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Figure Drawing, 1927
A. Kitz, pupil of Louis F. Bernecker, Mechanics Institute, New York
A. Kitz, pupil of Louis F. Bernecker, Mechanics Institute, New York
E.P. Nowlen, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T., Boston
E.P. Nowlen, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T., Boston
Donald Buck, pupil of A. M. Clements, Mechanics Institute of Rochester
Donald Buck, pupil of A. M. Clements, Mechanics Institute of Rochester
J. Denton Hogan, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburg
J. Denton Hogan, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburg
J. H. Raftery, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T.
J. H. Raftery, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T.
Winifred Ward, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburg, Pa.
Winifred Ward, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburg, Pa.
William Jung, Art School American Bank Note Co, New York
William Jung, Art School American Bank Note Co, New York
J. H. Raftery, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T.
J. H. Raftery, pupil of W. Felton Brown, M. I. T.
Charles F. H. Menges, pupil of Richard Andrews, Massachusetts School of Art, Boston
Charles F. H. Menges, pupil of Richard Andrews, Massachusetts School of Art, Boston
Donald Buck, pupil of A. M. Clements, Mechanics Institute of Rochester
Donald Buck, pupil of A. M. Clements, Mechanics Institute of Rochester
James B. Gould, pupil of Arthur W. Woelfle, Mechanics Institute, New York
James B. Gould, pupil of Arthur W. Woelfle, Mechanics Institute, New York
Frederick L. Sprague, pupil of George B. Bridgman, Art Students League, New York
Frederick L. Sprague, pupil of George B. Bridgman, Art Students League, New York


The Dunning-Kruger Effect

September 27, 2013

Dear Artist,

Experiments published in 1999 by Cornell University researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger showed <br>Novak Djokovic, Serbian professional tennis player ranked World No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals
Novak Djokovic, Serbian professional tennis player ranked World No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals
that unskilled individuals tended to rate their competence higher than average. The researchers figured the ignorance of standards of performance was behind a great deal of incompetence in a wide range of activities--reading, grammar, geography, driving a car, playing tennis.

They also found that competent people often underestimated their prowess because they falsely assumed that others have an equivalent understanding of their processes and problems.

For a given skill, Dunning-Kruger proposed that incompetent people will tend to overestimate their own level of skill, fail to recognize genuine skill in others, and fail to recognize the extreme nature of their own shortcomings.

The partial good news is that some incompetent students improved their ability to estimate their rank after minimal tutoring, even though they may not have actually improved.

In art workshops and mentoring sessions, I've noticed a few beginning artists who are impaled on Dunning-Kruger. One of the main reasons, in my observation, is the vast amount of incompetent work out there that is touted as either interesting or valuable. Because of this situation, art schools are rampant with cynicism and despair. Confused, the beginning student may think that good enough is good enough, it's all a mug's game, and the only thing that's important is some form of self-expression.

In comparison, in the game of tennis, results are measureable, and folks will pay to watch only the top pros. Not being Novak Djokovic is no joke. When I was a kid, the only one to stick around and watch my serves was my dad. I thought I was pretty good, and I told him, but that was when he decided to find me an art teacher.

In art schools and out, many beginning students are defying the Dunning-Kruger effect. In my experience they're mainly loners, hard workers and networkers who believe study and private application lead to quality. These same beginners are the ones who will become the competent artists of tomorrow. And they will always question their own competence.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others." (David Dunning and Justin Kruger)

Esoterica: The Dunning–Kruger research was done in the USA where over-confidence, fashionable optimism and hubris might have played a part. Further studies with East Asians showed opposite results. Asian incompetents knew they were doing poor work and took it as an opportunity to improve and to get along with others. These attitudes are deep-rooted in Asian cultures. "Real knowledge," said Confucius, "is to know the extent of one's ignorance."

On a wider scale, the Dunning-Kruger effect has been with us since the dawn of mankind and knows little of national borders. "The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole." (William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599)





Define incompetency please
by Mike Young, Oakville, ON, Canada


I really do need someone to define incompetency as it applies to art. I can discern when technical mastery of the media Convolution AA<br>stone sculpture by Mike Young Convolution AA
stone sculpture
serves the artist's intent – and, of course, the converse. However, in the absence of hard metrics to measure against for aesthetic competency then inabilities cannot be measured in absolute terms. Therefore aesthetic competency is judged against a relative set of values that are not absolute. Each of us have our own aesthetic values (and they change over time, I have discovered in myself). A masterpiece in my present day judgment - say, one of the many of Frances Bacon's triptychs - may well be considered by many to be an incompetent piece of art by others. Without a definition of aesthetic competency, I assert that competency/incompetency is solely in the eye of the beholder – and we are all different.

