Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Artist of the Week: Ref 8 Barbi Vandewalle

“Every artist bares their soul in their originality”

Please meet Barbi Vandewalle, a well-established, experienced, passionate and refined artist with an exceptional dream for her counterparts…. 

Barbi Cunningham was born in 1958 in Malawi. She is recognised as an artist as Barbi Vandewalle, as her marital status has changed since she started painting.

Hi Barbi, please tell us a little more about yourself?

I was brought up on a tobacco and cattle farm in Malawi, my roots deeply embedded in open spaces, rural settings and big skies - which to this day are favourite subjects for my paintings.

Chiwale Barns - Tobacco barns on our farm in Malawi

I went to boarding school in what was Rhodesia at the time, and after school I spread my rural wings and did my nursing training at Addington hospital in Durban. After I had qualified, I moved to Johannesburg, working in the private sector, met my first husband and moved to Fish Hoek in the Western Cape. I have two daughters from my first marriage.  I spent most of my adult life living in Cape Town, other than five years in Jakarta, Indonesia. Jakarta was a restless time for me, I longed for Africa and in 2003 I returned, with new challenges on board as well as a need to quieten my soul. I got married again in 2012 and it is where I find myself today, living rural, back to my roots on a small holding in South Johannesburg, away from the noise and restlessness of suburbia and which allows me the peace and quiet to immerse myself in my paintings.

How did your career as an artist start and what do you specialise in?

I have always been interested in artistic endeavours and have memories as a child sketching and messing about with what limited art utensils one could get at the time. Sadly my art at school was very stunted as I was terrified of my art teacher whom I perceived at the time to be fierce and a bully. It was safer to not stand out and just melt into the background.

During my nursing career, my creative spirit took a back seat but after my daughters were born I did courses in cake decorating, became involved in the wedding game and made wedding cakes for some of the top hotels and wedding venues in Cape Town.  Sadly my youngest daughter developed a keen taste for anything I made and Houdini-like skills to get to and ‘test’ the beautifully crafted flowers and decorations which had taken me hours to make, not to mention the odd bite out of the cake itself, just before delivery. Bless her soul!!! The fashion changed as well and the traditional wedding cake became less favoured and was replaced by sponge cake and fresh flower arrangements. I then did courses on paint effects and murals, which became very fashionable at the time and I worked with a team of interior decorators, revamping restaurants and peoples’ houses. It was at this time that my then husband was offered a contract in Jakarta Indonesia. I have often wondered, in hindsight, if I had started painting before I went to Jakarta, I perhaps would have been happier there and the restlessness of my soul at the time might well have been quieter.

It was only on my return from Indonesia in 2003 that I started my painting career in earnest and joined the Leonie Turck Art School. Leonie is an accomplished watercolourist and taught me everything I know and perhaps the most valuable lesson was what she called ‘the value of counter-change’; the contrast of dark against light to bring impact and subtle drama into a painting. When Leonie retired, I continued to teach in her place. I also wanted to try my hand at oils and enjoyed the mentorship of Tim Johnson, a renowned portrait and maritime artist in Fish Hoek. I did enjoy the contrast of having more control in oils - the paint stays where you put it!


Old Farmhouse

The Lesson

However, watercolours are my preference and first love. I love the unpredictability and the transparency of the colours and medium, always resulting in a certain element of surprise. The building up of layers, creating depth and texture is always an exciting process. Part of the execution is to expect the unexpected which often means the process or result is not what you intended initially. I often say to my pupils if they don’t like what they have done, walk away, look at it again the next day and then they are bound to see something new and magical taking place.

My journey in watercolours was further enriched by the late Richard Rennie. Having done numerous workshops I was invited to spend some time with him at his studio in Clarens. Besides his generous spirit and wonderful sense of humour this was a very refreshing time for me as he defied all the watercolour purists, broke every rule and encouraged me to paint from the heart rather than be bound by the conformists. As a result, my mixing palette often looks like a dog’s breakfast, I’m not so diligent about clean water and often it is tainted by previous pigments.

I am better recognised for my watercolours and my work can be found both nationally and internationally, both in the private and corporate sectors.

Approaching Storm

Stormy Vlei

Were you ever discouraged? If so, how did it affect your creativity?

