And The Poor Red Clay Had Rest

Someone in my comments yesterday brought up the whole question of the division between art and craft, and right now – at this very moment – old habitues of the blog are groaning and shaking their heads and saying “Did you have to start THAT again?  Don’t you know what she’s like when she gets wound up?”

But it’s okay – truly – you may crawl out from under the various pieces of furniture.  I’m still just the slightest bit under the weather, so there will be minimal flingage (it is too a word if I say it is!) of fish, and anyway, I want to talk rationally about this.  (You, yes, you, the gentleman with the pug, smirking in front of his screen! – Wipe that smirk  off your face.  I’ve been rational in the past.  Once.  It was a Thursday.  It might have been foggy.)

Is there such a thing as “Art” – as distinguishable from really, really, really, really, really good craft?

Stop looking at me as if I’d lost my mind.  (It’s not true anyway.  I know exactly where I left my mind – University Hospital delivery room, Charlotte, NC, 21 years ago.  I’m sure it’s still there, in the corner. Cowering.)

Seriously.  Is there such a thing as art, distinguishable from superb craft?  If there is, how would you tell?

Well…  If you’re mumbling “I know art when I see it” – I agree with you.  There is… a quality to art.  A touch of something more than human.  Something that shouldn’t/couldn’t be conjured out of mere blood, flesh and bone.

I discovered this when I was dead broke – about a year after leaving my mind behind – in Columbia, SC.  Dan left his job to look after me when I had pre-eclampsia.  Unfortunately the job he took on, which was supposed to let him work from home and pay him, didn’t PAY.  So… by the time Robert was born we were already in trouble.  By the time we gave up on getting paid, we were in MORE trouble.  By the time Dan found a job in South Carolina (I couldn’t work.  Took me forever to recover, besides having an infant) we were in so much trouble it wasn’t even funny.

This led to the first two years of Robert’s life as we paid back a mountain of debt and lived mostly off a gigantic bag of frozen veggies a week and a lot of rice.  (The meat was boiled with the veggies and given to Robert as soon as he could eat.)

It’s hard to explain how broke we were.  We’ve been stone broke since, but never to the point where buying a used paperback meant I skipped the daily meal for a couple of days.  (And yes, I still bought them.  You make your choices, I make mine.)

So, in that time, when life seemed like a sterile relentless slog of “must do” with no fun at all (we didn’t own a TV and this was pre-internet.  And I’d already read every book we owned five times. – G-d, I would have KILLED for Amazon and the free promotional e-books!) – before even we came to Colorado and things eased a very little – I don’t remember how or why, we found ourselves going through a used book store.  (They had a free rack up front.)  I guess Dan thought it was safe to take me to the coffee table books.  See, I had never been a “pretty pictures” kind of girl.

And then I opened a book of DaVinci works.  I can’t explain it.  Those pictures were like balm on my abraded stomped-down soul.  They were beautiful like nothing in our life was beautiful right then (well, except the kid.)  But it was more than that.  Something to those paintings stirred and touched depths I’d have sworn I didn’t have.

It must have shown in my face because Dan said something along the lines of “Screw paying back the bills as fast as possible.  You can and must have this,” and sprang he $40 we realistically could NOT afford to buy the book.  Through the next three years, until bills were paid off and we could breathe and schedule in a little fun, THAT book served as a refuge.  Spending a couple of hours staring at the pictures was like a mini-vacation for my eyes and mind.  (AND should you doubt the world is a better place, if we should find ourselves in the same situation again – and we’ve been close – now, twenty years later, there are art sites I could look at for the price of the net connection which we must have, anyway.)  In similar circumstances I’ve had my mind eased by watching a Shakespeare play (yes, they’re okay read, but that’s one thing I prefer to watch and hear) or by reading a loved book.

There is to art that which touches something you might not have been aware of having.  In books, it absolutely makes you live the story, drags you into it, pours emotion into you, and leaves you in a different place from where you started.

