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How To Be A Good Art Critic?
(c) By Cupideros, August 22, 2009

Art.  It's been with us since those ancient cave drawings.  But are we any better at understanding art today? Does learning to be a good art critic provide the world any benefits?  Some of us think so, since millions of humans continue to produce new art; and we humans keep finding new ways to use art.  Read on about How to Be A Good Art Critic -- In Ten Easy Lessons…

Familiarize Yourself Different Schools of Art
abstract art nonrepresentational and nonfigurative style emphasizing formal values over representation of subject matter

abstract expressionism nonrepresentational style emphasizing emotion, strong color, and giving primacy to the act of painting (mid-20th c.)

academic art officially sanctioned art; traditional art, emphasizing grand themes and a rational approach to form and content
action painting active, aggressive methods of applying paint; tachism (U.S., mid-20th c.)

aestheticism movement characterized by eclectic search for beauty and interest in Japanese and classical art (U.S. and Britain, late 19th c.)

analytical cubism fragmented, multifaceted, and simultaneous depiction of a subject in several planes (early 20th c.)
antiart self-conscious, nihilistic break with traditional art forms and content (late 20th c.)

archaism use of old styles in contemporary art
art brut direct, primitive style, as found in the art of children or the mentally disturbed (France, 20th c.)

art deco style characterized by repetitive, ornamental, and highly finished curvilinear and geometric designs, esp. in synthetic materials such as plastics (1920’s-1930’s)

art nouveau decorative style emphasizing fluid, biomorphic lines and swirling motifs (late 19th c.)

ashcan school antiacademic, realistic depiction of the grimmer aspects of everyday life (U.S., early 20th c.)

avant-garde innovative art in advance of popular ideas and images, characterized by unorthodox and experimental methods

Barbizon School style emphasizing idyllic landscapes and nature (France, 19th c.)

baroque emotional, dramatic style, anticlassical in form and spirit (late 16th-18th c.)

Bauhaus school emphasizing the functional and geometric by incorporating craft elements in design (early 20th c.)

Blaue Reiter German. expressionist group; Blue Rider School (early 20th c.)
Brucke expressionist group (Germany, early 20th c.)

Byzantine (adj) designating a style with Oriental and Occidental elements and strong religious content (2nd-13th c.)

cave art prehistoric paintings and engravings on Paleolithic-era cave walls
classical style with emphasis on symmetry, proportion, and harmony of line and form (ancient Greece and Rome)

cloissonism style with flat colors, black-outlined forms, and a lack of modeling; synthetism (France, 19th c.)

colorfield (adj) characteristic of abstract, minimal styles without representation, line, form, or modeling, in which color is the sole element (mid-20th c.)

computer art electronically produced images displayed on video screens (late 20th c.)

conceptual art avant-garde, idea-oriented style with emphasis on performance, theory and criticism, and attitude (late 20th c.)

concrete art realism, opposed to abstract art (early 20th c.)

constructivism style with geometric abstraction and emphasis on three-dimensionality (Russia, early 20th c.)

cubism departure from traditional, naturalistic view of reality, emphasizing multifaceted, simultaneous views of subject and distorted perspectives (early 20th c.)

dada style with antirational approach and nihilistic, absurdist, and incongruous themes (1915-1925)

decadent art style with artificial, neurotic, sometimes bizarre themes (late 19th c.)

de Stijl school of art characterized by minimalism, geometric abstraction, and use of primary colors; neoplasticism (Netherlands, early 20th c.)

distressed art style utilizing materials, often found materials, that are abused or battered by the artist (late 1980’s)

divisionism neo-impressionism

earthwork artistic work consisting of large-scale alteration or modification of area of land or artist’s installation of soil and rock in display space; aboriginal, nonpermanent paintings done in dirt

expressionism style emphasizing emotional expression, strong color and composition, and a distorted, theatrical treatment of image (early 20th c.)

fantastic realism highly imaginative, magical subject matter rendered with academic, realistic technique (Austria, mid-20th c.)

