    3. Step away for a day or two and someone calls me smart. You're right of course; smart but a face only a mother could love. I was going to respond but it seems you and Tim and others have stepped up just fine. These points make for great discussion. Your posts always do Arnie.

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  15. To be clear about something. It was the comment quoting John Cleese saying "the ability to measure the value of something comes from the ability to actually DO that something"

    Which was brought up in conjunction of the role of critics to the first point.

    I don't agree you have to be able to do something to measure the value of it. There are plenty of peoples who's artistic opinion I value, who don't actually do. Maybe at one time they did, maybe they are creative in other ways, or maybe they just spent a lot of time learning what makes a good image, so they can be amazing at their job.

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    1. No, I understand your point, Tim, and appreciate it. When you say "There are plenty of people who's artistic opinion I value, who don't actually do"...those aren't the people I'm talking about. I'm talking about people that are not creative who set themselves up as "authorities" and the "taste makers" without being qualified to be either. Sort of like someone that's never flown a plane—but has ridden in one—putting "pilot" on their resume and trying to get hired at Jet Blue. It's their way of "being important." That doesn't sound like the people you know and are thinking of. :-)

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    2. Right Arnie, I didn't think you were meaning people like Art Directors and Critics. It just seemed like oslaf was, and supporting it with a quote from John Cleese.

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  16. I'm not sure about reflexively boarding the "all art is equal bandwagon."

    For one, every single person makes judgements all the time about quality. And in doing so, hierarchies are set in the mind as to which art is better and which artists are better. If we refuse to codify our personal hierarchy, in order not to seem rigid, that doesn't stop it from existing. We all are judges. And it is not always so that the more educated we become, the more likely we are to misunderstand one artform in favor of the one we have more concentration in. Sometimes education really is enlightening. And being more enlightened almost never entails thinking that everything is equal under the sun. Which implies that there is no such thing as quality.

    Yes, an issue arises when judging one art style by the values of another, which presumes that one style is in some way preferable in the absolute. This becomes particularly troublesome where one style is indeed not well understood by the presumptive judge. However, it is true that not all styles are equal. I love Basil Wolverton, but he ain't Dean Cornwell. To say that Dean Cornwell produced higher quality art than Basil Wolverton would only be controversial to someone trying really hard to make a point about "each to his own." Which is really an argument about entertainment value, not art quality.

    On the more hifalutin' level, there are artworks whose value is measured (by those hip to the jive) in how unhappy they make certain people, how ugly, disturbing, unfinished, or taboo the presentation. In this case to accept these works as excellent examples of the form is to become enmeshed in a silly linguistics game of sorts, where beautiful means bad and offensive or crummy means good. There is no reason to accept the rules of this game. Just as there is no reason to accept that the Sun is cold, or the Earth is flat. To be pigeon-holed as unsophisticated for rejecting the rule sets of such work is a common matter. Mainly because part of the game is to find some large set of people who will actively dislike the work, and to exclude them from the hipster's "sophisticated" treehouse. This "completes the work" as the lark goes.

    All to say, true understanding of another artform or style can mean rejecting it for very good reason.

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    1. No one said "all art is equal." Go back and read what I said: the only thing I said is that artists should show respect to other artists and the creative process regardless of whether they like an artwork or don't like it. Blanket dismissals (or elevations) are not a reflection of educated choices, but rather tunnel-vision. And let's be honest, there are people out there who WOULD probably take Wolverton over Cornwell if given the choice: that doesn't make them OR you wrong nor does it mean that one is of "higher" quality than the other, but merely a reflection of their preferences. I'm not trying to debate the merits of Modern Art, but am only saying that artists particularly should respect differences.

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  17. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you have already dismissed in a blanket way "Artist's Shit in a Can" and "Cross in Urine." What makes those art works exempt from your own no-dis rule?

    Once you answer that question, you end up down a rabbit hole of either having dismissed these two particular works because you simply don't like them or judge them stupid (tunnel vision), or because you have come up with some objective criteria for dismissing them as works of art which, from the relativist point of view you have just espoused, you will not be able to defend as anything but more of your own subjective preference in disguise. More of that thing we call "elevating what you like over what you don't."

    As I see it, ignoring the reality of quality in art, and the existence of hierarchies of quality, forces you to accept "Artist's Shit in a Can" and "Cross in Urine" as just as legit as art as anything else. I mean, there are people out there who will take "Cross in Urine" over both Wolverton and Cornwell. Right?

