What do I make?

Well, in simplistic terms, I make art. It is art because I say so, not because I have mastered any particular media. It is art because I have recognized that in the making, that the image has crossed the threshold into art. For me!

There are literally hundreds of mediums to explore in order to make art. From the basic rudiments of “found art” to the complicated layers of screen printing. I have sampled a few in my time and “mastered” very few. I’m pretty good at sketching, not bad at sculpture. Color portraits are the worst. Watercolor is monstrous. I’m terrified of oil painting and paralyzed at acrylics. None of this stops me from attempts. But, oh, the hideous makings.

So where am I comfortable? I like working from photographs, I like the filters that some programs use. I’m never satisfied with just the filters so I use layering techniques to combine other filters, or layers of hand drawn detail. I don’t have a requirement of some percentage of hand-drawn for the art to qualify as art. I’m more interested in the final image. I see no distinction between 100 percent hand drawn and 100 percent filter. If someone else does, it doesn’t change the way I see the image. as far as media goes, I guess you could say that I fell in love with digital in 1985.

When I was teaching art appreciation, I sometimes showed students the work of modern artists, painting modern art. Many did not appreciate the abstract quality. When I then showed work from the same artists that painted more realistic images, then they showed interest. Because the painter choose to paint in the abstract, then it was more valid. I understood this, but it does not mean that it is a test for art. Prior skill is not necessarily a stepping stone.

Often the lack of traditional art ability was the excuse for the individual to not think of themselves as artists. We have lost too many artists because of this false belief. This is similar to not call yourself a photographer because you don’t know how to use a camera. The photography is in the vision! The camera comes later.

Finding the right medium is sometimes a lifelong process. It might make sense to stay with a comfortable medium and developed finer skills. It also might make sense to step into a noncomfort zone to explore a new medium. For years I have told my photography students that every good photo that they admire was likely taken by an uncomfortable photographer. I can’t prove that, but I believe it to be true.

When I analyze my own artists path, I realize that I have always seen things in three dimensions. I think that is why sculpture has been attractive. But I also see the depth of landscapes, the layers of distance, so even portraits are dimensional. The attraction of digital is undo, and the speed of variations. I have enjoyed making tribute drawings, redrawing or using filters. I have sometimes “channeled” the artist, and learned new things by the image I was making. I’m not done with my versions.

My best advice is to follow DuChamp. “Artists make art”.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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