20 November 2007

What makes it 'fine art'?

Alicia mentioned my collages, and I realized that I need to examine what I consider fine art, versus 'hobby art'... and why.

Part of it is related to expertise, not just technical expertise but also the ability of the art to communicate what I intend it to.

I created collages daily for over two years. I'd selected collage as my daily art form for a couple of reasons. One is that I was never very good at collage, and I wanted to see if I'd improve with practice. (I did.)

The torn-paper collages in some of my journals made meaningful statements, if only to me. Likewise, the individual collages that I created and sold... I'm proud of them, as well, and I consider them fine art.

The other reason why I worked with collage in my art journals is because collage is an accessible art. You don't have to be able to draw, paint or sculpt. You can create brilliant collages with no art training at all. I like that.

What do I consider my 'hobby art'? My carved rubber stamps, for one. I have a less than 50/50 chance that the finished stamp will look anything like what I intended. In fact, it's most likely that--at some point in the carving process--the stamp will become irremediably ugly and land in the rubbish.

Photography is still a hobby for me, as well. Yes, my photos have illustrated books and magazines. So, I'm technically a professional. That said, it's still sheer luck when a photo turns out well. I've taken classes and read lots of books, but I still can't seem to wrap my brain around what makes a photo good.

But, my paintings, my fabric art and my collages are among what I consider my 'fine art'. My skills can improve... sometimes, a lot. But, in these areas, I can objectively look at the art and know what works, what doesn't, and why.

I do not have that level of expertise (or objectivity) about my 'hobby art'. Some of it is amazingly good. It delights me. But, most of it is disappointing, and I'm not sure why... nor am I committed enough to the art to pursue its study. I keep the pieces that I like, and the rest--sometimes half-finished--are donated to a thrift shop.

(I'm a romantic. I imagine another artist finding the pieces, purchasing them, and then transforming them into something wonderful.)

But anyway, if I care deeply about the art form--enough to pursue it to excellence--then I consider it among my 'fine art' studies. Everything else is a hobby for me, and sometimes that's exactly what I need.

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