    Best,
    kev

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    1. Kev, there's a world of difference between not liking what an artists does, and stereotyping a group of artists.

      If you don't like photographer Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, that's fine.

      It's saying things like, "All modern artists do is shit in cans, and aren't really making art" is in fact wrong. Banksy is a modern artists that does a lot to make people laugh and think about our modern society. He's certainly not pissing on cross's or shitting in cans.

      The hierarchy of quality isn't about the different area's of art. Each area has good and bad artists with in.

      You are using single examples of art, to lay judgment against a whole group of artists. When we start going down that Rabbit Hole, that can be said of all art, because you are now judging it based on the worst example.

      And you can find bad examples of art in any area of art, modern, fine, fantasy, commercial, editorial, comic and more.

      Your standards for judging something should come from the best examples of that kind of art, not the lowest, or even worst, that which happens to offend you.

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    2. I think you're reading selectively, Kev, worrying bits out of context instead of considering the entire comment. I mentioned a couple of controversial or notorious works of Modern or Contemporary or Postmodern Art that can be (and usually are) trotted out as the "usual suspects" when someone wants to deride a "movement" or "school" or "style." I don't have to like them (as I said, I think they're silly BUT, yes, I think they're art) nor do you—but that doesn't give any of us the right to say they shouldn't exist or that no one should like them or that they're not art or that the artist isn't an artist. You wrote "ignoring the reality of quality in art, and the existence of hierarchies of quality" in response to a truthful observation that there are people who would prefer Wolverton to Cornwell: I never said that one was of higher or lower quality than the other or that choosing one over the other made one person smart and the other dumb, only that people respond to what they respond to, regardless of what you like or believe. And, in thinking more about your comment I have to ask...whose "reality" are we talking about? Whose "hierarchies of quality" must we fall into lock-step with in order to be "right?" The "realities and hierarchies" of those whose views you share? There's only one perception of what's good and what isn't, what's "art" and what isn't?

      I can't agree.

      There's no singular "right" when it comes to art. And, if you want to talk about "quality"...I don't think there's an "absolute" definition. Often it's a matter of mixing any number of factors along with a big dollop of personal preference rather than a list of rules written in stone that must be adhered to. There's no way we will ever agree about which is what all of the time...which is the beauty of art. There's room for all manner of sensibilities, approaches, and outlooks. As such, it bugs me when I hear or read broad generalizations and sweeping denouncements by artists aimed at other artists or types of art, whether it's "illustration" or "Modern Art" or "outsider art." Specific critiques of specific works are fair: blanket condemnations are little more than expressions of prejudice or insecurity or pretension or frustration or, yes, tunnel vision.

      All of which is beside the point, really. I think we're talking about two entirely different things here, Kev. Again, I'm talking about artists showing other artists respect, regardless of whether they like the work of others or not. Simple courtesy: show it and it's often returned. You've jumped off into an entirely different direction and are talking about measures of quality and the right of individuals to make those measurements for themselves. Apples and goldfish.

      I try to remember that one man's shit in a can is another man's treasure. Which doesn't mean I have to rush out and buy a can also. :-)

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    3. Tim--You said it better than I could. I agree. :-)

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  18. This is awesome, perhaps a masterpiece! OK... forget those superlatives. Nicely done, Arnie.

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  19. I agree with 5 out of 6 actually. Good to know I'm not alone out there on these topics (in case you're wondering, #3 isn't doing it for me to be honest).

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  20. I agree with all but #1. I think a person can be extremely well educated and knowledgeable about a subject and have no skill of craftsmanship or physical experience in a particular discipline. I don't have to be a brick layer to be an expert on architecture, or know how to play every instrument to be an expert in music.

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  21. Well—and this is only my view—I think being educated and knowledgeable will only take anyone up to a certain point. Only someone who has created an artwork can really know what it took for them to do so, not simply from a technical standpoint. It can be intellectual or philosophical or instinctive or deliberate: no one can know what an artist is thinking—or what their intent is—at the time of creation but them. Non-creative "experts" have a tendency to pontificate and project their own ideas onto artists' works, often without knowing much about the artist (or the history of the work itself) they're professing some insight about. And they tend to bluster and get angry when their opinions aren't embraced. Those are the people I'm talking about: though they or their sycophants may think otherwise...they ain't experts.

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