(RG note) Thanks, Mike. Of course competency is in the eye of the beholder. Take the print we've illustrated here, sent to us by Mike Barr. The cutline under the illustration on the FAC (Australia) website says: "Fremantle Arts Centre have Faces, Faces, Everywhere<br>by Alex Maciver
Faces, Faces, Everywhere
by Alex Maciver
announced the winners of the 38th Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award. Western Australia artist Alex Maciver was awarded the $15,000 Major Acquisitive Prize for his conceptual work, Faces, Faces Everywhere. How would your eye rate this one, Mike?



There are 13 comments for Define incompetency please by Mike Young

From: DM -- Sep 30, 2013

Faces,Faces ,Everywhere-$15,000 award??? You have to be kidding right?
Mike-I like your sculpture-Convolution AA very much. Flowing lines and beautiful variety of color
in the marble you selected.

From: carol small -- Sep 30, 2013

Guess I do not quite see what the judges saw in the piece, "Faces, Faces, Everywhere." It looks a bit like a, "Happy Face," which was, "everywhere," for a while. Maybe that is why they picked it. For me, it is a bit too obvious.

Respectively,
carol

From: Cathy Pascoe -- Sep 30, 2013

I had many many grade one students who could easily draw these. Unbelievable that this could be awarded a $15,000 prize.

From: LL -- Sep 30, 2013

I will be eternally grateful to anyone who can explain the alleged superiority of "Faces" to me. I've witnessed similar travesties in the past. Initially I put it down to my ignorance or lack of sophistication. I'm quite certain that was the wrong conclusion, but just how DO we explain and come to terms with it?

From: Anon -- Oct 01, 2013

Similarly, take a look at the winner of the West Australian $45,000 Black Swan Portrait Prize last week...

From: Mike Barr -- Oct 01, 2013

Australia has the world's biggest art prizes and the worst paintings in the world seem to win them. See the world's richest landscape prize ($60,000) and the winners in 2011.
It is sheer chaos and you can see why traditional artists get very disheartened.

From: Sharon Knettell -- Oct 01, 2013

I do think it is difficult to define competency today when we have no markers. It is rather like judging a doctors performance in the 12th century- the Dark Ages without the knowledge of what medicine could be.

We are in the Dark Ages of Art.
Excerpted from an article on the sadly departed Robert Hughes in 2006 in "The Austrailian".
"Suppose you come up with the name of a (contemporary) figurative painter whose work is as sublimely impressive as, let us say, Velazquez. I think you'd be really hard put to," he says.
"There are a couple of really great figurative painters around: there's Antonio Lopez in Spain and, of course, Lucian Freud in England. But I don't think you could say that either of these guys were the mirror equivalent of a Velazquez or a Rembrandt. There are times when art, the medium, just isn't producing exceptional stuff."

We have stripped our art schools of rigor- I know I taught at one- so there is less and less discernment and students go there to express themselves-not to learn.

From: Bill Metcalf -- Oct 01, 2013

Faces makes a mockery of serious art

From: Jan Albertin -- Oct 01, 2013

It is freedom of human expression that is important and we do well by encouraging it. Appreciation and paying for it is up to the individual.

From: Regina -- Oct 01, 2013

It is discouraging to work hard to become a better artist, to perfect your drawing skills, your understanding of color, to work with different mediums and evolve as an artist, when this is what wins prizes. In Austin, the museum chose a pile of dirt in the corner. I used to think I was ignorant of what everyone else saw, but no longer.

From: Falcon -- Oct 01, 2013

Re: World's Richest Landscape Prize. At least the people know good art -- look at People's Choice.

From: Julie Bernstein Engelmann -- Oct 01, 2013

What people think is valuable changes over time. As a culture today, we don't value "hard and studied" as highly anymore as "authentic, confident, easy, memorable, fresh, significant and dramatic." That doesn't say our standards have sunk; it says we are looking for different things.