Fauvism style with brilliant, unrestrained color and offhand approach to composition (France, early 20th c.)

fin de siècle French. sophisticated stylization (late 19th c.)

folk art any untrained, nonacademic, or unschooled style

Fontainebleau School style emphasizing the elegant and decorative (France, 16th c.)

funk art combination of painting and sculpture, deliberately messy and rough, often humorously depicting provocative or kitsch subjects (U.S., mid-20th c.)

futurism style glorifying modern technology, speed, and the machine age (Italy, early 20th c.)

Gothic style emphasizing Christian imagery, brilliant color, and strong verticality in composition (12th-16th c.)

grand manner academic painting style with adherence to traditional, often noble themes and reliance on formal rules of depiction

hard-edge (adj) characteristic of a style with geometric abstraction, a flat picture plane, perfection of surface, and graphic precision (U.S., mid-20th c.)

Hellenic (adj) of the classical style of Greek antiquity (8th-4th c. b.c.)

Hellenistic (adj) of the post-classical Greek style before the Roman conquest (4th-2nd c. b.c.)

Hudson River school group of American painters whose style was characterized by idyllic landscapes, esp. of the Hudson River area (19th c.)

hyperrealism extension of photorealism in which depiction of subject is indistinguishable from reality (late 20th c.)

Impressionism style emphasizing the depiction of light and its effects, with the act of seeing as its primary subject (France, 19th c.)

international style style with detailed depiction of Christian subjects and Gothic verticality in composition (14th c.)

intisme style with intimate interior scenes of domestic life (France, late 19th c.)

Italianate (adj) conforming to the style of the Italian Renaissance masters
Jugendstil art nouveau (Germany, early 20th c.)

Kamakura (adj) denoting high classical period (Japan, 13th-15th c.)

kinetic art art marked by incorporation of painted and sculpted mechanical parts into art piece that moves or creates the impression of movement (mid-20th c.)

light art art characterized by incorporation of steadily beaming or blinking electrical and neon lights (mid-20th c.)

lyrical abstraction nonfigurative, expressionistic, poetic style, lighter than abstract art in tone and theme (mid-20th c.)

Mannerism anticlassical style characterized by dramatic gestures and poses of figures, intense color, and complex perspective (16th c.)

merz collage style using junk or found objects (early 20th c.)

metaphysical painting pittura metafisica

Ming (adj) characteristic of a highly academic classicism, esp. in porcelains (China, 14th-17th c.)

minimal art abstract, simple, reductionist style with absence of all but basic formal elements and primary colors (U.S., mid-20th c.)

modernism style that breaks with traditional art forms and searches for new modes of expression (early 20th c.)

Mogul school Islamic art style (India, 16th-19th c.)

Nabis style with emphasis on painter’s personal vision (France, late 19th c.)

naturalism style emphasizing the depiction of the actual appearance of nature and the visible world

neoclassicism style modeled after proportion and restraint of Greek and Roman classical antiquity (late 18th-early 19th c.)

neo-expressionism style using expressionistic emotionalism in post-expressionist era (mid-20th c.)

neo-impressionism style with emphasis on the scientific application of the optical effects of light and color (France, late 19th c.); divisionism

neoplasticism de Stijl

neue wilde new wave (Germany, late 20th c.)

new objectivity style with detailed, realistic depictions emphasized over expressionist values (Germany, early 20th c.)

new secession style modeled on the Post-Impressionist sensibility of form, content, and color (Germany, early 20th c.)

new wave combination of cartoon, graffiti, and performance art in a minimalist, unsophisticated style (late 20th c.)

New York school abstract expressionism practiced by artists in New York City that emphasized the emotional, dramatic, and heroic in scale and theme (mid-20th c.)

nonobjective (adj) characteristic of a style in which emotional, formal values are emphasized over representation of objects (20th c.)

nouveau realisme style characterized by a return to realistic forms in an abstract era (France, mid-20th c.)

op art style with graphic abstraction and pattern-oriented optical effects (mid-20th c.)

