Musings On The Bush Self Portraits

junkyardarts February 25, 2013 1
Musings On The Bush Self Portraits

By now you have seen the infamous Bush self portraits and commented on how awful they are, reveled in their amateur skill, enjoyed the merciless mocking Bush Jr. has endured on the collective interwebs because the works were leaked.   You shared the photos on Facebook and Twitter, every one is talking about this…

bush self portrait shower painting george bush jr hw

Then there was this on HuffPo:

“Jack Fischer, who has an eponymous gallery in San Francisco, compared the interest in the Bush paintings to Adolf Hitler’s work in art school, while making it clear that he was only comparing the two artistically, not historically.

What immediately comes to mind is Hitler’s paintings and the immediate brouhaha that that caused,” he said. “There’s this peculiar sort of interest in a famous figure having painted.”

Oh my fucking God, no it’s not like Hitler’s paintings, but thanks for playing Jack.  I appreciate the lazy sensationalism of your professional commentary.  Nicely done.

I shouldn’t need to say it, but at least Hitler’s paintings had an intermediate skill level.  His watercolors aren’t horrible at all.  They certainly aren’t those done by an expert (despite his attempt to become one) but I wouldn’t be upset if I saw them hanging in someone’s house…obviously except that they were done by, you know, Hitler.

Stylistically though, they aren’t that terrible.  And I don’t think people will be talking about Bush’s paintings for the next 50+ years.  In fact I think they will fade into the ether within a week where they will be joined by Sad Keanu and Ikea Monkey.

RIP Ikea Monkey Meme, you are forever in my heart.

No, what struck me about Bush’s paintings is that, stylistically, they look remarkably similar to the butchering of the Spanish fresco of Jesus.  I wondered, is there a certain stage that people reach and never excel past artistically that adults find themselves at when they decide to express themselves through visual art?

ruined fresco spain amateur art monkey

The answer: Yes! Sort of! At least I think so!

The stages of art development in children is well documented.  It starts at the scribble, to drawing people as bobble heads with arms sticking out of them, to the first attempt at something more realistic.  That stage is called the Pseudo-Naturalistic stage and it marks a few milestones in the child’s progression:

  • Attempt at perspective and depth
  • Body proportions become more realistic
  • Facial expressions are more expressive
  • Modeling/shading
  • Details become more interesting (ie: folds, wrinkles)
  • Line becomes more sensitive
  • The environment of an image becomes more considered
  • “Most important” elements are drawn in greater detail
  • Drawing from observation rather than imagination

The Pseudo- Naturalistic stage of drawing is the next-to-last step in child art development with the final stage of visual art expression being the Decision.  It’s the moment that a child decides to continue making art and continue to improve, or they stop, seeing at as a fruitless endeavor.

My theory is that since most if not all children go through this artistic development, those who do stop and start up again as adults start right where they left off, regardless of improved motor skills, understanding of fine art, understanding of perspective and ability to understand what makes good art.  I believe we can see it in our friends drawings or sometimes our own work. It seems kind of obvious now, but looking at some of my friend’s drawings and thinking ‘you are an adult – why do you draw like a 12yr old’ now has a really obvious explanation: you never developed past it!

I have a similar issue with painting (I can draw figuratively, mainly because I did continue my artistic expression past 12yrs old, though I’m not super awesome at it).  For years I tried to paint.  I really, really did.  But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get on the canvas what I saw in front of me, or what was in my head.  Even though I have years of art history education, color theory, understanding of perspective, improved motor skills, and the ability to think in a metaphoric sense rather than literal.  All the things an artist needs to create a realistic piece aren’t enough if you haven’t developed your skill beyond that point you stopped at as a child.

bush self portrait shower painting george bush jr hw

With that in mind, can I really hate on Bush for attempting his self portraits?  I can hate on the man for a great number of things, but this isn’t one of them.  Sure it’s kind of funny, but can any of us who haven’t continued to make art really say they would do much better? I bet not. And frankly, his painting of Barney was sweet…more meaningful than artistically skillful, but still.

bush self portrait shower painting george bush jr hw barney portrait

That said, lol nice reflection, dude.  It’s isn’t even on the same plane as your face!  The perspective is all wrong, asshole!

The Smoking Gun / Lowenfeld / Art Development /

One Comment »

  1. Lovina February 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm -

    his reflection not being aligned calls to mind Edouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere” (Un bar aux Folies Bergere), 1882, and he WAS a master painter! :)