Artist Websites  Artist Websites |  Featured Artists |  Art Marketing  Art Marketing |  Art Contest |  BrushBuzz |  InformedCollector |  FASO Loves You - Share Your Art, Share Life


« Ann Kraft Walker - smooth, expressive brushstrokes | Main | Stephanie Birdsall - sophisticated representational work »

Follow this Blog

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Quick Links

Artist Websites and Good Design
How to Sell Art
How to Get Your Art Noticed by Galleries
SEO For Artists - The Ultimate Tip


Blog Roll

Mikki Senkarik's Blog

acrylic painting
advice for artists
art and culture
art and psychology
art and society
art appreciation
art blogging advice
Art Business
art collectors
art criticism
art education
art fairs
art festivals
art forum
art gallery tips
art history
art law
art marketing
art museums
art reception
art show
art studio
art supplies
art websites
artist resume advice
artist statement
Artwork videos
BoldBrush Winners
Brian Sherwin
Carolyn Henderson
Carrie Turner
Clint Watson
Cory Huff
Curator's Pick
Daily Art Show
Dave Geada
Dave Nevue
email newsletters
exposure tips
FASO Featured Artists
Fine Art Shows
framing art
Gayle Faucette Wisbon
giclee prints
Guest Posts
Internet Scams
Jack White
Jane Hunt
Jen Piche
John Weiss
Juried Shows
Kathleen Dunphy
Keith Bond
Kelley Sanford
Kim VanDerHoek
landscape painting
Lori Woodward
Luann Udell
Mark Edward Adams
mixed media
Moshe Mikanovsky
oil painting
online art competitions
online art groups
open studio
plein air painting
pricing artwork
sell art
selling art online
selling fine art online
SEO for Artist Websites
social media
social networking
solo show
Steve Atkinson
still life art
support local art
Think Tank
websites for artists
Zac Elletson

 Oct 2017
Sep 2017
Aug 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
Apr 2017
Mar 2017
Feb 2017
Jan 2017
Dec 2016
Nov 2016
Oct 2016
Sep 2016
Aug 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
Apr 2016
Mar 2016
Feb 2016
Jan 2016
Dec 2015
Nov 2015
Oct 2015
Sep 2015
Aug 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
Apr 2015
Mar 2015
Feb 2015
Jan 2015
Dec 2014
Nov 2014
Oct 2014
Sep 2014
Aug 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
Apr 2014
Mar 2014
Feb 2014
Jan 2014
Dec 2013
Nov 2013
Oct 2013
Sep 2013
Aug 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
Apr 2013
Mar 2013
Feb 2013
Jan 2013
Dec 2012
Nov 2012
Oct 2012
Sep 2012
Aug 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
Apr 2012
Mar 2012
Feb 2012
Jan 2012
Dec 2011
Nov 2011
Oct 2011
Sep 2011
Aug 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
Apr 2011
Mar 2011
Feb 2011
Jan 2011
Dec 2010
Nov 2010
Oct 2010
Sep 2010
Aug 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
Apr 2010
Mar 2010
Feb 2010
Jan 2010
Dec 2009
Nov 2009
Oct 2009
Sep 2009
Aug 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
Apr 2009
Mar 2009
Feb 2009
Jan 2009
Dec 2008
Nov 2008
Oct 2008
Sep 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
Apr 2008
Mar 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007
Oct 2007
Sep 2007
Aug 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
Apr 2007
Mar 2007
Feb 2007
Jan 2007
Dec 2006
Nov 2006
Oct 2006
Sep 2006
Aug 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
Apr 2006
Mar 2006
Feb 2006
Jan 2006
Dec 2005
Nov 2005
Sep 2005
Aug 2005


The Better Way

by Keith Bond on 12/9/2013 7:32:30 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



While much of the world mourns the death – as well as celebrates the life – of Nelson Mandela, I can’t help but think of the principle that there are consequences for our choices. When Nelson Mandela was finally set free after 27 years of imprisonment under Apartheid rule, he freely forgave those who had been his oppressors. He could have chosen hatred, retribution, revenge, retaliation. But instead he chose healing, forgiveness, restitution.  


He chose the better way.


What does this have to do with art?


You have a choice in what you your art stands for. Does your art reflect good or bad. Does it uplift, enlighten, enrich others lives, celebrate goodness or beauty? Or does your art degrade, demean, blaspheme, or show ugliness?


Everyone endures trials and hardships. No one is immune. In a recent blog post, Stacey Peterson shares that despite pain, sorrow, and darkness from her sister’s premature death, she was able to cling to moments of beauty and let those become the purpose behind her art.