For some years now, watercolours seemed to have ‘lost their flavour’, for reasons which are varied and which I have never really understood. However, over the last few years, they have been making a major come-back, especially on the international front and heavily promoted by the Global International Watercolour Society with branches all over the world including South Africa. I am an active member on the committee of IWSSA, the International Watercolour Society South Africa

Galleries, too, over the years have been very reticent to take on watercolours. There is nothing more beautiful than a well-executed watercolour painting and it is recognised as the most difficult medium to work in due to the fact that the artists must manage something that traditionally only allows a certain amount of control due to the application of the washes.  How do you control water on a flat surface? Some of the reasons given for watercolours not being so popular is the misconception that the colours are wishy-washy and also don’t stand the test of time in comparison to oils and acrylics. This is not true as there are many brands of top artist quality paints available, with the brightest and deepest hues and colours and as long as they are framed and behind glass the longevity would be the same as any oil or acrylic.

Sadly watercolours demand a lower price than their contemporaries, which is also a travesty. While it is true that a watercolour painting can be completed in a few hours, what is often overlooked is the expertise involved, it is a difficult medium as explained previously, there is very little room for error and quality materials are expensive. Besides the obvious framing costs, a good quality paper is paramount. In fact in my opinion, paper is the most important investment, my priority. The ‘heavier’ the paper the more you can ‘work’ it before it loses its transparency and light, but it does come with a cost. My personal preference is Arches, cold pressed, 300gsm paper, and Daniel Smith paints.

So yes, many times I have felt discouraged as the market, particularly for watercolours, appears to be ‘stumped’, and so many watercolourists have moved away from this medium to explore others.  For me I just can’t!!!!! there is nothing more exhilarating than putting that first wash down on the paper, dropping in the colour and watching and waiting as magical things happen , some so unexpected and very often the result thereof depicts the mood and direction of the final result. A certain amount of planning must be there, as there is little room for error due to the transparency of the paint, but that is part of the excitement and adventure.

What subjects or topics inspire you?

I love to paint landscapes and often that is my ‘go-to’ when I am feeling uninspired and ‘blocked’. Big skies, open spaces - we are surrounded by that and it takes me back to my childhood. I love big skies and often that becomes the main focus of a painting, the landscape itself becomes the support. 

Heaven Sent Rain

Winter on Klip

Do you strive to be unique in your creative endeavours?

To be honest, I consider myself to be fairly versatile, it often offers a challenge and I paint anything, birds, people, rural scenes, flowers, animals, but I do feel constricted by still-life. 

Bicycle Man
Wild Horses
Homeward Bound
Goats do Roam

Duck Days

Do you use photo references?

I work a lot from my own photos, not necessarily taking the whole photo as a reference, but picking out certain aspects and making my own composition.  I will often pick out a tree, the way a shadow falls, a particular capture of light, a figure that evokes a memory or a movement and use these either in a composition or as a focus for a painting. 

Old Favourite

Solitude on Klip

Do you do custom artworks and commissions?

I do a lot of commissions, and enjoy commissions because often it forces me out of my comfort zone, and I love the interaction with the client working towards their expectation of the end result.

What if you’re not inspired to create?

If inspiration is being elusive, I don’t try to paint just for the sake of it. There’s really no point. I rather go into my studio and ‘plitter’ around, organise my work space, check my supplies and go over any references that I might have collected. The internet is a great source for getting new ideas, trying different techniques and styles and normally a light bulb comes on. I always have left-over bits of paper to test new skills, experiment with new colours, and if it leads to something productive, that’s great and if not, it’s just a piece of paper.

Could you please share some of the techniques you are using to apply focus, texture, colour, etc. in your artworks?

Having a focal point in a painting is very important and I always stick to the 1/3 ruling in any composition. Often it means more detail in whatever the focal point might be, or a contrast in colour or a shadow but something that draws the eye into the painting itself. It is very easy for me to get caught up in over-all detail, but I have developed my own system which helps me maintain the focal point of the composition. I normally lay down the basic and background washes, often keeping the white of the paper as the lightest areas, and then paint what I want to be the focus, keeping the detail for this area. Once I have done that I then work ‘backwards’, completing the rest of the ‘support’ for a painting, being looser in the application and being mindful of balance , depth  and perspective. When the painting is almost complete I might then come back and pop in a few darks or shadows where necessary.

