Archive for February, 2010

Thoughts on Art and Originality

The drawing below (charcoal medium) is what artists call a study – by that, they mean an exercise that serves to develop technique and (possibly) style without the artist getting too hung up on Art with a capital A. A study is usually a focused look at an ordinary object, such as a leaf or, in this case, a toy block with a couple of marbles.

It is possible that I am writing this post because I am unsure – I did not come up with this study, I did not arrange this “still life.” It was an exercise in an art magazine that I own. It has been a while since I have drawn, instead of painted, and I wanted to get my hand back in, as it were, before I started on another, original project. It is the artistic equivalent of scales. Which makes me wonder: we don’t look down on an accomplished musician because he plays another composer’s music. But somehow, I think less of this drawing because it isn’t completely mine, isn’t original, even though it was my hand on the pencil, my eyes and muscles and knowledge that went into forming the drawing. And yet, we also borrow – all great artists do. Shakespeare supposedly only came up with one original plot. If we agree that Shakespeare (and others) qualify artistically, then borrowing elements to use in a piece of art does not prevent it from being art. Yet we all know that if we borrow incorrectly, we are cheap imitators or plagiarists. One possible conclusion that originality is in the mind of the artist, not the object.

In terms of style and originality, I would argue that there are as many different ways of drawing a thing as there are ways to think about it – for example, do I think about it in term of texture, in terms of light and shadow, in terms of color, in terms of shape, in terms of social context, in terms of its history, etc. The list goes on. I think, ultimately, that the drawing below is an exercise only, and that it should probably have stayed in its sketchbook, much like scales should stay in the practice room, since my thoughts on this object have all been thought before. But I wanted to share them with you, so here they are.


Dunkin’ Donuts Vs. Krispy Kreme

Dunkin’ Donuts seems to be the coffee/donut shop of choice in the north-east, specifically, Boston. This, dear reader, is an unfortunate thing, due to the inferiority of Dunkin’ Donuts’ donuts. They are, in point of fact, not very good. As I discovered in my recent purchase. The glaze was waxy, the powdered sugar tasteless. The jelly, despite its acceptable flavor, was meagre, to the extent of being miserly. The texture of the dough, instead of being light, was heavy, smooshing dryly between my teeth – this is a sign of an old donut. Donuts do not survive long; in the pastry world, they are the beautiful butterflies that die in a day. The best time to eat a donut is right after it is made. However, any self-respecting donut will maintain most of its best qualities for a reasonable amount of time, even up to 12 hours. After this period of time, they can be re-animated to a certain extent by an 8-12 second heat in a microwave oven.

However, my recent purchase from Dunkin’ Donuts was made at noon. Assuming that the donuts are made fresh each day (as is advertised in their shop window) the donut holes I purchased should have been well within the acceptable time frame of good donut. They were not. I cannot speak for the coffee, since I have never tasted it, but they do not call themselves a coffee-shop – donuts is in the title, and therefore they have accepted the responsibilities of a donut shop. They (meaning Dunkin’ Donuts) have failed. Krispy Kremes, of which there is a noticeable lack in this city, would pwn Dunkin’ Donuts’ sorry tail in a fight. However, being unable to witness such a spectacle, I am left to finish my mediocre donuts in silence and sadness.

All hail the Kremes.