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Shoot the Art or Artist?

John W. Pinkerton


Some of the abstract paintings I see leave me a little undecided: should I shoot the art or the artist?

I've always felt like an outsider in the art world.  It's not because the folks in the art world have been unkind to me.  To the contrary, they have been welcoming. 

I think the fact that I had a life before art has given me a little perspective because my ego is not tied to art.  It has allowed me to be objective about my own art and...the art of others. 

I've got a pretty substantial library of books about art and artists, and I sometimes thumb through them like Solomon making a judgment of each piece of art I encounter.  Being objective, I don't take into consideration the reputations of the artists…many of which, in my less than humble opinion, are greatly overrated.

I don't make these judgments based on my own skills as an artist.  I've never considered myself to be an “artist” because my skills are limited and being self-taught are as ugly as homemade sin, but the Lord did give me a work-ethic which I try to apply to my art.

A few years ago, I spent eight months trying to teach myself to do abstracts: after this effort, I concluded that abstract art is the most difficult art form.  Now, I've painted people, landscapes, and still lifes, but nothing compares in difficulty to abstracts.  I finally put abstracts aside---because of their difficulty and the lack of interest by potential customers---back to painting cute little animals.  I'll still do an abstract occasionally, but that's mostly for personal satisfaction.

In most paintings we are guided by what we see, and then we try to reproduce what we see in the real world in a manner which is interesting and, hopefully, saleable.

However, the abstract artist is confronted by a blank canvas without a single hint as to how to begin. After finding the courage to make the first stroke, the artist must push on from there and then at some point must say “enough.” While the artist is on this journey without a compass, a map, or a GPS, the abstract artist must find a way to bring beauty or emotion or drama to the canvas.  If he or she can't, what's the point?

I've invited my mean-spirited old guy alter ego to come in to say a few words:

“I once heard an abstract artist say, 'I find abstracts to be easy.  They take me no time at all.'  I couldn't restrain myself; I replied, 'Just because it's easy doesn't make it good.'”  Yeah, I know, a little mean spirited.”

I've pretty well kept my opinions of other people's art in check, but…well, Hell, some of you folks need to back away from the canvas.  Most abstracts I see display no skills, generate no beauty, generate no emotions,  and most importantly---generate no reason for being.

A good abstract artist is worth his or her weight in gold…and is just as rare.  I admire you and salute you.  The rest of us need to take five.