In watercolours it’s not that easy to add texture to a painting as one never uses the paint straight from the tube, but rather is always mixed with water first before applying, the consistency depending on the depth of the colour required. The darker the hue the less water is mixed with the paint.  Although there are various methods to add texture to a watercolour, i.e. using wax, bleach or alcohol and also by imprinting different materials when the paint is wet, I myself prefer to keep the paper free of additives and rather use brush strokes or the ‘tooth’ of the paper and dry brush method to give the impression of sand, water sparkle etc. Some paints, e.g. French Ultramarine, have a natural tendency to flocculate, [a word that should not be attempted after too much wine!!!], or granulate in the drying process and often these will lend a lovely natural texture of their own. I quite often do apply salt into a wet wash, knowing that it doesn’t damage the fragility of the paper. The salt as it dries absorbs the liquid and can be brushed off once completely dry and leaves a granulated mottled affect. 

Ancient Treasures

Dancing Egrets

How do you know when a piece is done?

It is important not to over-work a watercolour painting. It doesn’t matter how good a quality paper you work with, it can only take so much and when the absorbency has reached saturation point the paper loses its translucency and glow. Ideally you want to make every brush-stroke count and not scratch away at the surface of the paper. Generally I like to keep my washes to a maximum of three layers, it’s just enough to give the painting interest and depth and still leave a lee-way to add to the focal point if necessary. I’m never 100% sure when a painting is finished and often I force myself to ‘down-tools’ , walk away and only look at it a couple of days later.

Are your artworks easy to care for?

A watercolour artwork without any protection is very vulnerable. An accidental droplet of water or moisture can ruin a whole painting. It is very rare that I will sell a painting straight off the board and either will have it framed, especially for exhibition purposes, or I have a mount board put on and  then covered in a plastic film. The latter works well if there is postage or transport involved.

How important are titles to your artworks?

I do give titles to my artwork but it’s more for differentiating between paintings. My titles are more literal and affiliated with the content or a place, if applicable. I don’t like to give ‘ethereal’ titles. I believe everyone sees something different in a painting, a painting can ‘speak different languages’ and by giving it a name can subconsciously block what the viewer’s perception might be.


Red Roof
Lonely Tree

 Can I see your studio?

My studio is my happy place. It’s separate from the house, the size of a single garage and attached to the garage. I have plenty of space and at the end of the day I can just close the door and walk away. I also teach from my studio but like to keep my own work space exclusively for myself, a section in front of a large window, lots of natural light and surrounded by my organised chaos. I teach in the afternoons so most of my creativity happens in the mornings. Living on a plot and having livestock there is always lots to do but I try and organise my day, get the chores done and then escape into my studio.

What should artists do these days to market their art?

Many years ago I participated in an art auction while I was still living in Cape Town. There were quite a lot of well-known artists participating and the results of the auction were pretty dismal especially for the artists and we were all left feeling very disappointed. The auctioneer was Dale Elliot and he gave us all a little pep-talk. What he said is artists are the worst marketers of their own work, we’re too right-brained and the most successful artists work through an agent. That was a long time ago and before social media. The tools that are available today on social media allow us to get exposure without having to sell our souls, traipsing from one gallery to another begging for recognition.  Facebook has been a wonderful platform for me both from a sales and commission perspective, [Paintings By Barbi Vandewalle] but it takes time, commitment and discipline to be constant. Exposure is so important and all artists should take every opportunity to promote themselves, get their name out by participating in exhibitions, art markets, festivals etc.

Another marketing tool is to run workshops, do demos and be available for interviews and media publications. It’s hard work and does take courage, but it is a wonderful way to boost one’s self confidence while at the same time getting recognition.

What are your personal viewpoints on art?

What a sad place this world would be without art? Art and the appreciation there-of are necessary for the upliftment of the soul especially in these times of hardship and stress. Sadly though, I have noticed that there are fewer of the younger generation who are interested in and appreciate original art.  I’m not sure whether this is due to a gap in the education system or whether life has become so busy, pressurised and achievement orientated so that the artist is becoming over-looked and slowly losing his place in society. 

Impetus is also given to the absurd and often politically motivated art, making a statement which is based more on impact rather than beauty and appreciation. Every artist bares their soul in their originality and that leads me to my dream, albeit quite idealistic:

My dream is to have a space, somewhere, where people can escape the hustle and bustle, rest their minds, take time out and replenish their souls in a safe and pleasing environment  - a place where artists can exhibit, run workshops or just paint!


