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  #1  
Old 10-26-2010, 08:56 PM
rika rika is offline
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Is more skill real progress?

The other day I picked up one of my early pieces. I looked at the face and the hands, and thought I couldn't do a better one today. Maybe more skilled but not better. What kind of a progress is that-- I wondered. Enthusiasm made up for the lack of skill back then. I'm still building skills, and always will, but obviously got a lot more of it today than three, four years ago.
Basically it looks as though all that training got me to a skill level that I already accomplished subsconciously.
Is that real progress?
I'd like to hear the thoughts of those with more experience. Is this something common?
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  #2  
Old 10-26-2010, 09:01 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

I always think I could do better, if only I had unlimited time and superhuman skills.
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  #3  
Old 10-26-2010, 11:21 PM
grommet grommet is offline
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

your measuring is limited. Think of your skill, your enthusiasm as tools. what other tools are you learning about? are your pieces growing in complexity, in accessibility, size? The heart was there from the beginning, and that's what keeps it going. Are you dismayed there's the same amount of heart?

Sometimes the span of time is not really enough distance to see the type of progress made. Sometime it's the change of creative inquiry that allows me to see the change in my work, miniscule though it may be.
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  #4  
Old 10-27-2010, 12:42 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

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Is that real progress? I'd like to hear the thoughts of those with more experience.
I'm not more experienced. But it seems to me that "progress" comes out of the synergy of experience and work, period. As far as assessing "real" progress, that sounds like a nit-picky-self-critical-superfluous worry activity, or one best left for critics and historians and those so far removed that they won't really know what you really "have" to do. Need confirmation from outsiders or your inner critic?
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  #5  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:40 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

progress is running out of materials and space, figuring out that if you hold the tool a different way you'll stop cutting yourself, mixing the right quantity of product just once, thinking of more things that must "be".
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  #6  
Old 10-27-2010, 10:09 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

This is one of those mile marker questions that isn't really about getting better at all. It's about advancing and significance disquised as betterment. Some questions to compare with might help.. Does anyone ever really get better at driving a car or mowing the lawn or putting out the trash? These are things we also do routinely and yet we never actually get better at them, or do we?
No, there is no better because with any luck each new work adresses new questions and so unless you are manufacturing the same piece over and over again it is impossible. Advancement is another thing altogether though and yes we advance..
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:23 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

It's the choice of words again, people. Progress, advancement, growth, name it what you want but it's not the physical aspect of it I'm thinking of, although tools, the time, and effort you put in are definitely part of the equation. I just tried to illustrate with the personal example what I am getting at. I actually wouldn't mind to hear how others experience progress/growth (thanks, G for sharing your thoughts).

Just keeping at it and do more and more is not enough. That I know. Don't we need to pause sometimes and analyze what's behind and how to go higher? Artistic growth/excellence is not that hard to measure in the first years, but I presume it kinda slows down as one gains more skill.

To be perfectly honest I had to concede upon more reflection that the level of my original enthusiasm has settled into something more moderate and even (not unlike most relationships). On the other hand there is this confidence --at times--that was absent at the beginning.

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Does anyone ever really get better at driving a car or mowing the lawn or putting out the trash? These are things we also do routinely and yet we never actually get better at them, or do we?
Actually, that's quite interesting, Steven.

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No, there is no better because with any luck each new work adresses new questions and so unless you are manufacturing the same piece over and over again it is impossible. Advancement is another thing altogether though and yes we advance..
Ok, I buy that.
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  #8  
Old 10-27-2010, 01:24 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Since there are 10,000 different "skills" involved in making art, its kind of an impossible question to answer.

Some things, you absolutely DO get better at with practice.
Other things are totally intuitive, and a small child often hits the mark better than a seasoned adult.
And your taste can change- at the time you are making something, it may be exactly what you are trying to say, but later, you may not think the same way about things.
Or, you may think something you initially tossed aside is actually pretty great, ten years on.

