Bitterness in Creativity

Can a child make art?

Do artistic standards make you bitter?

Why is it that we can get so angry when we don’t like a work of art or a book? What are your standards for a good picture or a good book? How do you know that something is good? What does the work have to do for you?

3 thoughts on “Bitterness in Creativity

  1. [Very curious to see what both you and Rowena say about these two questions!]

    When I read your 1st question, before I watched the video, I thought Hmm, wasn’t there a recent documentary about a little girl whose parents [etc.]…? So I’m glad you picked that video. 🙂

    To answer the question, though: yeah, I think a child can create art. The difference is, the child does it almost by accident — intuitively, without thinking through various decisions en route to the finished product. There’s no intention to create “art”. If you think of all the characteristics that might make up a work of art… uh… just free-associating here, but say the list included something like color, symmetry and balance, rhythm, surprise, whatever — any or all of those things can be accomplished by anyone who’s not an artist, child or not. But an artist employs them repeatedly, taking them apart and reassembling them in sort-of and sort-of-not familiar ways. It always changes, sure. But it’s always by intent.

    As for the 2nd question… A few months back, Nathan Bransford asked for people to name the great books they hadn’t been able to finish — something like that. I was very surprised how nasty some of the commentary got. Not the real criticisms (too long, too complicated/complex, too many characters, not enough action, and so on), but the personal commentary (I wish Author X would die, If I ever see Author X I will spit in his face, and so on — not exact quotes, but some of it was pretty much in that vein).

    When NB mentioned that he too was surprised by this, there was a lot of noise made about how it demonstrates that art is important to us, that we establish a personal connection to it and take it seriously, that we’re passionate, so on and so forth. Personally I wasn’t convinced. I just thought the personal-commentary critics were trying too hard to justify their trying too hard to be clever and/or convince others how passionate they were. (Passion alone does not a good critic make.)

    Plus, as The Southern-belle Missus always tells me, there’s just no excuse for bad manners.

    Which of course completely ducks all the important questions you ended this post with, but this is already too long a comment. Plus, I’m just so passionate about this issue. (Ha!)

  2. JES, the main thing that drove me crazy in all the hoopla about Marla was that so many of the experts never actually said whether they liked the art. I mean, forget who made any work of art–aren’t we supposed to like what you hang on your wall more than care about the name behind it? But what do I know?

    And then there are those people who act as if creating a work of art they don’t like is right up there with murder and other deadly sins. Yeah, passion alone doesn’t make a good critic. I’m all for saving the passion for the ones you love..

  3. Among the things that drive The Missus and me crazy when we catch “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS is how much the value of a painting rises or falls based on nothing more than knowing who the artist was. The appraisers are always saying things like, “Now, this is an absolutely stunning work — look at the way the light floods the scene! and the looks on the subjects’ faces!” and so on. You can see the light flooding the faces of whoever brought the painting in, because it all sounds absolutely wonderful. Then the appraiser drops the “but”: “It’s so much in the style of Famous Artist, and all the other signs are there, that I hope you can confirm it is indeed by Famous Artist. If so, I’d put the value at a half-million dollars. If not, well, you have a lovely painting to hang on your wall.”

    It’s like, huh? Sort of a creativity-industry version of wanting only name-brand-logo’d clothing. “Well, of course this shirt’s more expensive than the pretty much identical one over there — this one is by Tommy Hilfiger!”

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