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Moni3

Artist | Traditional Art
United States
* I'm self-taught,
* I work in oil paints, pen & ink, and pencils,
* I was active on Wikipedia for more than 6 years. You can see what I wrote, listed here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mon…
* I'm working on an enormous video project discussing the trends in 20th century popular music by featuring music from each artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check it out: www.youtube.com/channel/UCzPub…

I did an interview (here: traditionalists.deviantart.com… ) with a group here on dA that concentrates on traditional art--aptly called Traditionalists. Somehow this makes me a Traditionalist. Microwaves: how do they work?

I'm taking commissions. Here's some info about that: fav.me/d6sxduh
Please contact me if you're interested. (psmor at earthlink dot net)

If you like what you see and you enjoy discussions about creating art, follow and join in:
Interests

Moni's Guide to Art Appreciation

Journal Entry: Wed Aug 6, 2014, 4:53 PM


Since the early 20th century, when painting began to stretch the boundaries of what we consider artful, or even art itself, the language we use to describe art, and therefore the way we think about art, has become so muddled that it is not uncommon to read commentary about art and feel that you need an art degree, yet not the technical skill associated with art, to understand why a particular work of art has value. Authorities on art: museums, critics, writers, and artists themselves often speak about art in such jargon that it begins to lack any practical meaning. I consider myself relatively well-educated and very interested in art, but reading critical theory about art often feels like a perplexing joke.

So this is a way for you, as an individual, to take back your art so to speak. Legitimize why you like what you like. Put to words what appeals to you, and maybe stretch your boundaries a bit. I tend to favor traditional arts because I am a painter, but consider this guide applicable to any and all visual arts. 

Moni's first rule of art appreciation: Don't listen to anyone else tell you what you're supposed to like. Just don't. Art appreciation is subjective. Because of that, you really need no other authority than your own reactions to what you're viewing. Instead, I've broken down reactions to art into six major categories. Sometimes I prefer to apply rating scales, mostly for decisions that are difficult for me to make, but usually end up being more about what I would like to have for dinner. For this introduction, try using a standard rating scale between 1 and 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. After my explanation, I'll take a look at a classic piece of art and show you what I mean.


Beauty: Steadfastly, I'm going to assign this as the most important because I think it's the most important. Notice the theme. This is my subjective scale: what makes the most sense to me. Obviously not every artist is going to consider beauty to be the most important factor in appreciating a work of art, but I certainly do. Do you consider a particular work beautiful? This might be a bit of a journey for you if you cannot answer because you simply don't know what beautiful means to you. You might have to figure this out for yourself. Remember though, don't let someone else define beautiful for you. Imagine stepping into a room or turning a page and being overcome, almost to the point of tears or your knees buckling, upon viewing an image. Your reaction may be physical like this or more intellectual, as joy washes over you when you see something you have never considered before.  

Rate a work of art between 1 and 10. 

Here's Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)", which recently sold at auction for $105 million. I would give a 1 on my beauty scale. I do not find it beautiful. It creates no physical response in me. 

In contrast, here's Salvador Dali's "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus", which I have seen in person, and in fact I did actually turn a corner and feel my knees buckle and my throat close up upon seeing. I've been to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida a few times and this painting affects me this way every single time. I would score this at a 10.

Challenge: The rest of these factors vary in importance and have no significance in how they are listed. Some of them are more important than others according to different people. So let's take a look at what each means and the constant jostling of which factors are more important may keep you as interested in art as it does me. 

Does a piece of art challenge or provoke you? Does it puzzle, frustrate, repel, or confuse you to the point that you cannot stop trying to figure it out? Standards of beauty change from one culture to another, and are different from one era to the next. What Renaissance artists found beautiful is not necessarily what you might find beautiful, but more importantly, what Renaissance artists found shocking or frustrating may be vastly different from what you do. Using a more modern example, art installations challenge our perceptions of reality and sometimes sociological functioning. I'm going to stick mostly with visual art for my examples:

Here's one of Frida Kahlo's many self portraits. Kahlo accentuated her heavy eyebrows, facial hair, and darker complexion to challenge standards of beauty in women. She was drawn to indigenous Mexican cultures and tended to favor their modes of dress and style when popular culture in Mexico and elsewhere favored lighter skin and hair, and delicate features. I would score this particular Kahlo portrait a 7 out of 10, because I am as influenced by common standards of physical beauty as most other people and my immediate reaction is to consider Kahlo ugly and wonder why she would accentuate what most women try to cover or remove. Kahlo forces me to reconsider my own standards of beauty, and I respect her work for that.

