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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Craftsmanship of Art

I see a lot of art every week; in casual shows of student work, professional-looking gallery shows, and especially online through social media. I see art I like, some I love and some I don't care for.

What I see all too often is art that lacks craftsmanship- even if the images are beautiful and compelling. What I mean by craftsmanship is artwork that is clean, well-executed, and nicely presented. When it's poorly presented, with smudgy paper margins, drippy, fingerprint-laden sides on gallery-wrap canvas, poor registration on prints, and dirty, wrinkled paper, there is a distinct lack of craftsmanship. Work that's just not "clean" looking. These are major distractions from your art.

Even the back of your paintings or paper should be clean, or at least very neat-looking and without significant fingerprints, ink, paint drips, etc. Students that are just learning often don't pay attention to this part of making art, but it's exceedingly important. It's huge if you are a printmaker.

When you go to a gallery for representation, they see the backs of everything you make. They see the frames you use. They may even see unframed work, so neat, clean art will always work in your favor. Neat, clean art shows that you have discipline and care about what you are putting out into the world. My early prints lacked craftsmanship; I was learning and didn't know any better. I do now though. If you don't care for the art, why would someone want to buy it?

Now I have my own litmus test; before I put a piece of art out there for sale I imagine I'm going to visit a mansion in The Hamptons and see my artwork in that amazing and gorgeous home. Would I be embarrassed or proud of my work?

That's what I mean by craftsmanship.
Back of a recent full-bleed monotype. I use a softer pencil to
sign the backs so there is no embossing. The wrinkled paper is on the table!

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