T Nation

The Artistic Side of Life

This past weekend I was in Chicago for a friend’s wedding and had the opportunity to spend a rainy afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago. The above is one of the pieces I particularly liked (“Harvest Talk” by Charles Wilbert White).

What I noticed is that the more time I spend in art museums, the more I really enjoy them. I’ve never been someone well-schooled in the arts, with music being my primary area of artistic focus (whether from a listening perspective or even performing from a while back). However, I am realizing it is an area I want to explore a great deal more.

So who here has some good ideas on how to approach my own little personal art education voyage? Are there any good books on art appreciation or art history you can recommend?

I do realize a big piece of this process is just going to the museums and checking this stuff out, so that I will definitely be doing. However, I am looking to round out my own understanding of art, it’s history, the meaning behind certain pieces (whether painting, sculpture, pastels, etc.)

Someone here must have a clue on this when not laboring under the iron in their free time.

Beautiful drawing. I am an artist and share many of the same interest in art history, etc. as you. I have found many great art history books in use bookstores, flea markets, etc. You can also go to the big bookstores, i.e.: Barnes & Noble, etal, and read all day for free. You can google any artist and read biographies all day long as well. If you are interested in persuing drawing as a hobby, I strongly recommned Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

I wouldn’t get into the appreciation books, because they remind me of when people drink wine, and start rambling off at the mouth hoping they sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Instead, try reading about what you have above, or even about the artist. Usually you will find artist learn from other artist, so then you can move on and start to learn about another piece or artist.

I’ve always liked the initial impact of an art peice. How I feel at the moment I see it.

Everything else behind it is interesting, but doesn’t appeal to me like that first look.

[quote]SouthernGypsy wrote:
I wouldn’t get into the appreciation books, because they remind me of when people drink wine, and start rambling off at the mouth hoping they sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Instead, try reading about what you have above, or even about the artist. Usually you will find artist learn from other artist, so then you can move on and start to learn about another piece or artist.[/quote]

Interesting re: the appreciation books and I want to avoid sounding like a wine geek like I avoid old sushi. Good tip and thank you!

[quote]Geminspector wrote:
Beautiful drawing. I am an artist and share many of the same interest in art history, etc. as you. I have found many great art history books in use bookstores, flea markets, etc. You can also go to the big bookstores, i.e.: Barnes & Noble, etal, and read all day for free. You can google any artist and read biographies all day long as well. If you are interested in persuing drawing as a hobby, I strongly recommned Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. [/quote]

I saw that book on Amazon and was curious to see what it was about. Thank you for the recommendation - I will look into it. I do plan on taking a bit of this up as a hobby.

Kuz

As an artist myself, my advice to you is to NOT try to rationalize, analyze, or categorize art and you impressions of it. Art is so subjective and it’s odd that so much has been written of it under certain biases. Ironically, most of has been from the point of view of critics and scholars, not the artists themselves.

The experience of viewing art is, and should be a personal thing. A non-artist friend of mine visits NY galleries every year. I was surprised at this because he hardly seemed the type. When I asked him why, his reply was, “I don’t know. I just like the way it makes me feel”. BINGO! He got it right.

Good on you for being open to art. Keep looking at original art, and collect art books with good color plates that interest you.

IMO it’s the best art instruction book written. I would also recommend taking a class or finding a workshop.

I second the suggestion for “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”.

I am your typical “can’t even draw a stick figure” person, until I bought that book. I have always been an artist in other fields, but drawing was an area that was so foreign to me, I thought it would be impossible for me to ever put pencil to paper and create. Boy was I wrong. I read the book without doing any of the exercises and one simple explanation of drawing , basically one line, stood out to me and made it all click. Don’t draw the object, draw what you see. Don’t try and draw a nose, draw what you see, dark here, light there, whatever. The book is a gem, but that one notion was all it took. Now you can’t part me from my charcoals and pastels, pens and pencils. I enjoy doing portraits, probably an influence leftover from the book and I am by no means creating masterpieces, but I am drawing and expressing my art through this medium.

So long story short, buy that book and start enjoying your art through drawing.

Good advice all on this. I am going to try and find a very solid art history book as well to soak up some of the background and context for the pieces, movements, periods, etc.

