This week I am working on a new 36 x 48 inch painting of Cathedral Rock, near the stunningly beautiful town of Sedona, Arizona. If you have never visited Sedona, I would strongly urge you to do so. For Arizona, it is OUR land of red and orange rocks. The mountains and formations are amazing - and the hikes are second to none.
This week I have also been thinking about art criticism and I thought that it might be a nice time to share my views on this subject. Reason being - I got into a heated argument with another person on facebook; and no we didn't solve the world's issues while arguing over the internet...it did bring to light my perhaps unusual views about art criticism. So I thought I would state them clearly here.
Here is the thing...if I don't like a piece of art, I generally keep my mouth shut. I feel that this is an act of trust on my part because I prefer to trust that an artist can, by themselves, iron out any of the rough patches or weak spots in their work. I feel that if an artist is doing this alone, they deserve the right to make that exploration without my soul-killing comments. I will be honest here, in my own art career, and in the development of my work, when it came to the fundamentals of how my work came to look as it did, I did not listen to anyone. What came out on canvas was pure inner voice. Nothing else. I was, as we all are, bouyed up by the fact that collectors bought my work, and that magazines wrote about it - but in the core of what has made the work, it was pure inner vision reacting to a landscape in front of me. I actually feel this was a benifit, not a detractor. I feel that because I shut out the noise of all other people - well meaning or not, I managed to arrive at something close to my own visions. Now I did frequently listen to other artists when it came down to mastering the materiels needed for the job. My artist friends have been wonderful in suggesting different things that would help get different effects.
I do believe that if one chooses a classroom environment, art school, or formal classes with a top level artist - then one does and should submit themselves to the kind of criticism that I find is, at the least, a distraction, and at worst - what I've described as a soul-killer. There are people who really do benifit from a classroom enviornment and an evironment with hard critqiues and such things. I freely accept that and I don't lose any sleep over that. However I am not one of those people. I told a friend yesterday, "The creative spark inside me, I don't let anyone else handle." So I shut out the noise and I DO NOT participate in art critiques, and I have never invited another artist to critique my work. I feel like if you like it, then great, thanks...if you don't, then move on to find yourself another wonderful artist that you can connect to. For some artists, however, they cannot let this be. They have to critique someone else's work because it is almost like their own act of conquest and appropriation. It is how they try to curve your work to their vision. I don't accept this, and I don't take a part in it. And I don't do it to other artists.
So, as this person on Facebook was left thinking - it might be easy to think that I only accept flattery. No, that is not what I am saying. I've been told to my face, and accepted with perfect serenity, someone saying they didn't really care for my work, or that it wasn't their thing. That's totally fine. What I don't accept is unwanted and unasked for desconstruction from other artists. I have said it before, there is only room for one artist in my head and he is the only one I let in. That is a monkish and solitary way to see things, perhaps - but that's how I see it.
Anyway, my heated conversation with the person on Facebook ended with the person saying that I was staying in my comfort zone - and they even called me "lazy". Expletives were hurled and one tactless and uncouth person was rapidly un-friended by me. Note to those who like to bash other people's artwork - if you crudely attack other people's work, expect a vigorous counterattack. If you have been so brash as to nominate yourself judge and jury over someone elses' work - then don't just expect them to sit there and take it. I don't. Art is the product of the heart - and when expressed truly it must be defended against those who either don't understand it, or wish to bring someone down from the heights of even modest accomplishment. I defended my work against this person I mentioned and I won't apologize for that. Am I prickly and sensitive about my work? You better believe I am. And then if a person calls me lazy...oh well, I always try to be a nice guy and I believe in compassion and seeking understanding but call me that and the gloves are off. Whatever I am - lazy is NOT one of them. Never has been. One could not keep the utterly ridiculous busy schedule I keep, and even dream of the word "lazy".
That is my view. I think life and art are a products of uplift. If one takes the chisel of destruction to everything, nothing is left but the pieces. I prefer to create, not revel in pulling apart the work of another. I offer my own work as a take it or leave it thing. There is so much beauty in the world, I want to spend my days holding that beauty up high - rather than chipping away at sincere creations, whatever their stage of development.