Contact details: 

Barbi Vandealle


Phone: +27 0823739355


Facebook:Paintings by Barbi Vandewalle

Thanks a lot Barbi, for sharing your life, work and knowledge with us! It was a  pleasure and a real honor to meet you!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Artist of the Week: Ref 7. Lynden Lund

Lynden Lund: Perseverant, Triumphant, Glorious Artist

Sometimes when you enter a gallery or walk past the window, there is this one astonishing piece of art amongst all the others that immediately catches your eye. This was my experience with the art of Lynden Lund and I am sure you will agree with me that his creations are absolutely exceptional.

“Life is about the pursuit of perfection; and stagnation is the first sign of the demise of art” - Lynden Lund.


Lynden Lund (69) was born in East London. Before becoming a professional artist after retirement, Lynden worked in Telecommunications as well as in Finance; and eventually, as a developer of IT training manuals. He currently lives with his wife in Smithfield in a beautiful part of the Free State province of South Africa. Smithfield is in the centre of the merino farming region of the southern Free State, on the edge of the Karoo. Typical Big Sky country.


Hi Lynden, were you always interested in art?

I am a self-trained artist who was always in love with art. I have been creating art since my childhood and always wanted to do it full-time, but only turned professional about 22 years ago, shortly before retirement.


What is the best thing about being an artist?

The answer to your question is quite simple: the best thing is to be able to express my passion and to give joy to others.


What inspires you to be an artist?

There was never a seminal experience in my life that started it all. From day one I was inspired by nature around me and strove to capture its beauty and express it in such a way that other people also can share and enjoy the moment forever.

I have a deep love for nature. While living at the coast I was fascinated by the form and movement of the waves. Moving to the Free State after a long stay in Gauteng, I was awed by the vast open plains and big skies and particularly the variety of cloud formations.


Were you ever discouraged?

After my stroke in 2008, I was not able to hold a pencil or brush, nor to discern colour. It was a difficult time, but I am mostly recovered now and can use my affected hand and leg well again and I am painting full steam. There however, remains a strip of pain on the left side of my body - apparently it has something to do with a nerve. Another issue is that, owing to the onset of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, my entire reminiscence of the past is lost and my short-term memory is very poor. In addition, I experience frequent anxiety attacks when amongst large groups of people and as a result became a virtual hermit. Despite these issues I see every day as a day of grace and make sure to stay positive and not become too discouraged to create my art. I strive to end every day as a winner.


Which artists are you most influenced by?

I love all art, but make sure, while I learn from other artists, that I am not particularly influenced by their styles, so that my natural style remains unique.


Do you do custom artworks?

I have done quite a few commissions. One of them was 2m by 700mm for a client in England. I am currently doing another commission (700 x 700mm), also to go overseas.


Do you listen to music while you create?

Yes, I love to listen to instrumental music, mostly light classics as it gets the creative spirits dancing. I also listen to French, German or Italian folk music which has a nice joyful rhythm that picks me up when I am feeling down on a difficult day.


Which mediums do you like?

I have worked in oil, acrylic, pen and ink, and water colour; but oil is more versatile and can be manipulated in different ways. For the past few years, I have been specialising in oil as a medium. It dries slowly and allows for the paint to be altered and manipulated over a longer period to obtain the required effect and deeper colours. I also like to play around with paint thickness for different textures. Painting in oil certainly gives me the most joy.


 Can I see your studio? 

Please tell me about the techniques you use in your artworks

In my opinion it is an artist’s duty to explore. Life is about the pursuit of perfection; and stagnation is the first sign of the demise of art. To me colour is extremely important as a way to express myself and I love experimenting to see what results I get. It is fascinating to see how pallet knife and brush can be applied to achieve different techniques to capture and present beauty in a unique way. Examples are different brush strokes, or stippling/layering/cutting with a pallet knife.


How do you know when a piece is done?

No painting is ever really done in your mind. You stand back and feel superbly satisfied, but with the very next painting, you recollect all the previous ones you have created; and forever try to improve on them in order to ensure that you are constantly growing as an artist.

How important are titles to your artworks?

Relatively important as the paintings are supposed to speak for themselves! Titles to me are more for reference purposes.


What is your favourite artwork?

Because I find so much joy in creating, every piece I am working on is my favourite. Since starting to keep record a few years ago, I have created more than 950 paintings and the next one is always my favourite.


What’s your workday like?

I am a reasonably disciplined worker and, depending on my health, work at least 6 hours a day. It is difficult to say how long it takes me to complete a painting, as it depends on factors such as size and detail, but in general I do paint quite fast. Though spending the majority of my day in my studio, I never get lonely while painting. Once involved in a piece, I become totally engrossed.


