Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I hear so many people say, "It's all about the process", "The process matters most.", "To understand the artist's work you must understand their process." - REALLY?  I like to watch other artists at work.  I watch a lot of Youtube videos that show artists demonstrating thier painting process.  But, these usually only demonstrate the actual act of painting - usually nothing at all to do with the preliminary thinking processes and preparation.  Process includes a miriad of tangible and intangible elements that lead the individual artist to a resulting artwork.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the "process" is only important to the artist.  What might be more important to the observer is how the artwork communicates the artist's intention.  But, even at that, the artwork may not necessarily be, and often isn't, the artist's true intention, in which case it may be completely acceptable to just enjoy looking at it.  Whatever the case, there is likely something of the artist's psyche present in the artwork that simply can't be easily defined or understood.

To have a more insightful understanding of an artist's work, I like to know something about the artist's motivation.  That is, what life experiences might have moved them toward a certain result.  For instance, knowing something of Picasso's female muses, Van Gogh's intimacy with the natural world and his reverence toward the toil of his peasant subjects, or even knowing something of how Pollock came to use his unique painting techniques and his psychological state of mind.  It's all a matter of respect for artistic integrity.  Work ethic may have the most to do with the success or failure of the outcome.  An old artist, whose name elludes me, once said something to the effect, "a painter's artistic success may be measured in yards of canvas painted.".

How an artist makes art is often as great an abstraction as the artwork itself.  Process is meaningless if the artwork doesn't communicate something to the viewer.  This is why I say that the process is only important to the artist.  What the artist brings to the process is his/her creative motivation which is the language of the finished artwork and, I believe, the true measure of its success.  But first, the artist must put in the time and at some magic moment transcend technique to deliver artwork that speaks in a clear voice.

This has been a difficult piece to write.  I may have even contradicted myself at times.  I apologize if I've led anyone down a more confusing path.  But hey, if you're confused, it means you're at least thinking about it.


  1. Great topic! It's always fascinating how people want to "get into your head" if you are an artist! Regardless of the process the artist used to make a piece, the viewer is going to understand it and respond to it from their own process. People often seem to confuse their personal response with attempting to create what - they assume- is an objective analysis of the work. It's OK to simply be drawn to a work of art for our own reasons --not every work of art is a message. Sometimes it's just a conversation the artist is having with his materials of choice and the parametres for a particular piece. It's always nice to know, though, that a viewer wants to become part of the conversation!

  2. Thank you Carla for such a thoughtful response. You said, "It's always nice to know, though, that a viewer wants to become part of the conversation!". Yes indeed - and that's the greatest reward for the artist.