What Is An Artist?

One should select an artist in the same way one selects any professional. This is how to do it.

  1. An artist must practice full time at his profession. This means that he is not a teacher primarily and a painter in his spare time, nor an arts organization hanger-on and a sometime exhibitor. After all, you might not feel confident either if you selected as your physician a part-timer who made his living as a real-estate agent.
  2. Avoid the so-called “emerging artist”. This is a euphemism for inexperienced. Art school graduates are especially unreliable in this respect. They have just completed several years of copying their instructor’s work (as well as that of their peers) and need a lengthy period of time to unlearn many bad habits. Frequently, the “emerging artist” can’t wait to jump into the first available art scene and begin to “create”, meaning to hop on the latest trend and copy it. After all, copying is what they have been trained to do.
  3. How about product? You don’t select an artist just because you are entertained by his unconventional life and wild ways. You are looking for a painting. In this discussion, let’s leave out the subject matter of a painting. That’s really a “subjective” matter. What then does a painting consist of? With no notion of ranking, a painting deals with these things:

Composition –- the balance of elements to avoid monotony. For example, a heavy form on one side balanced by several lighter forms on another side; or a darker form balanced by a larger, lighter form.

Value – the balance of dark and light. Inexperienced painters frequently paint with middle values and the painting ends up an exercise in monotony –- the “beige effect”.

Color - once again, the balance of elements. Warm colors balanced against cool (for example a hot red balanced by several blues and greens). The three characteristics of color are hue, value and chroma. Hue is simply red, green, blue, yellow, etc. Value is the degree of dark to light of a color, as discussed above, and Chroma is the intensity of color –- for example, the geranium flower has high chroma and the rose has low chroma — but both are red.

Bear in mind that any of these “principles” of painting can be violated — if the painter is aware of what he is doing and does it for the effect he wants.

This is what art is about. The matters of draftsmanship and technique should be obvious. Style should be consistent throughout a painter’s work, so much so that his work should be original and clearly identifiable without a signature. I sign my paintings large, because I don’t need to sign them at all.

Written by Max Heemgmacht Yoder, 1987