November 4, 2014

Art And Critics

I'm reading a short piece, Art Is a Journey, written by Bob Eggleton, an artist.

In it, Eggleton talks about fame and artists' desire to achieve it. In particular, Eggleton warns artists against letting any positive or negative criticism get to their heads. Because, really, what does such critique mean?

He then goes on to give an example:

Salvador Dali did his epic painting Persistence of Memory (the one with the melting clock) and critics praised this as some life-changing, almost existential, self-defining work of inner truth. In reality, his entire inspiration was from...Camembert cheese. That was it. It did not detract at all from this fine work, but some people who wanted to read something more into it felt betrayed.

This reminds me of a French lesson back in high school when my teacher, Mr. Hayet, talked about Rimbaud having written a poem which critics of the time lauded as being quite deep and meaningful, and Rimbaud enjoyed listening in on classes where they would dissect and analyze the poem because, he later admitted, he wrote it without attaching any meaning behind it. (Unfortunately, I don't remember which poem was in question :( ).

Eggleton concludes his piece with this advice:

[B]e the best artist you can be; don't worry about being the best there is. You'll be a lot happier in the long run. Later on, history will judge your work to be the work of some genius--or not. Then again, it could all be the Camembert cheese.

I think this is great advice for life in general as well!


  1. This is a very interesting post, especially the Rimbaud bit. I do not think there is much "meaning" behind great art. It is the spontaneity and the originalness that count. And of course the impeccable technique. Meaning schmeaning. One knows great art when one sees it.

    1. I think you hit on something really crucial here--the spontaneity, which I take to mean pouring your heart into your own work. And I think that's really important in any art work, writing included. I know a lot of people try to follow the trends, whether in movies or songs or books (how many teen fantasies were created based on vampires after the success of twilight?). But really, those stories that succeed are oftentimes those that were created by authors who didn't care what had been done before or not, despite people telling them that it wouldn't take (in some cases). But I will posit that for myself at least, there has to be some modicum of planning involved. I've tried to write spontaneously, but after a while I lose my train of thought, get lost in tangents, and my piece ends up being total c@#! Then again, I don't pretend to be creating great art either :)

    2. PS: Just read an interesting article on one of the big publishing houses' take on indie books, and here is a quote by Hugh Howey I thought was (somewhat) relevant to what I was saying:

      ...just because publishers are saying something — and acting on those beliefs — doesn’t make them right. It’s just another excuse for their caution [Alessa note: this is, I believe, a great, if narrow, take on the critic portion of the article]. Of course they’ve been burned by a few acquisitions. The majority of their books don’t sell well. And it’ll always be for some reason (vampires are so done; no one reads urban fantasy anymore; books like this long don’t sell) when the truth is that the market is variable, no one knows why some things take off and others don’t, and publishers succeed by throwing spaghetti at the wall, seeing what sticks, and reading way too much into what doesn’t.

      Considering even the "pros" don't know what'll work or what won't, why cater to them? Do the art that feels right for you and, perhaps, one day you'll find yourself ahead of the (recurring) curve and have your work recognized!

      PS: I know this is something that's somewhat off to the side, but I read an interview of the French actress and model Laetitia Casta who said that at the beginning these modeling agencies and photographers, etc, thought she was too fat, her teeth too crooked, etc, to make it. Then when she started making a name for herself, they all of a sudden were desperate to work with her, calling her beautiful, etc.

      Isn't it interesting?

      PS 2: So sorry for my (extremely) long-winded answer(s)!