My definition of art

I have thought a lot lately about what art is. I have yet to find a good definition of art that works for me. There are so many things that are art, it seems like a giant puzzle to me and I’m still trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, thinking it might be interesting for you to see my perspective.

In reflection, I have found that the past is a fundamentally different thing from the present moment, in that it no longer exists, except for in our minds. There is the paradox, How can we ensure that the present moment is remembered and lives on when it keeps disappearing into the past? That is where art comes in. Art is a way to communicate over time and space. Marks left on a page, something from the past brought to the present moment. Whether written word or image on canvas, art is the collision of two worlds. But that is just one piece of the puzzle that is art.

As I was listening to the soundtrack to the Hamilton musical I was moved to tears. I wondered why, and that’s when it hit me that’s the place for art, to remind us of the fact that we are human. It moves us emotionally and touches us in ways that cannot be explained. That’s how you know something is art – when it moves you. It’s tricky because what moves one person won’t move someone else. So much of art depends on cultural context – as they say, “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Cultures change over time and art changes too.

So, as I said before, art is a way for the past to communicate with the present. The fact that art evokes an emotional response is another piece of the art-puzzle. Humans are not machines; there is so much more to the human experience than our current scientific and popular view of the world holds. I believe that the goal of art is to remind us of our humanity.

By this definition of art, I’m not sure if what I make is art. I don’t know if I can know because the definition I came up with is from the audience’s point of view. It is in the interaction between the piece and the person viewing it that art exists, the past brought to the present moment evoking an emotional reaction that reminds the viewer of their humanity. This definition is not complete yet, but I feel as though I’m headed in the right direction, what do you think?

Here is a piece I just finished:

Untitled #1 Acrylic on canvas 8"x10"
Untitled #1
Acrylic on canvas
8″x10″

 

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about my post. Does this definition of art ring true for you? Why or why not? What is your definition of art? Did you enjoy this post? Do you want me to write more like it in the future? Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

UPDATE:

I have written a part two to this blog post, you can read it here.

Evolving Process

Ironically enough, the reason I started painting was because I wanted to make something faster than I could with fiber art. Naïvely I thought “how hard could this be?” And proceeded to start painting. My cross stitch pieces take months to realize and I wanted to have more pieces to sell. I knew that I could have prints made of my paintings and sell them as well. I’ve been drawings my designs for a long time, leading me to underestimate how difficult painting would be. I never took a painting class in art school, so I decide to teach myself by doing. That’s not exactly true, I did take 2D concepts class and there was a unit on painting. Anyway, I had all the supplies from then, plus the paints and brushes that my grandma gave me, which is a story for another time.
So here I was late spring/early summer of 2015, painting. I didn’t document my work well enough, from now on I’ll take more pictures as I paint. You can tell my early work by the sloppy brushwork and the white backgrounds. They are also on boards. I actually cover the boards with white paint before painting. I didn’t know much about mixing colors or transitioning from one to another, they are very flat and two-dimensional.

first acrylic painting April 21st 2015
first acrylic painting April 21st 2015

I thought I was doing well and was proud of them, looking back now, I’m really embarrassed. What woke me up was my mentor Della Wells. In the summer I met with her monthly for the MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) mentorship program and she gave me great advice.

Della is someone who tells things like they are, she doesn’t sugarcoat things. I showed her the paintings I had made up to that point and she said that I wasn’t ready yet, I forget her exact words, but she said that I needed to learn more, take classes, continue working on my technique and refine my process. I was little devastated at first, my ego really took a hit, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. After that, I started watching tutorials on YouTube and I became more open to learning. I discovered that there is so much more to painting than I had thought before. Painting is one of those things that takes a little time to learn, but a lifetime to master.
Some of the things I’ve learned since then:
– Put a wash/ground on the background for the first layer
– Different brushes have different names and functions
– Paint is really expensive
-The more time and effort I put into painting, the better I get
– You can layer colors on top of each other to create a richer tone
– If you put dark on the edges and a lighter color in the center it creates a 3D effect
– I enjoy painting

There is so much more I would like to learn, I’m glad I started painting and feel as though I’ve come a long way in just a few months, I wonder how far I’ll get.

Early Paintings

 

Works in progress