Do habits help creativity?

Good habits can help to keep you focused, for example: Try to paint every day; set regular hours to paint; do not allow too many interruptions or distractions; don’t start with a white canvas, apply a colour base coat first; experiment with colours and techniques; study other artists regularly; be open to constructive criticism, etc.


What is the hardest part of creating a work of art?

Believe it or not, but finding a subject to me is the most difficult part of the job! I am a lover of nature and there are just so many options to choose from. If you think about one particular setting, there is a myriad of secondary options opening up – for instance, the position of the sun or time of day and the different shades and colours that goes with it. There are also other elements like rain, wind, dust, cloud formations, a storm…. I want to paint them all, they are just all so amazingly beautiful!


What’s the favourite part of your job?

If you live off your art, sales are unfortunately the objective. However, whenever I sell something, I picture the buyer admiring the painting at home and sharing my enjoyment when I created it and this is even more rewarding than the money. For that reason, packing a finished painting and dispatching it to a buyer is my favourite part by far.


Marketing your art

Marketing my art is the one area which I cannot currently handle well as a result of my stroke. Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s together make it extremely difficult for me to focus on promoting my work.

In the past I exhibited at Alice Art in the Garden, at Johann van Heerden Art Gallery, at Gallery on Levasseur in Bloemfontein as well as locally in Smithfield. Currently, I depend on friends, colleagues, walk-ins, loyal customers and social media for support and sales.


Where can prospective buyers see your work?

On Facebook and Instagram. My work is also available on Artmajeur, SouthAficanArtists, and SA Art Explosion.


What role does the artist have in society?

Artists have a unique role to play by inspiring people to look at the world through different eyes. It gives me immense pleasure when painting a well-known scene, or even painting from a picture on commission and then, when it is finished, to observe the buyer experiencing my version and vision of the original setting they know or the picture that they have asked to me to paint! It is as if a light is shone on their faces, their eyes bright and shiny, their minds exploring and processing the revealed beauty they have been missing all the time. When this happens, I appreciate the power of art to improve the existence of us human beings.



Does living in the countryside impact on art?

Definitely. On the positive side, I have much more time to create art and love the solitude, but supplies are difficult to come by. Sales are very much limited to online, unless I dispatch at large cost to galleries in the city where they take sizable commissions. There are more opportunities for direct sales in the city.


What is success in the world of art?

Firstly, success to any artist is to sell and live off your art, but this is very difficult and if I had to think rationally, art would be secondary to a steady income. Secondly, success is the point where you are widely recognised and appreciated as an artist. It is like Maslow’s hierarchy – first shelter and food and other basic needs; and then self-actualization.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Attend art school for a better grounding instead of having to struggle on your own, but make sure you find and retain your own style.

Thanks Lynden, it was an absolute pleasure and a real honor to meet you!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Let's Talk Art: Ref 4 Art Lingo and Tequila

Art Lingo and Tequila

If you are, like me, under the impression that “fine art” is an activity necessitating excessive talent or achievement like in "the fine art of drinking tequila", you are welcome to join me in my attempt to improve my own Art vocabulary.


I have a compelling notion that I am not a complete exception and that there are perhaps more friends of artists out there - and maybe even artists themselves - that are equally confused by the Art lingo that are spontaneously vocalised by our learned friends and colleagues at the galleries, exhibitions, arty gatherings, social events and even more liberally in the media. 

I never had any art education for the past five decades and what I had before was either inadequate or I am not able to recollect anything that could save me from public humiliation. This was then the motivation do some very superficial, non-exhausting! research to at best get a vague comprehension of what those people are talking about.

Disclaimer: I hope that this article will at least have some value to myself and therefore I would like to state that it is not intended as an academic paper on art or for entering for a prize for literature. Neither would I like to defend a lawsuit for plagiarism or find myself being accused of misrepresentation or distortion of published material. But I will do my very best to make sense of the overwhelming amount of perplexing and inconsistent information on the web and to summarise it in a way that even I can more or less comprehend. I will, therefore, except for one or two quotations, not cite any references. Please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of this article.

Well, let us now look at my understanding of some of the most frequently used art terminology. 


It was a huge surprise to me to learn that aesthetics is actually a branch of philosophy! Aesthetics apparently explores the nature of art and art-associated concepts and there is an array of principles with regard to the appreciation of beauty and artistic taste.