From: Diane Overmyer -- Oct 06, 2013

I would encourage anyone reading this comment to look on Scott Burdick's website. There is a link to video of a speech he gave about the banishment of beauty in contemporary art, that worth the time to watch! -- look at the left bottom video clip on his home page.


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The mysteries of competency
by Jennifer Meyers, Ocala, FL, USA


So can the Dunning-Kruger effect lead a person into the dilemma of being highly competent and incompetent at the same time? <br>Peter Michaelson's<br>Wanted Poster<br>whywesuffer.com
Peter Michaelson's
Wanted Poster
whywesuffer.com
If you think you are competent but really are not or if you are competent but think you are not... how does this play out in real life? How does the impact of a person's own psyche play into the equation? What if a highly competent person with low self-esteem is in a workplace with incompetent people? Your email newsletter is wonderful! There is always something thought provoking or comforting or nurturing.

(RG note) Thanks, Jennifer. If you are quite sure you're competent, you may not be. On the other hand, if you think you are incompetent, there is a very good chance that from time to time and on certain occasions, particularly when you get lucky, you are actually competent.



There are 4 comments for The mysteries of competency by Jennifer Meyers

From: Anonymous -- Oct 01, 2013

I'd love to send that poster to the US Congress this morning. It's not only the art world that lacks competence.

From: Gus Scharl -- Oct 01, 2013

The tea party guys should all be impeached

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX -- Oct 01, 2013

Around the world, some deliberative bodies break out into fist fights. Hmm.

From: Anonymous -- Oct 01, 2013

I've also heard that witches don't sink when thrown into a pond...


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Overlooking the errors
by Stewart Turcotte, Kelowna, BC, Canada


As an art dealer and gallery owner, I've had artists come to the gallery with the idea of becoming a showing artist and I <br>Stew Turcotte Designs by Stewart Turcotte
Stew Turcotte Designs
do a critique of the work because they are not there yet and they may never be. It is particularly needed and helpful for the beginners because, as you said, they either overlook poor work or consider it good enough. I think a lot of them overlook their errors. I've noticed that some people who do figurative work have never taken a workshop with a model or looked at informed reference books. I tell them to look at various joints and they agree that bodies do not bend in the way they painted them.



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Loner and networker?
by Bill Sander, Sarasota, FL, USA


As always, interesting and informative (and competent :-) However... how is one both a loner and a networker? <br>Sarasota Chalk Festival
Sarasota Chalk Festival


(RG note) Thanks, Bill. This letter evoked more interesting questions and confusion than any for a long time, which makes me think either I'm an incompetent letter writer, or that I'm at least a bit competent in stirring up a den of breeding nematodes. Yes, loners can be networkers. It just means they don't go to bars, restaurants, clubs or guilds to do it. And when they do turn up at workshops, they are the ones out there half a mile, set up and painting quietly by the glacier, who, after a rocky trudge by the guide or instructor, are reminded that the helicopter back to their private room in the lodge is coming in half an hour.



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What's it all about?
by Regan Tausch, Bayville, NY, USA


I happen to be a self-taught artist, true to my Folk Art style. And I see evidence of artists who overestimate their original Folk Art<br>acrylic painting<br>6 x 6 inches by Regan Tausch original Folk Art
acrylic painting
6 x 6 inches
accomplishment or maybe the patrons overestimate it, or both. I had very little self-esteem for much of my life, and thought I was a terrible artist and still think so in some ways. Having said that, I found my niche, and my art has improved greatly over the last 15 years - coinciding with when I started showing and selling my art. And my art has brought my fans much joy, and in turn given me back joy and insight into my own artwork. And that's what it's all about.

(RG note) Thanks, Regan. In my opinion you're onto a good thought here. Artists who might consider themselves to be overestimating their competence should note that their patrons, who have often never tried their hand at art, nor do they know much about the subject but only know what they like, may themselves be among the ranks of the incompetents. And that's what it's all about.



There is 1 comment for What's it all about? by Regan Tausch

From: Anonymous -- Oct 01, 2013

Ha, I wouldn't mind being an incompetent patron of the incompetent Vincent a couple of centuries ago!


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Finding the vision in the artist
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada


Well, yes, there is that for sure and we have all witnessed it. But there is something else as well, which is Gabriola Sunset<br>acrylic painting<br>20 x 24 inches by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki Gabriola Sunset
acrylic painting
20 x 24 inches
shoehorning of talented beginners into doing what we do. I am talking about those brilliant newcomers with a vision of something new and exciting, who get harped at because they painted the lacrimal caruncle too pink.

