More on Slow Art

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about the huge variety of slow art, and the difference between assembling pre-packaged items and working with simple tools and creating on your own. I’ve had some more random thoughts that haven’t unified themselves, but may if I put them in one place.images-11.jpeg

1. Does the huge variety of pre-designed, cut, colored, pasted, printed and available products for collage, scrapbooking, and altered books encourage creativity or stifle it?

2. There seem to be a lot of specific tools that do one specific task–apply glue, heat objects, flatten clay. It seems to me that they could have designed a multi-purpose machine for a certain art. They invented the fax/phone/copier for communication, why not a die-cutter/color-applier/printer?

images-21.jpeg3. Is the flooding of the choices in paints, embossing tools, glues, fibers really to help artists achieve exact creativity, or it is more to sell product? If the favorite hobby among American women is shopping (according to studies I’ve read), isn’t is a great marketing idea to combine shopping with new craft products? Is the goal simply encouraging more spending, more acquiring?

4. When my son was small, I purchased coloring books for him and fell in love with the wonderfully soothing task of coloring. Then I purchased them for myself. I’d sit there and use new crayons–waxy and smelling of ideas. It was clearly not creative; I was prosaic–blue sky, green grass. I found it calming and soothing, and it was one of the steps that led me to other, more ambitious parts of my life–meditation eventually replaced coloring. So did making my own art. It was a step along the way.

images-4.jpeg5. What is the leading edge of art? What changes make progress and which ones are useless? Is there ever a way to know? When the computer came out, I scorned computer art, but now I use Photoshop to create virtual collages I could not achieve with paper and scissors. And those collages don’t exist anywhere except on my computer. They aren’t “real.” No one can hold them. Does that make them less art?

Just random thoughts from an art retreat. Nice to have time to think.

–Quinn McDonald spends time thinking about art, writing, and the connection the two make between people. See her work at  Images, top to bottom:;; (c) 2007. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “More on Slow Art

  1. Just found this as my radar has recently tuned into the concept of “slow art”. I have quite a few thoughts grabbed from various sources (including yours) on the topic, plus a couple of discussions on Wet Canvas going, in the hopes of hearing some critical discussion.

    My interest has been sparked through a posting to Robert Genn’s Painters Keys on “Print vs Reproduction“. Being a printmaker, I have built-in chip on my shoulder about the term “print”; but what’s the use of hair-splitting when no one else seems to give a crap? So I thought, what is my problem with it? And I think it’s similar to the “prepackaged” vs “hand-created” argument that you’ve brought up here. Like you, I’m not exactly trying to say black & white categorically that one is less than the other (or vice versa), but that there is intrinsic value in the other, the hand-crafted, because of it’s very nature of creation.

    —Actually, I’m happy to say that pre-packaged, assemble-it-yourself projects are less artistic than original art. It’s comparable to my defrosting a frozen cake and claiming it’s home-baked. But projects have value in their own right in that they help people try out art in a “safe” way, because our culture is so scared of failure and so focused on instant gratification. The original/print issue seems a bit different to me, but possibly not to people who are purchasing based on price alone. After 15 years on the art show circuit, I saw too many “shortcuts” that made me shudder. It’s a vicious circle–attendance at shows is dropping, artists cut corners in order to offer lower prices, show-goers think they are at a flea market and stop coming. The solution starts in another area entirely–in school. If children don’t learn art in school, they will never know how to think about it as adults. -Q

  2. Jan–I have bought things on impulse, but I’m also getting over that as my studio is a limited size. In fact, now I’m getting rid of alllllll the jewelry components. That’s a whole chore in itself!

  3. Interesting that the ‘hobby among women is shopping’ and the number one complaint I read in the stamping and scrapbooking community is lack of organization (of all the ‘stuff’ they’ve bought)! I have long had the habit of never buying something unless I have a use for it immediately and a home for anything that I am not currently using (nothing like weight limits on moving to trim the clutter!), but I find it quite fascinating how crafting is less about the creative use of what you have than it is about aquiring exactly the item shown to replicate someone else’s work.
    Trends and fads–the definition is very black vs white, isn’t it?

  4. It’s something I wonder about a lot: what’s new technology and what’s a gimmick? I love playing with things that make my life easier–Photoshop is a great example. But then again, I can’t afford all the gadgets that exist, and it’s hard choosing.

  5. Ah… the leading edge of art. That’s for art critics to argue and revise as time marches forth. If you are creating art it is enough to find the leading edge of yourself and follow that opening path. Balance between the artworld, your peers and your own inner machinations. Too much of a reliance on just what the artwolrd thinks..or your peers think…or just your own thoughts by themselves might dull the edge of your ability to be self-critical.

    I find myself adopting the tools of today, especialy the mega artstores, a computer, a car and a plane to help me in my creations. Vermeer used camera obscure, Monet, the expanded railroad and paint in tubes. People’s work is often influenced by new technologies…but that doesn’t in itself define the leading edge of art.

  6. It’s frosted my cookies for awhile that because of all the “products” and books that lead you by the nose, that there is a dearth of actual creativity—why does everyone want to lok like everyone else, even in their art?????? I briefly jumped on the bandwagon, because of the “look at me , look at em” part of my personality, but it got BORING really fast. I don’t follow directions or instructions well, and thankgod for that :}

  7. Hi, Quinn —

    Great post, important questions. I used to be a plastic scale modeler; two of the joys of the hobby were “kit bashing” and “scratch building” (wonderfully self-explanatory terms!) a basic kit into a variant. Need railings for your ship? Make them out of wire. Need to add a fuel tank to your fighter? This kit has one that will work with a little sanding.

    Now, you can buy all that. In my favorite model catalog you can now buy canopies for every variation of a plane, heads for figures with every cap and helmet imaginable, tires with accurately flattened bottoms to show the vehicle’s weight, and — I kid you not — period-authentic scale *boot sole prints* for making tracks in a diorama.

    And the kits — you used to be able to buy a “generic” F-16 fighter or Patton tank, for example, and cobble together “greeblies” to stick on it to make it look like a variant. Now you can buy kits of every variant, and even sub-variant — a subvariant from the first batch off the factory’s assembly line, vs. one from the last batch.

    Needless to say, the prices for kits have gone through the roof as the niche of interested builders for a given kit shrinks, and the amount of skill required to make the kit increases. And it’s also no fun to build if you’re worried about spilling glue on a $30 canopy that you bought to accurize your $75 kit.

    It’s a long death spiral for the hobby, but it’s more than that. Now, it’s the unassembled kits themselves that are the exquisite works of art; building them doesn’t require the same kind of creativity and ingenuity and sense of fun and play. (And no, it’s not *entirely* wistful childhood nostalgia on my part!)

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