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Tools of the Trade

Hey Everyone!

I have been mulling around a question in my wee brain since I have learned the Carder method. To explain what I am thinking I have made an analogy.

My son is a master carpenter. He builds beautiful well-made houses. Although he is a "master", he would not ever consider trying to build a house without his basic tools, i.e., his tape measure, square, saws etc.

So it got me thinking; with the Carder method we have been given tools that help us create beautiful pieces of realistic art. But is it art?

Is a well built home a piece of art?

Is a "well built" painting a piece of art? Or does it only become art when we make our own personal adjustments?

Would love to hear all of your thoughts!!



  • Art is the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles of what is beautiful, appealing or of more then ordinary significance. Your son adds his thoughts and ideas to the home and makes it a piece of art. ( But then what do I know I`m just a good old country boy.
  • Karla

    For me, a portrait (or still life) that is technically accurate and conveys an unmistakable likeness is art. If it has extra appeal because of lighting, composition, brushwork, values, color, clarity etc then it is good art.

    In landscape, my painting should grab the viewer's attention and move their eye around in a narrative unfolding that evokes a remembered landscape. If I can feel the wind and smell the grass so much the better. This is art.

    Having the skill and confidence to create this sort of art leaves me free to explore and experiment with impressions and expressions, or abstractions. This too, if well controlled is art.

    Mark is teaching me to walk and see properly so that I might run and imagine.


  • Hi Karla! Take 100 people and give them the same identical set of tools and the same knowledge base and ask them all to paint the exact same subject at the same time in the most realistic manner possible. The result will be 100 very different paintings. We all see the same thing differently, think about it differently, apply the same knowledge differently, we 'adjust' differently. The results from these 100 efforts could be viewed from something that looks like a 'first effort' to a 'master piece'. And for the viewers, we may all select a different one (or none at all) of these paintings as a master piece as it reflects our individual tastes, likes/dislikes, passions, backgrounds, experiences, etc. Much like we would all probably pick a different home built by your son even though each was masterfully built. Great question! :)
  • edited May 2013
    Hi Karla,
    Well, these are some of my thoughts. To start, a "well built" painting isn't necessarily a piece of art. But a successful piece of art is "well built".

    To also use an analogy, I am learning my painting "ABC's" from Mark and the knowledgeable painters on this forum who are all such kind and caring teachers.

    The two works I have produced so far, I don't consider "art", but are my first steps in oil painting skill building. My next step will be to develop my own "voice" (read personal adjustments) in the medium of oil painting. However, I don't believe, even when I have learned my "ABC's and have started to write my own stories my work automatically becomes art.

    IMO art becomes art when the artist has something to say and has achieved the skills and voice to touch, engage, and communicate with the viewers of their work.

    I'm sure there are a lot more thoughts on this subject and I also am looking forward to hearing everyone's opinions.

    Karla, thank you for stimulating my wee brain with this topic!
  • It isn't as simple as a technically painted realistically good picture of an individually recognizable subject. Look at Warhol. His soup cans meet that criteria but not everyone thinks they are fine Art. Nor must art be beautiful. It was in protest against the beautiful art of the romantic period that the realism movement was born in France in the 1840's. If you say art must be meaningful then you are usually defining social realism.

    On this forum we usually don't talk about the different realism movements but about the term which is also called figurative and naturalistic painting and is centuries old. Van Eyck (15th cen) is a wonderful example of it. And as Mark has told us, it can be achieved in many ways. But, IMHO, to be good Art, really good, when I see a group of paintings - on display in a gallery or a web site - the good ones are different. The composition/subject matter is unique. The execution is flawless. The emotional content reaches me personally. It is the painting that stands out above all the others and says "This is great!" It is much more complicated than being the one waterfall in a room full of bowls full of grapes. It is about not being trite. It is about not being a scene that has been painted before - it is finding a painting that grabs me and won't let go and says to me "Look at me! You haven't ever, ever seen me before and if you do see me again, it will be a poor copy. No one could possibly paint me in this breath-taking quality again!" Then I feel that I'm looking at ART.
  • As I've begun to take art and painting more seriously, this question has bothered me. To be honest, I am actively trying not to concern myself with it for a while as I am learning to paint realistically. I just work to make a painting look good to my eye and forget the rest. I'll leave it others to decide if it is good art, bad art or art at all.
  • Tanya, that was really well put. I think you nailed it. BTW, for the reasons you mentioned I wish we would refer to this as "naturalistic" or "representational" painting, and not "realism," but that's for another day.
  • edited May 2013
    Kingston, do you see a difference in a popular or populist movement and acceptance in art such as Christo and Serrano have achieved and significance? Do you see them and others in that ilk being more than a footnote in art history in 200 years from now? I use them as examples because their craftsmanship was temporary on purpose in Christo's case and destroyed in Serrano's case. And many people think they are no more relevant than Warhol.
  • No. Creativity is conception. Art is representation. Great Art is acceptance through longevity. The test is time.
  • The context of the original question was about painting as art and we hadn't changed that thread.
  • Thanks everyone for your comments. Some REALLY good food for thought.
  • I am going to have to side with Kingston on this and some bits and pieces of what others have hit on There are paintings out there and being produced that are technical marvels. Some with film, sculpture, dance, what have you. I love what Kingston said, "Representation is skin, not soul." Perfect! The art comes in when you use the "tools" you have in your tool box to create something, but you add your own feelings and a part of yourself. It can be social commentary, but it can also be many other things. For me it is a language I use to try and communicate my thoughts and feelings to all who see the finished painting. A landscape has my feelings about that place mixed into the paint. A flower, that I enjoyed seeing for its color, shape and the feeling it gave me. In everyone there are the effects of light and what it is doing. I always resented Kinkade for copyrighting the slogan he used with his name "The Painter Of Light." Why you may ask. Well, because everyone that paints is a painter of light. It was not his idea to paint light. This brings me to Warhol's soup cans and other paintings and silkscreens. He was a good illustrator, but I feel without a feeling for art in his bones. The soup can was a copy of an object found everywhere. It was no more than an unofficial advertisement. If you want to credit the real artist, go to the illustrator who originally came up with the design for Campbells soup, some commercial artist working in an agency somewhere, but it was not Warhol. His "iconic" Marilyn was taken from a photo taken by a photographer in LA. Warhol had nothing to do with it. He made a hi contrast copy, blew it up and made a silkscreen, or I should say had an assistant make a silk screen. Sorry, Warhol is one of many so called artist hot buttons with me. No offense Grandma. :)

