Art Disease


Open for Business

“Hardening of the categories causes art disease.”

– W. Eugene Smith

A clever play on words… with more than a grain of truth.

How easy and comfortable it is to stay within the confines of the categories we know. How often do you sit down and intentionally attempt to create a new style, a new approach, a new technique? It can be so unrewarding – those first awkward attempts rarely produce the satisfying results we’ve grown accustomed to when we sit down to do our art.

There is a fine line between developing expertise or a defining one’s signature style and falling into the trap of endlessly repeating what we’ve already done. How do you know the difference for yourself?

Lately I’ve been exploring more radical interpretations of images to find the boundaries of what I like. Lots of color, contrast, texture, nothing too literal or well defined. I’ve been looking at the work of a lot of other artists and getting inspired by some of their work.

How do you prevent “art disease” in your life?

7 responses to “Art Disease

  1. Great post, great image! When I get too predictable with work, I become uncomfortable and start pushing things around, mixing things up a bit, sometimes changing medium. Although, I will say that taking a break can help too.

    Looking at edgy artwork online or in famous artists’ books is another way of adding inspiration to push beyond the comfortable.

    I’ve been by quite a bit in the last few months and I’m sorry that I haven’t commented earlier. Your work is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed your thoughtful posts.

    Keep up the good work–you have fans.

  2. I love that photograph and can’t help squinting to enjoy its wonderful abstract design.

    Traps can be deadly and are to be avoided if at all possible. I once knew a successful ceramic sculptor on the outdoor show circuit whose works were so in demand that he kept making them and making them year after year, and the prices went up and up. Then suddenly one year (it seemed to us, his collectors) he changed his style drastically. I understood completely, but still miss his early work. My favorite piece was broken, so I haven’t been able to replace it with anything similar.

    There must be a moral in there somewhere.

  3. A wonderful photo, bob, I especially the yellows and the contrast with the white of the building, it gives much depth.
    I am not sure I have understood the text, especially what is meant with “Art Disease”, so I won’t be able to answer your question.
    I just know that I am going an opposite way to yours, I never or rarely look at art works from other artists (I guess Susan and you are the only ones, and sometimes Danu!!!).
    I think this helps me avoiding “copying” or being too much inspired and losing my spontaneity.
    I also rarely decide to try another style or technique, it always happens naturally. by accident or casualty.
    I also NEVER think about art, I just paint and draw when I feel like it (which is pretty much all the time!).
    Art is not an important part of my conscious brain activity. Most people can’t believe it, but it is the truth. I don’t know if this is good or bad concerning the theme “Art Disease”…

  4. Melinda – Thanks! It’s good to know people are reading the blog. Sometimes you wonder whether you are spouting off into the void…

    Martha – I think you’ve stated well the dilemma of many artists who develop a (commercially) successful style. It can be hard on both the artist and their collectors but sometimes necessary to preserve the artist’s sanity.

    Miki – I guess this is an American expression – “hardening of the arteries can cause heart disease” – Smith played with those words and came up with “(he)art disease”, etc. “Art disease” refers to the experience many of us have where we become stagnant in our art because we stay within familiar “categories”.

    There is always a risk in looking at the work of others and copying it – what I find is that it’s impossible to really copy but rather I incorporate aspects of it into my own style and it becomes something new.

  5. You are speaking precisely to the dilemna I find myself in today, trying to paint a “big” painting after spending a summer sketching. My arteries are not exactly hard, but my brain is overheated from trying to figure out what my strategy really is.

  6. It’s hard not to keep repeating some idea when you feel you haven’t fully explored the concept and/or when people give you a big “thumb’s up” on certain work.

    Martha’s right. Ceramicists have planned obsolescence in their work. I just keep buying and breaking beautiful mugs! How can we figure out how to have our 2-D work be biodegrade so that they need to be replaced! Then we can keep visiting themes we love!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s