The only things that "skill" can really apply to is craft techniques- and yes, Michealangelo was using craft techniques when he was painting or carving.
But craft techniques are meaningless without Ideas driving them, and Ideas are not a "skill".

You can be the best technical stone carver in the world, but if your Ideas arent interesting, you are just a technician.

So Skill is great, and often necessary- but its not enough, on its own, nor is lack of it necessarily going to ruin art.
Some art doesnt require skill, some does.
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  #9  
Old 10-27-2010, 01:38 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

I agree entirely with what Ries said. That also might explain why my seemingly flippant response was passed over. For me the ideas element is the most crucial part, but I would also add that with more experience one can gain an understanding of the subtle and overt ways that those ideas can be better expressed. This leads to a desire to better one skills so as to not fall short of one's ideas in their expression.

I have been blessed with more ideas worthy of translating into art than I could cram into one lifetime, even if I did not have the distraction of doing what is needed to pay the bills along the way. I am grateful for the source of my inspiration, and could only wish that my time, energy, and talent were sufficient tofully express that.
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  #10  
Old 10-27-2010, 08:18 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

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I just tried to illustrate with the personal example what I am getting at.
What you're pointing at, in my view, requires insight to "get". Not many will be able to see you in your work and where it has taken you in terms of progress or growth. Most people are only looking to connect with the piece. And, even if that happens spontaneously for them, they are not capable or necessarily interested in commenting on your progress. Advancement and growth are your your personal reward.

Quote:
To be perfectly honest I had to concede upon more reflection that the level of my original enthusiasm has settled into something more moderate and even (not unlike most relationships).
Aha! moments are like that. Then you get back to work to get the next WTF. Its part of being a visual junkie.
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  #11  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:01 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

I agree with Ries that "skill" is meaningless when it comes to art. But I am interested in digging into the "good-ideas-make-good-art" conundrum. After all, the best idea you've ever had (another questionable value judgement) wont amount to anything until it has been wrestled out of fantasyland and into reality. This requires "execution"; the handling or manhandling of some earthly stuff. And, of course, there is the trouble of the "idea" changing as it manifests...and, we all know, that it is not at all unusual that the "idea" that set things going is not always necessarily evident in the artifact that eventually came about. So, maybe this great idea wasnt great enough...maybe it failed along the way and the throes of process SAVED the entire episode...maybe, if ideas continually dissolve as they face reality then it doesnt matter WHAT the idea was to begin with at all. Because the commandeering of the ACT of execution will ever provide (for you in the heat of it all) the fruition...the advancement...the improvement.
Or it wont because it was a stinker. It is quite a tall order to make good stuff; no one has ever done it everytime...good ideas or not.

One could argue that philosophers model, mold and mangle ideas (their medium), and by extension writers - but we all know that those folk stay pretty much in the aformentioned fantasyland.

Last edited by evaldart : 10-27-2010 at 09:16 PM.
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  #12  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:21 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Ries did not say that skill is meaningless in art. He said that skill (alone) without an idea is.

Whether an idea comes as a complete image or is a progressive revelation, the artifact is where the rubber meets the road-where the idea meets the artist's ability to bring it to life. That is the beauty of free will and the ability of the artist to improvise. But without the idea, it is likely to be empty gestures.

A great idea can transcend lack of skill in its execution, but excellent skill coupled with lousy ideas does not move one forward.
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  #13  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:47 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

And, like Ries also mentioned, there are SO MANY different kinds of skill that it is not always apparent to everyone (art viewers) that any skill at all is present in the art they are regarding. Skill is so much more than sweating copper pipe, laying bricks, or noodling-away at clay. Almost every action (or motion, even) can be undertaken skillfully when the practitioner has become practiced, This has nothing whatsoever to do with the indulging-in and engaging of aesthetics.
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  #14  
Old 10-28-2010, 07:59 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Okay, I am sure this is going to be controversial- but I believe that aesthetics, like manual skills, can actually be grown with use.

