Friday, February 5, 2016

Breaking the Rules - Off the Wall Friday

The Japanese Bridge, 1895 Claude Monet (First in the series)

Are you a Rebel???   Do you like nothing more  than to break the rules??    Its been said that Great Artists break the rules.   So does that mean that to make great art you need to break the rules??  No!

Monet, The Japanese Bridge, 1900, 9th in the series
As I've been re-working The Curves,  I thought the finish product would have been much better if I had had used conventional piecing.  Instead I decided to use rough edge applique  on an over 5 ft piece without any kind of fusing material.  When the finished product looked too ROUGH, now I'm stuck with adding a lot more stitching!  I thought I could break the rules, but in this case I shouldn't have!!  WAIT!! What???  Don't great artists break the rules???

Welllllllll they do, but really they follow some rules about breaking the rules.  (And you all think -  "Of course they do!")

1.  Know the rules you are breaking . . . well. . .really well.  If you look at all the great rebel artists in history you'll see that they went through all the same traditional training that the rest of their peers did.  Picasso studied under his father (a professor of art) from an early age and  later at the age of 13 was  admitted into the school of Fine Arts where his father taught.  Knowing the rule plus knowing what  you don't like about the rule will help you break it that much better!

2.  If you're going to break the rule  - Really Break the Rule.    If you only break the rules a little it will come off looking like you just know the traditional way of creating. You need to scream that you're a rebel before people will take notice.  Going all in, your viewer will have no doubt that you are a rule breaker and taking a risk!

Monet, Japanese Bridge 4, 1918, 20th in the Series
3.  Explain Your Art. Write a good artistic statement that helps connect your viewer to the piece.  After all you've just thrown out all the traditional rules that your viewer is used to.  Now take the time to give them a way to connect with what they already know.  After reading many, many gobblely gook artist statements, I would highly suggest that you don't use this platform to break the rules.  If you want to communicate to your viewers about your piece put it in a way that they will understand.  (Artists that use too much Art-Speak in their statements come off sounding pretentious  and annoying to rest of us!)

4.  Be Consistent!!  If you're going to come up with new rules then follow them consistently.  Take time to explore why  your  way is actually a good way to make art.  All the great rule breakers did!!  Monet grew a whole garden just that he could paint it over and over and over giving birth to the whole Impressionist movement.  I've included some of his Japanese bridge series so you can see how his rule breaking progressed!
Monet, The Japanese Bridge, 1926 , Last in the Series (28th)

So What Have You Been Up to Creatively?


Muv said...

Totally agree with you - there is nothing more annoying than pretentious art-speak. Am I breaking rules or inventing new ones? I have been busy trying out thermal curtain lining for a bit of stitched art. It works a treat.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Ack-hate those stupid artists statements. I once saw a two paragraph, extremely pretentious one. The accompanying article explained how brilliant this textile artist was and how groundbreaking his technique was, how fascinating his work. He was, wait for it, how ground breaking this was.........discharging with bleach!!! I'll bet your solution to this problem will create a fabulous piece!

Susan Lenz said...

Like many, I often struggle with artist statements that are written in a highly academic manner. Yet, I've also met many artists who prefer this approach. They are not all pretentious. In fact, very few of them are. Their work might include "ground breaking techniques" that, upon first reading, sound rather ordinary but their intentions are indeed novel, hence "ground breaking". I've also read rather straight-forward, honest, easily understood artist statements written by totally pompous, ego-maniacs. Not all "rebels" sought to be "rule breakers" and not all "rule breakers" are "rebels". These are frequently terms used in attempts to explain past actions. They don't necessarily have anything to do with current and future artistic choices. Art-making is an individual journey. Rarely are great artists on the same path (if ever!) When criticizing someone's approach or artist statement, walls are built. These walls aren't always standing on a foundation of respect. Too often art quilters complain that the wider art world doesn't respect our medium. If we seek respect, we ought to be respectful first. Annoyance with an artist's choice of wording? Do we really want to go there? I hope not. To each his own ... respectfully ... rebels and academics included.

Turtlemoonimpressions said...

Nina, I should have put that cartoon in my blog post today! We're on the same page with two voices arriving at the same place.

And Susan, I'm with you on this one. I think writing an artist statement, an attempt to define our art - a highly personal exercise - is difficult enough for so many of us to do.

Nina Marie said...

Susan, I find it hard to imagine you struggling ever to put two words together. I've read your work for 5 years now and always understand what you are trying to convey. My annoyance and criticism (yes and I do want to go there) is artist statements that aren't easily understood by the reader. I would put forth that if your intended reader can not understand what you've written than why write it? Now, we are not talking about artist statements that are written for academia, but rather those that are at gallery and museum showings that are open to general public. Several times I'll read a statement aloud so that my companion and those around us can hear and we all giggle because we (who have several advanced degrees between us) have no idea what it was trying to say. Most times I respect the work I see - its the artist statement that falls short. (All of this is just my opinion and I could - as always - actually be wrong - and I don't mind in the least being wrong out of ignorance - its just where I'm at in my artistic journey)(nor do I mind - in the least - that someone would disagree with me )

Susan Lenz said...

Nina-Marie, I find it hard to imagine NOT struggling to put two words together ... but that's a different matter (yet one of the reasons I blog, hoping the exercise makes staring at a blank computer screen easier!) What I said was, "Like many, I often struggle with artist statements that are written in a highly academic manner." My eyes often glaze over when reading combinations of words that seem like a foreign language, aka "art ease".

Once there was an MFA show in the gallery space just outside my studio door. My friend Jeff, a talented painter and ceramic artist, and I stood and read, reread, and reread the accompanying statement. We looked at one another and started laughing. (We were totally alone with the show. I would NEVER allow a stranger to find me laughing at artwork unless intentionally humorous.) Neither Jeff or I really understood a word. We concluded that the entire thing could be boiled down as, "I paint". Yet, it went on for three or four long paragraphs of utter nonsense (at least to us).

The young painter, however, was so sweet, humble, and very much trying to sound sophisticated and to satisfy the demands of her instructors. I feel certain that none of the sentences could have flowed from her mouth in any ordinary conversation, but she wished they would. This was "her statement". It was written for "her audience". It was in a public place. Jeff and I simply weren't "her audience". We were merely other artists, part of the general public. We weren't supposed to "get it". We were supposed to be left with an impression of complex thought processes that didn't really make sense to either of us. We were supposed to think her work came from a highly intellectual approach meant for superior minds who enjoy viewing artwork in this context.

I've been to other exhibits where the artists' statements were equally "high brow" and could have easily been written with a more down-to-earth style. I know several of the artists who intentionally write one way or the other. There are benefits to writing statements both ways. There are people who don't purchase artwork unless it comes from an artist who writes in fluent "art ease". There are others who refuse to purchase artwork if it isn't written in a conversational tone.

To each his own. Neither approach should be regarded as an annoyance but a personal style. An artist's statement really can't be "wrong". It is what the artist wants to say regardless of whether or not the public comprehends it.

By the way, Jeff's statement (which I can't find on-line because the gallerist representing him HATES it) starts out with the line: "In 1952 due to circumstances beyond my control, I was born." I'm not suggesting that humor can't be part of an artist's statement. I'm simply saying that there are lots of valid reasons why an artist might elect to write in the style of "art ease". I can't do it. Jeff can't do it, but there are plenty who can and prefer their work to be viewed in this context.

Norma Schlager said...

You and Susan both have such a way with words, an enviable talent. Thanks for bringing in Calvin and Hobbs. They were a favorite and I was sorry to see them go. I totally agree with you that you have to know the rules before you can break them. Keep up the good work!