Almost-Art Notes - For Artists

As an artist, you must be: 1) unique, and 2) interesting; therefore, when trying to create art, you should try to avoid the pitfalls associated with the creation of almost-art. There is plenty of advice out there on what to do, and on what not to do. More is said by more people about art than almost any other subject. This is because there is an aesthetic angle to almost everything. Here are just a few words from the perspective of almost-art that might help. (Extremely little on this page is new, but rather, this advice draws on what people have been saying about art for thousands of years.)

This chart was derived from the chart: Reason Why Something Might Be Almost-Art on the Reasons page.

How to Avoid Making Almost-Art When Trying To Make Art
Code Reason why Almost-Art Advice
AAR-1 The object being considered is only part of an art-object, and not enough to be considered art by itself. Make sure your art-object is large enough that it adequately demonstrates your skill and communicates all of what you want to say. Make sure the art-object can be considered as separate from its environment. (Consider this in relative terms, there will be much nano-art in the future.)
AAR-2 The object being considered as an art-object is unfinished (or perhaps, partially destroyed). Finish what you start. Then protect it as best you can.
AAR-3 The object being considered is too juvenile/primitive/crude, even though there was obviously some attempt at symbolism, estheticism, symmetry, proportion, composition, harmony, etc. Know what it is that you are doing. All art is symbolic, but not everything symbolic is art. All art conveys a message, but not all communication is art. Each art form has its own sensibilities, and technical and social considerations.
AAR-4 The object being considered is more a phenomenon of Nature than an artifice of man. Make sure your work looks deliberate, that you are adding value to the raw materials, and what you add is of social significance.
AAR-5 The zeitgeist (or an ideology, or a society) considers the object to be almost-art rather than art or non-art (even though earlier the object may have been considered art or non-art). Since societies change, the social significance of art changes. The reason we still admire the works of deceased and ancient artists is that their work once had social significance, which made the artists historical figures, and their work of social value. We can appreciate that while still moving on. For this reason, copying, while a learning tool, is a sure way to mediocrity in the art world; an artist must produce novelty for the work to be significant. The desirable extreme would be where the art you create (like a scientific discovery or a technological innovation) actually changes thought, social discourse, or tells us something new about ourselves. (That is why Guernica was art and not crap.)
AAR-6 The functional or useful aspects of the object so overwhelm the perception and consideration of the object as an art-object that it is not commonly deemed to be at the level of art. Make sure that other aspects of your art-object don't so overwhelm perception that its artistic qualities are ignored. (Steve Jobs scores well here.)
AAR-7 There was no attempt on the part of the artificer to make the object something to be admired as art, and it shows; but still the observer might admires some aspect of what he sees (maybe even inadvertently, temporarily, or unwittingly). Be deliberate. Nobody gets recognition for an unintended action. Creating art is one of those things that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Consider deep thoughts, and things at their profound level. Keep current in as many subjects as possible.
AAR-8 The import/significance of the art is negligible. The art-object is low in artistic value (simple, or with little formal value). Aim high. Think big. Be first.

Having said all that, there are reasons why people create almost-art on purpose: mere decorations that will last but a few days around Christmas, a cocktail that will be imbibed in a few minutes, or a sofa that will just be sat on or ignored. Are these people artists? Maybe. Maybe not. We might call them artisans. Maybe they are "almost-artists," to coin a phrase. We all like to decorate, at least to some small extent. We might insist that the Samurai sword be displayed over the mantle piece. We might arrange the things on our desk in a more aesthetically pleasing way. We might be content with a snapshot that places the family at Niagara Falls (with little Johnny making a funny face), rather than going for the Ansel Adams version of the shot. Therefore, and conversely, to create almost-art, you need to avoid the pitfalls of making real art by mistake (see again the above chart).

The job of most paid artists is to take what would become almost-art without any help from an artist, and to make it into art instead. If spray paint on a wall is considered graffiti (and more of an eyesore than art), then redirecting that spray paint in artistic ways can make you money painting a conversion van, or motorcycle gas tank. Those in that business distinguish between art and something of lesser quality, and to be good you need to combine technical skill with artistic imagination.