I am a big fan of the philosopher of craft, David Pye, who wrote the books "The Nature and Art of Workmanship", and "The Nature and Aesthetics of Design".

One of the principles he advances is that there is a feedback loop whereby the body learns craft thru actual use- the hands teach the mind, in essence.

This, I think we can all agree upon- to learn a craft, be it realistic painting of landscapes, or welding aluminum, or carving wood, you have to physically practice it.

But the next step he makes is that there are naturally pleasing patterns, shapes, and pseudo random compositions that occur over and over again in the work of master craftsmen, and that other humans are naturally attracted to these- hence, a hand adzed wooden surface is more desirable to most people than a machine planed one.

These aesthetics, the base level ones, are indeed "learned" thru repetition and practice.

On top of that, I would suggest, there are multiple other layers of aesthetics- a nicely carved surface in wood can then be a figure of devotion, a sexual bondage toy, a politically charged assault on the senses, or a functional chair- that, I would say, is where the Ideas come in.

Evald is the champion of the mud wrestling school of sculpture- in which you plunge into the plastic swimming pool, and beat the art out of the raw materials- and, I would agree, when you work that way, the Idea evolves, and is often more subconscious than conscious- and sometimes, I myself work that way. I may start with an idea, and end up somewhere else entirely.
But my brain is still in charge of the operation, and I still make conscious decisions along the way that shape the outcome.

This is one way to make art- but its certainly not the ONLY way to make art, and many artists are more intellectual in their approach, and some of them are great artists too..

The other thing is, as you get older, and have made more and more work, you realize more what YOU like, what you can do that actually succeeds, and you tend to learn aesthetics that way- through practice, as well as through going up mulitiple paths, and learning which ones work for you.
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  #15  
Old 10-28-2010, 08:43 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

What you are referring to, Ries, (or what this Pye seems to refer to) is the handyman's version of Gestalt - that psychoanalytical, pseudoscientific version of aesthetics that is crutched in behaviorist totalitarianism. Art professors STILL rave about this in design fundamentals course (not me). Fortunately the burgeoning artists never bother to internalize this (but oh how the architects and engineers love it). The concept of gestalt dismisses the notion that anyone is self-determined, that anyone is an individual.

The only "reason to live", actually, is to surpass, exceed and escape the natural fact that one is just another wriggling organism...responding ever dutifully to stimuli. But you got to WORK HARD for that.

And, by the way, I am a proponent of EQUAL measures of intellect and physical regarding what goes into art. As close to 50 - 50 as possible. Also, ones intellectual engagement should certainly parallel the intensity, authority and ferocity that this physical engagement does. There are simply times when you must think real hard (til it hurts), quite in defiance of the dusty books that wish to hold your hand through your smarts. There is go-time for thinking too. No pain, no gain.

A chair can be "artistic", beautiful, masterfully crafted, amazing, outrageous, magnificent and over-the-top; but it cant be art. BUT, I have seen some good sculpture that was INSPIRED by a chair (Cheese, for instance with that bench portion smacked up against the gallery wall).

Last edited by evaldart : 10-28-2010 at 09:26 AM.
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  #16  
Old 10-28-2010, 09:49 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

as is typical (that's a good word) I am having trouble with these always/never ideas. To say that people are naturally drawn to particular surfaces, or notions of that dreaded word "beauty" has the sort of finality that puts some people's mind at ease. To me there are aesthetics which form a watering hole where many may gather and share stories of their bravery and prowess. But it's not the whole truth, just an easy one.
Just a kernel of an idea, a rantlet.
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:33 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Quote:
a rantlet.
Cute, I like that.