Oh, I found out years later, the same is true of music – and do to an hearing issue I am the world’s worst music-appreciation person.  BUT friends gave us symphony tickets during annus horriblis, when I was killing myself with six novels for which I had NO hope of success, AND homeschooling the child.  That evening surrounded by music (there’s no other way to describe it) was enough to carry me through the next six months, till things got better.

So, yeah, in my opinion, there is art – but how can you tell it from good craft?  What particle of canvas can you boil that will yield “art.”  I know it by its effect on me.  You know it by its effect on you.

And what is the difference between art and craft?  Well… craft, no matter how great doesn’t do that.  Also, art can cover a multitude of thumb prints and ill-mended plot points.  I.e. some things are art even though the craft sucks so badly that the Dyson people have considered integrating it into their vacuum cleaners.  And some things are wonderful, wonderful craft and utterly lifeless and do nothing for you.

What I want you to understand, though, is that this appreciation, this feeling in the soul, this transcendent beauty, is FELT – which means it’s subjective.

I love looking at DaVinci.  Robert, my older son, can be brought to tears by Van Gogh.  I have nothing against Van Gogh.  If you have to admire some post-renaissance artist, he’s a fine one, but I wouldn’t sit transfixed in front of his work for hours.

What is art to you, might be “oh, that’s just really good craft” to me.  Or it might be even “OMG, I couldn’t even read it.”

Here I must make a detour – No, Sarah!  Not you!  You of the clear and linear thought! – and point out that readers often “can’t stand” a book for reasons that writers find bizarre.  No, seriously.  You might write an 800 page opus, and pour into it every ounce of your life experience, every particle of feeling and thought you can imbue it with; you might polish each word till it shines; but someone out there will say “well, I hit that thing on page eight, where she buys a pink Cadillac, and it completely lost me forever.  Sorry.  I just couldn’t empathize with a character who would do that.”  Or your character has freckles.  Or you used the word imbue wrong.  (And it wasn’t even you but some copyeditor who did that, after your final go through, and you never saw it, till it was in print. – No?  It’s happened to me.  Like the one who put t at the end of every thou in a book set in Tudor England.)

The flip side of this is that what will make the book for some readers is something off the cuff that you just let fall.  There will be the conversation your character has with his dog, which you just dropped in because you could, or the fact your character drinks only single malt, and this will send a reader into raptures and make him or her a fan forever.  My assumption is it balances out.

But the fact remains your exquisitely crafted, maybe even artistic book, will never reach everyone, and might not reach people it’s perfect for, because they don’t like your use of hydrogen peroxide in disinfecting small cuts.  (No, seriously.)

And again, I must bring up the point that some of the books my best friends or even my husband think are art and stand outs are books that I can’t read past page three.  Worse, some of the books that shook me to my very core at 17, now read trite, contrived, and I see the wires moving the characters as it were.  Or even worse, books I loved at 30, I now can’t read because, inexplicably, the word cadence has become like nails on the blackboard to me.  (This is reversible, too.  For years there was an author I couldn’t read because his word choice bothered me.  EVERY ONE OF THEM was subtly wrong.  Ten years later, he became one of my absolute favorite writers and remains so another almost twenty years later.  What changed?  My own use of language?  (Well, being ESL, when I first got here, I felt language differently.)  My hormonal balance?  The attention I devote to reading?  Who KNOWS?

Was he art before?  Is he art now?  WHO KNOWS?

Art exists.  Is it universal?  Can you find it?  More, can you know if you are putting art into your work?

This is the part of the blog where Sarah throws her hands up in the air and asks you if you wouldn’t like a nice slice of cake instead.  You’re overwrought.  Thinking too much is bad for you.  It gives you astigmatism and puts hair in your eardrums.  Here – pours you some tea – take a deep breath.

The answer to your question is: Who knows?  Who cares?

If you try to figure out whether you’re a mere craftsman or an artist – worse, if you try to convince your friends some writer you adore is an artist, not a craftsman – you’ll drive yourself, your friends, and possibly total strangers who’ve never done anything to you completely insane.

