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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

What makes great art?

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I hold to the naïve notion that art is about talent. It’s essentially an innate, physical skill for creating things.

Whether you paint, draw, sculpt or whatever, the measure  of your artfulness rests largely on how gifted you are at using the instrument in your hand.

If you possess a substantial creative vision as well, then the  combination of this and your physical talents can result in  good art.

Talent without vision is like a beautiful, but hollow rendering. Likewise, having something of substance to say, yet lacking  the skill to manifest your message is like a beautiful idea  poorly executed.

Good art is a balance of the two.

Achieving this balance (even if you possess both halves) is extremely difficult, for often  artists are so immersed in their  passion that actually ‘seeing’ their efforts in an unbiased fashion  is hard.

Being close to your art makes impartiality impossible, so the feedback of others is essential if you wish to communicate more effectively.

What you ‘think’ you say and what others see or understand can be two different things!   Which techniques work best? What to show and how? What subjects convey my message successfully?   These are questions that can be answered by honest, unfettered feedback, because informed appraisal can help artists to better  apply their skills.

This is what the Northern Rivers art community sorely needs.

An art writer who is not an artist themselves, but who has both knowledge and curatorial experience that can help local artists to reflect upon their efforts.

R J Poole, Lismore

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  1. Ok, R J,
    I will jump into the pool and swim with you in the arty coloured waters as for to me Art is of the mind.
    It is not about carrying the ball like Beetson.
    If you don’t mind I will illustrate with mine.
    There is a story about Leonardo Di Vinci, early in his career and he was in a class of painters having tuition by an old Italian master. The master explained what he wanted and then he said: “Paint!”
    Leonardo just sat there.
    Time passed and he just sat there, and the old master said “But Leonardo, you are not painting.”
    He turned and said “I am painting!”
    He then took up his brushes and painted the best of the class.
    What he was doing was planning, and selecting what he was to do in his mind. Once he had the plan in his mind in how the painting was to be, then putting that art on paper was easy for him. There must be a Plan, a blueprint to proceed forward as that then produces the best outcome.

  2. Dear Len

    I agree, although I’m not familiar with the story. Very little is known about Leonardo’s time under Andrea del Verrocchio, so perhaps the story is one of those cultural myths. In either case, good art relies on having a message whether that message is thought out in advance, or is a spontaneous product of emotion.

    I don’t believe we all necessarily arrive at the same outcome via the same road. What matters most in my mind, is that there is substance present – both in the form of a message or insight and in the execution of a work.

    I’ve seen many examples over the years of a really good idea that was atrociously performed because the person responsible simply couldn’t painting!


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