can an artist’s work ever be “wrong”?…

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03/02/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

When I mark – or comment on – one of my student’s graphic design layouts, I am conscious that a part of my judgement will always be subjective. For example, two of my pet peeves include text which is kerned too closely and leading (the spacing of text lines) which is too tight. In of themselves, they are not “wrong”, but – never-the-less – I would think less of a layout if they were present, and judge accordingly.

More objectively, I could judge if the layout fulfilled the brief, and if it were technically correct. I could also make an impartial call on whether the piece followed the “accepted” rules of design.

But…I always have a thought – in the far recesses of my mind – that tells me it is often the designer who – skillfully – breaks the rules who produces some outstanding work.

Fine art, from what I can glean, is far less constrained by convention than graphic design, and yet we can usually tell a “good” painting from a “not so good” painting, and a novice from an expert.

One can see evidence of experience in technique, thought process, colour choice and colour mixing. If a novice colours outside the lines their work may be labelled as “invalid”, yet a well known artist may well be labelled a “visionary” for producing a similar result.

My mother used to say it was only an experienced and skilled actor who could play the fool with conviction. Perhaps it is only the experienced artist (or the lucky novice) who can break the rules and get away with it…thus implying that others’ attempts are “wrong”. Or, maybe, there simply cannot be any “wrong” in art. What do you think?!


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Sarah Ritchie
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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
Exhibitor, The Original Art Sale 2011


© Sarah Ritchie 2014

Please do not use copies of my original artwork for profit, however you are welcome to share my artwork images as much as you like!

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