Look, kid, we don’t know for sure – of course – but there’s a good chance Shakespeare wrote to pay his bills and buy his wife a nice house.  Dumas dang well wrote to pay his bills – with notable lack of success at times.  Heinlein said loud and clear that he wrote to pay his bills.  Rex Stout?  Yep.  Paid his bills.

So, write to pay your bills.  Or at least aim to.  This will keep you honest and keep you from going chasing after your own tail, starting to wear a pony tail, sit in fashionable cafes and hold your demi-tasse just so.  It will certainly keep you from using the excuse that your stuff just doesn’t sell because you’re too good for this terrible world.  And it will keep you grounded.  Also, if you’re not writing art – and you can’t know, and I can’t know.  Someone might know, but you might never meet them – at least your efforts helped support you.

And use all your craft the best you can.  IF the muse stoops down and kisses you, well and good.  Then ages yet unborn will sing of your genius.  And if it doesn’t, chances are you’ll never know.

AIM at competent and exquisitely crafted.  If you surpass that, win.

On the other hand, if you REALLY insist on being “an artist” I have a beret my mom sent me, which is two sizes too small for me (I am blessed with a massive head.  That’s it.  The gentleman who sniggered will stay after school and clean out the erasers.)  You’re welcome to it.  If all you want is to say that you’re an artist and strike a pose that’s easily done.

If not, go work and stop worrying your head about things you can never figure out. Might as well count the angels on the head of a pin or calculate the flight velocity of dragons.

If the muse has kissed you, someone else will feel it.  Stop thinking about it.

Write.

126 responses to “And The Poor Red Clay Had Rest

  1. I do NOT have a pug. I have to agree that art is subjective. On the other hand I have found a good rule of thumb for knowing what isn’t art. If the art critics say it’s art, it’s not. I look at the “art” on campus, bought by those with “good taste” piles of rusty junk. I think that to be art it must speak to someones soul. Most stuff passing for art doesn’t speak to anyone. It is just a way for a bunch of pseudo intellectuals to one up each other.
    I must agree and sympathize with your different feelings about books at different stages of life. We all see that. I will say that craft shows through, and that a good craftsman can be read even if his work never rises to the level of art.

  2. Wayne Blackburn

    I am blessed with a massive head.

    In a man, this would be considered bragging. ( Runni – OW! You’re not supposed to throw MARLINS!)

  3. Hi! Can you tell me if your Kyrie Smith books will ever be available as ebooks?

  4. And have been made to feel unwomanly by the total lack of HATS for massive heads! Another trait we share.

    Honestly, I’m with Erma Bombeck who said “One size fits all” is an incomplete sentence.

    I especially love the stories that I can re-read today with as much pleasure as when I read them at 7 or 10 or 20. My copy of Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon is positively dogeared – and there is no way I could move all the annotations – and the FEEL of the book – to an ereader.

    Someone said (Stephen King in On Writing? – have no idea how to check without massive investment of time supposed to be spent writing) that there are basically three levels of writers: those with art in their bones (you have to be born that way), those who will never learn to write no matter how hard they try, and most of us in the middle who can improve greatly by learning craft. I say make the effort – the top level of great craftsmen is very close to art, and good enough for most readers.

  5. May I suggest that H. Beam Piper’s work, Little Fuzzy, was art, and John Scalzi’s reboot thereof Fuzzy Nation was craft. To wit, the real creative work of the situation and setting and story arc was done by Piper. Scalzi took those pieces and arranged them (to my mind) more skillfully.

    I may be missing your point. Positing my definitions of art and craft onto your remarks. Whereas I think of creativity and skilled execution as definitions of art and craft, you think of something transcendent in the work that touches you more deeply than mere novelty.

    Anything transcendent is going to be a minefield to discuss because this isn’t a religion blog. Yet, the only way I can find to explain that touch of transcendence is the Christian notion that man is made in the image of Deity. The transcendent strikes us differently, because we are projections of deity from different eye-points. Deity mapped onto Sarah is different from Deity mapped onto anyone else.

