Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Concepts and philosophies regarding art and development – In Brief

There are few things that interest me more than art. I love art in the broadest of applicable terms, far beyond the narrow, established criteria. I consider art to be an interchangeable term used to denote the driving force behind any and all forms of creativity and endeavour, with sloth and disinterest through self doubt being the primary forces that act as a counter-weight to creativity.

Whilst I am principally a visual artist, I don’t believe that any artist worth their salt should restrict their self entirely to the limited scope of one or only a few areas of study. Everyone is an artist in more than one way, only that some are more focused and thus proficient in their chosen areas of focus and endeavour. To some extent, I consider the way in which some people are set apart as artists to be both naive and unnecessary, and that some are elevated to the lofty title of polymath for excelling in a diverse manner, even more absurd.

I’ve always felt that if a person is proficient in one medium then they realistically should be well on their way to unlocking their talents in other areas as well. To be less confusing, the manner in which I view the flow of an artist from one field to the next is illustrated in the following example:

If you were to take a person who is considered to be artistically barren and with care and quality instruction showed that person how to draw a variety of subjects using a pencil, enabling them to understand the creative processes involved, it would be only a small step to then teach that person how to adequately colour their sketches via the use of coloured pencil or a tool emulating flat colour in Photoshop. From understanding flat colour to then applying shading and understanding how light is utilised in 2D is another manageable step. From there a person who is able to master the techniques behind the pencil should not find the paint brush to be a great task and painting in many ways is no different to colouring in a pencil drawing. The skills inherited in learning how to draw and paint are quite readily transferable to sculpture, industrial design and flower arranging which in turn may lead to a greater appreciation and awareness in areas as diverse as architecture, engineering and building. For further examples that may be seen as extreme, I also see relatively little as a realistic barrier between the art of a musician and that of an author, actor and visual artist in turn. Yes they are all considered art forms already, but generally they are not viewed as interlinked aspects of the same skill set as is being suggested here. Each takes specific skills, but each skill is no more than a matter of concentration, perseverance and rhythm (or timing if you prefer) and differ only in that they are the alternate faces of the same universal tools that are used in every action that we take.

In some situations it can be found that a deficiency in a focus area such as painting for example, can be made up for by strengths in a another quarter, such as being proficient in the art of storytelling and self promotion. Never let it be said that being a bullshit artist is not a true skill. Many of the best known artists of times both modern and ancient are or were imbued with strong oratory promotional skills whilst lacking sufficient development in their visual pursuits. Those who define art by aesthetics and emotion within will argue against that. Whilst controversial, these are views that I am quite happy defend in the face of intelligent criticism, particularly from capable art critics and so-called experts, whom I believe should have been the first of the “useless middlemen” onto Adams’ “B. Ark.”

The hierarchy of how art is taught in the modern world (or the semi-modern Australia) is a bit of a cruel joke, starting with how children are introduced to art in their formative years. More often than not a child’s first experience with painting in a class room is an abysmal failure, regardless of their potential. This is owing to the almost outrageous ignorance exhibited by most teachers who give their students paint brushes that relate to a child’s hand and paper in the same way that a large brush used for house painting would apply to an adult and their canvas. Many kids even at such an early age can be frustrated by such a thoughtless approach to their education, but more often than not will lack the skills to adequately convey their frustration or requirements. I’ve taught children at such ages to paint and draw with relative ease, and much of my successes have been due to having removed the roadblocks placed in their way, rather than any major instruction.

Art instruction within the Australian school system is no more advanced at year 6 than in Kindergarten. Rather than frustration, many children by this point in time have already thrown in the towel. Sometimes their interest can be rekindled via a new and enthusiastic teacher or upon entry to High School and a new environment, but that too relies upon the makeup of the teacher.

Art teachers in High School come in three flavours; there’s the capable artist who is interested in developing the skills of their charges, the incompetent artist who maybe offers the student an outdated textbook introduction to art history, whilst completely neglecting their skill development, and then there is the bullshit artist who although caring for the student’s development as an artist can offer only regurgitated philosophies and sub-par instruction. If the student lacks the drive to facilitate their own development during the high school years, or is unable to access private tuition then more than their chances of progress and continued engagement within the arts are slim.

High School is a critical time, because it makes and breaks and sometimes mutates budding artists in terrible ways. The mutations of which I speak are the larval stages of the bullshit artist and potential “fine art” critics, whose theories and polluting views are to art what creationism and biblical literalism are to the sciences. I despair at times, but then I come back from the edge for one reason – art is a joy, and not a matter for critics to overcomplicate for their own slick fingered requirements.

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