And I very much agree with Iron Dwarf - it needs to be subjective and personal more than anything else.

Here is part of what got me thinking on doing the reading/learning piece. One of the pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago is a rectangular panel about 8 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 1 foot deep. It is painted with a reddish-orange lacquer-looking paint and propped up against the wall… and that’s all it is. A big board painted orange.

So I sat there looking at it and I had my typical reaction to some of the more modern or abstract pieces of art… “Huh… even I could do THAT.” It got me wondering: Within the modern/abstract art movement, is it less about the skill it requires to create the piece and more about the intent of the artist or perhaps even the reaction of the viewer to the piece?

I guess I have a bias (likely shared by many) that if it does not even look like the piece took all that much true skill or talent to put together, what kind of art is it really? But instead of dismissing it out of hand, I thought about it a little more and wondered what separated this piece enough for it to earn a place in this notable museum versus my doing the same thing with a panel and painting it robin’s egg blue?

That’s why I want to learn more about the history and context.

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:
Kuz

As an artist myself, my advice to you is to NOT try to rationalize, analyze, or categorize art and you impressions of it. Art is so subjective and it’s odd that so much has been written of it under certain biases. Ironically, most of has been from the point of view of critics and scholars, not the artists themselves.

The experience of viewing art is, and should be a personal thing. A non-artist friend of mine visits NY galleries every year. I was surprised at this because he hardly seemed the type. When I asked him why, his reply was, “I don’t know. I just like the way it makes me feel”. BINGO! He got it right.

Good on you for being open to art. Keep looking at original art, and collect art books with good color plates that interest you.

[/quote]

Great post. You summed it up nicely. When I took up photography, some people admired what I would shoot, while others were puzzled by it. To each his/her own I guess. The journey itself is a very rewarding part it.

[quote]Kuz wrote:

That’s why I want to learn more about the history and context.
[/quote]

There’s plenty to look at right in your own backyard. Drive down to New Haven and park on Chapel Street. For a small donation, you can wander into the Yale Art Gallery and spend a rainy afternoon immersed in the culture.

http://artgallery.yale.edu/

Go across the street to the Yale Center for British Art.

http://ycba.yale.edu/index.asp

Paintings, sculpture, artifacts, ancient and modern.

You like what you like. Art is subjective, no matter the artist’s intent. If it’s pleasing to your eye and evokes some emotion, then that’s art to you.

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:
Kuz

As an artist myself, my advice to you is to NOT try to rationalize, analyze, or categorize art and you impressions of it. Art is so subjective and it’s odd that so much has been written of it under certain biases. Ironically, most of has been from the point of view of critics and scholars, not the artists themselves.

The experience of viewing art is, and should be a personal thing. A non-artist friend of mine visits NY galleries every year. I was surprised at this because he hardly seemed the type. When I asked him why, his reply was, “I don’t know. I just like the way it makes me feel”. BINGO! He got it right.

Good on you for being open to art. Keep looking at original art, and collect art books with good color plates that interest you.

[/quote]

Great advice. I had an exGF who was an art therapist, and she was always trying to figure out what hidden meanings, or some other nonsense was going on in my work. It was so infuriating, because sometimes, you just do your thing, and it makes you happy. SOmetimes you just like a painting, you don’t wonder why, you just do… and damnit, that’s all the answer anyone should require.

S

[quote]Yo Momma wrote:
Kuz wrote:

That’s why I want to learn more about the history and context.

There’s plenty to look at right in your own backyard. Drive down to New Haven and park on Chapel Street. For a small donation, you can wander into the Yale Art Gallery and spend a rainy afternoon immersed in the culture.

http://artgallery.yale.edu/

Go across the street to the Yale Center for British Art.

http://ycba.yale.edu/index.asp

Paintings, sculpture, artifacts, ancient and modern.

You like what you like. Art is subjective, no matter the artist’s intent. If it’s pleasing to your eye and evokes some emotion, then that’s art to you.

[/quote]

Oh believe me, I plan on making my way down to Yale for sure. There is actually two very impressive museums up near Hartford (The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and the Hillstead Museum in Farmington - big fan of the latter because of all the Impressionist works there).

Art can be anything. I wish the concept of art having to be a painting with some meaning you should get hasn’t been drilled into our brains.