  6. Of course flingage is a word. It is derived through the Middle English from the Old Norse flänga, taking the future past pluperfect tense. Or perhaps it is a portmanteau (derived from a Canadien shipping center where the natives habitually cram words together) of fling and engage — As I age I find I forget many things, quite a few of which I never knew.

    BTW – it is quite possible to talk rationally without actually being rational, although it usually ends with public statements by neighbours tio the effect that “she seemed so normal, just a quiet sort who we never thought would do anything like that.”

  7. Seriously…am I missing something? Is there really no way to follow the comments of a WordPress blog without making a comment yourself and checking the box?

    • Yes, ye be missing something — but I do not know what. Poking around the innards one recent day I accidentally ticked a box which has resulted in my receipt of all new posts AND comments without my having to authorize them individually. I don’t know what I did and don’t want to risk undoing, but it is there to be done.

      • See, now, I’ve SEEN that page and can’t find it again. Far more aggravating than just thinking should be a certain way is finding out that it is, but that you have no access to it currently. The latter is the stuff of gnawed-on nails and a good Larry Howard hairdo.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Go up to the circled “W” in the top bar of the page and click on “Settings” on the drop-down. There is a place there to select Follow for both blog posts and comments.

          If you don’t have the top bar, you can just login to WordPress.com and go to the Settings page.

          • Hush. We want to bitch, not be handing perfectly workable solutions.

            • Speak for yourself – I prefer to kvetch.

              • I’m down with kvetching.

              • Kvetching is an art. Robert and I can do the two-person kvetch so impressively that total strangers stop to listen. Though it compares not to the two-man kvetch between the boys, bicker-kvetch and expound then all over again — Kate Paulk calls it the rolling argument and can locate us in a con by its sound.

                • Sounds a bit like what happens if you get my spouse and myself to have opposing-viewpoint characters in any form of RPG. (Warlocks and Paladins, Warlocks and Mages, …warlocks and anyone, really; high elves and Vah Shir; the telepathic vigilante do-gooder and the telepathic thief…)

                  We rarely argue at all when not in-character.

    • You are missing nothing. More’s the pity. Yep, that is the only way.

      • Au contraire, mes amis — one can also follow the comments by opening the blog post in question and scrolling, preferably downward although there are some schools of thought holding it is more entertaining to start at the bottom and scrolling upward.

        Whether or not you are “missing” anything is a question best answered by philosophers and/or literary critics.

        • or medical professionals. Or people on the street. I mean, none of us has ever seen him in person. He might be missing an ear…

          • Which he cut off in his own mental torture and mailed … no that has so been done before. Come on, your writers, can’t you come up with something a bit original?

            Is there anything original?

            • 1 – (insert something pithy and original here)

              2 – ?

              3 – Profit!

            • Wayne Blackburn

              To paraphrase several people, “Ain’t nothin’ original under the sun.”

            • ARG! Never mind, if I correct myself I will be asked why, and if I don’t I will be ignored. What to do? What to do? I know, blame lack of coffee meets spell check. Yes, that is what I will do. COFFEE…

  8. Art, schmart. It is in the eye of the beholder, who probably needs glasses. Unlike Craft, it is not in the control of the maker.

  9. When I was writing poetry regularly, I tried in every way through studying the work of the Masters to make art. It didn’t always happen. Many times, I don’t see the art in my own work, but others do.

    Now I write fiction. I am in the middle of the craftmanship of writing so I just don’t see art in my work. I used to craft perfect sentence and say nothing. Basically it was beautiful trash. Now I don’t worry as much about perfect sentences or literary descriptions. I try to bring the reader into my world. It doesn’t always happen. I think that I am succeeding in a small way.

    BTW Monet is my favorite. It unfocuses my trance state and gives me some measure of peace.

