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  • Vincent da Vinci

Artist Advice: What is Quality?

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Question: What is Quality?

I know I'm opening a can of worms here, but it is so often discussed in this forum. Everyone has an opinion. What is good art? What is bad art? What is quality?

Robert Pirsig, the author of brilliant "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", passed away just a few days ago, which reminded me of quality. He wrote at length about it. One of his famous quotes: "Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality."

I think our perception of quality is very personal, and very much associated with taste, which comes from background and experience. My art taste was different when I lived in Silicon Valley and went to museums but rarely to galleries, than after a few years in New York going to galleries every week. Taste evolves. Which means our perspective on quality will change too.

This makes me very suspect when someone claims they know what is bad or good art. There's a lot of art that sells for tens of thousands of dollars that I find horrendous. But obviously someone else is willing to pay a lot of money for it, so they must think it's exceptionally good. Which is fantastic! Life would be so boring of we all liked the same things.

What do you think? Can anyone determine what is good or bad quality art?

Response by Artist Vincent da Vinci

I haven’t commented on this thread before and initially I started to make a simple comment, but turned more detailed, and given examples to help explain, my interpretation of “Quality”.

When we click “Like” we may be making judgments as the “Quality” of the work, else we wouldn’t click the “Like” icon suggesting we don’t like the work. Of course, some may play the system, but I genuinely only give “Likes” to when the “Quality” (Technical Ability) is due, as well as other considering other criteria, see below. If I particularly like a work, I would transfer it over to one of my Collections.

Initially when I joined AF a couple of years ago I made a Forum post about “Quality over Quantity” suggesting that Artists are producing lots of works, I think at the detriment of the “Quality” of the work. By the nature that AF works, in order to be seen in the “New” section you need to make work quickly to increase your chances of being seen, and I think it’s a detriment to the Quality of the work. Initially, I suggested that there should be a cap or limit to the amount of work being displayed to say 100 works per Artist, in order the every Artist has an equal share of the pot, and by doing so the Artist would select their “Best” Quality work for display, also it would save on server space.

However, following a subsequent post by AF “Plenty Room on the Island” it became apparent that AF have taken a different stance, by accepting “All” work as long as it don’t contravene AF’s T&C. Although, initially I didn’t agree with AF about this, but I have now increased my presence by over 200 works, I must admit a few of the works aren’t my “Best” works to the “Quality” that I would achieve at Art School, but it would increase my chances of being seen on AF. At Art School, you would only put forward your “Best” work for assessment, and for final Exhibition, and to be marked, graded, accordingly, as by putting forward lesser “Quality” work may be detrimental to your Practice, and final mark. It appears that the reverse is here on AF, that it’s a numbers game, appears to be “Quantity over Quality”.

While at Art School, Fine Artists are taught, to see things differently, and add an additional “Quality” depth to the work, so the work isn’t easily read and interpreted by the viewer, and not make “Literal” Art, such as in decorative Arts etc.

During another post, I’ve made “Critiques” of other Artists work on AF with approx 50 critiques, typically writing approx 100 words, with and scoring out of 10. The system I used was based on three criteria in which a judge on the UK Programme “Show me the Monet” highlighted and I agree with. The three criteria are: Originality, Technical Ability, and Emotional connection. (Almost like I was on the judging selection committee, see last paragraph below). Only by looking at other Artists work, commenting, critiquing them, can you make assessments as the “Quality” of the work, by comparing the work to similar Artists, and giving examples in Art History, can an Artist grow and improve their “Quality” and their Practice.

From above and my experiences,

Four points of "Quality" firstly "Originality" of the Artist

Originality, relates is the work Original? Does the Artist have a USP (Unique Selling Point, that sets the Artist apart from other Artists), or is the Artist mimic or just copying another Artist style/technique before. One example of this would be developing a new style movement, at the time, such as “Cubism” pioneered by Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, in where objects, were painted from multi-view points. At the time, this was a new technique, and hasn’t been seen before, and I would consider “radical” or “risky” Art. I think Originality means we should push the boundaries of Art, to create “New” techniques, not seen before, and not just take the “safe” option as to mimic or copy what has gone before us.

Four points of "Quality" secondly "Technical" ability of the Artist

Technical Ability, I think this relates to the “Quality” of the work. Technical Ability takes is acquired over time, though the Artist learning journey, usually taught instruction, and can take several years to achieve.

Although, my practice relates to Conceptual Art (where the “Idea” or Concept is most important aspect, as opposed to the finished polished work), I give example you maybe more familiar with in figurative “Life Drawing”, my first ever drawing, doesn’t have the same “Quality” as my last one over several years of training. Initially started using pencil, then taught to use other mediums, pen & inks, charcoal, acrylic, oil paints, and different techniques such as “scribble techniques”. Then learning about the portions of the body, for-shorting, negative spaces, and filling the page, ensuring that to figure is grounded, correct weight distribution, with appropriate background. Only by going though this journey can the “Quality” of the work improve, without guidance the “Quality” maybe lacking without a second opinion to make adjustments and correct the errors, such as in the programme “The Big Painting Challenge”. The tutor would offer guidance and suggestions, for improvement, and demonstrate new techniques. Similarly, while at Art School, an Artist “Quality” improves with instruction, lectures (such as History of Art, looking at how others use techniques), critiques, all this all aids to the “Quality” of the work.

Four points of "Quality" thirdly "Emotional" connection between the Artist and the Buyer

The third criteria, is “Emotional” connection. We all have different emotional responses to when we see a work of Art, these are developed when we are young, right up to adulthood and are different for each individual, due to our life circumstances, social standing (rich or poor), environment and culture and country of origin etc. Just like the emoticons these can make us feel, happy, sad, angry, shocked etc. I’m only able to make assessments based on my emotional circumstances, as above, but I think this too aids the “Quality” of the work, as its better to make an connection between the Artist & the Viewer.

Four points of "Quality" fourthly "Quality" or branding of the Artist

The Quality or Technical Ability is just one aspect when assessing a work, as with other criteria above, there is a fourth “Quality” of the Artist him/herself also need to consider the way that the Artist portrays him or herself to the public, in their Practice, website, blog, on social media, etc, such as their knowledge of the Arts, such as writing full descriptions, Artist Statements, Bio’s (see “Why write a Bio?”), “Me at Work” section etc all aid to the “Quality” of an Artist.

As to the “Me at Work” I think the “Quality” of the Artist is improved by staging the work in the right setting. Although Artist may not work this way, you are selling a Product, maybe Aspiration to the viewer, and I think this also “Quality” of the Artist. I think “Quality” is right across the board not just an image of their work.

One other aspect is when an Artist submits work for Competition, for Exhibition, as mentioned previously, “Show me the Monet” or “Summer Exhibition” at the Royal Academy, and put forward, usually judged by three trained Artists on the judging panel. Only a small portion in the latter is selected, due to space etc, I think 8 out of 10 works rejected, approx 10 000 works submitted), and only best “Quality” work selected. Only by looking at large Quantity of works you can see the “Quality” shine though.

I think “Quality” is right across the board not just an image of their work.


These are just my thoughts and observations, and these comments will be transferred to my Blog for future reference.

Duplicity of Life: Grid-Lock for SALE

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