Ugliness, pain, and sorrow are very real in this world. Some experience it much more than I will ever know. But, I also know that there is a lot of goodness and beauty in the world. Joy and happiness can (and does) exist. Nelson Mandela understood this. He showed us that you can choose to embrace the good despite experiencing the bad. Stacey Peterson, as well as many other great artists, also knows this through experience.


So much of the art we see depicts negativity, ugliness, crudeness, lewdness, and darkness. There is so much of that in life as it is. Why dwell on it, promote it, or add to it in the name of art?


Many critics, artists, and other proponents of such art argue that the artists are merely portraying society. Perhaps that is so. They may argue that such art prompts awareness and encourages discussion about certain issues. That may also be true in many cases.


Many also go so far as to say that artworks that depict beauty are naïve and ignore the issues of modern society. I disagree.


Let me use a parable to illustrate.


Suppose two people come upon a horrific scene of poverty, abuse, and oppression. Conditions are dire, at best. They each want to do something. But, what? They have choices. The first man grabs everyone he sees by the lapels and shouts in their face to try to get across the severity of the situation he has witnessed. He hopes it will spark awareness and prompt a discussion; which may down the road result in some action being taken.


The second person decides to serve. He brings clothing or food and water. He reaches out with love to serve and uplift those in such a dire situation. Even if it is only a caring word to one individual, He will have made that person’s life a little bit better.


Which, I ask, did more? The person who shouted to let people know that ugliness exists? Or the person who gave of self to lift another and overcome just a small part of that ugliness? I believe the second.


Though this parable is imperfect and you might even say extreme, I share it to get a point across. Some artists use shock value to shout with their art. Others embrace goodness. Through their art they uplift, enrich and make the world just a little bit better.


I believe that we artists have a gift. I won’t go into the talent vs. discipline/hard work argument here (I believe it is a combination of both). And I’ll save that for another article. But suffice it to say that since I believe a good portion of it is an innate, God-given gift or talent, I also believe that there is a stewardship associated with that gift. We will be held accountable one day for how we used the gift of art.


You have a choice. You can depict the ugliness in this world in all its reality. Or you could choose the better way. You could use your art to make better, to enrich, and to celebrate goodness. You can depict the beauty in this world in all its reality.


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond


PS  Read Stacey Peterson’s blog post here. Her work embraces beauty with authenticity. I am proud to own one of her pieces.





FASO: The Leading Provider of Professional Artist Websites.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

InformedCollector: Free daily briefs about today's finest artists in your inbox.

BoldBrush Contest: Monthly Online Painting Contest with over $25,000 in awards. 

Daily Art Show: Daily Show of Art that reaches thousands of potential collectors.


Related Posts:

Show Me Your Relationship With Her

Thoughts about Doing a Live Webcast

Sage Covered Hills

There Must Be Another Reason

Painting Large en Plein Air

Topics: art and society | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

What Would You Like to Do Next?
Post your comment Join Email List Follow via RSS Share Share


Marsha McDonald
Excellent and thoughtful article, Keith. I agree with everything you said. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Michael Cardosa
Hi Keith,

It's an interesting post. I know of one or two fairly well known artists who regularly depict the worst of today's society in their art. The paintings are stunning, the subjects disturbing. I have to believe they are painted for museums or shows since they pop up in magazines time and again and are not in "private" collections. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would hang one in their home so I don't think they are painted with a sale in mind.

As you mentioned in your parable, doing good rather than just making the situation known to all is probably the better way to effect societal ills.

I think the better approach would be to do do fabulous work, sell for a high price and use the money to help those causes or situations you want to change. However, that's just me.

Thanks again,


Lori Woodward
Keith, this line hit me in the heart:
But suffice it to say that since I believe a good portion of it is an innate, God-given gift or talent, I also believe that there is a stewardship associated with that gift. We will be held accountable one day for how we used the gift of art.

Thanks! I needed that.

Marsha Hamby Savage
Keith, I totally agree with you. We are stewards of all that is good to see in this world, along with being so aware of the dark parts also. We can be a beacon of light, or drag people down... it is our choice.

I have always opted to be a positive person and will go out of my way to not say anything that won't produce a positive result. I'm not perfect and can sometimes lose that battle. But, I prefer to produce work that is uplifting, say words that bring a smile, and help those in a way that makes them feel good. They will pass it forward, I believe!

There is enough ugliness in this world without me adding to it! Thank you for posting this and I hope many will decide to opt for the positive way.

