Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joe Havel, sculptor, on art-making

Night by Joseph Havel, on display at the Baltic, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

photograph by paradasos on flickr

Joe Havel came to our critique class and gave each of us valuable feedback on our work. In the process, he addressed thoughts to all of us on art and art-making which I have summarized below. He has a clear, direct and energetic way of speaking, often referring to other art forms. He made several cross-art-form observations that gave his comments added depth to an avid reader and music lover like myself.

Making Decisions

Think about the vehicle you use (like a writer chooses a novel or a poem or a short story for what they want to say) and think about its history and your relationship to that history. Making art is about making decisions - about media, about vehicles, about our references. These individual decisions add up to our voice. Use all the tools you can to get specific about your choices and to give your work clarity. If something about your work isn't clear to others then you simply aren't doing it well enough. You may need to push it to the limits even more to get that clarity.

Never worry about style - worry about your meaning and your decisions. If those decisions come from a real place ((your intention and using your voice) then style will take care of itself.

Intellectual Platform

Educate yourself on the history and other practitioners in your area, e.g. portraiture, color field, print-making, it will not destroy your voice. By reading, writing and studying we build up an intellectual platform. The more you know the more you can conjecture and then the higher your platform gets. Why is this important? Because the higher your platform the more your conjecture becomes yours alone, the clearer your voice becomes. From a high platform you can simply see more interesting things.

Write about your work in order to gain clarity - what exactly do you mean by the statements you make about your art? What are you trying to achieve when you do this? Explain these paintings. Interesting art happens in communities because there has to be discussion and feedback that demands specificity and clarity.


  1. This is great - thanks for sharing these two perspectives on art making. The point about decisions is particularly useful for me now as I receive feedback on my novel and have to make a lot of decisions!
    Thanks for this!