Artistic Sophistication Isn’t Everything – A Ramble

For today, I thought that I’d talk about artistic sophistication (eg: realism, detail etc…) and why it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of being an artist. But, first, I thought that I’d illustrate what I’m talking about with a technology-based metaphor. If you aren’t interested in this, then skip the next two paragraphs.

A couple of days before writing this article, I ended up watching some Youtube videos about the history of handheld video game consoles, which contained an interesting fact (that anyone who grew up in the 1990s will know already). The Nintendo Game Boy vastly outsold the Sega Game Gear. If you had a handheld console in 1990s Britian, it was almost certainly a Game Boy. Yet, the Game Boy was considerably less sophisticated than the Game Gear.

The Game Gear had all sorts of impressive features like a full-colour screen, a cool-looking ergonomic design etc.. and the original Game Boy was a grey brick with a puke green low-resolution monochrome screen. Yet, the Game Boy was king. Why? It was cheaper, it was there first, it was incredibly reliable, the batteries lasted for ages and it was probably easier for companies to program games for it.

So, what does any of this have to do with art?

Well, everything.

For starters, one way to build an audience for your art is to produce it regularly and post it online regularly. Making art on a regular basis usually means that your art will be less detailed than it might be if you, say, spend several days or weeks on a single painting. For example, here’s a preview of one of the digitally-edited paintings for next month’s daily art posts:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 20th May.

It certainly isn’t my best or most inspired painting, but it isn’t my worst either. Yes, the background looks undetailed and it isn’t as good as paintings that I’ve made on more inspired days – like this one:

“Backstreets” By C. A. Brown

But, this doesn’t matter because it’s a daily painting. If I have a mediocre day, then there’s a chance that the next day’s painting will be better. Likewise, making art every day means that you have to learn how to get over feeling uninspired as quickly as possible (which increases your artistic confidence). It means that you have to learn how to make interesting-looking art efficiently. It also means that your audience has a good reason to look at your site or blog on a regular basis too.

A good example of this sort of thing can be seen in regularly-updated webcomics and syndicated newspaper cartoons. Most of the time, these cartoons don’t include hyper-detailed art. Compared to the comic books and graphic novels you might see in a bookshop, they look incredibly primitive. Yet, they have a much larger audience for the simple reason that they can be made quickly, published very regularly and read quickly.

Moving on to another subject, the “sophistication isn’t everything” rule also applies to the art supplies that you use. If you buy expensive art supplies, then you’re probably going to be more hesitant about using them (which means that you’ll practice and experiment less). If you buy expensive art supplies, then you’ll probably have less of them. If you buy expensive art supplies, then you might set yourself up for disappointment by forgetting that practice and skill are the really important factors behind making good art.

This even applies to digital tools too. For example, the program that I use for a fair amount of my image editing is an old one from 1999 called “JASC Paint Shop Pro 6”. Many of the useful features in this program can also be found in a free open-source program called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program). These programs are easier to learn and use for the simple reason that they contain fewer ultra-complex features. This means that it’s easier to feel confident when using them, and it means that doing what you want to do with them is often a lot quicker too.

So, yes, sophistication isn’t everything. If anything, too much sophistication and complexity can actually be a hinderance.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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