Jake Gaedtke
Well said, my friend. I couldn't agree with you more. We have been given the most sacred of gifts and we do have the choice how to use that gift. Thanks for the message. Stacey's blog hit home for me as well and I too own one of her inspiring paintings.

Cathy de Lorimier
Thanks for stating this outright: we artists need to use our gifts to promote good. I like to concentrate my image on a specific moment in time, especially a gesture. Only those in tune with "living in the moment," I think, really get it. I value each moment, I hope, as if it might be the most important gift I'll ever receive, and I like to share it that way.

I think you need both and in a healthy society they would work together as a team, one to show the problems and the other to show the solution. Neither can be totally effective alone. You can't offer a solution to problems no one acknowledges exists. You can't solve the problem by just screaming that it exists. Demonizing each other is also counter productive and a waste of energy.

Emmeline Craig
Reading Keith Bond's blog post made me see once more that there were other artists out there who came to the same conclusion I did years ago: we, as Artists, have considerable power and we have the choice to use it either to aggravate the public state of mind or to ELEVATE the vibrations of the world, by offering focus points on what is beautiful, uplifting, radiant and positive in this life. With power comes responsibility, and the more exposure one gets, the more power is given. It is an extraordinary gift to be able to create images that move people, that elicit a response, in their psyche, and in their metabolic response as well! As we know by now, through the studies on neuroplasticity and the biology of emotions, what we "feel" has a determining effect on our health, well being, response to stress, and to life's daily challenges and circumstances in general. Our response to the stimulus of an image has a lot more influence on our whole self than what we think.
It is a real pleasure to read Keith's words: I concur wholeheartedly to his testimony: Artists can bring relief and joy and betterness to the world! Yes.
So why would we limit our talent and skills to a lesser goal?
I have personally chosen, years ago, to convey quietness, spaciousness, and bliss through my work, simply because it triggers relief, joy, peacefulness in people's mind, in a world that goes bonkers with stress; I paint to brighten people's daily reality, give them a mind oasis to relax and refresh, a virtual place to escape to. You can read my latest blog post about this very subject here:

Your points are well made and taken, Keith. However, I agree with Lena that both roles are useful overall. In some ways it is easier to "work small" and help/serve individuals directly, "bloom where you're planted" (or just make art that directly celebrates beauty and comforts people). However, those who take on the big job of educating society towards improvement are critical to social improvement as well. No injustice is ever overcome by powerful abusers being persuaded through cheer and comfort to share power; throughout history, social change is accomplished only when someone (painfully) wrenches unjust power from those who abuse it. Nelson Mandela is a good example of someone who fought -- did not whisper, but fought -- for justice. His 27 years were sacrificed to the effort. Many others have lost their lives. The heroic work of those who take a harder road even in the arts should not be belittled or counted as "less than" those who choose a purely celebratory role.

Donald Fox
This is a thought-provoking post on an important topic. The history of artistic expression shows negative examples from the earliest of times: battle scenes with dismembered bodies, sexual conquest and depravity, torture and subjugation. Much of this was political and often used to instill fear in enemies, but sometimes artists wrestled with moral dilemmas. Do we ignore Greek tragedies, classical paintings of nymphs, satyrs, and orgies, or Shakespeare plays that deal with murder, pillage, and plunder? To say that art always has a message is beyond denial - if it doesn't, it isn't really art. To censor one's own art is up to the artist, but to censure art because one disagrees with it seems a bit petty.

Stacey Peterson
Great thoughts Keith - thank you so much for sharing my post!

I agree with you that we are stewards of the gifts we are given, whatever they may be. Some have been gifted with the ability to lift others up by focusing on the beauty of the world. In contrast, some have been gifted with the ability to fight for justice (Mandela, who fought hard, in a life that was often far from beautiful), and some have been gifted with a voices that will bring injustices to light (Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind). No matter the gift, there is a choice to be a good steward, and use that gift in the most positive way possible. Yes, Mandela fought, and the reality of his life might not be all love and light like folks would like to think, but he was a good steward of his gift - he fought, and fought hard, in a way that made the world a better place.

I think some of the more crude art that you reference was not done to raise awareness or share a message, but rather to stand out in a part of the art world that values shock value above all else. When this is the motivation, I find it hard to respect what is being done. I don't necessarily think this means I am belittling or censuring such art (as suggested in some of the comments above) - it certainly has it's place and a market - but as an artist, I am certainly allowed to question the motivations behind it, and develop my own opinions about what should motivate my own art. I would also posit that Shakespeare and the authors of Greek tragedies (again, as mentioned above) were indeed good stewards of their gifts - they found beauty in the depraved state of humanity, and we read their works centuries later because they illuminate truths that are at our core to this day.