I'm just saying that Dunning-Krueger thing is sometimes very obvious, but can also be grossly misused. Many ingenious inventions are results of overcoming a lack of skill, or from lack of interest in using skills.

Picasso is a prime example of the latter. If one had never heard of him and he brought his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to a crit, what might a critic say? Maybe you would have understood his vision and acknowledged all the skill that he already possessed, but the first critics who saw it did not. There is only one Picasso, but the urge to bring something new to the table is not that rare. That's what I think we should be careful not to stifle.

Not everyone is focused on bringing something to be graded. Some people approach the teacher with hope of sharing a vision. Of course it's also up to them to communicate this. You would probably give a different crit if Picasso said that he was just learning how to realistically draw a female figure or if he said that he was trying to break new grounds. That's one reason why crits are difficult; you really need to make an effort to understand the person, not just what they made.

What would I say to Picasso about his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon? I guess the best thing I could have done was to buy it!



There are 5 comments for Finding the vision in the artist by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

From: Milan Stevulak, Saltspring Island -- Oct 01, 2013

Really like your painting Tatjana. It captures the look and feel of our part of the world

From: Nancy -- Oct 01, 2013

You make a very good point here, competence is often in the eye of the beholder and the critic. I've found in online critiques that many who do realistic work can only see competence as it relates to how "real" it looks, when there is so much more to competence than that, and something can be very skilled indeed yet veer heavily from the path of realism. Creativity is also not to be underestimated in what it contributes to competence - something very creative but unpolished can still be exponentially better than what the most skilled technician can generate.

From: Tatjana -- Oct 01, 2013

Thanks Milan, The Salt Spring Island experience was an amazing inspiration!

From: Tatjana -- Oct 01, 2013

Thanks for your comment Nancy, I agree with you. I think that we are sometimes too quick to dismiss what we don't like. The discussion here whether it's better to communicate that dismissal with a white wash or with a harsh critique doesn't go into the root of the issue. The main point is that the decision of "not liking" disengages the lesser critic. I personally value and enjoy looking at technically skilled art, but I also experienced some thrilling discoveries by forcing myself to research unusual and intriguing art that I initially didn't like.

From: anonymous -- Oct 02, 2013

Nancy - refer to faces in the first comment


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Perfecting the art of schmooze
by Liz Reday, South Pasadena, CA, USA


Contemporary art these days seems surprising and baffling. The application of paint in many paintings appears to The Shoot (Under Sixth)<br>oil on canvas<br>40 x 30 inches by Liz Reday The Shoot (Under Sixth)
oil on canvas
40 x 30 inches
be done with the opposite of skill, and it's not just my opinion. Recently, I read an article in ArtForum about the "de-skilling of art." Skill in the painting process is a definite hindrance these days. Skill in sculpture is left to the artisans who manufacture the sculpture for the blue chip artists who come up with the idea and perhaps a sketch. Some major fine artists employ 50 - 100 other artists and artisans to actually hand make their art objects. This is good for the young artists who are employed while making valuable contacts in the high flying art market. In fact, some young artists are now using this employment as a beginning step to a blue chip career of their own. And good for them.

But back to skill. Is skill just another talent to be outsourced by the dynamic, big bucks artist who spends most of his (or her) time & energy perfecting the art of schmooze? Competence can be hired. The artisan who pours your bronze and inks your etching plate or glues your doodads to the diorama is competent. The manager who hires all the artists who work in your gigantic studio is competent.

The big idea artist is prized not for competence, but for that singular, original, raw vision. O.K., my cynical opinion is formed by reading way too many art and fashion magazines and spending way too much time online googling the art world. Sour grapes? You betcha! I just want to keep painting and have people admire and buy my work. But it isn't about being a "good" painter. People collect the art of artists who are already famous, or soon to be famous. What is a "good" painting? If the artist has proven to be in several museums and in the collections of discerning and successful art world collectors, then this artist is a good investment. This artist has galleries lining up to offer solo shows that sell out before they open. Skill does not even enter the equation. Searing, blazing, originality coupled with relevant comment on the state of our culture created with raw intensity subtly displaying the blips and splodges of the machine/hand of the artist… now that's a painting fit for the cover of the great art magazine.



