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SCIART-L  August 2015

SCIART-L August 2015

Subject:

Re: Is it ART?

From:

Will Smith <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 02:31:19 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (153 lines)

To make money I would collect Australian indigenous artists and sell their work in New York. (if my conscience would let me) For my own collection I would be happy to travel the world and enjoy all the magnificent work available to see, curated and looked after by experts.

Will Smith
Queensland Herbarium
DSITI
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong Qld 4066, Australia
Email [log in to unmask]


-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Barry K. MacKay
Sent: Thursday, 20 August 2015 12:08 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Is it ART?

Oh yes, agreed.   And it's often self-perpetuating.  There is a finite amount of work, and the more valuable it becomes, the more people want it.

In a very real sense it is like a conservation dilemma we have when I put on my other hat, the one involved in animal welfare and conservation.  When a species that has economical value, like a rhino for its horn, or Bluefin tuna for the high-end sushi market, the greater the demand, and as the supply, in this case live animals, decreases, the value of each product increases.

Many artists who more or less struggled to sell work during their lifetimes did better posthumously.   And a few other artists who were famed and whose work was sought after during their lifetimes, faded to posthumous obscurity (and often not deservedly, either).

I remember years ago we had a wealthy collector in Toronto, he was also the city's chief coroner, who wrote a book called, I think, Anybody Can Make a Million.   Anyway, his advice was, sensibly, to buy low and sell high, but one of the "commodities" he felt this worked best with was art.   The problem is, he had no apparent appreciation for the art...he only talked about how much its financial value had increased.   Weird and sad, in my opinion.

If I were wealthy I'd collect my "heroes", the bird artists whose work so inspired me in my long-ago youth.

But then I think if I were to specialize in a more "traditional" genre, it would be 19th century western European landscapes in oils and watercolours, and not just the most famous ones.   There is something very pleasing about much of that art, to me, but that said, It's not that I expect others to feel the same way.   Just so long as they don't exclude art as "illustration" or because it has animals, or illustrated children's books, or is folksy or dismissed as "crafts".

BTW, I think quite a few of the 19th century English and European children's books illustrators have received at least a degree of solid recognition over there, and deservedly, and some good marketing has helped some other types of illustrators in America, including illustrators of genre books like fantasy, or even advertising.

Cheers,

Barry




-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Will Smith
Sent: August-19-15 7:54 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Is it ART?

I mostly agree but I think you have to take context into account. That guy that invented the light bulb last week is deservedly not nearly as famous as the first guy to do it. Hence the Picasso value. The Picasso's monetary value is mostly because lots of people want it and only one can have it.


Will Smith
Queensland Herbarium
DSITI
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong Qld 4066, Australia Email [log in to unmask]


-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Barry K. MacKay
Sent: Thursday, 20 August 2015 9:33 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Is it ART?

I've enjoyed this thread and I agree that "arty" is normally used as a pejorative, and especially when directed toward us guys.

I think that "technical illustration" as described in Taina's thoughtful post can fall outside the boundaries of what I think could reasonably be called "art", but I hold on to the caveat that, in effect, what is determined to be art is determined by the people who determine what is art, and that is rarely the artist.

With the advent of photography (also a visual art form) we have taken away, I think, at least some of the "role" of the artist as chronicler, but also provided a tool that reduces certain needs, such as an ability to draw (although not as much as some non-artists might think).

I remember once in London I was in a wealthy man's house and he politely reproved me for picking up a small ornament that was made of wire and a couple of bits of metal, soldered together to resemble a caricature of Don Quixote .  It was very valuable, he said.  I was too polite to ask why, which was my first thought, and he clearly wanted me to know, so he added, "It's a Picasso."

What made it a very valuable piece of art, apparently, was not the inherent thought or effort that went into it, but who did it.   I've seen many pieces like it, by non-name artists, that would sell for one percent of what that bit of work was worth, but that's the nature of art, and I was careful to touch nothing else.

However, apart from resell value, I prefer those wonderful ceramics.

They would be dismissed by that class of people I'm calling "art snobs" as "crafts", a lesser form of creative work.   But these things come and go.   It is part of the nature of the art snob world to invent all manner of genres and subgenres and schools and periods and what have you, to pigeonhole that which, really, has value that is partly functional (and very much so in much of what the good folks on this list do) but also whose value is very much subjective.

It can't really be any other way.

I just think it is unfortunate, and in a way, the losers are the art admirers themselves.

Finally, I don't like the term "wildlife artist", which is what I get called.  I suppose that's the snob in me but it is far too limiting, in part because as a genre it has such a wide appeal to the degree that it winds up being derivative.

But that said, those who paint animals more or less in natural settings are also hampered by the fact that the would-be "art deciders", be they snobs or not, really can't understand the rules people like me play with.  Like a good poem, or piece of music, I impose "rules".  All visual more or less realistic art does, even if whimsical, and that means that while one does not reproduce reality, that's impossible, one does not invent beyond the confines of reality.  But what art dealer knows how many primary feathers an Osprey has, or the dentition of a snarling wolf.  And even if one is painting very broadly, one "has" to follow the conventions imposed upon biology.

That should not isolate what we do from more "accepted" art, it's just that it requires knowledge that evaluating a portrait, or still life, or landscape, usually does not.  The sincerity of folk art comes through; the sincerity of a lover of chipmunks or chickadees, perhaps less so.

I think that, plus natural hubris...the tendency to see things as valued only to the degree they pertain to the human condition, tend to squeeze out any appreciation of that sub-sub-genre I happen to be in.

Cheers,

Barry


Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905)-472-9731
http://www.barrykentmackay.ca
[log in to unmask]




-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Will Smith
Sent: August-19-15 6:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Is it ART?

Now you have sorted that out can you get people in the sciences to stop calling everything we do "arty" in a disparaging way, which often carries with it the connotation that it can't really be a manly activity.

Will Smith
Queensland Herbarium
DSITI
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong Qld 4066, Australia Email [log in to unmask]


-----Original Message-----
From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Taina Litwak
Sent: Thursday, 20 August 2015 1:32 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCIART] Is it ART?

“Art”.   The modern understanding of the term, I believe, includes the concept that the maker emotionally and intellectually is working on expressing him/herself in some manner on the worthy topic of the human condition and culture.   Plays, novels, fine art painting, landscapes, still life, abstractions, conceptual stuff, sculpture, film, any image making…. One topic, 7 billion interpretations.

This is where illustration – the goal of which is inherently to tell a story or explain a specific something - falls a bit outside. Editorial illustration, which is often conceptual and if its any good IS evocative, frequently address aspects of the human condition (or situations) and gets so some slack. So it is sometimes reluctantly included as “art”.

Technical illustration – scientific and natural history included - does not deal with  this and so we are not invited under the umbrella of “art”.  Some good scientific illustration is emotionally evocative of course, but much is not.   It is not the goal of the work.  We make images that society has come to value as the way our culture sees Science changes.  What we do with our images CAN put our output on a more meta level, and the resulting self-aware product can jump into the traditional sphere of “Art".   But usually our clients have no interest in doing that.  They just need us to explain the facts, in the vehicle of their choice.  This is what I have made a living doing for the past 35 years.  Image making - I love it. It has value, but it's not “art”.

Taina

Litwak Illustration Studio
13029 Chestnut Oak Drive
Darnestown, MD 20878

tel: 301-527-0569
mobile: 240-750-9245

http://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2014/sep/insect/

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