Painting people, learning portraiture 4

What is art?

Over the years I have read, talked about and had insisted to me many different ways of defining what ART is.  Up to now I have not found any of them satisfying.  Thank you to John Dean (Sculpture teacher at Heatherley’s) because I now have one that I can accept, at least until a better one comes along.

.....” Art is something that engages you/ in a profound and prolonged way”........

This definition does two things for me.  First, it is broad enough to encompass many things, painting, installations, performance, music, photography etc etc.  Second, it gives me some criteria that I find useful, ie that it must engage at a meaningful level, not just superficially, and that its interest lasts, like the taste of a good wine.  It allows for that engagement to be far more than beauty, it could be shock and horror, a sense of energy, a visual enlightenment, the abstract structure of mark making, spiritual meaning or many other things.


Accepting this gives me a path to assessing my own work and what I am doing with each particular work.  Look at the difference between Madam Tussauds and Rodin.  The MT wax works have a brief excitement of recognition and likeness but hardly insist that you keep going back to look at each work, whereas a Rodin will draw you back to look at it again and again.

Incidentally, Rodin did this by making sure that every profile in the work had a continuous and engaging set of curves, irrespective of whether this was what the model looked like.  I have tried to borrow this idea from Rodin, in my life drawings here.  There is more to do on this but to me they have more energy and sense of form than a more measured/straight line drawing.

HeatherlyPatrick Earle