  10. What I find interesting are the Master Craftsmen who didn’t consider themselves Artists. These are the men who were responsible for fine furniture, design work for knifes & guns, etc. Perhaps, because they considered themselves makers of things with practical uses and artists made things that only “looked nice”.

    • I think it impossible to become a master craftsman without having a touch of the artist.

      For various reasons music seems especially amenable to the distinction. There are artists with (apparently – I’ve no idea how much they actually knew, and it takes true skill for an artist to produce primitive work, like an actor playing a character who acts badly) rudimentary at best musicianship who produce works of glorious transcendence — I could cite early Beatles or the Ramones, but tastes differ. And there are musicians who demonstrate a complete and masterful understanding of their craft whose work leaves me absolutely cold, all Craft and no Art — Barry Manilow here comes to mind.

      Although long-windedness compels me to recognize that there are painters who are compleat masters of their craft yet whose works seem most suited to adorn franchise hotel rooms.

      • I agree *but* there were Master Craftsmen with the “touch of the Artist” that laughed at the idea that they were Artists.

      • There is a heated argument among aficionados of classical guitar music about John Williams’s performances of Spanish compositions. One school holds that he is too cold – technically perfect but without any fire. The other group maintains that his technical perfection IS his passion, showing his devotion to the music and his willingness to immerse himself in the minor details of the work. Is his Art that he has completely mastered his Craft, or is he a Craftsman in the best sense who lacks emotion, and thus flaws, that show his true Artist stature?

        I have no idea who is right (I’m a vocalist), but I purchase his recordings whenever I can.

      • I seem to recall being told that Johnny Cash only knew 3 cords on his guitar.

      • I agree with you – these two concepts aren’t in conflict, but rather they compliment each other.

        I could write a technically correct score of music, but without understanding the art behind it, it’d just be noise. And vice versa.

  11. Thinking too much is bad for you.

    Heresy, I say! :P

    • Be ever so careful, or you just might find yourself falling out of the habit altogether. There are those who will tell us thinking too much is bad for you, but what they really are attempting is to teach us not to think at all and be good little minions of the state…

  12. When you say “the gentleman with the pug” – I immediately think of a certain personage in charge of Ankh Morpork, though he is more likely to raise an eyebrow than smirk. And he’s not likely to clean any erasers. ^_^

    I.e. some things are art even though the craft sucks so badly that the Dyson people have considered integrating it into their vacuum cleaners. And some things are wonderful, wonderful craft and utterly lifeless and do nothing for you.

    YES!

    And yes, Who knows? Who cares? about covers it, though it’s fun to discuss, as long as no one gets too serious about it. They flow too much into each other are too much part of each other to easily separate.

  13. Holding the demitasse just so is important! It keeps my fingers warm in the overly conditioned air in those trendy bistros. My wife likes the pony-tail, and chasing my tail is an unfortunate side-effect of a relative lack of experience (that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). On the other hand, I spent a semester in aesthetics class in the company of couple dozen other philosophy devotees attempting to define art so we could get on to really important discussions. Didn’t work. We could come up with a workable definition that didn’t leave out something that one of us swore was art. Usually, another would swear – equally vehemently – that said piece was utter crap. Eventually, I gave it up as a bad idea all ’round. I think you’ve come far closer than we did (addendum from my sophomore self: what? emotion? subjective experience? this is PHILOSOPHY! concrete ideas upon which we can base DEEP thoughts! universal TRUTH that applies always to all people everywhere in all times everywhere! heathen writers. as bad as artists, you are).

  14. The art/craft dichotomy happens in many fields – I’m an engineer; I can often, with sufficient work, craft a good design that satisfies all the requirements, stated and felt, to solve a (usually poorly) specified problem. But, once in a great while, the solution has “new insight”, “elegance of implementation”, etc – words used in our field to describe things that in other creative fields are often called Art. And yes, the appreciation of it is majorly subjective.

