What is Art?

When I was in high school we did an art project where we painted fish going up the stairs for my towns local salmon festival. The class wasn’t your typical art class, it was urban arts, a class made for at risk kids to express their creativity in a better way. SO, the fish we made were created with spray paint and we learned this beautiful street art style typically associated with graffiti or vandalism. The first thing my principal had said to my art teacher after we were done is how long would it be up before we covered it?


The opening in “not everyone’s an artist despite what they may think” by John Stallman’s  the first painting that pops up is this really fat person laying on a couch and he asks you is this art. In my head I think yes of course, their body proportions are right and their technique although not absolute realism is amazing. He goes on to say,

“Probably not, based on what I’ve seen at the juried shows. And that’s a shame, because art isn’t always beautiful. . . or “cute,” “clever,” “interesting,” “nifty,” or “matches what I already have on my wall.”


Now another thing I have learned from my high school art teacher is his hatred for the word just. And that is what made me question this article, because although he is trying to build up one side of art is also tearing down the other side of art.


I understand what he’s saying here is that these people clearly are artists, who aren’t painting to social standards blah the whole “I’m-an-artist-I-am-deeper-than-you” talk but he goes on to imply that these people who paint to be cute clever interesting or nifty aren’t artists either. Or that people who are vendors who paint to make money aren’t artists. And I couldn’t help but think of my principal not taking the fish swimming up our school stairwell seriously.


There has been this fight in the art community for years. Generations before always have always has something to say about the upcoming generations of artists. Now we live in a time where abstract and non-objective art are recognized as art forms, many people do not respect these in the art community. Myself personally will never be able to fully respect Jason Pollock for his splatter paintings. Or famous artists such as Banksy who are known for their risky juxtaposition graffiti, who have really changed the face of art in the modern age. As someone who firstly paints and draws in realism, I myself become judgemental to those who do obscure versions of these things. But also discovering your own style, and going beyond reality is something I have yet to master.


What does it take to be an artist? as Stillmuck says “Despite the low standards and diminished knowledge about genuine artists and fine art, there are thankfully still people who understand and “get it” when it comes to art.” But that is to say my parents who have bought about 30 paintings of lighthouses and couldn’t draw you a stick person nor name a famous artist don’t “get it”



So ultimately this article left me with Who gets to choose what is art and to do that I had to rethink my definition of art.


Is it about the subject matter?

Is it about the context in which it is made, and the intention of expressing emotion and not simply to sell art?

Is it about being deep, or can it just be something that makes you happy?

Is it technique or talent?

Is it the response of your audience?

Or it is the ability to be original?


Let’s take a look a little deeper into the art world and history and see.