We have grown up getting compliments for things
we do well, and then criticized when we do something wrong. It’s pretty much bred into us. As an infant the entire family will clap and jump for joy when accidentally roll over on your back. And then all the high fives you give your kids when they finally sit on the toilet to pee. (totally glad that still doesn’t happen, but maybe it will again when I grow old)
Jump back this way to adult life and we still see all types of behavioral modifications being passed our way. Raises at work when you do well, speeding tickets on our roadways when we don’t. I loved getting stars on my papers in grade school, red, silver, gold… okay I saw some people who got gold, “hey, why didn’t I get one?”
What about as an artist, what kind of praise do you like? For me the ultimate of course is Best of Show, with a big fat check. Is that the ultimate? Maybe not, but it’s up there. I sure do enter enough shows on the chance that I just might win, or at least get accepted. Sometimes things don’t always workout the way you want and you are left with what you thought was a really awesome painting, and here they didn’t even want it in their show. We must learn to be resilient as an artist, because we don’t always get the praise we want.
How about that other praise?
I get it all the time, and maybe you do too. It’s the “Oh that looks like a photograph”. I know that is normally meant to be a compliment, and to
many it is. But to me, it’s not the compliment that it is intended to be. I think it’s intended to be. I mean I’ve never actually asked if they meant that in a nice way or not, but I assume so.
My goal as an artist is not to recreate the scene so to speak, it is to envision what is before me, and try to capture how the light effects the scene, and to bring back that feel that took me there in the first place. Is it a windy cold day, with a dreariness about? Maybe a hot summer afternoon with no escape from the heat anywhere?
What I like to hear if I’ve done my job right, is “I like the light in this piece”, or “this feels like a autumn morning”. Maybe it’s me, maybe I have not conveyed a feel or air about the painting enough for the viewer to experience what I had taken part in when I saw that scene and decided “this is what I want to paint”.
There are those artists who strive for a photo realistic painting depicting the scene for exactly what it is. I admire those artists, and appreciate their technical skills, but what I want to do more and more is bring back that wonderful imagination that at one time kept me occupied for hours on end, and create compositions that not only feel, but “wow”. There are photographers who “wow” with their pictures, there are ball players who “wow” with their on field abilities. What kind of compliment do you give them as they hit the ball out of the park?
A good standing ovation is always welcome, with cheers and accolades as they run the bases. Try that at your next opening, maybe getting high fives as you go down the line.
In many art shows you have the “public’s choice” or “artists choice” awards. How about next show give everyone a sheet of stars, and each of the guests come along and put stars on the paintings that they like. What do you think, should we let the patrons use the “gold stars”?
Take your art to an open critique, that will sober one up fast, and make you think that maybe you should reconsider your profession. Keep a thick skin, but it’s that old reward/punishment modification again. Not to change behavior or your personality, (or lack thereof) but to teach us what is wrong and what is right in our art.
It takes a skill to be able to comment on art of all types and skill levels. Art is not the same as adding up all the columns of a spreadsheet and getting the figures right if you are an accountant. In art, high praise and compliments are given to artists who do solid fields of color, nail toilets on ceilings, have their cats chase a feather across a canvas as it spreads paint. The same gold stars are given to the photo realism, the abstracts and the expressionists.
How in the world is the general public supposed to know what is “good art”?
(of course another great topic for later) Let alone know the correct thing to say when confronting the artist and their work?
If someone wants to tell me “That’s as pretty as a photograph” that’s fine. I really do appreciate their taking the time to at least acknowledge that
something has been created by the artist and is now on display for the publics view.
But really, if you’ve got a gold star sticker sheet…
I’m just saying.