When Is Art Not Really Art? 5 Ways to Reject Perfection and Make Art With More Emotion



When is art not really art? It’s a big question, and it’s one you may even have asked of your own work.

Sure, your painting or drawing might look pretty good (and you might have spent ages working on it), but there’s that nagging feeling in the back of your mind…You might ask yourself: ‘Does this really capture the emotion I wanted it to?’ or ‘How can I capture the ‘life’ of my sketches in my finished painting?’

It’s not always easy. As artists, we sometimes find ourselves falling into the trap of creating 鈥榗raft鈥? not art. We find ourselves striving for perfection and over-working things.

All too often, we end up producing paintings and drawings with obvious technical skill, but lacking feeling. 鈥業t鈥檚 very good, but where鈥檚 the art in this?鈥 people ask. And that’s really annoying…

So how do you know what the difference is? How do you get to know what is not considered art? And, more importantly, how do you avoid it?

鈥淎rt that deals with ideas is more interesting than art that deals with technique.鈥滭/em>

~ David Bayles and Ted Orland

What鈥檚 The Difference Between Art And Craft?

The search for perfection in art is an endless one. We tell ourselves that each new painting, drawing or print has to be better than the last one, and that our skills as an artist will be judged on how proficient we appear to be.

Yet searching for perfection can actually get in the way of making art. It can cause us to create a piece of perfect craft instead. Why? Because being perfect means not making mistakes. And mistakes are a natural part of the creative process.

Each piece of art you create contains threads of information you can carry on into the next one 鈥 think about how you represented certain elements and whether you can improve upon these or do things differently next time. From time to time, all us artists need to ask ourselves ‘When is art not really art?’

So here are five ways to reject perfection and make art with more emotion and feeling. We hope you’ll be able to use some of these in your own work very soon and let your creativity run free…




Don’t be afraid聽to try out lots of different ideas for paintings

1. Quantity Can Sometimes Be Better Than Quality – Yes, Really!

An art teacher once carried out an interesting test for his students. Having divided his class into two groups, he asked the one to create a 鈥榩erfect鈥 piece (based on a set of criteria such as form, emotion etc) while he instructed the others to simply produce as much work as possible in the given timeframe.

The results were surprising. Of all the students in the 鈥榩erfection鈥 group, not one of them managed to produce a piece that met the brief. On the other hand, the students in the 鈥榪uantity鈥 group had, through sheer productivity, managed to produce at least one or two pieces that captured what the tutor was looking for.

What鈥檚 the lesson here for you? Try not to think of your work in terms of one perfect end result. Test out lots of different ideas and don鈥檛 be afraid to explore as many different possibilities as you can.

Being too self-conscious about your project can stifle your creativity and get in the way of good ideas which you can develop into more finished pieces.



How can you capture the freedom of your hand-drawn sketches in digital art?

2. A Digital Dilemma: How To Create Unique Artwork.

You鈥檝e probably encountered this issue. Having decided to make the transition from traditional art to digital, you鈥檝e spent hours perfecting your blending and rendering techniques and creating what you hope will be a 鈥榩erfect鈥 piece of art.

However, when you take a look at the finished piece, it seems to be lacking something. Despite all its obvious technical skill, your digital painting just doesn鈥檛 have the same feeling of movement as your traditional work and is no longer recognizable as a piece of your work.

In some ways, it could have been produced by anyone with similar skills to you. It looks hugely impressive, it might even have the 鈥榳ow鈥 factor for some people, but in the eyes of many, this is not quite art. How come?

It鈥檚 a common problem for many artists, but how do you avoid falling into this trap? When beginning to work digitally, it鈥檚 all too easy to get carried away with all the fantastic features now available to you.

Not only do have access to almost any brush and color under the sun, you can zoom right in and develop areas of your painting in greater detail than ever before.

That鈥檚 where your problems can start. Many leading artists recommend working on the whole of your composition 鈥 especially in the early stages.

Therefore, try and avoid the temptation to zoom in and get detailed too soon. You need to take a step back and see how the different elements of your painting are working with each other.

Each time you make a new mark digitally, try and think about how you鈥檇 do this if you were working traditionally. For example, would you usually have used your eraser at this stage to get certain effects?

Did you used to enjoy how the paint would move around the canvas or paper and create random effects you could utilize? If so, think about the marks you鈥檙e making now and how you can incorporate the energy of traditional media into your work.

Many digital artists like to go back to traditional methods from time to time. Not only does this help free them up and develop ideas, it also helps them stay in touch with their unique style and ways of sketching and applying color.

It helps them avoid the dreaded 鈥榃hen is art not really art?鈥 question! Why not try it yourself? You might be able to get a clearer idea of why you make certain marks and interpret things in a certain way.

3. Planning Your Project

When starting work on a project, it鈥檚 often a good idea to think about why you鈥檙e making this piece of art.

What meanings are you trying to get across? What do you want people to feel when they see it? What鈥檚 your main motivation for doing it? How does it relate to the rest of your work?

Simply writing these ideas down can give you a great foundation to start from. You don鈥檛 have to go into too much detail 鈥 just give yourself some reminders to refer to throughout your project.

If you ever find yourself losing track of the original idea, these will help you get back to basics.


Joining an art community can help keep your creativity moving in the right direction

4. Don鈥檛 Be Afraid To Go Back To The Drawing Board

It鈥檚 easy to look at a masterpiece and forget about the endless revisions and reworking that led up to it. When working on your project, don鈥檛 be afraid to take an honest look at your work and see if you鈥檙e still heading in the right direction.

Have you lost track of your original idea? Does that element in your painting work really as well as you鈥檇 like it to?

Not being afraid to start again is one of the most important things an artist can learn. Most masterpieces didn鈥檛 start out looking anything like the finished piece. The artists who created them were constantly re-evaluating elements of their composition and painting over the areas which didn鈥檛 work so well.

Here’s where joining an art community can really help. If you’re ever unsure about your art, or just need someone to reassure you that you’re headed in the right direction, there’ll be someone there to help.

And what better place to start than the Pencil Kings community? Click here to find out more about joining the most supportive network of artists online.

5. Don鈥檛 Let Technique Take Over Your Art

Practicing your techniques is important for any artist, but you should use these to inform your paintings rather than dominate them.

So you鈥檝e learned how to draw hands perfectly? That鈥檚 awesome, but how are you going to take this knowledge and incorporate it into your painting?

How can you stop your composition looking too perfect and heading into ‘When is art not really art’ territory? Try and think about the movement of the people, buildings and environments in your work. Sketch them in quickly, and then worry about the technical aspects later.

And if you’re looking for a great video course on drawing on location, here’s a great place to start!

Keep looking at your work and tweaking each element until you鈥檙e happy with it. Don鈥檛 get too bogged down with perfection. Try and think about what is not considered art. Learn from each new mistake and see where it takes you. Above all, enjoy it!

Hopefully, rather than end up with a technically proficient piece with no emotion, you鈥檒l produce a unique piece of art that could only have been produced by you. A piece you can look at say: ‘This is real art.’ And that’s pretty awesome, right?

One Response to “When Is Art Not Really Art? 5 Ways to Reject Perfection and Make Art With More Emotion”

  1. Art and emotion - why the two will always be linked

    […] the same applies to a technically-perfect depiction of something that lacks emotion. Can you remember the last time you were moved by a technical […]


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