The Art of Seeing Art

Part 1: You Are Excused

One of the more difficult things about being an artist is when family and friends have occasion to look at your pictures and the Oh-isn't-that-nice! fest begins. Probably the most important message I have for the normal, red-blooded, adult human being is:

It's OK if you don't enjoy looking at art

I'll gladly make a deal with anybody: you excuse me from having to be informed about the intricacies of tax shelters or ice hockey strategies and I'll excuse you from having to look at and make appreciative noises about my pictures.

The word "art" covers everything from paper towel patterns to Picasso. One of the most serious failings of the modern educational system is the insidious insecurity it fosters that art is something everyone ought to appreciate, because after all, art is about beauty, and beauty is good stuff.

click for larger version

"Er, yes: I fully appreciate the quasi-ontological incisiveness of this image."

When I was a boy, art was for sissies, everyone knew it, and any guy who drew or painted pictures of anything other than sausage-winged airplanes dropping sausage-shaped bombs on school yards filled with sausage-limbed teachers, accompanied by Bam! Bam! sound effects, had the good sense to do so in the privacy of his own home. In large measure this street-smarts has been an effective antidote to the education system's poison, and I don't normally have much trouble with male guests feeling obligated to look at and make comments about my pictures. Typically, the problems only start when women are present and their male spouses get that look that tells them they are obliged to sit down with the women folk to pretend to admire the pretty pictures.

So, for all you non-sissy males in the world here is my gift to you:

Free Pass, His

Print several copies on business card stock and keep them in your wallet.

That's all very well for the male of the species. But what about the female? Well, that's where women's lib comes in. Ladies: you've claimed the right to work 9 to 5 in a grey and beige cubicle with no windows. You've claimed the right to wear faded blue jeans, with or without rips and tatters. You've claimed the right to use Class B construction worker vocabulary. Now is the time to go that extra mile and claim the right to admit your lack of interest in "serious" art, if that's the way you feel. Of course it is. Admit it! Rejoice in this new-found freedom from guilt!

If you're honest with yourself and have the courage to face the world free from the insidious poison of art-guilt, print multiple copies of the following on card stock and keep them handy:

Free Pass, Hers

Nevertheless, there may be occasions when it is not desirable or practical to use one of your free passes. For example, you may need to impress the boss or a client – or at least appear reasonably educated. To prepare for such an occasion click on the following button:

and memorize a few of the better phrases that it creates for later use.

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Next week – now that I've eliminated 97% of my potential audience – we'll get down to the burning questions of: what is this thing called art and what is it good for, anyhow?