Brian Sherwin
Keith -- Sometimes in order to see the beauty in life... the ugliness must be explored in detail. It certainly should not be denied -- or written off as 'bad', 'evil', or whatever.

Consider some of the work by Goya... would it have made such a mark had he not explored the ugliness of his surroundings so directly? What about some of the gut wrenching works created by Kollwitz. Her work spurred some viewers to take action in order to help others... and those works continue to have that same impact today.

What about work created by combat veterans -- ranging from works by Otto Dix to works currently held at the vet art museum in Chicago? Those works reveal the Hell of war... and serve as a reminder that it is best for us to try and avoid it. For many of those artists... the work is also a point of healing. Is there not beauty in that?

There is enough room for both directions... and I don't think either is 'the better way'. The work must be observed individually -- how does a specific piece impact a viewer?

As for the 'talent vs. discipline/hard work argument'... I do hope that you don't plan to suggest that creating 'beautiful art', as you dictate it, takes more talent, skill, discipline, hard work... etc -- because such a statement will certainly be challenged... both within the context of art history and the art of today.

Note: I have delved into some of this before... feel free to read:


I have personally been uplifted by artwork that was clearly created for that purpose. That is fine. However, I have also had uplifting experiences when viewing work that explored the brutality of our existence... works that served as warnings of the horrible side of our nature.

For example, when I look at some of the work by combat vets... it reminds me how horrible war can be for the individual and the masses. It forces me to reflect on the very nature of war... and how it should be avoided if possible. Is that reaction -- is that impact -- not uplifting?

Granted, tongue-in-cheek shock for the sake of shock does exist in film, music, and art. I'm sure we have all heard music or seen films that explored violence without a clear message beyond said violent acts. BUT I would not group all examples of shocking music, film, and art in that way... to do so cheapens the experiences that MANY artists AND viewers have had.

Brian Sherwin
I'll add that I see a lot of references, both implied and direct, of a God given talent / gift within the context of this debate. That is fine. But I must ask... how many of you have actually read the Christian bible?

My point: The brutal side of humanity is explored at length in both the Old and New Testament. Would the bible be more uplifting if those violent / brutal references were removed? I don't think so. Frankly, the bible does not sugarcoat what we humans are capable of -- both for good OR for bad.

The brutal stories within the bible are just as important as the clearly uplifting ones. Both sides are important if one desires to grasp the overall message within the texts. The same can be said of many other religious texts in general. That is some serious food for thought within the context of this debate... and I felt it should be pointed out.

Keith Bond
thanks everyone for your comments.

Several of you brought up the point that both sides are valid and needed. I do agree with that, but with a caveat. And that caveat is the intent of the artist. Yes, healing is important and those works are genuine expressions. And because of the authenticity,there is that untangible spirit to it that makes it a great work of art. Often,though sometimes overlooked, the works that may appear as dark, but done for healing are an attemp to search for light or meaning. To me,that is different than celebrating the dark.

Also, an honest expression of one's experience is also a valid and important subject to explore. But again, it may be subtle, but I do think there is a difference. If I'm not mistaken, Goya witnessed firsthand the horrors he portrayed. That lends a different authenticity to it. I'm no expert of his, but I personally think that he was searching for understanding and a larger meaning - not just showing the bad for the sake of showing it.

And yes, we can learn from those things.

But, also as pointed out, much of the ugliness in art is to get notice or for shock value. I was recently looking through an art book that a friend of mine has. The artist was a masterful painter - similar style to Rembrandt. He is a living artist from somewhere in Europe. But despite the beauty of his brushwork and color harmonies,his subjects were ugly and offensive. One image was a man defecating.

One must ask what his motive is. Either he is a very disturbed person, or he is seeking attention. If the latter, is it really an authentic voice? If he is seeking attention and notoriety, you could easily argue that it is commercialized. Though the art establishment would say that it is 'true' art because of some deeper 'meaning' that the artist is trying to express.

Keith Bond
No, with the talent vs hard work argument I do not imply what you fear at all. Too lengthy to get into it here in depth, but what I was illuding to is that many artists discredit the ingredient or element of talent and suggest that skill is entirely the result of hard work. I think it is a combination of the two.

Keith Bond
I'm not suggesting we censure art that we disagree with. There will always be those that choose to do it and those that choose to be patrons of it. And the beauty of life is that we have agency and are free to choose.

