Friday, February 19, 2010

About the Craft of Art

A dear friend, now departed, with whom I enjoyed thirty years of arguing about art related topics, said that technique could be a trap for the painter. It was long after that conversation that I began to understand what he meant.

There is technique which is about skill in using the materials of choice and then there is vision. What Richard meant was that virtuosity with paint, the ability to make the medium produce the intended effect, on its own could be boring. The skill had to support the vision and be subordinated to it.

Last night I watched the skaters vying for Olympic medals and realized that the same was true there. One of the athletes had something above the great skill he exhibited. I will risk calling it heart. It is what I saw in the show I mentioned last week of art and artifacts of Byzantium at the Metropolitan. There was something more there than the craft; it was alive with the involvement of the persons who created it. I believe that what makes art “art” is that power to connect the viewer with the maker. That connection is the art. Cellist Yo Yo Ma said it was “the inner life of one to that of another”.

I found this at a discussion forum about music:
“I was listening to a singer the other day belt out a song with a terrific technique — great vocal control — and was left impressed and yet bored. Just no magic. Sometimes great ability can even just be irritating. This is often the case with instrumentalists in guitar and banjo too. I am always impressed by great technical skill in a player — how can you not be? However, what really is exciting to me is how a few musicians filter great technique — or maybe even not such great technique — through their personality and produce magic: an exhilaration, a deep sense of satisfaction…”

Of course there is no art without craft, and craft without art is craft, a demonstration of skill.

The image above is Petunia Trio, 2005, Acrylic and Mixed Media on Museum Board, 16.5 x 12 each.

1 comment:

  1. Joan,
    I loved this article. I think too often most artists, including myself, don't have an equal balance of the vision and the craft. You really do need the technique, it's the vehicle that propels your art, but the vehicle has no purpose if there's no driver in the front seat...

    Good food for thought!