Monday 11 April 2011

What is art?

A trading card (or collectible card) is a small card ( 2 ½ X 3 ½ inches), usually made out of paperboard  or thick paper, which usually contains an image of a certain person, place or thing and a short description of the picture, along with other text (for example statistics or other trivia). 

In the 1990s, cards designed specifically for playing games became popular enough to develop into a distinct category, collectible card games.

Somewhere in the middle of the 1990's someone (M. Vänçi Stirnemann, perhaps) got the idea that artists should be able to make trading cards too, and started sending these miniature artworks to his artist friends, who sent him back a similar little piece of art.

An offshoot of Artist Trading Cards are the "Art Cards, Editions and Originals" (ACEO). ACEOs originated when some artists began to create cards to sell, in addition to trading among themselves.

Somewhere in there the scrapbookers and stampers started making these and...

Here we get into the "what's art?"

Dictionary defines art as
"The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power"
"Works produced by such skill and imagination"
"Creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture"
"The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance"
"Subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life"
"A skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice"

Some definitions from the WWW:
"the products of human creativity"
"the creation of beautiful or significant things"
"a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation"
"visual representations in a printed publication"
"the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions"
"Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature; The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colours, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty"
"human endeavor thought to be aesthetic and have meaning beyond simple description."

Now, stamping a picture on a piece of paper taken from an old book and coloring it... well... it is "a product of human creativity", might even be considered "aesthetic", it is a "visual representation" and "conscious production of forms and colours"... but is it art?

I don't think so. I think it's a picture.
In my mind, for a picture to be considered art, it should
- express and affect some emotion.
- be done with considerable skills in using the chosen medium in creating an artwork. "Self-learned" and "naïve" are to be considered, but...
- conscious use of color, line, composition and such.
- some amount of originality

stamping a picture on a piece of interesting paper and coloring it might show all the skills there are to be learned in stamping and coloring - after all, there are not too much skills involved... but I don't consider that showing considerable skills in using the medium in creating an artwork. I have seen some artworks done using stamps and coloring, and a simple picture colored is not it. I might be spoiled rotten when it comes to stamping, coloring and scrapbooking, but let's say that if I had the opportunity, then does everyone in the internet stamping/scrapbooking community, and as they KNOW better, they should DO better.

In my mind 90% of the pieces called ATCs are pretty trading card size pictures, not ATCs.

Now, this is the centerfold of ATC Quarterly issue 21.

Hmm...Ok, so cows are difficult. Not impossible.
This is Lowell Herrero's sunflowers. Lovely.

Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson. This is a cow made of ripped pieces of paper. Amazing.

Holy Cow by Kaytee Esser. I love the use of blue and the serene effect.

Malcah Zeldis' cow. It doesn't much look like a cow, but I suppose it's some sort of comment to something, considering that no-one can possibly think cows have 11 teats, and the head looks like cow-ized human face. Nevertheless. A cow.

Howie Green's lineart

Even this Chinese papercut that is made as 13-in-a-dozen product has more artistic expression than most of the ATC Quarterly's centerfold ATCs...

So, perhaps ATC Quarterly is a magazine for amateurs, beginners and children?
It doesn't seem that way... 
"ATC Quarterly  is a rapidly growing zine full of fantastic, whimsical, unusual, and unbelievable artist trading cards from all over the world.
We follow ATC traders, trading groups and find out what they are up to.
Interesting techniques.
Shared stories related to cards, the people who make them."
"fantastic, whimsical, unusual and unbelievable ATCs"? I don't think so. "Unbelievable", perhaps, but in my mind the reaction to something unbelievable should be "WOW! I can't believe someone could make something that wonderful! " and not "OMG, I can't believe someone posted that to a trade magazine and got it published!"

I mean, "Pat Elderkin"'s cow is really cute and charming, as long as "Pat" is under 12 years old. After that it becomes a bit too childish. Perhaps it was intended to be naïve and primitive... but that's what Malcah Zeldis' cow is.

"Olive Jones" didn't even try! That's just a photo of a heifer and not even of art photo quality. Don't get me wrong here, it's a good photo for an amateur, but nothing to be called art. 

"Elizabeth Reboux" seems to be trying to make a Magritte, but has missed the point. And that too has been made several times before. Really old joke.

I love the "Holy Cow" and the icon mood of it. Flying cows is funny. The blue cow is lovely.
And this is the way it is with all ATCs. ARTIST TRADING CARDS it is. Not "small pieces of creative effort" or "pretty small pictures".
Most of these people wouldn't even call themselves artists, but they have no scruples in calling their produce ARTIST trading cards. At least they have got the idea of trading cards being for trading and collecting, but too many are selling PRINTS of their "pretty visual creations" as ATCs!

P.S: I could also write a little rant about "pornography" and "artistic nudity". In Deviant Art there's a lot of "artistic nudity" that is not artistic at all, but pure pornography. As we all know, for a picture to be pornography, it doesn't need to be sexually explicit, not the subject to be naked. There too we have "artists" who  are not even decent photographers, but who get by in an art community just because there are people who like to look at sexually implicit pictures.
Pornography might be art and some art is pornographic, but that doesn't mean pornography is art.

1 comment:

  1. I am trying to practice, work hard and learn to do art & ATC's--but you have given me pause to think. I have much more freedom when I do larger pieces--I need the room. I also think that there is a line, or should be between art that is made on a computer (which has it's own world) and that which is done by hand in some medium.

    I LOVE Ruben and Isabel Toledo. I, also first noticed through his book covers, then I was lucky to see him and his fashion designer wife in a documentary. They have humility with great joy. He defined art as "feelings" (if my memory is right) and she said "spirit".