In contrast, a work of art that sets a standard of beauty, like Michelangelo's David sculpture, captured male beauty quite well and continues to be used as a standard. I would score David a 2 out of 10 for being challenging.

I would reserve a 10 out of 10 for a work of jaw-dropping frustration that provokes the viewer (i.e., me) to sputter, "Is this actually art?" For example, a woman who displayed five years of used sanitary napkins, and for obvious reasons, I have no explanation for that. 

Design: Twentieth century painting made this factor of appreciation necessary, particularly for works that lost all form. Someone, somewhere, and probably a lot of someones, have created the ideal that art should be created for its own sake. Maybe it's my middle class background interfering here, but there's very little practical execution and purpose for art for its own sake. Artists don't eat ideals, nor use them for shelter. Artists need to make a living, so many works of art are tailored for practical use. Can you actually put a particular work of art in a room? Does / can it match the furniture or is it so impractical that you cannot display it? Are you comfortable showing it to your in-laws, your boss, or someone of importance who comes over for dinner?  

I'm developing this assessment method, this guide to art appreciation for myself too, you know. Twentieth century painting went through a baffling period where form was tossed out the window in favor of ... something else. Because photography was reaching a lot of people at once with personal cameras, typical easel painting like portraits and landscapes were replaced by paintings of nothingness. The splatters of Jackson Pollock, the canvases of Mark Rothko dominated by a single color, or a minimalist shape on a background of a contrasting color, as Barnett Newman did; these paintings go great with the furniture. So do the mass produced prints of sailboats, ducks, and pastel flower vases you might find in doctor's office waiting areas, offices common areas, and hotel rooms. They are admirably practical and for the most part, visually inoffensive. They go with just about everything. 

A work of art you would keep in your bedroom only, or you would display for its shock value alone because that's the way you roll, would receive a low score for design. 

Emotional impact: In sharp contrast to a work of art that scores high in design may score very low for emotional impact. It is not necessarily so, but more often than not, something that elicits a strong reaction from the audience may turn out to be a centerpiece in a room, the source of discussion and maybe argument. 

The dividing line between beautiful and emotionally powerful is difficult to locate, but something can be beautiful without being too emotionally powerful, and vice versa. That may be another journey for you, testing where that line is for yourself. 

Here's Picasso's "Guernica", named for the city in Spain that was bombed by Nazi forces during World War II. Picasso captures the chaos and violence ruthlessly in this piece, yet it is not a beautiful painting. It wasn't really meant to be. It is a striking work of art that I would rate at 8 out of 10 for emotional impact. Artemisia Gentileschi's "Judith Slaying Holofernes" gets a 10 out of 10 because it is so powerful my brain just shuts down and all I can hear in my head is swearing.

Art that scores low here is simply a work that doesn't affect you. Everyone has his or her own defining line. 

Identity: This factor has been completely overlooked by art authorities, which is a shame. Before the mid-19th century, there wasn't much of a middle class anywhere in the world, so art was made for and purchased by people who had the most money. But the 20th century brought a lot of changes, especially in economics and class. Suddenly, art became available to a large middle class. It became popular, meaning audiences quickly became very large, and artists could mass produce for those audiences. 

With that growth of mass audience were pockets of people who identified with a particular group. Maybe race, class, location, occupation, or gender are important to you, the viewer. Let's go farther. The logo of your favorite sports team would score very high on identity because you are a fan of that team. A photograph of your favorite musician. A rendering of a scene from another medium, like television, film, comic books: fan art. Something about a piece of work makes you identify strongly with it. Landscapes may be beautiful, but they often mean more to the people who live near where the landscape is set. Where a landscape fosters affection and belonging for someone who grew up in that region, it may do nothing for someone else. 

I paint in a room without any art on the walls, except for one piece. Most of that is practical: anything covering the walls will change the light in the room. The only piece of art hanging on my studio wall is the film poster for Mulholland Drive, a film by David Lynch, because I really like that film to an alarming degree. Only you know what you identify with, and only you know if your identity is important enough to express through the art on your walls. 