I merely suggest that we recognize the power our art really can have and question what our motives are in the work we create.

I also suggest that because the power of good is quieter, it is often mistaken for naive or ineffective, etc. But despite it's meekness, good will always be more powerful that bad, light will always overtake dark.

Many in the art establishment try to tell us otherwise.

Tania Ochoa
Keith- I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. However, I have to agree with Brian Sherwin that there is enough room for both directions. This is probably necessary to establish a balance. I personally have nothing against -beautiful art” as long as it doesn't establish a creative limit for artistic scope. However, this topic made me contemplate about what really defines pleasant and pretty in historical art and how historical events should be portrayed: soothingly pleasant or painfully real.

In one of his most poetic works Reason in Common Sense Spanish-born American philosopher George Santayana insightfully stated that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. I just couldn't help it but write a blog on this topic”¦ feel free to read:

Keith Bond

Yes, there is room for both sides. And there is both good and bad art on both sides. There is both beautiful and meaningful as well as ugly and shallow art on both sides.

Let me try to illustrate in another manner. Some movies that show battle scenes or death are nothing but blood and gore. They seem to try to show as much horrific carnage as possible. Other moves are filmed and edited in a way that isn't as 'gorey', yet the message is often more powerful. Some of them don't even show any blood at all, yet the impact is often more powerful. The second example doesn't hide the fact that killing occured, but it didn't rely on the shock value to get the message across. The second movie taps into different emotions - emotions that have more humanity to them. Because of the shock value of the first, often the imagery gets in the way of any meaning.

The scope of this topic is so large, I didn't attempt to try to address all the subtle nuances or all the potential exceptions to the point I was trying to get across.

And I realize I painted a black and white either/or picture, when in reality it is much more complicated than that.

This article was merely a starting point. But, yes, I still feel that so much of the work that I describe as ugliness that we see these days is more akin to the first movie. Even if the subject is painful,I would rather see it portrayed in a way akin to the second movie. I feel that more good comes of it.

Keith Bond

I love what you said and completely agree. Each example you cite was powerful precisely because they were seeking for something good and better and noble.

At different times of Mandela's life, the means were different, but the larger intent was always for a better society.

Contrast that to those in world history who used similar tactics for very different reasons - reasons of power or greed or hatred.

That is the point I am trying to get at in the article.

Your comment of using our various gifts in the most positive way possible probably articulates better what I was trying to get across.

Maybe I shouldn't have used the terms 'ugly' and 'beautiful' to describe the art I speak of, because visual aesthetics are probably what most readers of this post interpreted. While that is a part of it, I was talking about a larger/deeper meaning of those terms - ugliness and beauty of idea/thought/emotion/purpose/experience/etc. etc. etc.

Guess I could just shut up but once again I am drawn in as devil's advocate ...
Personally, I share the values expressed by all of you (and am trying not to take my outsider status in the talent-vs-work debate too seriously despite the repeated references to it). But while I'm sure I personally agree with much of your shared aesthetic, I feel it useful to withhold or at least temper my judgment on what I may not fully understand in others' art.
For myself as an individual, I detest and (probably too loudly) decry what I feel is harmful in the contemporary arts, and honestly, this includes whole chunks of popular culture. My point is, what I consider ugly, unnecessary and even evil may be a new Ashcan School with some valid point to make. Even the impressionists' and post-impressionists' work was considered ugly, unholy, and therefore dismissible, when it was new. So was jazz. So was the novel. Not that I can get my own mind to appreciate -art” such as the example Keith provided, or even more accepted genres such as horror movies. But I do hear works of cinema and literature praised that I personally find offensive. So perhaps they are simply in a language I do not understand, but speak to and somehow enhance the experience of others, whose lives are vastly different from my own -- or serve some other social purpose I do not detect.
Any thoughts welcome.

Brian Sherwin
Keith -- The examples you offer help to shed light on the point you were trying to make in your article. I think the red-flag for me is when you added 'show ugliness' to the list near the top of your article. That said, degrading or demeaning something with art is not necessarily bad either... if a piece demeans bigots, for examples, I would not say the message is united with darkness. It may serve the greater good even if it is a controversial image.

My point is that showing ugliness does not necessarily mean the work was created purely for the sake of shock... it does not necessarily mean the piece was created as a way to 'celebrate darkness'. It may be intended to serve as a reminder of what happens if we don't pursue goodness... or to shed light on social issues, for example, that we still need to discuss.