  15. I recall — however vaguely — a discussion an art curator for a museum had with some interviewer — Dick Cavett or Bill Moyers or some other prat — in which he described the process by which he got in touch with art. He would place a work in his space. In his office or workroom. And he would live with it — weeks, or months, whatever it took. The relationship would go through stages. First he would simply study the work — appropriating the brush strokes or the tool marks from chisels and smoothing tools. Getting in touch with the artist through the work, maybe. Then he’d start talking to it.

    And when it started talking back, he knew he had a winner.

    I don’t know, first, how accurate my recollection is, but second, how romanticized and full of BS that is, but I do know that I have experienced something the like from various works I have known. And it should be noted that this only works with originals. Reproductions: not so much..

    But the point is that the capital-A art comes, not from the act of creation, but in the reaction of the person perceiving the art. And different work will move different people differently. Which may explain the reaction of masters that Paul Howard mentions above. They are wise or perceptive enough to know that the distinction between Art and Craft is perceptual, and subjective, and there’s no predicting it.

    As Sarah has written.

    M

    • I think that’s a mark of personality, not a mark of art.

      My charismatic but dotty mother used to say, about the decorative objects she would acquire (mostly crafts), that when you walk into a room and see it, it ought to make you smile.

      I understand exactly what she means. Objects acquire life when you invest them with it. But it’s not art. There are objects I think of as genuine high art that I would never presume to smile at in that way. They don’t have that personality. I like Greek sculpture, for example, as serious art. But it “doesn’t make me smile” in that way.

  16. In the department of one readers meat is another reader’s Arthur Treacher’s inedible fish special:
    There is a short story I love beyond reason, I cry every time I read it, and Sarah doesn’t like it at all. To give it a dry, objective examination: The hero is injured and disoriented, he doesn’t know where he is or how he got there. The narration contrives to hide the real situation and location till near the end of the story. The narration… is way, way beyond colloquial. The narrator chatters, and he shows no emotional involvement in the story he’s telling. He has the same cheerful tone at the heartbreaking ending as he did at the beginning. It’s like listening to the best speeches from King Lear recited by a smart, cheerful autistic eleven year old. It works for me, but I can understand why it doesn’t work for everyone. It won a poll of science fiction writers as the best SF story ever written (got I think nine votes, something by Heinlein got eight, wasn’t that popular a choice though more people thought it was the best) but I can sympathize with someone who couldn’t get past the first, offputting sentence. The great magazine editor who bought it for an anniversary special was baffled, and said it needed cutting, the author, who had already chopped it down to 5k words from 20k, screamed, “If you don’t want to publish it, burn it, I don’t want to see the damned thing again.” Publisher cut something else.

    • I have an etiquette or protocol question, I’m not sure which. I have been following Sarah’s blog for several months now, (and am enjoying it immensely). More than once, works of fiction have been described, but without title or author. Is there a rule about that around here? Other times, works are named. I don’t want to transgress, but I get very curious as to what something could be. Whatever the convention is, I will follow it, but I can’t seem to figure it out quite. ??

      • seemed to me to be the rule. “The Man Who Lost the Sea,” Theodore Sturgeon.

        • Thank you! I need to see if I have it. I read a lot of Sturgeon, but it was a very long time ago.

      • Laura, I would suggest that you email the commenter about which story you’re interested in. Writers don’t like slagging off other writers (there are enough critics, editors and publishers to do that), so a private communication is often the best. Ditto praise.

        • Will do. It was the complimentary ones that had me puzzled.

          • I know of no real rule, but my personal rule of thumb is I don’t denigrate someone by name unless they are dead and gone or they REALLY ticked me off. Much the same is true for compliments although not to the same extent, I may say I like someones current work, but try not to do serious plugs for someone unless it is something more likely to be found used than new. No real method to this I just don’t think polite to get on an authors blog and advertise for someone else.

      • If I don’t name it, I don’t want to name it in public. I might name it in private. My email is sahoyt at hotmail dot com

  17. When I think of art, I think of paintings, sculpture, photography, and music. When I think of craft, I think of carving, weaving, quilting, and creating useful things out of regular items left lying about. When I think of writing, I think of dedication, long nights, planning, organization, self discipline, and an endless craving to get the story right. In short, it is WORK. But, work can be a craft, and it can be art. At the end of the day, what really matters is if it is a good story, and if you are paying the bills, will it sell.