Skill: The placement of this factor at the end reminds me to reiterate that aside from beauty, there really is no order to the importance of these qualifications. I appreciate technical skill, but that is possibly because I am an artist and I know how difficult it is to render figures accurately. Skill has lost a lot of weight with twentieth century painting, in the aforementioned splatters, single colors, and minimalist shapes. It's a shame really. We tend to approach art as a puzzle, something to figure out. The first, most obvious answer can't be the real one, can it? Well, yes. Simple paintings are often very skillfully done. Sometimes deceptively so. This may be the most obvious factor to score. Do the figures in the work make you believe they exist or they could? Are the shadows logical to where the light is? Is perspective logical? This may seem to favor realism, but it's not necessarily meant to. It can apply to fantasy, science fiction, surrealism, and impressionistic images. 

But for example, hyperrealism is a growing style of painting that exhibits an extraordinary amount of skill, but may not be accompanied by any message and absolutely no challenge. The skill involved is the art itself. The artist is showing off, sure, but who really cares when the details are mind blowing and so enormously impressive?

Figures that are uncanny, or that you can tell are slightly off or really off even though the artist was attempting accuracy, would be scored lower. I would also consider works of art where you cannot tell what level of skill was needed to complete the piece to be scored low: paintings done by animals, children, and artists with the same effect.


When I judge art for my own tastes, I tend to place importance on these six factors in this order, with this emphasis:

Beauty

Skill

Emotional impact

Challenge


Design
Identity

In other words, design and identity are not really important factors for me, but they are very important for other artists and art appreciators. Beauty is the most important, as I have said. Skill and emotional impact have about the same weight, but I tend to appreciate skill a bit more. I enjoy being challenged a bit, but not to the point that it just makes me angry that used sanitary napkins are considered art. 

How would you place these six factors in order of importance for you? Which have the most emphasis, and which the least?

So here, as I said I would do, I'll assess a work of art known to everyone: the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It's no stretch to consider it the most famous and perhaps the most beautiful painting, or at least the one most people think of when they think of fine art. (Also, I can use it here because it's in the public domain and I won't get in trouble.) Once more, don't let anyone tell you what to appreciate. Figure it out for yourself.

Mona Lisa by Moni3

 How would I score this work of art?

Beauty: 8/10 with very little explanation necessary. Unless you require one, then by all means tell me and say why.
Challenge: Aside from the abiding question of what is she smiling about and why am I not in on the joke? this painting's own fame cancels any challenge in my lifetime. It may have been challenging for viewers when it was first revealed, but because it is so common a standard for fine art, it is no longer challenging. 2/10
Design: Does it go in a room? Absolutely. 9/10
Emotional impact: Again, this painting's own fame lessens its emotional impact for me. 1/10
Identity: I don't really identify with the woman or the landscape behind her. 1/10
Skill: Well, it's da Vinci and I can't reproduce this which frustrates me, so 10/10
 
Here's another one, a bit less well known: William Adolphe Bougereau's Dante and Virgil in Hell:
640px-William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Dan by Moni3
Beauty: 7/10 for those beautifully lit figures and the musculature, even with the weird demon flying thing what even is that?
Challenge: Because it equates violence, strength, and struggle with beauty 7/10
Design: Can you imagine having this on the wall when your in-laws come over? That's pretty funny. They might like it. 3/10
Emotional impact: It makes me a drooling idiot and sparks some kind of primordial fear, so 8/10.
Identity: I can thankfully say I identify with this only when I am overwhelmed with struggle, but when I do this seems to be the first image that comes to my mind. 5/10
Skill: Unfathomable. 10/10

Copyright law keeps me from including other works that are more recent, regrettably, otherwise I would include works by Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell.


These factors may grow and change throughout your life. What you find you appreciate now you might not in the future. Or, if you're older, you may remember being drawn to a work of art for a particular reason that no longer means as much to you. This is why art is so interesting. It reveals more about us as individuals than it decorates our walls and lives.


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:iconjenfruzz:
JenFruzz Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for the fav! :highfive:
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2014   Traditional Artist
No problem!
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MYPeanutGallery Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014
Simple Sun by uguardian
Welcome to BrightandCheerful!
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thanks!
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:iconliy24:
Liy24 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014
I love the star trek art!
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thank you!
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TrueQue Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks for watching!
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he-was-a-free-goat Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014
you have a lot of talent :)
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thank you.
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:iconjenfruzz:
JenFruzz Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
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