Goya def' revealed the ugly side of humanity in the piece I mentioned -- one could argue that he did the same thing with Saturn Devouring his Son... but in both cases there was more going on in the image considering his experiences and the time in which he lived. By showing ugliness he revealed that we still have a long way to go toward peace and harmony. I think visual reminders like that can serve the greater good.

There is def' shock art for the sake of shock though. I've seen the kind of work you mentioned at galleries and art fairs... and often it does seem that the pieces were created simply to offend people. I suppose it depends on the context in which it was made... but we may not know that on face value. That is another reason why I feel it is important for artists to write about their work -- discuss their work openly.

Some artists DO choose to offend for the sake of offending (which is OK. It is their choice.) -- and openly admit that. For example, a gallery recently featured work by an artist who intentionally mocks iconic images... in one piece he used the iconic image of the nude Vietnamese girl running while crying (I'm sure we have all seen it at some point) and replaced her head with an image of a cheeseburger or something like that... his goal was simply to offend people. It served no other purpose... and the dealer made that clear. I take it that is the kind of work you are referring to?

In my opinion, work like that tends to have little to no lasting appeal save for the controversy surrounding it. The controversy keeps it 'alive', if you will. It is like Serrano's Piss Christ... people rarely discuss the meaning of the piece -- they focus on the controversy surrounding it. BUT I have no problem with it being exhibited.

Marsha Hamby Savage
I chimed in early in this conversation, but have kept up with all the comments. I re-read Keith's post to see if I missed something important that everyone here is expressing. No, I don't think I did.

What I saw this time was a remark about those artists that show ugliness are "portraying society today" and "artworks that depict beauty are naïve and ignore the issues of modern society." I paint to show the beauty of the world and I am not naïve or ignoring what is going on in the world.

I love this sentence from Keith ... "You have a choice in what you your art stands for. Does your art reflect good or bad. Does it uplift, enlighten, enrich others lives, celebrate goodness or beauty? Or does your art degrade, demean, blaspheme, or show ugliness?"

And, thought provoking is his comment "Some artists use shock value to shout with their art. Others embrace goodness. Through their art they uplift, enrich and make the world just a little bit better."

What I take away from his article is, be aware of why you paint they way you paint. Does it accomplish what you want and is it authentic to you? That does not mean you can't paint for shock value... just know that you do so. And if you think you are making the world a better place by painting the ugliness, be real, be authentic, and know why you are. I'll say it again ... be authentic!

I help those that need help in my way, but not by shocking them or screaming.

Brian Sherwin
I'll add that people can jump between these two direction. Look at music... think of Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, and Korn. They have all created songs that are purely driven by the shock factor Keith refers to. In many ways their stage presence relies on that shock factor. BUT they have all written and performed songs that have a deeper meaning beyond mere shock.

With all three in mind we hear some common, and dare I say, positive messages when their songs are put to consideration collectively. Such as: Don't judge people, don't bully people, redemption can be found, be yourself, and so on. So even when we consider the most shocking or disturbing writer, artist, or musician... positive messages can surface -- and often do.

Think of author Stephen King. A lot of people assume that his stories are 'evil', celebrate darkness', or what have you. Heck, when I was a kid I was told by a preacher that people who read King's novels will go to Hell -- that is how much he felt King's novels were 'evil' or 'bad for society'. But if you actually read his books there is generally a message about redemption, the importance of strong family bonds, and even the strength of believing in the goodness of a higher power and how it can overcome evil. The preacher I mentioned didn't realize that... because he never bothered to actually research the novels he warned about.

Just some food for thought. I'm ranting. Ha, ha.

Keith, thank you for spurring such a fascinating discussion. :)

Brian Sherwin
Marsha -- I agree that authenticity -- no matter the direction -- is key. We should all take time to reflect on that... the value of authenticity. Do you really live the message in your work? Or are you living a lie with your work? Are you deceiving viewers? Are you deceiving yourself? Those are important questions that I feel every artist should answer.

Take Thomas Kinkade for example. He built a career on being the 'painter of light'... his paintings were clearly about goodness, having good morals, acknowledging a love for God and family, and all that jazz. These factors served as the 'fabric' of his work. BUT in his private life... well... let's just say that his life choices did not always reflect the message of his work. Heck, religious leaders have been 'called out' for less.

My point: You can focus on goodness 100 percent within the context of your work... and still be a horrible person behind closed doors. Just as you can focus on shock for shocks sake with your art -- yet still know how to remain devoted to your wife at the end of the day.

That is another side of this issue. We have to be careful when throwing moral value judgements around based on what the artist creates. He or she may not be living the message... at that point the authenticity of the message deserves to questioned.