How to use the term in practice (I traced a few but please also check for yourself):

1) “Aesthetics is important because it helps us understand and judge the various qualities one will find in art. Aesthetics helps painters judge their paintings by themselves”
2) “Most of the sculptures on display were not made to become subject to aesthetic contemplation in western art museums”
3) “It was spectacularly built and was very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”
4) “The dog has aesthetic appeal", "The dog adheres to its breed's aesthetic", are both correct, but "The dog is aesthetic", it is not idiomatically correct”

Note: I believe it will it be acceptable for me to say: “I find your painting aesthetically pleasing” and I should never say: “Your painting is very aesthetic”. I should work on this one!


It was extremely difficult to find a generic definition for Art as people all have unique ideas of what it constitutes. If we delve deep there are many age-old descriptions as well as countless contemporary deliberations mentioning art. 

The most concise description I could find was that “art refers to creativity found in humans to produce objects, environments and experiences through skills and imagination”.

Some other ideas to ponder are: 
"Art is a diverse range of human activities creating visual, auditory or performing artworks"
"Art is expressing the creator’s imaginative, conceptual ideas or technical skill"
"Art is intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power"

It seems somewhat clear how the concept of Art should be understood, but I believe the following breakdown of Art into elements, segments and fundamental fragments is slightly more than challenging.

Art Elements (or Art Forms)

According to my research material, the major elements of the Arts are:
  • Visual Arts (architecture, ceramics, drawing, filmmaking, painting, photography and sculpting)
Note: Some sources also mention that it is believed that Applied Arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art should also be acknowledged as Visual Arts.
  • Literature (fiction, drama, poetry, and prose)
  • Performing arts (dance, music, and theatre)
  • Culinary arts (cooking, chocolate making and winemaking).
The above art elements may also be combined as in the following examples:
  • Visual Art and Performance Art (e.g. cinematography)
  • Visual Art and Literature (e.g. comics).
I still have a few concerns:
  • Food was not mentioned in the Visual Art category – what is more lovely and visually appealing than a chocolate bonbon outside its wrapper or some wine in a glass?
  • What shall we call Culinary Arts combined with Visual Arts?
  • I have a friend “painting” with food, is that then Visual Art combined with Culinary Art or is it plainly Visual Art using mixed media?
  • Are food stylists Visual Artists?
  • I am getting hungry now.
Before we leave this subject, I need to report that there was lately yet another addition to the existing Art Elements or Art Forms and this is, believe it or not, Social Sculpting! It took a lot of my time to understand this new Element and I will try to summarise it as clearly as possible.

Social Sculpting was invented around 1980 by the artist Joseph Beuys who believed that art has the potential to transform society. These Social Sculptures can be created by applying anything - language, thoughts, actions and objects by anyone - artist or non-artist. (Just my own thoughts – “anything” sounds like mixed media, but “anyone” troubles me - can it then still be defined as Art as such?) According to Beuys however, the only prerequisite for the “sculpture” to be classified as Art, is that it has to be the result of a deliberate act (full stop).

To demonstrate his concept, he orchestrated the creation of a Social Sculpture. Firstly, he initiated the arranging of a huge pile of stones in the form of a large arrow in an open field. The arrow pointed in the direction of a tree that he had planted. He then specified that the stones may not be moved unless a tree was planted in the place of each stone - at the end, 7000 trees were planted. 

This venture confirmed (to Beuys, at least?) that a Social Sculpture can deliberately be created by involving a mixture of artistic, academic or scientific disciplines (not only art) and that anyone, not only artists, can participate in creating it. 

Note: The explanation of the concept goes much further and deeper into how social transformation can be achieved through creating a Social Sculpture, but I am confident that I now have a fairly good idea of what it represents, so please add it to your list of Art Elements.

Visual Art

As reported above, I found that Visual Art is one of the Elements of Art and learned that it constitutes drawing, painting, sculpting, ceramics, architecture, photography and filmmaking.

For the rest of this article, I am going to explore Visual Art only.

Note: Lately it has been acknowledged that artistic disciplines like conceptual art, textile art and performing arts also “involve aspects of visual arts” as well as “arts of other types”. Sorry for my ignorance, but seeing that filmmaking is included as a proper form of Visual Art, I am questioning why theatre is then excluded? If one films a theatre production, does the film then qualify as Visual Art?

