Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interesting Blog Link: Art is Hard

Matthew D. Innis has a really interesting discussion about the amount of work one puts into creating good images on his Underpaintings Blog.


It will resonate with anyone who has ever agonized over getting an image right and the days/weeks of struggling that can go into it.

It is easy to look at the finished piece and say "that looks easy to do" when it really, really, really is not at all.

(I suppose you could say that about a concert pianist or ballet dancer as well... It looks so effortless when thousands of hours have been put in to make it appear that way).


  1. This is a fantastic article and I wish it were part of a series that included other aspects of creating art. Thanks so much for posting it here, Christina!

    I totally agree with Innis on the perception the general public have (even those who hire artists) that art is a cake walk for those who have "the gift". I disagree with him somewhat on the degree to which artists perpetuate this myth. Surely, the most respected art annuals: Communication Arts and Spectrum, are weighted heavily toward art that is more than trendy, but shows a great deal of time and craftsmanship.

    On the other hand, on the rare occasions when people see artists at work, it's usually 20-minute on-the-spot caricatures or paintings made with spray cans and stencils. It's very hard to explain the difference between street art (much of it admirable in its own way) and art that solves a very specific problem for a customer.

    Even cartoony work like my own is deceptively simple. I do some kind of visual research on practically everything I draw, even though I'll deviate from the photography a great deal. I also throw away about 10-15 sketches for every one I show to the client.

    The internet has given us a chance to let others in on the process and show what goes into it (see Chris Sickels' wonderful link above, or better yet, check out the Smithsonian video of caricaturist John Kascht at work on Conan O'Brien's portrait.) There are a lot of fascinating videos out there showing Quentin Blake laboring over illustrations that look they were spit out onto a sketchbook in mere seconds. I wish all my clients could see them.

    Unfortunately, the 'net also affords us the temptation to publicly show off our digital exercises and Moleskine creations and announce: "look what I can do in 5 minutes!" (I'm as guilty as anyone)

    As far as I can see, well-crafted representational art is alive and well. Look at the popularity of Mark Ryden and James Jean, or locals Chris Payne, and Jonathan Queen. Also look at the work that usually gets recognition in Manifest's shows and annuals.
    Getting paid for all those hours is the trick.

  2. Even if a drawing can be done quickly, if still reflects thousands of hours of practice just as playing a concerto may take minutes but it requires countless hours of practice. The price on pays is also for the experience the artist has that enables the quality work in a timely manner.