Eye of the Beholder


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  That’s what they always say, right?  When it comes to art, there is no such thing as objective.  Someone can say your story has been done, the characters are flat, and it’s just not very interesting, and someone else can love it.  It depends (every lawyer’s favorite answer 😉

I for instance, haaaaaate Picasso.  I think his stuff is crap and looks like a 3 year old did it.  Maybe I just don’t get it, or maybe it’s everyone else who’s been snowed and I’m the little kid who can clearly see the emperor has no clothes.  Does it matter?  No.  Because they are both true and not true and since there’s no way to measure it, the cat stays forever in the box.  (And if you get this joke, thank-you! I’m not the only dork 🙂

I love the classical artists, the ones that painted stuff that looked real and made sculptures that could’ve been real people frozen in marble.  To me, those take talent, a true eye.  Those are beautiful.


Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, those artists speak to me.

My sister thinks I’m a fuddy and that modern art shows true talent because once the old masters showed the world how to make something resembling real life, it’d been done, and real artists do something new.  So they came up with ways to express emotions and events in abstract ways.


I think she’s just buying into hype, but that’s my point.

All art is in the eye of the beholder.  There are basics, and once you have those down and know what they’re for, you can go outside them.  I hate literary writing, to me it’s the equivalent of modern art paintings that are a red dot on a black background and are supposedly brilliant.  Others love literary, the language and the flow of it, and look down their noses at “commercial” writers.

Is anyone really right?  Of course not.  Because it’s art.

Take any art form and you will see people who find beauty in flaws, in perfection, and in bashing the rules.  I have a friend who was in ballet before law school and she said she faced the same type of critiques and rejections I do as a writer.  It all comes down to what style you appreciate and how what the artist does within that style conforms to your tastes.


When you’re writing, it’s important to find beta readers who understand and like your genre and your style within that genre, otherwise their feedback will be all about how it should be a different style or go in different ways.  Once you have that, you can nail down what you’re doing that will throw readers off.  Again, there’s really no right or wrong, just what the readers will like.

Then it’s all about finding the audience for that genre and style.

We have a saying, “If the beta or the person critiquing can tell you something’s not working, they’re often right.  If they can tell you what you should do to “fix” it, they’re almost always wrong.”

Happy Writing 🙂

4 thoughts on “Eye of the Beholder

  1. Ooh, I’m in two minds here. Yes, absolutely, art is subjective. But at the same time, some art is just difficult to ‘get’ and not necessarily crap. So I’m going to try and get the quantum cat out of the box and show that how it can be two things at once – great but not appealing (instead of great and crap).

    The trick is to not go straight to the ‘difficult’ works (like The Demoiselles D’Avignon you’ve got as your lead image); you have to see the workings out – how did Picasso get from standard classical art to that? And believe me, he was a VERY talented artist – see https://www.nga.gov/images/noncol/fisherfs.htm painted when he was 14! This was not a random dauber, but someone who pushed the artistic envelope beyond classical and impressionist confines. He was experimenting with imagery in paintings before he was 20 and then, along with George Braque, developed cubism (my personal favourite period) which tried to show multiple facets of a three dimensional object/scene on a flat canvas.

    I totally get why ‘avante garde’ art / writing / music can be disliked and off-putting. And I kind of want any artist who goes down that route to have had the same rigorous exploration of talent and vision that Picasso had, and NOT just do some weird blobby thing and expect praise to roll in. Show me your working out, your proof that you’ve learned your craft. I still might not like it but I’ll accept it.

    On the other hand, sometimes an artist can just hit the sweet spot of approval without having to prove themselves worthy. Their stuff can just be enjoyed without having to understand the journey. And that is also perfectly fine.

    I guess this means that as well as picking beta readers who are into your genre, you need to consider those rare & enlightened souls who are not already on the bandwagon but are willing to have a flick through some of your ‘workings out’ to understand where you’re coming from and see your art as part of a greater movement. If you’re lucky then they will give you a wider insight into things your closer betas overlook.

    I think what I’m saying is: don’t show your art to any old idiot; as well as your core betas, find someone who will look beyond the genre and somehow pack away their subjectivity and engage an objective outlook.

    Of course, looking at a picture takes a minute or so. Listening to a song takes maybe three minutes. Reading requires the investment of a significantly greater period – finding someone who isn’t into the genre but can be objective for hours on end may be my own little fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

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