What makes it good?

Right now I’m thinking about dance, which I’ve enjoyed and done for a lifetime, but this could apply to pretty much any creative or expressive endeavour. There are many elements to any form of expression. Some are skill based, but just being theoretically competent or even talented doesn’t necessarily make someone ‘good’ or their work mesmerising. Of course there’s also a huge element of taste. What moves me may leave you cold, or even offend you. Sometimes incredibly naive and unskilled work can have a surprising impact. Some are naturally talented, others have to strive to produce work of even meagre quality, but then again that work may be powerfully insightful or to have a far greater impact than the theoretically ‘good’.

Someone said to me recently (about a dancer) that the one who was the most noticeable and impressive was the one who fully inhabited her body, and I can see and appreciate something along those lines may be at the heart of the matter. I know when I paint, or dance (or do pretty much anything), it’s the times I lose myself, where I feel like a conduit or lose all sense of self consciousness, where I (forgive the terminology) feel to become one with whatever I’m doing when it seems I produce my best work.

Maybe there’s a parallel there between reaching the point of being able to do any skill (driving for example) as second nature, where you don’t have to think about it so you pretty much extend your body to the shape and size of the car and your limbs and senses become extensions of the various tools you need to manoeuvre the car.

Some people have skills and gifts which leave most breathtaken, even if they may not like whatever it is. I can look at some art and know I could never in a million years produce work of that technical quality. But I also sometimes wonder why they didn’t just save themselves the bother and take a photo. It’s that spark, that indefinable quality, which makes something good, imo, whether or not the person doing it has amazing skills or none at all. But what that something is….well, that’s not only open to debate but also perhaps ultimately impossible to pin down. Maybe that’s what makes it so attractive.


7 thoughts on “What makes it good?

  1. Sometimes, I question the difference between what makes it good for me versus what makes it good for my audience. And I think therein lies the key to the popularity of my work (in relation to the number of people who follow what I do.) I don’t cater to anyone. As such, my following is comprised almost entirely of those with similar tastes / interests / preferences in rhetoric… But we can never really know how good we are at what we do unless we have some reference point to “measure” against, assuming that there’s even a way to quantify the effort.

    • I don’t cater for anyone either, just follow my own flow, create the work I do when I’m inspired to do so. I’m not sure if I have a ‘following’. Someone a while ago mentioned being a ‘fan’ and the idea made me cringe, since I’d prefer not to set myself above others, rather engage with them, or express to them, communicate something, even if what they interpret is miles from what I intended or meant. For me the effort is of no consequence. I do it because it pleases me, the act itself is the point, and anything that might come back is a bonus. But I’m not sure talking to people would fall into the range I’m referring to here, so perhaps your photos would be better considered in this light.

  2. I like the ones that do it because they have to. You can recognize it often in good art, in good music, in good literature. An explosion of complete need from deep inside. Same with a good dance/dancer. You can see it in their movement. A deep flow. Good dancers must probably learn to balance and focus that energy to paint a picture of that feeling. Similar to you, I’ve found that in the arts there are those with extreme technical skills. But then there are those with an extreme level of feeling, which i personally prefer also. Many of the geniuses in the arts have both. I think it is “good” when it comes from deep inside. From an edge. A feeling where you feel near death, or joyously so near to life. A desperation so immense that you have to let this feeling out in your chosen medium whether it be painting, music, dance, writing etc. An explosive need of feeling so deep it almost hurts to not be expressed. That is what makes it good to me, no matter at what level. A child’s painting, or a child’s song can have it. While some professionals might be conventionally successful but don’t truly have it. Or great technicians might be proficient but don’t have true deep feeling. You can hear these desperate feelings in Beethoven. You can see it in van Gogh. You can feel it in Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Keats. You can read it in Dostoevsky. Maybe we perceive it as good because we perceive an inner desperate struggle for life in that music, in that painting, in that dance, in that page, or in that poem. I think good art no matter what, or at what level can give hope. If it has true feeling.

    • Hello Anon, I would agree and like the way you express this. I don’t know about the quality of my own, work, I certainly know it varies, but creating and expressing is a need, it seems to be the fuel that carries me, without which I wouldn’t feel alive. I don’t really do it for anyone else, I do it because I must. If anyone else gains from that all well and good but it isn’t the driving force. Any creation I look at, or listen to, above all else must move me, touch me, that’s what makes it ‘good’ for me.

      • Hello. I like your work. I like your poetry. I like your conceptual video art and many of your paintings. I know what you mean. I know that I can feel horrible for months and even years. And then I can find energy in a line of poetry or piece of music that moves me. I write poetry myself. Mainly for myself. I don’t know about the quality of it either, but sometimes it is inspired. I feel more than I am and in the moment. And it feels good. I always want to hold this feeling because as you said it makes you feel alive.

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