There are 2 comments for Perfecting the art of schmooze by Liz Reday

From: Ib -- Sep 30, 2013

"The big idea artist is prized not for competence, but for that singular, original, raw vision".
Often they hire assistants to come up with the "big idea".
And other employees sign the work for them as well.
They are so skilled at the schmooze, that is all they have to do.

Happens all the time.

From: Jill Warland -- Sep 30, 2013

Thank you, Liz. Your comments will help support an argument I'm making in writing a paper for an Art Education course. And don't stop painting! Love your work.


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Kathleen Carrillo Workshops Held in tropical Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Kathleen Carrillo Workshops
Held in tropical Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Ulrich Gleiter, Russia



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Marc Lemonnier of Pointe-Claire, QC, Canada who wrote, "I was glad to see one of my very favourite citations from Confuciuscome to life in your letter. Being a painter with little schooling, I am certain it applies."

(RG note) Thanks, Marc. Great minds worldwide throughout history have expressed this idea in one way or the other. "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision." (Bertrand Russell). "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." (Charles Darwin)


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The Dunning-Kruger Effect...

From: Mike Barr -- Sep 26, 2013

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is in full swing among less serious social artists. Why - because no one calls a spade a spade. All work is just great and everyone loves everyone's work. What's worse is that the Effect has its ultimate effect of elevating poor-quality artists into teachers.

From: Maria Kastengren -- Sep 26, 2013

Thank you. Needed this one.
Best regards
Maria
www.mariakastengren.se

From: CarolKairis -- Sep 27, 2013

..."Humility is to know ones limitations".

From: Mitchell -- Sep 27, 2013

Agree with Mike, and I would add that in my town it seems teachers are those who are liked on a social level, but have little real artistic skills or experience.

From: ReneW -- Sep 27, 2013

In Lake Wobegon all the people are above average. We know that can't be true. Yet we encourage those that are way below average and will likely stay there. None of like to be below average. We want to do better if we can. If we have the talent, the drive, the passion, work-ethic, the time, etc we can rise above incompetence or below average. Art is unlike other endeavors where you quickly find out that you just can't do it. Golf, baseball, basketball are such endeavors where you find quickly that you won't make it as a professional. To recognize that you just are not good enough is hard to take personally. Art, unfortunately, does not have a way to cull out the incompetent. No one will tell you that your work is bad. You have to determine that on your own.

From: Jackie Knott -- Sep 27, 2013

That photo of Novak Djokovak makes me hurt.
There are several problems with art: it is a wonderful pastime for lovers of art. It's democratic in that anyone can pick up some supplies and try their hand at it. Quality is subjective in the same manner beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The worst thing that can happen to hobbyists is when they sell a piece at the local crafts fair. They are convinced their work is on a par with the greats and thereafter become longsuffering artists that aren't appreciated.
I'm not surprised this study was conducted in the US, or the era. There was an unfortunate mindset in education during that time that poor self esteem contributed to inferior academic performance. Educators insisted if we told the little darlings "You're wonderful!" they would be. That translated into promoting students when they should have been held back and awarding unearned high grades. We still have some of that. Instead of demanding competence standards were lowered.
Regardless, the best in any vocation will arise in driven people who are willing to persevere, do the work, and challenge their own skill.

From: Carol P. Taylor -- Sep 27, 2013

I noticed this effect on the ski slopes. When I lived many years in Sun Valley, Idaho, I was always amazed at how tourists overestimated their skiing prowess. They then were taken down the slope in the ski patrol sled, or, would suffer injury.

From: Peter S. Park -- Sep 27, 2013

As an art instructor I found this letter so insightful. It explains what I have observed so many time--over confident incompetents who need to back up and really see what they're doing. Why is it that some simply "get it" and others don't?

From: Lainey Benson -- Sep 27, 2013

I've been mulling the dunning kruger effect for a few days now. Admittedly it makes me a like distrustful of my own self evaluation. However, a broader view leads me to conclude that in all aspects of my life, as with my painting, questioning my own competence is precisely what drives me to consider, explore, and improve. Indeed, these are wonderful means to enriching my life. Thanks for the reminder.

From: Rick -- Sep 27, 2013

Those who think they know it all are really annoying to those of us who actually do.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki -- Sep 27, 2013

I guess it sounds better to tell someone that they are a Dunning-Kruger. And maybe I should try telling my boss that I have to go for a quick Mednick after lunch...

