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Art Appreciation

Art appreciation is a concept that is as far reaching as art itself. One can appreciate art but also dislike it and find it terrible. Appreciation for art can be strictly on the reaction that the viewer or experiencer, or it can be from the context of the artist/creator and what they are trying to do.

Appreciation of art can be pleasant or difficult depending on the audience and the artist. For example, one can sit through a mind numbing Junior High school theatrical production and find it terrible from a technical aspect, but brilliant from the perspective of individual performances and accomplishment and work of an adolescent group and their ability.

Much of art consumed by the mass populace has been honed and practiced and calculated as a marketable and consumable product. One can appreciate all the technical practice, talent, craft, skill, work, effort, and be moved by all this. Some find technical prowess to be the ultimate achievement, while others may find that scrappy scrapes of pure expression to be the ultimate. Both are correct and “right” in their ideas, because they are appreciating.

When someone goes to see Michelangelo’s paintings at the Sistine Chapel, they may be overwhelmed by the complexity, color, and expression. They may be able to appreciate it for the color, or the background, or the technical expertise. Just on the face value it may be all of these things. When you research the history of the creation of it and how it was commissioned and the work that went into accomplishing the work, it takes on a whole new appreciation.

However, some may take the stance that the Sistine Chapel was not “real” art because it was a commissioned piece. The work had limitations, prescribed subject matter, it lacks freedom and internal expression was hampered. The result wasn’t true art and thus cannot be fully appreciated.

As long as humans have been on this planet art has been created. Cave paintings, petroglyphs, pictographs, and carvings are some of the first evidences of this. These were made for purposes of expression, communication, decoration, worship, entertainment, and appreciation. These early creations were for appreciation in some sort of fashion. While technically they may not be up to modern standards of archival material, technical skill, or composition etc. These artworks are priceless and irreplaceable. The works can be appreciated on many levels and for many aspects.

Royal Stable 72x48 acrylic on canvas.

For a creator of art, the appreciation comes from several areas and levels. I find appreciation for the opportunity of creating a work. It is fulfilling to bring a concept and go through the process and have an end result. Often fulfillment and appreciation come through the process of creation. Appreciation comes from working through handling the difficult parts of the process.

As a creator I can appreciate the medium I am working with. Oil paint can have properties that are interesting and challenging. Acrylic paint can have attributes that are challenging and interesting as well. I know of sculptors that relish chewing on wax to make it malleable to sculpt with. Encaustic painters can swoon in the smell of bees wax. Photorealists can relish in endless hours spent on one inch of a piece. Appreciation of medium can transcend different levels during the creation process.

As one who has spent countless hours drawing, painting, and creating art. I look at artworks differently. I can use what I have learned by creating and apply it to a creation. I can see the skill level, the bravery, the raw honesty, the lack of skill. I can see with and “educated” eye. Does this make my appreciation better than someone who has not spent the time and energy that I have? On the surface you may say no, appreciation is appreciation. However, I would argue that the more knowledge and experience will allow deeper richer appreciation.

Appreciation can become more than merely opinion. With education, research and experience you can gain so much more from art or about anything.

An example of what I mean could be put into someone going to a baseball game. Someone who has played baseball, went to games, knew the strategies, knew the history and stats; would have more to bring to the experience than someone who attended a game for the first time. The more you know the better and richer the experience is.

I remember thinking that Jackson Pollock was just a hack. I saw a few photos of his work in books and thought what a bunch of hyped sloppy gimmick work. I was able to learn about the man and his time. I was able to learn a little bit of where he was coming from to create the works. I was then able to see an original painting of his in person. It completely changed my mind. I found energy, originality, passion, rhythm, expression, and power in his work. After researching a bit, I gained much more appreciation and have been changed by his work. I have had similar experiences with Rothko, de Kooning, Kline, and Picasso to name a few.

I believe that with a little effort a person can find some interesting and amazingly beneficial results in giving art some effort to understand. I know that for a long time I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Norman Rockwell. I thought his paintings reflected a life that was happy and ideal and full of what this world needs. To some extent I still believe that, but I also have opened my mind to new paradigm. I believe that I would benefit more giving artwork a chance before passing a down judgement.

Saying that, I have had a challenge with this recently. I have observed a recent body of work where the artist sloppily painted a poorly drawn figure defecating while another poorly drawn figure ate the defecation. It was created poorly, composed poorly, lacked anything redeemable yet has sold readily for a large sum. I am baffled by this. I then try to add my training and hours spent creating art and try to see anything to appreciate with this body of work. I find nothing to appreciate with the exception of the bravery of the artist themselves. I see them as being courageous in a way. The artists name will forever be associated with this work. Their name, reputation, and voice in this world will be this trash. They will never be able to escape this. I know it will label them forever. So I suppose I appreciate the artist for how they dupe the public and come out with a ton of money. I suppose that is what they were wanting to do anyway, dupe the public with a quick shocking easily created body of work.

So I guess to summarize this a little bit, art appreciation can be found from many points of view. I would suggest that the more you put in the more you get in return. With a little effort you could get and have some amazing experiences with art. Perhaps learn about an artist and their work before experiencing it. Take the time to try to paint, draw, or sculpt. Try to give different work a chance before you just pass it off as no good. However, there is a lot of bad/poor artwork out there. The more education and experience with artwork the better you will be to appreciate it and gain some valuable ideas, energy, and insight.