What IS Art?

The Artist
This has been a very revealing week for me.
Earlier, while reading posts to the Portrait Painters LinkedIn site, I found out some artists trace their work, then paint. I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process. Somehow I have a feeling that I am part of a group of artist whose entries that are based on tried-and-true artistic tradition are competing with those who use projectors or worse – they print out the work on canvas and paint over it!!

“The Discovery” by Norman Rockwell

When this reality hit me, I felt like the boy in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Discovery.” The truth absolutely shattered my fairytale expectations. Is it really unrealistic to expect an artist to draw his or her artwork? I’m not talking about someone who draws their original layout and then stencils to a final surface or uses a projector to enlarge it for a large-scale mural. The concept is theirs.  Tracing photos is hard to call original. Though I can’t seem to wrap my arms around the practice, I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process.

The Art
Then, bringing up Rockwell’s work refreshed my memory of another revelation. I ran into a woman who said Norman Rockwell was not an artist, he was just an illustrator. Now, this cut me to the quick since that was my artistic thrust at the time. I was young and impressionable, but I asked myself, “Isn’t all art illustration?”  It illustrates places, people, vocation, moods, fantasy, aspirations, social issues.  The list is endless. I’ve heard people like to make such comments to impress others about their knowledge of art. Sure, I wouldn’t want to be remembered for just the painted logo on a van I did, but illustrative art can be very complex and demand high artist skills. Rockwell’s imagination and skill are seen above.

No one questions calling the sculptor an artist. Why, even hair stylists are called artists today. Maybe the word “artist” has lost some of its meaning. If a person renders a creation in or on stone, metal, paper, canvas or whatever, they’re an artist. If they copied a work or photograph, they’re a copyist. How good of an artist they are can depend on the viewer and the artwork. But if Reader’s Digest wanted to use “The Scream” by Edvard Munch for their cover would you have to call Munch an illustrator?

I would love to hear from critics and artists – is copying art? Is Illustration art?

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Wrapping up Christmas and Scoring Big in 2014

Do you remember the day-after-Christmas as a child?

It can be a big let down. As a child I probably got everything on my list. I didn’t want anything more, yet the let-down feeling was there. Why? Looking back, it probably was because there was no need to anticipate. The activity of anticipation brings excitement into the dull, everyday events of life. Children know these days as filled with chores of making of beds, washing dishes and the hated task of folding socks. (I still hate folding socks to this day. What’s the use, they never match!)

The value of anticipation.

Anticipation is part of “HOPE” when you think about it. You expect a change, hope for something different. The artist expects to be delighted with the finished project. Anticipation drives the brush or pencil towards the image in the mind. The same goes for the composer.

Maybe it’s the hopeful look of appreciation in the receiver’s eye’s that drives the giver to shop and wrap each present. I wonder what God anticipated that first Christmas. Does He even do that? Did He think of the joy of having a restored relationship with you? And me? The human psyche is a complex subject, yet I have confidence God understands it all. So much of His design for worship fills the needs of the human to understand his place in the relationship with God.

Long term VS Short Term Goals – IT’S RELATIVE

Mothers of toddlers have ONLY short – very short-term goals – such as going to the bathroom before the next catastrophe. For the child, each day drags on forever. Lunch is way out in the future. Supper will never come.

The act of anticipation is a serious, long term commitment to a six year old.

2013 ornament

The little track house made big memories.

I remember my siblings and I would insist on decorating the obligatory shrubs in suburban landscaping. The snow would settle on top of the large colorful bulbs and when they were plugged in, it looked like five, humungous M&M cookies lining the front walkway. We watched our Dad string them up and we waited for snow.  When it came we were ecstatic. So it made sense to give this memory back to our parents this Christmas.

So, maybe looking forward to meeting goals gives us the same excitement and sense of satisfaction as adults.

If that’s the case, I’m making both long term and short term goals to fill my life and keep me young at heart and mind.

Artistically, I would like to complete at least eight pieces this year – 3 acrylics, 2-3 pastels and the rest in graphite and/or  inks. Motivation for this should be easy since I’m starting a commission piece this week. Musically,  I would like to take 4-6 of my arrangements which have been floating around in my head (a dangerous place to store anything valuable) and notate them for solo piano. Some of my goals may be very dull to you – organization, for example – and one challenging – memorization of more Scripture. (I’m still working on Philippians 4:5-11).

What goals have you set? I’d love to hear of them.

May your days be blessed and have a joyous New Year.

What is Christmas Anyway?

 

What is Christmas Anyway?

 

I remember teaching from a Christmas favorites book and my piano student asked me why do we celebrate Christmas. So I told him that it is a day to remember the birth of Jesus. He countered with “Who’s he?” I have to admit, I was a bit stunned, but thought maybe he’s Jehovah Witness or something like that and I tried to form a brief answer to the nine-year old sitting on my piano bench. “God sent His Son Jesus to earth to die for our sins. Jesus came as a baby and this is the way we celebrate the event. That’s why it’s a joyful time.”a-Light Echoes from Red Supergiant star V838 Monocerotis - Copy

 

I wanted to say it’s the most important act God ever extended towards mankind. I wanted to say that when I heard the Christmas story one year, it dawned on me how bad I must have been for God to resort to such extreme measures. I wanted to tell him how much joy there is in believing that God wants the relationship between mankind restored and that it can be – and has been for so many.

But I figured parents pay me to program their children to learn piano – not preach to them or give a testimony, so I did keep the answer “bare bones.” 

 

Not enough.

The parent talked with me about his plan to raise his son with no exposure to religion. When piano books are riddled with “Silent Night” and “Away in the Manger” it’s hard to ignore the reason for the celebration. It doesn’t matter, he had chosen the book and the child picked the song and I respectfully listened. But inside I thought, “It’s like going to a party but you don’t know who it’s for.”

God – the greatest Visual artist

 

Proof#1

 

I am glad our God is bigger than our opinions – and our imagination. Who else, other than God, would think to stoop to the level of a baby in a manger to paint the word “LOVE.”

 

All our altruistic depictions are nothing more than adaptations of “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” You must admit, Hollywood falls way short of inspiring in how it portrays love. I”ll take God’s definition any day.

 

It would be interesting to know:

 

How would you depict love in visual form?

 

until then – “Have a Joyous Holy-day!

 

What are your (cherished) Christmas Memories?

This little exercise helps if you had an older brother. One good reason – he’d come up with the most ingenious ideas that a younger sister would never even voice. Better yet, he would get get the blame. In fact, my brother is the only person I know of who actually GOT COAL in his stocking one Christmas. What better Christmas can one have! Like the time “X” (there’s no way I’ll spill the beans) had to show me something. As soon as Mom was safely down the street, he pulls me into a bedroom that had the little hole in the closet ceiling that leads into the attic. He pops up the square insert and feels around the attic floor a bit. Down comes a small package addressed to neither of us. He shakes it. We can’t guess so up it goes and he feels around a bit more. After repeating this a couple more times, he gets impatient and pulls himself closer to the hole and feels around again. He found the Christmas popcorn balls. What a find! (Parents loved these because they usually helped fill the stocking, especially in the leaner years). We ate either one or one apiece, I can’t remember. I do remember Mom asking Dad several days later where he put the treats for the stockings. Did “X” eat the rest while I wasn’t there?

My brother was really good at ferreting such important info out. I remember a few years later when he got his comeuppance, though. When it was safe, he had to show me the new hideout for Christmas. As usual, he pulls out a present and read the label. He put it down and pulled out another gift. I could tell he wasn’t happy and it wasn’t just his scowl. “What’s wrong?” I asked. There were no names on the gifts, only numbers-the game was up!