It reminds me of an artist I read about a few years ago. She had built a career creating artwork that was considered uplifting by the LGBT community. She was invited to LGBT themed exhibits, asked to lecture about gay rights based on her work, and was generally viewed as a hero within the LGBT community. Things are not always what they seem.

It was eventually discovered that she had used money earned from her paintings to support organizations that railed against gay marriage -- followed by evidence that she had made hurtful remarks about the LGBT community behind closed doors. Needless to say, a lot of her fans felt betrayed.

She was not being authentic with her work. Her work, which had been viewed as having an uplifting message before the scandal, was seen as a degrading statement from that point on. I don't think she ever gained the momentum and trust that she once had within the LGBT community after that.

I remember one collector mentioned that he had no clue what to do with the work he owned... he had supported her because he thought the message within the work was truly authentic. What was once viewed as an expression of love and acceptance was now viewed as a symbol of hate and intolerance...

I find the concept of "beauty and goodness" very narrow. Beauty does not equal goodness, a lot of beautiful things in the natural world can kill you in slow nasty ways. Ugliness does not equal evil. Last week a dangerous and evil looking man entered my house - he is a palliative care nurse and he came to evaluate my mother.
Sometimes shock is necessary to illuminate the flaws of society, its under belly. In a lot of ways artists hold up mirrors to society, not everything they reflect is nice, but you need to see it, you need to know what is happening outside your safe little gated community.

The "goodness from a higher power"is never going to do anything if people don acknowledge and do something about the evils around them.

Len Cicio
Wow! A lot of interesting and very good points made by eveyone. Opened my mind to seeing things in a different way. I agree that art should provoke, make us think, magnify beauty and bring out some other things that could be a lot more painful. There is a difference too of something hanging in a gallery or art exhibition and being a permanent fixture in your own home. When an artist is really passionate and believes in something (having some technical skills doesn't hurt either) somehow what is in the medium of paints, pastels or whatever you are using gets transmitted onto the paper or canvas. I can't analyze it but through the artists heart and soul and his hands onto the finished work there is a stamp of that emotion or belief that goes into it and moves us. When I look at a Van Gogh there is an electricity, a fire that lights up on his images and gives me a glimpse into his soul and life and who he was. It's there undeniably even though the artist has long been gone, it still speaks to me and moves me. The question is how comfortable are you living with a piece that could be disturbing or deal with the darker things in human nature and life. There are certain programs that I just can't watch on tv because they linger on in my mind and they will manifest into a disturbing night or even me jumping at something or reacting in fear for a moment. Do we need to be aware of what's out there and not live in a dream world? Definitely! I want that shade opened and understanding shedding some light. The question is how comfortable are you living with a disturbing image and seeing those images day after day after day. It is giving off something and affecting your home and how you feel. Great art always does that. I remember going into a friends home and seeing a very distorted image of a person. I felt as if it was following me around the room and when I left, it was like a breath of fresh air. This is a strange one that I'm going to share with you, but a friend of mine had an abstract image of these 2 people with wonderful rich colors. Someone came by to look at it who had a migraine. She commented that as she was looking at it, her migraine left. She felt this peace and relaxation coming over her as she was looking at the work. Now I'm not saying that everytime you have a migraine or don't feel right look at a positive picture and poof! it's all gone. But the piece spoke to her and had an effect on this particular person at that time. Going to a show or exhibition on a certain theme or social issue that is going on, can be very awakening and make us think. Things that are darker and we keep dwelling on, also have a certain effect on our minds and nervous system. We are all individuals and how things affect each of us is very different. Just be aware of the art that you surround yourself with and live in, because it is giving a certain energy off and telling a story. What story do you want your art to say and how would you feel if that piece was living with you everyday in your home? We all take things in different ways, depending on our life experiences and who we are. Thank God we are all individuals. All the best to you in your work! Len

Unfortunately, we are in an age that adores the ugly in art. Body art became about bodily functions not the musing on our place in the world.

In film, (as Keith used some war film examples) audiences expect more each year to be surprised, shocked, impressed by the special effects. Just doing the same thing is to be left behind in the film industry (as far as special efx).

However, I do think that many serious artists have decided to explore the shadow (dark) side of the human psyche and in Jungian terms that is a shamanic way of finding balance...the imagery can be disturbing but ultimately healing when explored and integrated. I agree there are some who just do shock art...we know who they all are and few would want to walk in their shoes. Flavor of the months. Why bother worrying about them? Do the serious work and let the Ego boys have their 3 minutes of fame.