Fine art

Fine Art is a term that is extensively used and I questioned what it actually encompasses and where it should fit into the intricate maze of art terminology. Lazy by nature, I have a nasty habit of taking extremely brief shortcuts and this time was no exception. This is what I found around the first corner of this "alternate route":

Fine art is:
  1. creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic or intellectual content.
  2. an activity requiring great skill or accomplishment: ‘the fine art of drinking tequila’”
Yes, you are correct, the second definition suits me better. But I guess I should rather focus on the first one and that one is the one that really bothers me. Are we now sitting with fine art being creative art and then visual art as an apparent subdivision of creative art? 
  • What is creative art then?
  • An even more baffling implication of the term “creative art” is that there is “art” that is not creative?
I had to dig much deeper into cyberspace this time and found another definition that sort of presented a tiny measure of comfort: “Arts is a general term for any craft that requires a level of creativity to master. Fine Arts refer specifically to crafts, generally visual, that focus on aesthetic appeal rather than practical use.” 

Is this then stating that:
  • Artisans generally falls into the first part of the definition where they create primarily for practical use while Artists may apply the same creativity and skills to, at all times, create for aesthetic appeal?
  • A distinction between creative art and non-creative art cannot be made, as artisans also create, and the term creative art is therefore meaningless?
We started off exploring the concept of Fine Art, but only found confirmation that things are rarely straightforward in art. I was thus immensely comforted when I found that someone remarked that: “In my opinion, the distinction between fine art and visual art is an artificial one, and there is no hard line between the two”.

Note: In my own belief, Fine Art is synonymous to Visual Art and Visual Art is created solely for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and is judged for its imaginativeness, meaningfulness, beauty, aesthetic value and intellectual content.


As far as I understand, the term “Genre” is used to group together, understand and appreciate art. Traditionally, until the early 1800s, paintings were divided into five categories or Genres. The genres were ordered in sequence from most important to least significant. This ranking was based on the display value of the paintings in the genre. Artworks in the history genre were most appropriate for public display, followed by portraits, genre paintings (a confusing category name) and landscapes. Still life paintings, the lowest genre, were produced for home use only. 

  1. History paintings deal with historical, symbolic, mythical, and religious events and communicated stories about people.
  2. Portraits include paintings of heroes, private people and self-portraits.
  3. Genre paintings are scenes that depict everyday life and include one or more people doing things
  4. Landscapes did not traditionally involve people and sub-types are cityscapes, seascapes, and waterscapes.
  5.  Animal painting - horse paintings were popular traditionally
  6. Still life paintings depict flowers, fruits, food, drinks, cutlery and eating, drinking and cooking utensils.
Since their initiation, the main genres have regularly been reorganized and the latest change is the addition of a Genre named Progressive Concepts / Abstraction. The art term “progressive” means that the artist is free and that everything and anything can be admitted into the world of art. Abstract art is about form, colour, line, texture, pattern, composition and process and the artworks do not attempt to depict actual things or objects.


Note: “Style” to me was one of the most difficult terms to understand and clearly describe as there are so many different views of what style actually is. Secondly, the words “style”, “genre” and “movement” are used extremely interchangeably and undifferentiated by people putting their hand on computer keyboard. I am, however, by nature very “boxy” as far as language is concerned and tried my best to clearly distinguish between the terms and to their original meaning. 

Style can be divided into general style and individual style. 

Individual Style

“Individual style” refers to the work of a specific artist. Artists have individual “ways of doing” as there are certain elements that each artist constantly applies in a distinctive way throughout when creating. Individual styles are developed throughout artists’ lifetime and an artist's style can adapt as the artist grows as an artist and as a person. An artist's personal style usually progresses as the artist gains more confidence through experience, expands their knowledge and acquires more skill. 

In critic’s terms, an artist’s style is manifested in the way in which the artist’s subject matter is represented and how the artist’s vision is expressed. The style is then described by characteristics or stylistic elements such as 1) the way form, colour and composition, etcetera is applied, 2) the way the artist handles the medium, 3) the method or technique that the artist uses as well as 4) the philosophy or driving force behind the artwork. Individual styles are understood as characteristic expressions of the mind and personality of the artist.

“Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art” Susan Sontag

Artists can also work in many different styles, but, according to the academics, it is better for an artist to focus on one specific style that allows them to express their inner vision as well as to fully develop potential within that style so that they can flourish as an artist.

General Style

Artworks that have certain features in common are considered to have the same style and can then be grouped in terms of a “general” style. 