    Many can paint and draw, but few are ever true artists. Today, I think we are going into a new renaissance period. Modern "art" had been taught and still is in schools and universities and for the most part what was taught was crap, not art. Oh the stories I could tell! But today there are a lot of very fine young artists that tired of the phoniness of most (key word there) of modern of contemporary "art." They wanted to make real art and sought out a few teachers who did this and now there is a couple of truckloads of god and great painters working and there will be a lot more because of the good art schools and ateliers that now are in almost every region of this country. We see them every time we pick up an art magazine, or go to a paint out. I never went to school, thank God, but was fortunate to live near and show with artists I truly admired and respected and were generous in teaching me some of what they knew. I say "some" because in a couple of cases time ran out for them before they could share everything, even if I could not have absorbed it all.

    What Mark is providing as Kingston also said is the tools needed to become an artist. I am happy to help anyone that asks and I am sure other more experienced artists feel the same. What Mark teaches is vital basics we all need or use. For some like me, there may be slight variations in method of process or colors used, but they are so minor they almost don't count. If I use Burnt Sienna instead of Burnt Umber in some paintings it is often more a convenience than a necessity. Mark likes Winsor Newton brushes, I like Rosemary and Trekell. Brush does not matter if it feels right for each person. I do a demo in art workshop, I taught using a bristle fan brush to paint whatever the students suggest. It's not a cheap trick, it shows what can be done no matter the brush if one stops thinking it take a specific brush only, to do certain things. I only use a fan for these demos though. :D A lot of carpenters own good quality tools and can build a house, but if that carpenter does, as previously mentioned here, add his own good ideas in building the structure. The artist though is the architect that designed the building, not the carpenter. No disrespect to the carpenter is intended at all. But to me this is the same analogy of Warhol and the assistants that put what he told them to do. The sad part is Warhol was not the original creator of what he became famous for.
    Most people add their 2 cents, sorry I had some excess change and threw it in. :)
  • I must be losing my ability to express myself well. Without stepping on other people's sensibilities I was trying to say that I thought that the creativity expressed by Cristo, Serrano and Warhol and others that reached an apex of popularity of their similar genre in their time were not really artists and their expressions of art would not stand the test of time. I maintain there is more to art than just creativity. Creativity, talent, tools, and technology still does not equal art. Great art happens rarely. Thank goodness good art happens frequently.
  • edited May 2013
    I wish we were about to go into a new renaissance period, but I think that such a thing can occur when a society has a sort of unshakable confidence in the path they have chosen, i.e., a common purpose, which we lack. I have a theory that the renewed interest in representational work and rendering the human figure is also attributable to a new commercial demand for people with the skills to make it, i.e., in animated movies, web design, videogames and other CGI. So now, after a long period of neglect, art schools are teaching this again because there is a demand for it.

    ....I still wouldn't go to art school though, unless it was the Art Students League.
  • Rothko is one of my favorite artists. He took quite a few courses at the Art Students League. It seems like so many greats studied there at one time or another.
  • I paint what I love. I take a hundred photos of different setups of objects I love and then it is never like work to me. Seems like those are the paintings that sell also so just going to keep on doing it that way. If you worry too much about rules it seems to take the pure joy out of it.
  • AmritAmrit -
    edited May 2013
    Art is Fart without the F.

    I think that's a fact. Although fact is just act without the f. So the question is what is the F which masks these words and changes their meaning? :P

    My point? We can discuss what is art (or any other random topic) endlessly because it is such a subjective matter. Whatever we call art right now, the definition will change dependent on geographic location and time.

    Apparently in a college of art some students are encouraged to only present the concept of art in some subjects, so my friend burnt a canvas and presented the ashes as a final year project. The teachers were debating as to whether give him an F or an A (there's that F again). He did this to prove a point, that their concept of teaching art was a joke. At other colleges I've heard people leave a Tescos carrier bag in one corner of a room and call that art. The art lecturers let this hold as a project submission.

    As far as the carpenter analogy, I guess you could say, a carpenter has the tools and skills to one day become an inventor. That's what you'll be getting on any course, to learn the trade. This is a trade also taught by great Atelier schools. They can teach anybody the skills (as long as they can see and can hold a brush) and then once they have learnt the skills after a few years they guide them to start developing their own styles. This is just another way to do that. A very good way mind you.

  • A friend of mine had trouble getting his final piece of work submitted years ago at art school...just prior to the day he found 3 mouldy dishes of food in his girlfriend's fridge....the moulds were different shades of green so he mounted them in 3 very antique looking serving bowls and called it "Three Piece Mold" ...his teachers knew they were being ripped off but he passed didn't he...
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