Considering Good, Mediocre and Bad Art


Are we to judge? There are people who think it is not right to say a given piece of art is good or bad, it just is. Over the years I have made distinctions between art as good or bad, again and again. As a teacher that was my job in part, and I set very clear ground rules as to how each piece would be judged. How about when Art Contests are staged? The entries are “judged” aren’t they? We accept that situation without question but who sets the rules? I am talking about qualitative evaluations of art and the defined standards which govern such.

Some of us know that a critique of our work can be very helpful when properly done. I say some because there are artists that have never heard of a critique and their work reflects that. I scroll through social media and see poor, clumsy, even ugly art and I wonder what is going through the heads of the artists that post them. Perhaps they are like artists I have heard say that their work is all about emotions and self-expression and they don’t want anyone judging their art. The fact is though if they make their art public it will be judged, publicly and privately. I think these artists are unaware that insightful artists for over a century have built a dialog around practices that help us achieved the visual affects we require. If those artists who are unwilling to have their work critiqued were aware that a little knowledge of Design and Composition Theory could improve their self-expression, they might change their minds.

Design and Composition Theory is a complex body of knowledge that is best learned in small bites. Ignoring or avoiding it because it is overwhelming is like not opening a dictionary because it is too big. We were taught to look up one word at a time in a dictionary. Qualitative evaluation of art is not just acceptable but an important part of juried art shows and a common exercise among artists called the Critique. Design and Composition Theory provides an accepted criteria for such evaluations as well as a flexible framework for artists to guide their creative efforts. Although Design Theory is a large body of knowledge it can be learned by studying small segments over time.

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