How do you evaluate art? This question is answered differently by just about everybody. There is also quite a lot of argument over that question as well. What really constitutes good artwork? We all know that opinion plays a major role in what a person may feel is good artwork. But should it? Should there be a defined framework for what good artwork is? Should there be a standard? What would that standard be?
I often ask students, “What is Art?’ The range of answers I get to this question is staggering. One answer keeps rearing it’s ugly head, however. “Art is whatever you want it to be.” What??? Is that what art is? Whatever you want it to be. My skin cringes when I hear this statement. Why? Art is NOT whatever we want it to be. It is a discipline that requires study, dedication, and practice. It takes knowledge to produce good artwork. Not whatever. How can we evaluate art when we think it is whatever? If you think art is whatever you want it to be, discontinue reading this post. What I’m about to discuss will have absolutely no relevance to you if you think art is whatever you want it to be.
Evaluate yourself before you evaluate art. Do you like the expressive qualities of a work art, the message it conveys, and the emotional qualities within? Do you find that artworks that strive for realism suite your fancy? Do place most importance on the use of color theory, use of line, composition, shape, form and so on? Or perhaps you find all of these attributes to be important in good artwork?
Are you an Emotionalist?- If you find the expressive qualities of an artwork to be most important, you may be an Emotionalist. An Emotionalist looks for the message the artwork conveys, evaluates how the artist has communicated this message, and proceeds to evaluate the artwork’s success on this notion.
Are you a Realist?- Do you find the realistic qualities of a work of art to be the most interesting? Are you the type that looks at a work of art an says, “That doesn’t look like a person”? Or maybe you look at a drawing and become amazed at how much the artist has made it look like a photo. If this describes you, then you probably are a Realist and evaluate the success of artwork based on it’s realistic qualities.
Are you a Formalist?- Do you look for the color scheme, the use of the elements and principles of art, the composition and other formal qualities to evaluate the artwork? If you do, then you probably are a Formalist.
Evaluating artwork is different for everyone. We will all look and see artwork differently. We will find merit in different places because we are different people. Should there be a standard for evaluating art? I don’t know. I’m divided on this. I think that there should be standards but not at the expense of what drives great art-creativity. What do you think? Should there be standards? Are you a Formalist, Emotionalist, Realist, or a mixture?