    I know that to be a good artist, it takes years of work and study, trial and error. To be good at a craft, the same thing has to happen. Someone has to teach the basics, and the artist or craftsman has to keep learning and growing at the art or craft. The same thing has to happen with a writer. Along with that, if you want to pay the bills, is that tenacity required to get those words down on a page every day. I don’t have the self discipline to do that, and I am far too lazy. That is why I admire writers so much, and envy them too, because I know I may have the desire and words in my head, but I will never have the courage or determination to actually get the job done.

  18. I’ve been rational in the past. Once. It was a Thursday.

    Interesting you should say that. It was on two subsequent Thursdays early in my time here, that your posts launched impressive barrages.

    From what I know of you — if what you assert is true — it must have been on a Thursday that you decided at the same moment of time to both gain US citizenship and marry Dan. ;-)

  19. At the risk of pissing off everyone but Cyn, I would respecfully suggest that from an author’s perspective, poetry is art, short-story writing a little less so, and novel-writing is a craft.

    There can be bits of art in a novel, to be sure, and I try to create as many such bits as I possibly can, but in the main, novels are like pottery rather than sculpture.

    And I say all this as a novel-writer who acknowledges freely that poetry is quite beyond his capabilities.

    • novels are like pottery rather than sculpture

      I disagree. Never once has my wife come up and started fondling me from behind while I was trying to get a passage written on the turntable. Neither has she ever died and come back to foil our best friend’s bank heist. Hell, I don’t think she even knows Whoopie Goldberg.

    • Once upon a time, I’d have agreed with you. Now I don’t think so. Poetry (good. Rare) is simply more demanding. Novel is a more forgiving art form. It’s like, a miniature is hellishly more difficult than a room-sized painting. No one is going to see every brush stroke in a room sized painting. Each takes different forms of craft. Either can be art. (And most often neither is.)

      • Plus everybody think they can write poetry… everyone… w/o any basic craft (do I sound like the Big six?)… A lot of these people put abstract concepts together and call it poetry. A poem takes a lot more work… I think it should have at least metaphor, description, or sideways meaning. It doesn’t have to rhyme or to have form (though some of the best poets can use both).

        So is all poetry art? No way. It needs to be crafted too.

  20. From what I’ve seen and read, art transcends the medium, while craft reflects it. I’ve seen quite a bit of what is regarded as classical art. Some of it is good, a bit of it is excellent, but the majority of it is just something to cover the canvas and pay the bills. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Sistine Chapel, but was almost moved to tears by a ceramic of Christ’s crucifixion in the Vatican Museum. I love most of the works by Claude Monet, but a couple of his landscapes leave me cold. My favorite choice of a “book as art” is Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, but I know it doesn’t impress a lot of people. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I think the same applies to both art and craft.

  21. I believe Sarah probably hit closer to my definition of art and craft than most. To me craft can be measured, art is felt. This is not only in physical objects but also in actions, whether it be dancing, flying, racecar driving or whatever. In those instances the art is more of the artist transcending the measurable capabilities of the dance, or mechanical capabilities of the plane, car etc. They are doing this be feel and doing a superior job to what is measurably capable.

    That explanation looks muddier the more I try to explain it, I understand the difference in my gut, but putting it into words that make sense is difficult ;)

  22. Pingback: Bestsellers » 50 Artists You Should Know 50 You Should

  23. The Daughter and I used to go to old Williamsburg regularly. There are several museums in the complex, including the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, both favorites of ours. If you are ever in the area and can spare the time and expense I would highly recommend them.

    At the Dewitt Wallace you will see craftmanship, most of it very fine, some of it sublime. We never miss the textile exhibit, which has limited hours to preserve the fabrics which can be very light sensitive.

