One of the comments I received tonight asked "What do you mean by taste? Can you elaborate on that?" OK, Will do. I think I will do that by listing the attributes of taste in a bulleted list. I like those, they make it easier to lay out my thoughts in an orderly way.
Artists don't talk so much about taste these days and my concern with it may mark me as a little archaic. But it is good to know about just the same. This is a difficult post to write, but I will do my best.
- Taste is a quality that art may possess, it was, until our grandfathers time, thought essential and a characteristic of the finest art that set it above the merely pretty or mundane. It was one of the things that separated the fine arts from the baser products of the ordinary world of commerce and illustration.
- Our best historic art is full of examples of excellent taste, and I think it is this which separates that which is lasting, from that which is not. It is therefore best learned from historic sources .
- Art that has taste appeals to the higher instincts of the viewer, it is cool, that is, it never screams at the viewer but is measured and refined. It is often a restraint of color and design, and a moderation of subject matter away from the extreme, the cloying and the vulgar. It is neither cute or morbid, It is never obscene, or just the newest incarnation of a tired idea we have all seen before. It is nether retreaded or spiky.
- Art that has taste tends to be quieter and appeals more slowly and over a longer period of time, rather than expending its impact like a firecracker, it is meant to charm and edify the viewer for the long run. It neither dates nor does it partake of the vagarities of short lived fashions. It strives for the eternal and eschews the suddenly fashionable.
- Rather than attempting to shock , taste speaks quietly and reasonably. It may have power but not flash. It is not vulgar but dignified. It keeps its pants on. If you were painting something with which you must stand before God himself, taste would be your watchword.
- Taste respects its viewer, treating that viewer with the greatest possible respect. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill spoke with taste, Larry Flynn and The Cable Guy do not. Taste is noble and elegant.
- Taste places quality above comerciality, its opposite is what I call "heightened cheese content". Taste values worksmanship, but neither flaunts it or imagines technique the function of art, but merely its means. It uses technique to carry its appearance, and not as its purpose.
- Taste is ethics in art, the highest form of artistic ethics, the finest thing, the high road. It doesn't make the most saleable art, but there are always clients who want it. It is seldom the brightest thing in a show or gallery, but it is often the thing that speaks to you every time you see it, rather than expending its force in the first instant it is seen. It makes art that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, that will always appeal to the viewer, even as their knowledge and discernment increase.
- Taste lives in the color, the proportions , the design and every aspect of a painting. It is never sentimental, sensational or cloyingly sweet. It is quiet, restrained and understated.
- Taste is what often separates the good from the great, The best artists almost always have it and the also rans usually fail because of its lack.