I agree with part of your theory, but fear a black and white rendering of art content that the beautiful is uplifting and the dark is sensational could be simplifying things...and may not be what you are getting at. But it shows how making a simple declaration on content becomes a sticky wicket....

Doug Fuchs
I find it a little scary that anyone could say if you paint something that is "not beautiful" according to them, that it is not good for the world or maybe even "evil", and that one day you will have to "answer" for it. Are you kidding? I happen to enjoy the "evil" art of which you speak. I love to see the imagination of the artist come alive in the paintings. Some of it may be "shocking" or "offensive" to some. My solution would be not to look at it if you don't like it. Personally, I find what you consider "beautiful artwork" for the most part, rather boring, unless it is truly an exquisite piece. I may even go as far as saying that subjecting me to another bunch of "beautiful" flowers in a "beautiful" vase might just be borderline "evil".

Brian Sherwin
Ted -- I'm SO glad you mentioned Jung! That was kind of what I was getting at... exploring the darkness is not exactly a bad thing depending on the context -- it can be crucial for self-growth AND healing.

As for this statement, "Unfortunately, we are in an age that adores the ugly in art." concerning the example that Keith mentioned (the painting of a defecating man that seems to have served no other purpose but to shock viewers)... here is the thing: How many people actually hang paintings of defecating men in their home?

Think about it: Does work like that truly dominate the art world beyond media buzz? I suppose you could say it dominates specific circles of the art world... but that is a small percentage of the art world as a whole. AND that is their choice. If a buyer wants to own and cherish a painting of a defecating man... so be it. That doesn't mean that I must do the same.

I'll add that 'shock' has become a generic label. For example, some people would suggest that Chet Zar's paintings are 'shock art'. I disagree. I see humanity explored in his paintings of mutants and pitiful creatures. I see the struggles of humankind captured within those creatures. Our nightmares (fears, struggles, you name it)are explored in the nightmare world he has created. It is not 'shock art' to me... it is a slice of reality depicted in a visionary way. Which is fine.

There is room for everything. Period. If the concern is that people are being 'duped'... well... teach them. Educate them. BUT don't be surprised if they make up their own mind -- and don't be surprised if that choice goes against the grain of your choices. I suppose you could say that is the democracy of art. :)

Just throwing out some more food for thought...


Glad I was getting across what you were formulating via Jung...I find his work timeless and endlessly helpful for artists beginning to mine the unconscious landscape. After all, no one before him (maybe since) decided to use himself as a laboratory and his dreams/visions as a template or map of the unconscious to help us all along that bumpy trail. Very shamanic (the wounded healer: healing himself in order to bring knowledge back to the group).

His work in alchemy was also central to his works and I see alchemical references in Chet Zar, as well as the humanity in say "Fallen". His (Chet's) other works that "shock"...well they are of an Alien territory, and that is shocking. Not work most of us want on the wall as you say...but is trying to communicate an idea, not just imitating a beautiful landscape or heroic figure...which leans toward sentimentalism and bores me to death.
Try Monet for a landscape...he was seeing beyond the landscape, into the landscape...endlessly fascinating.

Keith can be thanked for touching a nerve and being a good host to our open discussion....great topic!

Marian Fortunati
Each of us reacts to our world differently and in ways which enable us to keep on. The value of that reaction for that person really not something that others can accurately weight.
All we can weigh is the value that the reaction has on us.
Just as each viewer will value an artwork differently I think. Some reactions and some art are embraced by more people than others.

Sandy Askey-Adams
Hello Keith..

I missed reading this article when it was first posted. It is a great subject. . . And seems to be filled with a lot of treasure for reading and digesting into the heart and mind of any artist.

I only quickly scanned thru the article, half reading it because it is 11:20 PM here and I am tired right now. I want to go back and read it, and all the comments, hopefully tomorrow some time.

Looking forward to reading it more fully.

Brian Sherwin
Ted -- I'm a tad eclectic in my tastes. We have a Monet poster in one room and a Chet Zar print in another. Heck, our fridge door is a collage of everything ranging from Old Master works to works by Dali. I'm all over the map. Ha.

Ha... Sounds like a healthy balance of art to me!


FASO Resources and Articles

Art Scammers and Art Scam Searchable Database


FineArtViews, FineArtStudioOnline, FASO, BrushBuzz, InformedCollector, BoldBrush
are Trademarks of BoldBrush Technology, LLC Licensed to BoldBrush, Inc. 

Canvoo is a registered trademark of BoldBrush Technology, LLC Licensed to BoldBrush, Inc

Copyright - BoldBrush Technology, LLC  - All Rights Reserved