From: Stan Moeller -- Sep 27, 2013

I have been teaching workshops for many years and often wondered why someone with just a couple of workshops under their belt, and in my mind, clearly a ways to go, would ask me how to approach a gallery.

From: Kristin K. Hosbein -- Sep 27, 2013

Love this...Makes me happy ...never satisfied is a good thing! Once in a while a painting makes me feel like it encompasses all of what I've learned in a good way. But each painting is a lesson and a challenge, and always room for improvement. Is not always linear, but jumps around.

I very much enjoy your letters. They are thoughtful and informed and contain meat for those of us with teeth.

From: Jane Wilcoxson -- Sep 27, 2013

The Dunning-Kruger Effect applies to me. Once I was a brilliant rising star artist, now I'm an old mediocre artist, what happened? If it wasn't for the fact that I can't leave the painting alone and walk away from it, I would have given up this gig a long time ago and lived a normal life. Being an artist is like living in the rift of time and space (Thats a Dr Who reference). It means we live in the shadowlands never sure of our footing.

From: Catherine Stock -- Sep 27, 2013

I asked Maurice Sendak once if he ever suffered from writer's/illustrator's block and he immediately answered "All the time, ALL the time!" Struggle= growth, complacency=stagnation.

From: Polly Roopnarine -- Sep 27, 2013

Maybe, you are right about those who think that theirs are good enough. Mine is not good enough. As a student my work was on the wall with others and I had a paint brush fixing it.
Even today, I am a harsh critic of my art.

From: Maurice Han -- Sep 27, 2013

This is the trouble with art. I see it all the time in workshops and in galleries. It is one of the only fields where even very smart people are so befuddled that they will pay a lot of money for really shoddy work--and show it proudly.

From: Bill Zahnt -- Sep 27, 2013

I'm a student in university who aspires to a career in some sort of visual art. This material you present is so valuable to me. I do not hear of this sort of view as Dunning Kruger in my art appreciation classes.

From: Ed Brown (Atlanta) -- Sep 27, 2013

In our high-school they let everybody pass pretty well because their standards are so low and they don't want to hurt anyones feelings

From: Wilson Dawe -- Sep 27, 2013

In Mike Barr's remark above where Dunning Kruger is in effect among not so serious hobby painters I've noted that professional instructors are always trying to get them to become more professional. Maybe the pros should stop doing this and just kid the amateurs along and let them be happy.

From: Mike Barr -- Sep 27, 2013

Wilson - that's just what teachers and workshop leaders do here.. as a result they get the same people coming back for years to workshops and classes for not much real benefit apart from the social aspect of it all... which of course is important for a lot of people and nothing wrong with that.

From: David.R (UK) -- Sep 27, 2013

I'm not convinced that applying D-K to artists is that clear-cut because I think Art is too subjective. Do buyers of art then also suffer from the D-K effect? I'm running a personal experiment right now. I have a 14" x 10" canvas painted in Cerulean Blue (quite an expensive pigment). It's just a flat panel of blue, but I explain it's an expensive pigment and I've titled the piece "Not Yellow". I have no intention of selling, however you would be surprised at the interest it has generated!

From: Paula Green -- Sep 28, 2013

I find this rather ironic considering someone's painting of "donuts" can sell for loads even though it's something anyone can do. But it does sell for a ridiculous amount and it's popular only because of the backing of a name. Someone said it best: "How can anyone criticise art? You put a brick in the Tate today and it's art."

From: Russ Hogger -- Sep 28, 2013

When things start to get you down don't try to explain yourself make a nice cup of tea, sit down and relax. Everything come's out in the wash.

From: Russ Hogger -- Sep 28, 2013

By the way, I like featured artist Ulrich Gleiter's painting, "Three Boats", very gutsy.

From: Karin Givon, potwoman@DancingDragonPottery.net -- Sep 29, 2013

It's good to think on these esoteric things now and again. I wonder who is the judge of "good enough" ? or possibly even "really good" ?

From: Ethan Woodley -- Sep 29, 2013

This blog gets more intelligent responses than any other art blog on the net. And a few dumb ones too. Thank you to everyone who contributes. I always learn a lot. Sussex, UK

From: Bart Keller -- Sep 29, 2013

Dear Paula Green-with-envy (above) A brick IS art when it's put in the Tate.

