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Archive for the ‘Art Technique’ Category

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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Following up from my post last week in which I raised the question whether the artist needs to actually do the work to create his work of art in order to call it his own, I posted the question in this thread on WetCanvas. I got several answers there which helped me understand the question and its answer(s) a bit better.

I asked the question “When is it legitimate for an artist to get a craftsman to do the work for him and when must he do the work himself?” Some suggested answers are:

  • A work of art that the artist can specify to another craftsman exactly what to do, can be created by that other craftsman who is then just the executer of the artists work.
  • That would rule out most painting because you can’t specify every brushstroke, but it would include most sculpture, architecture and print-making.
  • It is generally accepted today that anything I choose to call art is art – which is a very post-modern concept. Therefore automated, random or mechanised art production would not be considered to denigrate the artistic status of the work if I were to call it such. That’s unless you think post-modernism is c**p.

The idea of the specificability rule was an interesting insight.

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I saw this article this morning in the Artist’s Magazine blog about Damien Hirst’s infamous diamond studded skull. Personally, I find most of Damien Hirst’s work of dubious merit and this piece in particular to be rather hideous. However there are two very interesting articles linked here. The first is an article describing the fabrication process of skull. What transpires is that Hirst didn’t really physically create the piece himself, rather he designed the piece and the actual work was carried out by London jewelers Bentley and Skinner.

The question that arises is when does art have to be created by the artist himself in order for it to be his work and when can the work be done by another craftsman under his direction?

In this case Hirst didn’t have the necessary skills to create the piece so he got a jeweler to do it. In another, maybe a sculptor will get a skilled metalworker to operate heavy machinery for him to cut, bend and weld large pieces of steel. These seem somehow legitimate because the art is in the design, not the craftsmanship.

However what of another artist who produces a sketch and gets a craftsman to create a painting on his behalf? This doesn’t sound legitimate. The question is why. Why is this different and where is the border between the legitimate and the illegitimate? Is there a some essential difference between different art media?

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I use a lot of titanium white paint. Loads of it. I tend to mix a lot of it into mixtures and I also apply pure white highlights.

Most of my paints are Talens Rembrandt which come in convenient 40ml tubes. However I buy my titanium white in big 150ml or even 175ml tubes (I also have zinc white in a regular 40ml tube). Generally the paints that come in these big tubes are lower grade, but I have found the Hönig “professional” range of paints available here in Israel or Pébéo “studio” range to be very good. Basically, depending on which shop I can get to, I buy the best large tube I can get.

I recently bought a tube of Talens Amsterdam titanium white (comes in big tubes and I thought that being from a good company, it would be OK even if they call it a student grade paint). I was rather disappointed. It lived up to everything I have read about lower grade paints. My main problem with it is that it is too transparent. When I mix it into other colors I end up using loads of paint and if I want to add a pure highlight I have to put on several layers just top see the white.

Anyway, now I see why everyone says not to use student grade paints. Yesterday I went out and bought another tube of Hönig white. Use artist grade paints!

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I saw this interesting article about algorithms for touching up photographs based on images available in a large collection written up in a BBC article. The idea is to analyze the photo, find a matching bit from another one and then paste them together seemlessly.

Looks like some cool technology. I can’t wait to get this in Picasa but heh, I can already do this when I’m painting….

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