Over the years, I’ve collected snippets of conversation overheard at outdoor art shows. The open nature and family entertainment atmosphere of this type of show encourage sidewalk critics emboldened by cups of brew and funnel cake.
A book I’ve always wanted to write would be full of these funny and sarcastic comments that have little to do with art appreciation. Several remarks were repeated enough to make me wonder why I work a certain way. In this respect, even cynical asides can be of some use.
1. How long did it take you to paint this, 15 minutes?
To most people, something is worthy of value only if it took a long time to create. There is no room in this way of thinking for gesture and spontaneity born from a lifetime of experience. Neither do people think much about process. They only see that an artwork had a beginning and after a lot of work was finished. They fail to appreciate the many stops and starts, self doubts and anxieties along the way until an artist felt sufficient confidence to exhibit a 15 minute piece of art.
2. My grand-daughter can paint better than this.
I have seen children’s art that is quite remarkable, fun pieces full of color, energy, and joy. But when asked to repeat their effort, the children often struggle, becoming restless and distracted. They are eager to move on to the next thing that catches their eye. An experienced artist arrives at a mature style after many years work. Such an artist intends to repeat their efforts. They eagerly make one painting and another and another because they must. They cannot not do it. No six year old grand-daughter would put up with that.
3. Why don’t you paint pretty pictures?
The easy answer would be that I can not improve on the beauty of Nature. Nature is perfect just as it is and my art is not. That does not, however, stop artists from trying over and over to transcend Nature’s beauty. For my own art, I am often reminded of the fierceness of Fu Lions. Great snarling stone sculptures were often placed in front of Indian and Chinese temples for protection. A cute bunny or beautiful maiden would be of no use when faced with evil spirits intent on mischief. No one messes with an ugly guardian creature that can bite your face off. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t paint pretty pictures because they don’t give me enough protection.