From: Kathryn -- Sep 29, 2013

I'm so glad you posted this Robert. I've mentioned the Dunning-Kruger effect on a previous post of yours. I'd like to think that you actually read the comments and maybe learned a little from people who post here. Regardless, this effect can be seen everywhere in every aspect of life. I've met so many cocky overly confident people who are unaware of their limited ability or knowledge, I wish I had their confidence. Yet, I pick myself apart so much that as someone above said "I was a brilliant rising star artist, now I'm an old mediocre artist." What happened is that I saw all my flaws and shortcomings - drove myself to obsessive overwork, that I gave up. The interesting thing is that my peers (from decades ago) who were unaware of their shortcomings kept at their art. Their skill level of work is now superior to mine. So the lesson I've learned and would like to pass along is to find joy in what your doing. It's OK to seek improvement, but take on a challenge because it brings you some sort of joy. It is find to see an ideal in another's work and happily strive towards meeting the challenge. But, comparison has a darker side. Roosevelt said - Comparison is the thief of joy.

From: Robert Sesco -- Sep 30, 2013

Consider an incompetent artist who tends to overestimate her skill; her skill 'level' must be compared to a standard in order to have a reference point; what is that standard? The summation of historical skill as compiled...by whom? The cultural norm of her day? Other artists? Curators? Sales?

Consider the highly competent artist who underestimates her skill; Is she highly skilled because she is a prodigy? Is she highly skilled because of years of academic instruction? Is she highly skilled because of dogged persistence? The question again begs a reference point from which either we or she can determine the 'level' of her skill in order to determine whether she is actually underestimating her skill or perhaps is 'actually' correctly evaluating her level of skill.

Consider the range of sale prices of the paintings of a competent, selling artist, and then consider that same range of sale prices just minutes after the news of this artist's demise becomes public. In many cases this range doubles. Did this artist over-estimate or under-estimate her skill level?

Another complexity is the skewed perspective of skill level when 'branding' comes into play. Picasso had already mastered many media and styles as a young prodigy, as determined by, I must guess, his patrons, his galleries, the media, his self-promotion, etc. At some point he is able to begin assembling goat-heads on broomsticks stuck in up-turned washtubs as art, and there are many who clamored, and continue to clamor, to pay exorbitant sums for this. Apart from the branding of Picasso's name, I doubt we would see the skill level in some of his art. Picasso, from what I have read, never underestimated his level of skill, and yet he could produce both highly skilled work as well as some real crap.

Whether our opinions of our work overestimates or underestimates our level of skill, it is nothing more than a pattern of thought if divorced from a standard or reference point of skill by which we can evaluate the 'correctness' of the artist's opinion. I would want to know how to derive that reference point.

From: Anna -- Sep 30, 2013

Mike Barr, people coming back for classes for years IS THE benefit - can't you see?

Robert Sesco - I enjoyed your essay, it's very thoughtful. I am an admirer of Picasso - his life story is an amazing case study for any creative person.

From: Rick Rotante -- Sep 30, 2013

I can only add that I could not agree more with Dunning-Kruger.

From: Jen Lacoste -- Sep 30, 2013

For the Paula Green/Bart Keller thread... Sorry Bart, but a brick is a brick is a brick, even in the Tate! Thanks for bringing me a smile this morning.

From: Janet Ledoux -- Oct 01, 2013

Thanks for this thought provoking letter. It has reminded me of Cezanne's deathbed remark: (paraphrased) " ah, too bad, I was just beginning to figure out how to paint..."

From: Bill Skrips -- Oct 01, 2013

Thanks to you, robert, for such an interesting and thought provoking thread. Thanks, Kathryn, for the Roosevelt quote. Thanks, Kristin, for how you defined Robert's writings, containing meat for those of us with teeth.
I've always thought of talent as equal to ambition and of myself as a person who was lucky enough (and damned enough) to be an artist. I struggle some of the time-when not struggling, I'm skeptical that my work is worthwhile- that it means something or challenges me and that i'm not just adding to the tons of useless junk on this earth.
I'm paraphrasing here, but really honest (constructive?) criticism is one of the hardest things to come by. I press friends and my wife all the time for honest reactions to my work. As artists, you all know just how difficult it is to see what you've done objectively. I wonder how we could impart this honest reviewing to many of the "geniuses" out there who think that they are the next rising star. Easy to do in the sports or business world- but when the black and white falls away into gray, so do the words offered in challenge.

