"When art becomes an obligation, it's no longer art."
Nah, it's still art. It's just transparent, painfully rehearsed art.
I think it's sad how 99% of people out there think art is just this ethereal, non-descript thing, open to a million interpretations. And especially when they say something is or isn't art due to certain parameters that rely solely on their personal tastes. First of all the word "Art" is derived from "articulation."
ar·tic·u·la·tion (noun): 1.an act or the process of articulating: the articulation of a form; the articulation of a new thought.
Taking thoughts formulated in your head and communicating them to others through speech, drawing, physical manifestation (something built), or physical action (dance, martial arts). So, ANY thing you think of and then do, based off of thought is an articulated action. Thus, practically everything we see, hear, smell and do is technically "Art."
Now, what in blue blazes makes GOOD art? This is where this post stops becoming fact and starts becoming theory and personal conjecture, but I'm pretty sure I'm right. Since art, distilled to it's very basic definition is "communication," then I can assume that, the better the art communicates it's message to others, the easier we can consider it "good" art.
(Still) Life/Realism - Is like having a tape recorder and being a reporter for the local newspaper. All you're getting is facts, no spin, no pizzaz, no opinion. you're looking at something and doing your best to translate it accurately onto paper. There is no need to know function and structure because you're not trying to make it move and you're not adding anything extra. It's like making a list of bullet points and you don't really even need to understand what the bullet points mean because you're simply translating whats right there in front of you. Still lifes are possibly the most "non-creative" of all visual art forms. But, you and many others can consider it good art. It communicates it's message very clearly, although it's a boring message, with non of the artist's personal opinions to be found within.
"But what about the masterful painters like, John Singer Sergent, Picasso and the other guys I learned about in art history?"
Look at the work they're famouse for. It's not the still lifes' we praise, it's the pieces where they took life and subtely injected their own opinions within. Sergent's colors, Picasso's abstraction... all those we consider "masters" either invented new techniques and ways of looking at "still lifes" or they stylized "life" in their own way. If there were ANY artist in existence that was able to capture life without injecting a lick of his own opinion and spin into it, he's a security camera at the local mall parking lot.
Cartooning/Animation - The other side of the spectrum. It becomes more about your opinion than anything else, however for your opinion to come across effectively you still need to know and understand the function, and structure of nature. It's like telling an entertaining, colorful story but grounded in at least a little reality to suck in the audience. The more you embellish, the more fanciful you can get, however, fantasy still requires that the lie plays by it's own rules. Any con-man would agree that if you betray your own story, you're not gonna fool a soul. This also differs from Still life because you need to know the in's and out's of movement, anatomy, structure, composition and many other elements to create, from scratch, a believable, yet fantastic piece.
Commercial Art - Can contain both realistic and cartoon art. The thing is now you're not really communicating from anywhere genuine, you're in it for the money. I think this is the problem a lot of artists run into when trying to make a living doing what they love. The only way you're ever gonna be happy or satisfied is if what you love just happens to be what's selling. You're still communicating, and you're still injecting opinions into the art, but they might not necessarily be YOUR opinion or even GENUINE opinions. It's a case of a con-man, needing to lie, but not believing his own BS. Which is why a lot of commercial art and animation leaves a lot to be desired. You'll definately get some people to believe in what you're selling, but the more initiated, involved and intelligent your audience, the harder it is to convince them to believe in something that you or your boss don't necessarily believe in.
Now on the issue of style, let's say that anything non still-life is cartooning, including non-fantasy, photorealistic art that is made up. Cartooning is like having an accent, or certain idiosyncrasies in your speech, your voaculary, your regional dialect, these all make up your style.
It's like a Brooklyn accent, versus a New England accent versus the way a teenage girl from the Valley would talk. They would probably have a hell of a time understanding each other and what they are trying to say, but amongst their own they speak with perfect diction. This is akin to learning art on your own, in your own terms, not everyone is going to understand or even like what you're saying but your fellow man probably will. Going to art school is, or rather SHOULD, be like learning proper english and the roots behind words and syllables and the proper way to prounounce them, then taking what you've learned and putting your own personal flair into it so that you can write speeches that can move entire countries and even effect politics. Of course, the drawback is that you might lose touch with the common blue collar man and even alienate them completely. But you'd be able to talk to diplomats and important muckety mucks with ease. The truly versatile will be able to communicate both ways, knowing when it's ok to speak jive and when to fluff it up with the silver spoons.
Details (less is more): Using a ton of detail in a drawing is like reading the dictionary and then using every word you memorized as often as you can in as many sentences as you can possibly crap out of your mouth. You've become Don King, mezmorizing the foolish and gullible with your word-play but not really saying anything at all. The truly charismatic know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it at the appropriate time, in front of the appropriate audience. Do you really need a million cross-hatches on that face? is it completely necessary to draw each and every strand of hair on that woman's head? Probably not, but it's an easy way to impress racoons and other individuals that know very little of art and how to meaningfully quantify it's worth.
Abstraction: There is a very fine line here. Modern art is rife with abstraction but very few of these "modern artists" really understand where it came from and why the innovators chose to blaze this territory. Picasso and his contemporaries developed cubism as a way to see things based in life but in another perspective. Seeing multiple angles of a figure all at once. The shapes, colors and methods used were not random or ill-thought out. There is still a message being communicated but it's like using a voice modulator to change your voice to see if you can invent a completely new voice altogether.
"I have nothing to say." <--this is DaDa
Dadaism was a group of artists' rather silly attempt to see if they could say nothing at all. It is paradoxical-art because they were trying to tell people that they didn't have anything to say. In fact, they did have something to say; that thay had nothing to say. See? it's pretty silly because it's art that's trying really hard not to be art. The uninitiate and self-delusional were impressed nonetheless.
The guys that splatter paint, paint squares and lines and use colors willy nilly are just humming a tune. Not saying anything specific, but still trying to evoke an emotion by humming or whistling or grunting, happily, angrily, sadly or any which way. This is decorative art. Looks good with the sofa and probably ties the room together. You like the way you feel when you look at it, but it's not saying anything subjective. Ironically this is probably the most profitable kind of visual art for gallery artists.
Abstract artists today: My issue with many conteporary artists is that they really seem to be going out of their way to say anything. Making sounds with their mouths, hoping something interesting comes out. Making baby noises or gurgling or running your fingers across your lips going, "bladdybladdybladdybladdyblah." This is also silly, but it still manages to impress psuedo-intellectuals at art galleries.
The Issue of Anime:
"Anime" is not a separate genre of cartoons, it's still cartoons but it's a foreign language with it's own nuance. Even the Japanese language has different regional dialects and specificities unique to only certain parts of the country, same with the anime style... It's not all big-eyes and small mouths. They have their own specific cliches much like western cartooning have their rampant cliches. The thing about westerner's copping the "anime" style, appropriating the cliche's rather than actually LOOKING at the fact that anime is not an actual style, is like some kid from Ohio intentionally learning how to speak broken english and throwing in a few Japanese words so that he, in his mind, can sound "genuine." There are those however that are versatile enough to catch on to the nuances that make a foreign style unique but at the same tiem they avoid the cliches. It's like learning their vocabulary and knowing which symbols and syllables to use in appropriate situations instead of just throwing out Japanese words at random just because it sounds cool.
Well, those are my thoughts on art. I really think a serious, analytical discussion is in order to understand art and WHY we do what we do and what the motive and thought-processes behind it are. If you read this far, I applaud you for putting up with my theories and opinions and feel free to express your own. The only crime is not discussing and attempting to understand what art is.