Is art a competition?
Recently I was condemned for having told another artist she was improving. I guess her husband felt I was being too bold, arrogant and condescending. Of course, none were my intention. I simply thought her paintings were getting better than the last ones I saw and that was a kind way to state it. I was told I could never be an artist of her caliber, that she had been in competitions and won awards. But is art even a competition? And what does an award winning artist mean? Van Gogh never won awards, Picasso and Michelangelo never even knew of such contests and would they even have won an award? Did Salvador Dali’s award melt? And what kind of art wins an award at such gatherings? Abstract Expressionism? Pop art? Or classic renaissance? Sadly most contests turn out the same factory driven style. Something that looks like something, usually painted in oil. Kandinsky created nonrepresentational art to look like music, he’s out! Rauschenberg expanded abstract sculpture to expand from the wall! No Good! Warhol took a mirror to society, pop culture and commercial idols, don’t think so! Thomas Kinkade painted the same thing over and over again, houses with the lights on, in oil and it looked like them. We have a winner! But Tim Johnson continued to persist that his wife was a master artist and mine was crap because I had never entered a contest or won an award. In fact, he held such great pride in her oil paintings, it occurred to me that he had never seen one of mine. I haven’t painted in oil in several years because of lack of supplies and studio space. Above is Noel, a painting of a homeless man, I used detail, took time and used all the rules of realistic oil painting. Wow! Some consider it my best, I found the process boring, but I clearly created something that looks like something. The other painting of a heart on a stick is by his wife.
So why are him and his wife so proud of this simple stuff? It comes from the college. Art professor Deborah Davidson prides herself the best art teacher in history teaching a complex oil painting technique involving staining and layering the colors after tracing the image on to a canvas. It is an impressive process. I never took Deborah’s class because I didn’t get along with her. She was judgmental, critical, sarcastic and basically just not my type. I learned the same technique from another teacher Erin Scott who was troubled, missed a lot of class and just a whole lot more fun. But the stark difference was that unlike Erin Scott, that one oil painting technique was the only thing Deborah taught. Letting them think that they would become master artists while only being one trick ponies. I work in many styles, many mediums, oil, pastel, watercolor, ink wash, digital and even music and literature. My art is constantly learning changing and growing. For every series I use a different style and technique. This makes me an evolving artist and not doing just only one deal. I can make a photorealistic oil painting or a complete abstraction in watercolor so musical and emotional everyone understands it. I illustrate books of poetry that I write and have edited and compose music designing the packaging and flooding the cd with my art. Nancy can paint something that looks like something with Deborah’s only style and insult me for it. Why am I making this point? If art were a true competition, wouldn’t there be a lot of events like the olympics? Not just one event like her’s and consider yourself the world’s greatest athlete because she can do the triple jump. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to competiting assuming art is something you can compete in. I just don’t like the way they are held and run. A fair or other public competition almost always picks the same oil painting of something that looks like sometime but says absolutely nothing and is well done because that is all the jurors can comprehend to be art in their shallow minds. Galleries hold juried competitions of multiple styles but tend to favor only artists within their own group. However what I am truly opposed to is a teacher who sends her students through two years of art school and teaches them only one thing.