General style can be subdivided into: 
  • Universal style (common  styles that may change over time as a result of technological innovation and transformation in the art world),
  • Historical or period style (art with characteristics of a specific historical period) and
  • School style (art by artists who shared the same teachers and followed the style they were taught)

Art Movements

A number of artists in the same timeframe who share the same artistic ideals, style, technical approach, etcetera is usually classified together in an “art movement”. Art movements are generally titled after they already started. As many of their names use an -ism suffix, such movements are also referred to as “isms”. 

Artworks that have the same style may sometimes be part of the same art movement, but there are also artists today who paint in a style that was defined as a movement some time ago. They are however contemporary artists who are inspired by the particular movements and they are not part of the relevant movements.

General art movements:

  1. Abstract Expressionism: Vigorous, sweeping brushstrokes, dripping and spilling paint.
  2. Art Nouveau: Sinuous, asymmetrical lines based on organic forms.
  3. Avant-garde: Innovative, experimental. (“Avant-garde is French for bullshit” John Lennon)
  4. Baroque: Dramatic motion and detail for drama, tension, exuberance, opulence.
  5. Classicism: Traditional forms, focus on elegance and symmetry.
  6. Conceptual Art: Ideas, theoretical practices, no need for finished product
  7. Constructivism: Abstract, mathematical, not attempting to be art, for social purposes.
  8. Cubism: Geometric planes, fragmented compositions, Picasso.
  9. Dadaism: Negative response on traditions, shocking people into self-awareness.
  10. Expressionism: Distortion, exaggeration, fantasy, violent colour, inner feelings.
  11. Fauvism: Strong, vibrant colour, bold brushstrokes, realistic.
  12. Futurism: Dynamism, speed and energy of modern mechanical world.
  13. Impressionism: Visual ‘impressions’, emphasize movement and changing light qualities.
  14. Installation art: Large-scale, mixed-media constructions
  15. Land Art: Directly in the landscape, sculpting land with rocks or twigs.
  16. Minimalism: Simple, geometric shapes no representational content.
  17. Neo-Impressionism: Measured, systematic technique, based on science and optics.
  18. Neoclassicism: Subsequent take on classical Greek and Italian art.
  19. Performance art: Created through live or recorded performances, spontaneous or scripted.
  20. Pointillism: Countless tiny dots of pure colour in patterns to form an image.
  21. Pop Art: Popular imagery emphasizing banal or kitschy elements of everyday life.
  22. Post-Impressionism: Emotional responses, bold colour, expressive or symbolic images.
  23. Rococo: Elaborate ornamentation, light and sensuous style.
  24. Surrealism: Liberating, promoting the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary.
  25. Suprematism: Abstract, expressed in simplest geometric forms and dynamic compositions.

New Art Movements:

  1. Kitsch: Cheap, vulgar, and mass-produced, low-brow.
  2. Neo-Futurism: Characteristically post-post modern
  3. Thinkism: Questions environment change, influence of geo-political and man-made forces.
  4. Mass-Surrealism: Uses mass media, video, graphic production to make artistic statements.
  5. Altermodern: Against cultural standardization, massification, nationalisms, cultural relativism.
  6. Abject Art: Transgressive, offensive, focuses on crap. 
“Modern paintings are like women; you'll never enjoy them if you try to understand them.” Freddie Mercury


Well, dear readers, I have attempted to explore some of the key art terms to get a better understanding of them and to allow me to use them with a fair measure of confidence. My initial realisation at take-off was, being confronted by the tons of information before me, that I really knew very little about the subject. Then, even more scary, it came to mind that I first had to be very careful not to make a fool of myself, but secondly, and more importantly, not to misinform readers of this forum. 

In my own view, my exercise to provide an overview of vital art terminology to myself was successful. I can now confidently mention terms like Art Elements, Visual Art, Style, Genre and Movement and even make (very) small talk about Art Movements!

I, however, realise that, although it was most enjoyable and valuable, I have only scraped the tip of the “artberg” and need to read much more on the subject of art.

Lastly, I leave you with a remark delivering a sound and clear motive for my quest for art knowledge: 

“Whenever I listen to an artist or an art historian, I'm struck by how much they see and how much they know--and how much I don't. Good art writing should therefore do at least two things. It should teach us how to look at art, architecture, sculpture, photography and all the other visual components of our daily landscape. And it should give us the information we need to understand what we're looking at.” William Knowlton Zinsser