“Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.”
– G.K. Chesterton
I loved this quote when I found it – I’m always up for a good pun.
But, in truth, there is a lot to ponder about in this statement for the artist. It all boils down to how you interpret the word “somewhere”.
Does it imply the non-specific, random “somewhere”, as in “put it somewhere, anywhere for God’s sake!”? When you are 2 years old this is what happens – paintings are a series of random marks. Sometimes, when faced with a blank canvas, putting some random mark “somewhere” can be a good way to get started. It gives you something to work off of.
Or does it mean a more specific placement of the mark in the painting? Once a piece is well under way, we often reach a stage where the painting needs something to progress and we study and study it, looking for the exact “somewhere” that will work. It’s often not easy to decide.
Often with non-representational work it seems that the artist has reverted back to their 2 year old definition of “somewhere”. How often have you overheard the remark “my 2 year old niece could have painted that!”? But I suspect that more often than not, that painter was operating under the second definition, and those seemingly random “somewheres” were actually much more akin to the specific, intentional “somewheres” described above.
I’ve heard that those who observed Jackson Pollack doing his “gestural paintings” (the recipient of many comparisons to 2 year old painters) were struck by how deliberate and considered his application of the paint actually was. I know from my own experience that if I try to do a whole painting “randomly” I get a big mess. Even the most abstract, non-representational pieces need to have some design and intention behind them in order to work.
I guess it’s all in knowing “where to draw the line”…