Orphism geometric, cubist-derived style using a broad color spectrum (early 20th c.); synchromism

performance art use of paintings, sculpture, and video in live theatrical performance by artist (late 20th c.)

photorealism style emphasizing the meticulously realistic depiction of banal contemporary subjects, esp. suburban, snapshotlike scenes (mid-20th c.)

pittura metafisica style with mysterious, symbolic, metaphysical subject matter; metaphysical painting (Italy, early 20th c.)

plein-air (adj) pertaining to a style of painting that represents luminous effects of natural light and open-air atmosphere as contrasted with artificial light and the atmosphere of work produced in a studio (France, 19th c.)

pointillism neo-impressionism employing tiny, closely spaced points of color that blend to produce a luminous quality (France late 19th c.)

pop art style-making use of images from popular culture and commerce, often reproduced exactly (mid-20th c.)

Post-Impressionism emotionally expressive, formally modern style with nontraditional approach to color and composition (late 19th-early 20th c.)

postmodernism style reflecting the exhaustion of modernist experimentation and a partial return to more traditional forms (late 20th c.)

postpainterly abstraction nongestural, nonrepresentational style with emphasis on clean, perfect surface (mid-20th c.)

pre-Columbian (adj) of or pertaining to native American art before the arrival of Columbus (pre-16th c.)

prehistoric (adj) pertaining to cave painting and other forms of Paleolithic art

pre-Raphaelite (adj) designating a style modeled on romanticized vision of medieval, pre-Renaissance styles (19th c.)

primitivism style with unsophisticated, pretechnological, simple approach to form and content

proletarian art social realism depicting working class life (early 20th c.)

Quattrocento art of Indian Renaissance (15th c.)

realism depiction of reality as it appears, without idealization or stylistic, imaginative distortion

Renaissance (adj) pertaining to humanistic art that is classical in form and content; (n) revival of aesthetics of classical antiquity (14th-17th c.)

representational (adj) designating art concerned with accurate, naturalistic depictions of reality

rococo style with ornamental, poetic, curvilinear forms and lyrical themes (18th c.)

Romanticism style characterized by an emotional, intuitive exaltation of nature over culture and imagination over realism (late 18th-early 19th c.)

seicento classical high Renaissance art (Italy, 17th c.)

social realism depiction of ordinary life as emblematic of social and political truths (20th c.)

suprematism style emphasizing geometric abstraction (Russia, early 20th c.)

surrealism style using subconscious mental activity as its subject matter, characterized by dreamlike, hallucinatory imagery (early 20th c.)

Symbolism movement that rejected realism and expressed subjective visions through evocative images (France, late 19th c.)

synchromism Orphism

synthetic cubism late cubism emphasizing surfaces, altered perspective, and often strong colors

synthetism cloissonism

tachism action painting

T’ang classical period (China, 7th-9th c.)

Tantra art mystical, diagrammatic, and symbolic art (Buddhist, Hindu)
tenebrism chiaroscuro style that depicted dramatic imagery in dark tones (17th c.)
verism fantastic, often disturbing subjects rendered with photographically accurate realism (Germany, early 20th c.)

video art use of filmed or videotaped material displayed alone or with other media (late 20th c.)

vorticism style characterized by abstract, geometric designs and energetic, machine-age themes (Britain, early 20th c.)

Yamato-e narrative painting style characterized by continuous illustrations executed on long scrolls (Japan, 12th-14th c.)

Decide What Art Style You Like Best
The number one reason for this is it prevents you from carrying over your dislike or favoritism of one art style to another style.  For example, if I am obsessed with dada art.  When I view a classical painting like Mona Lisa, I won't immediate dismiss it as trite or lacking in emotion.  Treat each art style like a child.  You don't expect one child to be like another.  Don't expect one art style to do the function and purpose of another art style.

Another reason is it frees up your mind to actually view the new art style.  The human eye is like a camera.  It can view any object dispassionately.  Unfortunately, the human mind is attached to the soul, more importantly, and also attached to the heart.  The soul is dispassionately more advance than the heart.  The heart is like your avid supporter under all and any circumstances.  This being said the heart will try to cause the mind and eye to turn away from any art style not your favorite. 

