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What is good art and can seeing it help you paint original, new art?

October 22, 2013

Dorothy Gauvin artist,author

Like everyone else, as you begin your life as an artist, you 'don't know much about Art but you know what you like.' Sure, the old sayings get that way because they hold a truth.

So, it follows: the more art you see, the better you'll know what kind of art you like. More important is to discover the kind of art you don't want like. It helps you define yourself as an artist and from there you'll start making distinctive, original art of your own...

“We stand on the shoulders of giants.” When Sir Isaac Newton, the famed English physicist, wrote these words, he was quoting an idea that can be traced back through medieval France, to ancient Greece. Yet these words apply just as well to artists of every kind, in the modern world. By looking at the art produced by Masters from previous eras, we learn to differentiate between art that moves us and that which doesn't.

  • Whether it is 'good' art or not is a question of personal taste and therefore irrelevant. What matters is only that you learn the kind of art you want to make.

1.Find your own 'voice.'
This is the first thing you need to discover, because in recognising your own taste, you begin to feel confident in using your own 'voice' in your artwork. Amid the multitude of artwork being produced, the only reason the world needs yours is that 'voice' you - and only you - possess.

  • As a first step, sorting the styles and genres of art helps you to 'label' your own preference. You can easily and quickly learn the categories by scrolling through some of the countless online galleries and reading their directory listings.
  • If  'fussy detail' gives you the horrors, you're not going to be painting still-life or interiors in a photo-realist manner. On the other hand, if vast swathes of flat colour bereft of any figurative reference just bore you silly, you won't become a painter of abstracts in the colour-field style.

2. Narrow the choice by facing your physical limitations.
If you throw up when dogs smear drool on your clothes and cats make you sneeze, you're not fitted for the life of an animal portraitist.

  • Something similar can be said of human subjects if you happen to have an allergy to social contact. ( Just kidding, misanthropes are people too.) Landscape is out for those who don't like open spaces and dealing with weather changes. Seascapes aren't suited to those with inner ear problems. So where does this leave you?

By the time you've exhausted the resources available online, ambled through the public and private galleries within striking distance, you'll know what you like to look at. That knowledge gives you a good handle on how and what you want to paint.

Caution: looking at other artists' work won't get yours done.

3.Get to work in your own studio.

Remember, every hour you spend in front of someone else's art is an hour you've lost making your own. Unless you inherited wealth, you've only a few hours outside of your 'day job' for painting. You need to make those hours count. May you achieve success by whatever standard means the most to you.©Dorothy Gauvin

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