Quote:
I am sure this is going to be controversial- but I believe that aesthetics, like manual skills, can actually be grown with use.
No controversy, no debate....of course it can develop, grow, "mature", expand, and best of all--go nuts!
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:58 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

"Aesthetics" exists in the hazy realm of advanced consideration. It is NOT a characteristic of human development like "manual abilities" to be "grown", owned or achieved. So there can be no controversy to be delivered by that statement. Language has disserviced Ries, there (like it loves to do).

Aesthetics IS, though, the ONLY path away from mundane chore of functional liability, from the drudge and repetition of duty, from Nature's drowning immersion that plops every damned living and unliving ignorantly into a stew of happenstance that WILL consume a consciousness quite to death if you LET it by permitting yourself to be gullibly sold on silly survival (the opposite of aesthetics).

Art, as the word must suffice, is rare and not readily available. If you see art in everything then you will not learn to see it anywhere. Thats all.


Oh yeah G, I like "rantlet" too. But I prefer a "Rant-a-palooza"
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Old 10-28-2010, 11:03 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

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Originally Posted by evaldart View Post
Aesthetics IS, though, the ONLY path away from mundane chore of functional liability, from the drudge and repetition of duty,
Sports, to name another.

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jOe of course it can develop, grow, "mature", expand, and best of all--go nuts!
I think there is enough that is nuts out there without needing artists to go nuts too. Not that my view would or should stop any from so doing. Mostly I take umbrage with the use of the phrase "best of all" in that sentence. Just a small rant...a runt.
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Old 10-28-2010, 11:14 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

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Mostly I take umbrage with the use of the phrase "best of all" in that sentence
I expected you would...its that recurrent nemesis--"inner freedom". Over the years I've never been able to get my point across to you on this topic, won't detour now.
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Old 10-28-2010, 11:37 AM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

I understand EXACTLY what Joe means when he says "go nuts!" That exclamation is in agreeance with the absolute DEFIANCE that enables a pure act of crativity (as opposed to a tainted or diminished version of creativity whereby a task gets accomplished or a message gets delivered).

Yes, when you're rested, fueled and ready....when you've got the nerve...indeed, the forward thinking individual will "go nuts!". But this is only posible 12.3% of your being. Healing and recovery are a bastard from such a session. Sleep, see a ballgame, PLAY a ballgame or go earn some money during that unspectacular 87.7%.
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Old 10-28-2010, 12:27 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

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I expected you would...its that recurrent nemesis--"inner freedom". Over the years I've never been able to get my point across to you on this topic, won't detour now.
It is very clear. Inner freedom is no nemesis. We just reach it differently. For you, it requires going nuts.
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  #23  
Old 10-28-2010, 02:31 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

When you use the term "inner freedom", do you mean freedom from some attachments or all attachments? Freedom from certain addictions (psychological) but not others? Do you mean "Freedom" or "freedom from..."? (i.e. keep the "good" and get rid of the "bad".)

Last edited by Mack : 10-28-2010 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 10-28-2010, 03:15 PM
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Quote:
When you use the term "inner freedom", do you mean freedom from some attachments or all attachments? Freedom from certain addictions (psychological) but not others? Do you mean "Freedom" or "freedom from..."
I mean to not be repressed, to not be standing in your own way, to be able to do what needs to be done. So when I talk about going "nuts", I actually mean going extremely sane, with out fear, eyes wide open. FB friends can check out the photo I posted from 1978.

Attachments, and all that Buddhist stuff is for those pursuing a different path. I highly recommend that too if that is your inclination. The Buddhists are the worlds experts on the subject of inner freedom. I've learned so much from them. They just don't have as much fun as I need to have.

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I understand EXACTLY what Joe means when he says "go nuts!
Yes, you do know exactly. Your art, your life proves it.
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  #25  
Old 10-28-2010, 04:05 PM
rika rika is offline
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Re: Is more skill real progress?

Joe's way or Glenn's way, who cares how you get there. All human beings yearn for inner freedom, but artists want it so badly that actually go for it. They find it through their art, while others dream of it. We're the doers, they're the dreamers. Ha!
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