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Archive for March 6th, 2008

A while back, I wrote a post discussing where boundaries are between original artwork and getting someone else to do it for you. I was concerned about who does the craftsmanship in creating the piece of art and how this affects being able to say who the artist is. The piece in question was Damien Hirst’s hideous jewel encrusted skull that was crafted by a jeweller and not by himself.

After thinking this all over and putting the question to the forum in WetCanvas, I came to the conclusion that if your art is something that can be specified down to the last detail, then it doesn’t matter who did it. However if (as in painting) you can’t specify every brushstroke and the way it will look when laid on, then the artist needs to do the work himself. I just read a new and related discussion on Maggie Stiefvater’s blog today. She was writing about new regulations by the Colored Pencil Society that say that if you ever posted your work as a WIP on an Internet forum and people commented, then you can’t submit the work to one of their exhibitions, because it is no longer your own original work.

Maggie’s word to describe this was “bollocks”. I agree. This is a totally ridiculous stipulation. As she rightly points out, no artist works in a vacuum and will always get opinion from other artists or just plain wellwishers during the creative process. Personally, I ask my children and wife for their opinions. Sometimes I veto their suggestions, but they do give valuable feedback. Does this make my work any less my own? As we have already said – “b******ks”.

There are of course boundaries here as well. As we have already established, work cannot be called the artist’s unless either he did it or he specified it to the last detail and somebody else actually did it.

My concern their was around the craftsmanship of the work; this argument is about its spirit.

I would argue that if the work was specified and dictated by another then it is not the artists’s work – otherwise it is the artists’s interpretation of whatever it may be and therefore it is his work. This is really the same as our previous case: if somebody else can specify the work and you just fabricated it according to his specification then it is not your work but his. Otherwise it is both your interpretation and your craftsmanship and therefore yours.

What do you think?

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