Pretty Art vs. Edgy Art

Pretty Art vs. Edgy Art

I have been thinking about this topic for a while now and decided it was time to start a conversation.  I’ve stated openly that I enjoy creating ‘pretty’ artwork.  My theory has been that there is enough ugliness and harshness in this world and I feel no need to create more or to create something that reminds us of these tough times.  Maybe that is too simplistic or maybe it’s not respected enough and I should shut up (not that this is likely to happen!).  To set the scene let me build two descriptions and please note that I am not trying to put anyone in a category or to debate skill as I think we are each unique and skilled in our own ways.

Pretty Art:

It’s such a simple name but often landscape artwork is placed in the category of ‘pretty’ artwork.  It can be and often is soothing or passionate in a detached way.  Meaning landscape artwork will rarely challenge you to think about life in new ways or will evoke disturbing and uncomfortable emotions.  The artist may be expressing uncomfortable emotions or working out the technical challenge of creating a certain feel through new techniques but it is rare that the viewer sees it.  For example take Monet’s waterlilies,  they are stunning with exquisite composition and are a real pleasure to just look at.  Granted the waterlilies are done by a master but these pieces have depth and skill that is wonderful to view from an artist’s perspective.  Yet, few people who don’t study and love art will ever see anything other than a pretty painting.  And that is ok.  Without a doubt they are pretty paintings but they are so much more.  I would argue that most landscape paintings are more than just pretty, they often have thought provoking questions buried in the technique or the color choices or … pick a part of the painting and a question and see what you can find?  That being said there are definitely paintings that I have finished just ’cause it was fun or because I thought it’d look neat.  But.. often those are the paintings I created during difficult times in my life.  Times when my artwork was created as an escape.  I don’t know if my inner angst worked it’s way through the paintbrush or not and if it did I’m not sure I’d share my very private inner angst with the world and tell you what caused me to select that shade of red to paint over the church.  Maybe when I’m long gone someone will study my work, look through my life and say… oooh that’s why she did this.  In the interim I’m content if I can make art that fills my heart and hopefully will help someone else remember peace on a bad day.

Edgy art  or Art for other Artists:

Before I get into this, let me state that I really appreciate this kind of artwork.   It has so much value in our artworld and much of it’s value is not quantifiable.  Without people willing to push the boundaries, we would never have the impressionists or Picasso or heck anyone other than Greek sculptors.   That being said, some of the artwork is wonderful to look at and some is much harder.  I’ve seen brilliant pieces discussing the role of Jesus in our lives or a cardboard sculpture highlighting the great garbage patch.  These pieces are great pieces designed to remind us to think, not to just feel or to close our eyes to pain or responsibility but to think, a much harder goal.  I enjoy that these pieces successfully remind us of our responsibility.  Just as I truly enjoy that Picasso brought forth a new way of painting.  Do I visually enjoy looking at Picasso or a piece depicting Christ arched in pain over an eagle… no not really.  Do I want to live with them in my house.. nope I sure don’t.  BUT I respect an artist who can create such things, who can put a piece of their heart and soul into a visual expression for the world to see.  This art is awesome and can change the world… but so can pretty artwork.

I started this post as a defense and a hopefully a discussion of types of artwork and I would welcome your thoughts or comments.   I have seen that many people look at pretty work and think less of it than the edgy work out there.  I would argue that both have value and to only see edgy work as valuable or to only see pretty work as valuable is missing out on so much wonderful art.

So the next time you look at a piece of artwork I would pose this question for you.  If it’s something that is just  pretty… is pretty all there is to this painting?  or.. if the piece is uncomfortable to look at because of the emotions… I would ask how did the artist convey this emotion?  Did they use attractive or fun methods to do so?  There is value in all forms of artwork… let us be great and ask ourselves to look for the value in the forms and enjoy all aspects.

4 Responses to “Pretty Art vs. Edgy Art”

  1. Tyson F. Gautreaux Says:

    I just discovered your blog/article. I like reading all the different things you write about, and I enjoyed seeing the images of the work you do. Nice stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Erin Davis Says:

    Thank you for this article. The reason I found it is because I was set to show my drawings at a dentist’s office, of all places, although I have also shown in galleries and cafes. When I brought the work in, I asked the doctor to look over the images and to let me know if he found any of them objectionable; he replied he found nothing in them that would be objectionable. However, the next morning, he informed me his staff, who he never mentioned would be involved in any kind of jurying process, found them a bit “edgy” and “not consistent with the office environment”. So, while I admit I was a bit wounded initially, I was more upset that he had approved my work, and only later tells me his staff would have to see it for two months (they were very detailed images, perhaps with some surreal elements, but nothing offensive). So feeling quite bad and insecure, I simply googled “pretty versus edgy art”, to get a better handle on the distinction. What I can say in my own defense on this, my art can be both pretty and edgy, but I’m assuming the potpourri/Avon crowd must have seen things differently. So be it. I will be more vigilant in the future about finding suitable venues for my art. Thank you for your insights.

  3. lizg Says:


    sorry it took me a bit to respond. I agree it’s hard to find the right place to show artwork and I’ve been surprised at what people find edgy. I’ve shown in places where they want no abstract art… but then who defines abstract? Some of my work can be slightly abstract but have realistic references… does that make it abstract? Don’t get disheartened! I personally believe that showing art is similar to how some of my high school friends got dates. They asked 10 girls out assuming someone would say yes at some point. So keep putting your work out there and someone will not only enjoy it but ask for more.

  4. 5 Edgy Art Sites | SwooboArtGallery Says:

    […] Pretty Art vs. Edgy Art – Liz Geiger Studios Mar 16, 2010 Pretty Art vs. Edgy Art. I have been thinking about this topic for a while now and decided it was time to […]

Leave a Reply