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Pretty vs. Beautiful

Written: July 17, 2003

Too often, I think, people confuse ‘pretty’ and ‘nice’ with ‘beautiful’. I don’t mean to say that they’re mutually exclusive – but they have little to do with each other.

In my opinion, beauty has less to do with how a piece of art makes me feel as how deeply, how intensely it engages me on an emotional or intellectual level – or both. How deeply I’m drawn into another world.

After some thought, however, I conclude that the world has to be worth being drawn in to. So, in effect, I have replaced one question with another (or have phrased the question more honestly): what makes an artistic vision worth experiencing?

Maybe, then, a distinction has to be drawn between an artistic vision and the technique, craft, and/or skill that go into its creation. The ability to imagine as opposed to the ability to create. Then again, the two are not easily teased apart; the depth of one’s skills extends the horizon of what is possible, and pushing the boundaries of the possible expands the idea of what can be considered ‘technique’.

Nevertheless, though, I think the two are distinct enough to be discussed separately, enough to say that any piece of art has some combination of the two. (Though saying this makes me afraid of being in awful textbook territory as in Dead Poets Society. Ah well.) I’m going to assume that good technique and skilled craftsmanship are relatively easy to gauge. Leaving me to again ask myself: What makes an artistic vision worth experiencing?

[8/1: After further reflection, I wonder if the question is meaningful or relevant in the first place. Or perhaps I’m just too weak to even approach attempting to answer it.]