From: Jane Wilcoxson -- Oct 01, 2013

I started life drawing at the age of 16 that was in 1979, England at Leek College of Art and Design. We were all so embarrassed and giggled at the 50 year old male model who was allowed to wear a pouch over his privates, which is what made us giggle. Eventually our instructor dismissed the model for two weeks on full pay and we had to model for each other - nude or in our swim suits we could choose. We learnt quickly to treat our models with the up most respect, its not an easy job after all. Although, we could never quite figure out why our female models could not wear a pouch over their privates, after all the equal opportunities act was brand new. But who were we to question the ancient rules of the Royal Academy, after all the modern art colleges did not have real skeletons or huge pure white plaster of paris Greek Gods (with fig leaves) or horses to draw from.
Sincerely,
JaneWilcoxson.com

From: Mary Jean Mailloux -- Oct 01, 2013

I think that I will never achieve my ambition of becoming a Rembrandt or a Vermeer though when I went to art school in France that is exactly what I wanted to do. Early on I searched and searched for teachers who could train me in the classical style. Most practicing artists who had gone that classical route and were now teachers were into experimental art and had left the classical stuff far behind. That's going back 35 years or so. I've pushed myself hard since then. My internal critic is lenient and harsh. I'm satisfied with some parts of work and disappointed with others. I've sold quite a few pieces and wonder sometimes if people have made a mistake in buying them. Lastly I will not stop painting. I don't think I will ever find a "comfort zone" where I can guarantee the outcome of any brush to easel. I think I will always try to imagine where I want to go and do my best to get there. Better that someone produce less than Met work than to pay too much heed to a harsh critic and not try at all.

From: Angela C -- Oct 01, 2013

I draw because I must, but I will not suffer myself to fall into complacency. I keep the scribbles and awful work to remind myself of where I've been and how far I have to go. When I was younger I was passably good at most things, but I've realized there is no satisfaction in being passably good. I do not wish for accolades, indeed, I avoid them for fear I will succumb to ego. I've come to peace with popular art, it no longer annoys me, I think because I've realized that it is emotion without skill, but lack of skill does not negate the emotion and that is what people are responding to. I cannot throw stones at a happy face, it's a pointless and fruitless action. People know great art when they see it, because it takes the breath away, it stands on it's own. In the absence of great art, well, happy faces will fill the void. It's up to each of us to lead by example, to put only our best effort forward and give constructive criticism to those that will listen.

From: Darla -- Oct 01, 2013

Many beginning artists overestimate their skills. However, if they use that overconfidence to spur them to continue to paint, they may become good at it. I'd rather see that than people who stop painting because of low self-esteem. I know a hundred times what I did when I started, but it seems like the more you know, the more there is to know. We should all just do as well as we can.

From: Greg Gustafson -- Oct 02, 2013

Fabulous thoughts and comments- they show depth and range. I believe I may have stumbled upon my kind of place! Thank you!

From: Liz Reday -- Oct 03, 2013

Thanks so much for putting the painting by Ulrich Gleiter at the end of the clickbacks. It's a perfect example of a brilliant painting: immediate, fresh, original - the style of brushwork matches the sudden impact of the wave. The artist's skill is in capturing the momentary event with great big strokes and striking color. Good subject.

From: Terry Anderson -- Oct 06, 2013

hey Rick - I couldn't agree more! (lol)

From: Anonymous -- Oct 07, 2013

When this letter arrived last week I was so depressed I didn't even open it. The reason? I and at least one other person I know of had just had experience of the Dunning-Kruger effect, from one person on behalf of another! We had been asked for feedback on a video that had been made of our club's activities. The introductory graphics were good, except for the most important name being misspelled, and a statement that was simply wrong. The rest was mediocre: no colour correction and terrible sound. We both tried to be polite, and kept it simple, so the message would be clear: he's going to have to do better than this.
We were very sharply put in our places by the one who had hired the videographer, with the information that not only had he captured brilliantly the essence of who we were, he was the best in the country anyway, which was her opinion, not provable fact. Why ask us for constructive feedback (which was totally private, by email, so no-one was publicly embarrassed) if all you want is praise?
I'm still despondent. Out there is a mediocre video that is supposed to show how good we are at what we do, and there is nothing I can do about it.




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