We often say “That’s beautiful” in response to a work of art, but the word beautiful can have many meanings. Most of us recognize it as a heartfelt compliment when it is said about our own work, but we may wonder what specifically prompted the viewer to use the word. And while we may strive for beauty in our work we may have not thought much about what that means. Today we look at what deeper ideas or responses the words “beauty” and “beautiful” can hold.
"Beautiful" has a strong impact coming from a viewer of your work, but what the person is actually saying or responding to is usually ambiguous unless they go on to clarify. Perception of beauty is subjective and could be prompted by any of various aspects of the work as well as its total impact. And of course, what one person finds beautiful in your work might strike another person as unappealing.
Beauty is powerful and unique in its capacity to satisfy both the eye and the mind, and often the emotions as well. It may be defined as the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction, arising from our senses , thoughts, or emotions, and encompassing depth and meaning. While "pretty" when applied to art is often thought of as superficial, pleasing the eye only, or relying heavily on sentiment, beauty is a wider concept that can address more difficult aspects of the human condition. These may not not beautiful in themselves, but the artist can express compassion, understanding and humanity in ways that are powerful. Beauty can contain wildness, mourning, anger, and pain. It can be dark and moody as well as uplifting and transcendant. In this sense, beauty and truth are connected; both can express any sincere emotion or response.
What does this mean for an artist? What is your own truth, your own beauty? Is it simple, complex, somber or bright, geometric or organic? How can you explore what you find beautiful in ways that will draw your audience in, give them something to think or wonder about, or respond to in unexpected ways? Are you willing to push past the pleasing aspects of "pretty" into work that challenges rather than only pleases the eye?
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The Messy Studio Podcast is a CORE Publication MGMT production.