    The items in the AARFAM do not demonstrate a level of technical skill that I grew accustomed to seeing in most of the halls at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Baby in Red Chair is still one of my favorites, I love to look at it — it just captures something for me. It is art and it has quality, it is just not ‘high’ art.

    I believe Sarah is correct. You can have less than perfect craft or technique, but if the work captures something, touches the soul — ahhhhh.

  24. “Art” is in the hands of God. The best we mortals can do on our own initiative (which is the only thing we have any control over) is skill.

    The situation with hats, on the other hand, is a travesty. At least you have the option of wearing hats designed for men. Those of us with comparably-sized heads who _are_ men are constrained to either go hatless or pay for custom work…at least until someone starts making hats designed for fairy-tale giants.

    • Aren’t those traditionally made out of the skins of your most recent victims (or meals)?

    • I swore, when I retired from the Air Force, that I’d never again wear a hat. I make exception to that rule when I go fishing, to spare my bare cranium the effects of sunlight shining through nonexistent hair. Luckily, I don’t have an “oversize” anything, and stuff USUALLY fits. My brother, on the other hand, wears size 13 EE shoes, and has a horrible time getting things that fit.

  25. I just wanted to mention that when I deal with a hotel maid I am polite plus I say please and thank you like I would to anyone else.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Wow, how did that comment wind up here? You meant it on the “We WILL Do” post, didn’t you?

      • ummm yes – I am not feeling well today ;-) I don’t know how I made it here… it’s been a very strange day.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          That’s fine. I just figured you might want to know where your comment disappeared to.

        • After the attack of the italics who knows? ;-)

          • WordPress is sneaky and insidious

            • Dang WP – I have an account on WP, but I blog on blogger. Does that make me disloyal?

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Hey, Cyn – I’ll go off-topic down here at the dead end of these comments to tell you something you might enjoy: My wife puzzled the pain specialist the other day. She can feel the electricity in the air when thunderstorms roll in – it gives her a buzzing feeling in her fingers. He had never heard of that before in someone with chemo-induced neuropathy.

                • Cool Wayne. I have heard from my Wegener’s Granulomatosis group that there are some strange effects that they feel from chemo-induced neuropathy. This is the first time I have heard feeling the electricity in the air. I can feel a storm coming, but I don’t know how I do it… my hubby thinks that I feel the drop in pressure. (I sometimes get a headache.)

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    Both my boys (both ADHD, don’t know if that matters) would go spaz a couple of hours before a storm would roll in when they were little. We finally learned to watch for the signs so we could find something for them to do.

                • I used to when I was a kid. Drove my family nuts.

                  • *snort My family would ask me if we would have sun for a picnic that day. ;-) I was always right. As a child I could smell a storm coming.

                    • The Daughter can. She likes to set herself up so she can watch ‘the show’ when a thunderstorm comes through.

                  • The human nervous system is an electrochemical process. ALL electrical currents generate magnetic fields. Thunderstorms are electrical exchanges — a lightning flash is an electrical current. The odd thing is not that the two interact, the odd thing is that more people are not sensitized to the interaction. As we develop more advanced prosthetic devices (Hey, Manny – which arm?) relying on the micro-currents driving human nervous systems I expect we will learn more about the interaction. (Hey, big boy – is there a thunderstorm on the way or are you just happy to see me?)

                    I suspect these human magnetic fields are what show up in Kirlian photography and drug induced hallucinations (when you travel through the doors of perception, take care they don’t hit you in the arse.) Sadly, nobody is offering me research grants to think up such stuff. I promise I would sober up enough to deliver a report. Eventually.

                    • Manny is my Heinlein crush, arms and all.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      If you ever BS your way into getting a research grant, can I help?

                    • Absolutely! Although you’re better off asking foe a position helping me with my lottery winnings. I’ve an almost perfect plan for the Powerball, with just one teensy flaw: they insist I buy a ticket. Seems awfully unreasonable; after all, they give tax refunds to people who don’t pay taxes, so why not lottery jackpots to people who don’t buy tickets?