View The Entire Art Piece 360 Degrees
View the art piece from left to right, top to bottom, left diagonal to right diagonal, right diagonal to left diagonal and the center.
You'd be surprised how many people forget to view the art pieces' center.

Linger on each initial sweep of the art piece.  Why?  Once you've seen the piece you're mind is likely to shut down and say, "Uh, I've seen the left side before."  "Do we have to see the bottom, again, Duh!"  You must remain in control of the viewing process.  Imagine you're an artist painting this work.  Is everything included?  Did you accomplish what you sought on an emotional level, thinking level and spiritual level?  Notice colors, brush strokes, blending and isolated pieces of the work.

You, the viewer, must remain engage with the art piece 360 degrees around.  Take your time.  Let the art piece speak to you, unless it's something you repulsively hate.  Then admit you dislike the art piece not on its merits but your own likes and dislikes.

Imagine The Art Piece As Tarot Card
Mentally visually shrink the art piece down to tarot card size.  Imagine the card is suddenly turned over and you see it again for the first time.  What is the art piece saying to you now? 

Does The Art Piece Tell A Story?
In my opinion, all great art tells a story.  What story is the art piece conveying?  Is the story a romance, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, literature drama?  Is the story about an idea, event, a character or a milieu?  What conflicts are taking place in the art piece?  Who are the main characters?  You'd be surprised how many good pieces of art tell a story. 

Art And Space?
Take a look at the art piece.  How is space use?  Are there wide-open spaces?  Or is everything closed off and cramped?  Is this a pastoral scene?  Or a scene where something escapes into space?  Surrealism art is dominated by space.  Is the space practical or only potential?  A ball and a telescope both use space, but we'd hardly compare the two.  Except when the telescope is looking a planet ball floating in space.

Gender Art -- Female or Male?
Is the art piece female or male?
Male or female?
Female and male?
Gender neutral?

Go beyond what you see.  Imagine touching the objects in the art piece?  Interact with the art piece.  Can you tell if the art piece was painted by female or male?  If you can hide the painter's name, view the art piece and try to guess if it's female or male artist.  On art pieces come in deviations into nonoriginator's folders.  You cannot see the name of the artist in some cases until you move your mouse over the deviation or click on it.  That's a cool way to view art.

Time And Art?
When was this art produced 1500s, 1970s, 300 BC?  What is the time doing inside the art piece itself?  Is it hurrying time?  Waiting time? Is time a friend or enemy in the art piece?  Can the time be stopped in the art piece?  Is time frozen like in Picasso's work?  Casual time.  Expressionism seems to be filled with casual time.  Although Degas' paintings break this mode and portray hurried time.

Conceptual Art
Asks yourself is the art about:
Past, How things are changing, Future or Present?
Understanding, Doing, Obtaining or Gathering Information?
Developing a plan, Playing a role, Changing one's nature or Conceiving of an idea?
Maybe it is about Memories, Impulsive reactions, Innermost desires or Contemplations?

Randomly go to the dictionary or any astrology key word book.  Grab a word and asks yourself again.  Is it like this word -- ambition or merging or serving or networking or home?

Art Critic Benefits
1.  You train the eye to truly see what is there.  Most people go my memory, past old memories, even childhood memories, ekk!  This is why when new artist goes to draw a chair; it's this small scrawny thing.  Our first child chair.    Once the eye is trained by practicing seeing, our chair drawings take on a more correct view. 

2.  No two people are alike to the trained eye.  The untrained eye sees a half face or quarter face of someone and imagines they look like a friend, foe, entertainer or someone else famous.  Upon closer examination, you'll find out these look-alike people don't look at all like Elvis. 

3.  The trained eye is patient and quick at the same time.  The trained eye expects everyone to be unique.  When the eye expects this, the mind follows suit.  Force yourself to look at one painting for ten days straight.  Really look in the ways I've described above.  Not only will you find the art piece more enjoyable; you'll see new things inside the art you've overlooked.

4.  Our world is art.  The trees, mountains, lakes, grasses, flowers, sky, birds, animals -- everything in it is one big art piece.  Once we familiarize ourselves with this fact, we'll take better care of the planet.

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