It doesn’t always have to be personal

“The critique was so hard on you!” my friend exclaimed to me while we were queuing to order lunch. Earlier during art class I had been called out for lacking conceptual development and personal message in my prep for our UOB paintings. My friend probably meant well, since I had been spoken to in very low, serious tones. She didn’t know I was already expecting it.

They say anyone can have a generic or vague idea. It’s the personal element that makes it stand out. And that personal voice is especially important in fine art. But nowadays, almost every single piece of art has some kind of personal voice or deeper message in it, it seems so typical, so mainstream, so conventional to do so. In a sea of deep, thought-provoking works, won’t a right-smack face value work be a refresher?

There are also many other ways to stand out. Style, for instance. Calligraphy and digital typography are abundant. But lettering paintings aren’t that easily found. And since I’m planning to give my painting a graphic look, won’t the combination of modern aesthetics and traditional media be interesting? That was how I was planning to make my mark.

A portrait of Sadie Robertson, daughter of Duck Dynasty star and personally a favourite DWTS contestant, for an art assignment.

Also, it’s not as if my painting is going to be completely impersonal. When I do art, I always portray subjects which I have an interest in. Favourite celebrities, inspiring personalities, witticisms that make me laugh… When an assigned theme doesn’t pique my interest, I find a common one between me and the subject. So in this case, “People and their Stories” hardly inspires me at all. But there’s very quotable Hank Green video with some very relevant content that I can use. That’s how I ‘connect’ with my art.

Honestly, I think the development of ideas and concepts in our art prep is just so that education systems have a more objective way of judging art student’s courseworks. Aesthetics and technique can be very subjective, almost completely preference based. But you can compare and see who did more preparatory work.

I know when I signed up for art that graded prep was going to be an annoying bugger. I know that to get a good grade I have to show exploration of mediums, concept, style, and that might lead to me doings things that do not reflect my aesthetic tastes. At the same time I feel like personal style and belief are more important and not worth sacrificing to get a grade.

To quote a favourite fictional character of mine, “I am impertinent.”


This is part of the Art Diaries series.

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