I went to enter an art competition with one of my silk paintings, only to be told that silk painting was not considered to be art, but rather it came under the realm of craft.
So what is the difference? Well, I taught Art and craft for over 20 years in secondary collages and for 18 years part time for the National Art Gallery of Victoria, so I feel as though I have the skills and expertise to be able to make a responsible and intellectual comment here.
I think of art as the creative expression of the artist. It begins with an idea, then often there is research and inevitably the drawing of a design. Finally the artist produces the work of art by utilising a craft technique of their choosing. It may be oil, watercolour, collage, silk/fabrics, clay etc.
Now, I know that some artists can simply take a canvas and begin to throw colour around and come up with a pretty sensational work of art. Basically Jackson Pollock and Pro Hart completed some fine works using this ‘spur of the moment’ technique. So, virtually their art work came directly from the expression of their idea and strong sense of colour, tone, texture etc.
So why do we have a ‘thing’ about whether it is art or craft? If the craftsman simply copies an idea or technique from another and produces a finished work, then I guess you could say it is just craft as there is no initial creative ideas to express. The craftsman is more interested in the technique than the artistic expression of an idea.
I guess I have seen some silk painting that is simply a piece of craft; but please don’t put all silk painters into the same basket. Silk painting has grown from Batik and there are many famous Batik artists (especially in Asia). I don’t think anyone would knock their ‘work of art’ and simply refer to it as a ‘craft’ item.
Here is one of my designs for a major wall hanging to hang in the waiting room of Blamey and Saunders Hearing in a beautifully restored Heritage Trust building in East Melbourne. For me, this drawing is the basis of my ‘creative expression’. I love developing a strong organic contour for the basis of my colour and decorative work of art to follow.
Apart from simply drawing, I am also very interested in the use of both positive and negative space. I like my ‘background’ to be as important a space as my images; in fact I always paint the negative space (background) first, to ensure that I treat it as an important part of my design.
Now, getting this design onto the silk is a real exercise in craft. There is nothing creative here – just hard work; but it is essential preparation to enable me to be again creative with my use of colour and texture in the final stage of its development.
If you would like me to teach you just how to get your silk painting to award winning status, as I did, join my online Silk Painting Course now.