Diploma, certificate, medal? How about just the painting?

Posted by Michael Best on May 07, 2014 0 Comments

It was one of those occasional art encounters that one never forgets. A painting that one never forgets. I don’t recall the name of the gallery, the painting or even the artist which, I suppose, helps make the point of this post.

Let’s go back to that gallery and relive the encounter. This time you are invited along to Carmel-by-the-Sea where it is one of those summer days that define California.

As we open the well-worn heavy wood and glass door, the homely, sharp "ding, ding" of an old-fashioned bell greets us. The air-conditioning offers immediate respite from the oppressive heat outside. We scan the walls. A large 4 foot by 6 foot oil on canvas townscape catches our eye. It begins to draw us closer and then, as it embraces us, the surrounding sounds and sights of the gallery fade into the background. Now, to the exclusion of everything else, it is just us and the painting. We are on a hillside standing beside the artist looking down on a quintessential Spanish village. Tall villas, all with whitewashed walls and terra cotta tiles on sloping, angular roofs are crowded together, only separated one from the other by narrow, winding streets. We hear the sounds of unseen children at play. Somewhere in the village a dog barks. Before we know it, we are down there standing on a corner as we shield our eyes from the intense glare of the walls. We feel the relentless heat of the midday sun. Is that paella we detect in the heavy, still air? We are soaking up the enveloping ambiance of this comfortable, welcoming place with the self-satisfaction of tourists who have just discovered a gem not marked or mentioned on any travel brochures.

“May I help you?” The gallery owner startles us and for a moment we are disoriented as we return from our quasi-hypnotic visit to this enchanting village. We ask about the artist but it is a Spanish name we have never heard before and are unlikely to remember. “How much?” we ask. “It sold for fifteen thousand dollars,” says the gallery owner pointing at the little red dot. We thank her, pause to give the painting one more longing glance and then step back out into the throngs of tourists strolling the sidewalks of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Did we just have one of those magical art moments when a painting takes one's breath away? Yes, we did. Did it really matter to us who the artist was? Not really. Did it occur to us to ask about the artist's certificates, diplomas or medals before deciding whether or not we should like the painting? Of course not - it didn’t even cross our minds!

And therein lies the point. It was, as it always should be, all about the painting, and only the painting.

Some botanical artists and would-be botanical artists are being persuaded to part with around $5,000.00 to complete 'diploma' or 'certificate' courses presumably to 'qualify' them as botanical artists. The fact though is that no diploma or certificate can testify to your qualifications as an artist - only your paintings can do that.

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