DeeZ 5 C's

The 5 Cs of High Quality Art & Photography

I had promised my co-host, Karen, in the Quality Art & Photography Group some time ago that I would write up an article on what I fondly refer to as the 5 Cs of High Quality Fine Art/Photography that I use to critique my own work as well as the work that is submitted to our group and the criteria I use to select featured work in our Showcase Gallery. So here goes…

If you’ve ever invested in diamonds then you know that savvy buyers know there are 4 Cs used to rate the quality of a diamond: Color, Cut, Carat and Clarity. Similarly, based on my art school background, working as professional commercial artist specializing in advertising design, exhibiting my work and amassing a collection of fine art over the last 15 years that has increased in appraised value by 800%, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are 5 Cs I also consistently consider to evaluate/purchase/submit/accept art/photography as well, as follows:

1. Composition
2. Creativity
3. Contrast/Color
4. Clarity
5. Commercial Appeal/Application

Not saying I’m an expert as we all know that art is in the end in the eye of the beholder, which always is subject to what appeals to the beholder/buyer.

This is what I look at and for and you’ll also find that these 5 Cs also fall in line with the criteria used in most Juried Art Competitions.

Composition Considerations/Checklist
1. What type of work is it?
a. Traditional Art
b. Photography
c. Digital
d. Mixed Medium
e. Graphic Design

2. What Style of work is it? E.g.
a. Realism
b. Surrealism
c. Impressionistic
d. Journalistic
e. Illustrative etc.

3. What is the artist trying to convey/present/represent?

4. What is the initial impact/impression? Is it real, surreal, abstract,
a. Is there a main focal point/subject/point of interest or is it a representational/non-representational abstract? Where does your eye go first?
b. What do you feel/think when you view it?
c. Based on the type and style of work, is it well presented/executed? For example, when viewing traditional art or a photograph I’ll look to see if the rule of thirds were applied, does it allow the eye to rest or flow easily throughout the work.

Creativity Considerations/Checklist

1. What did you feel/think when you view it?

2. Does the work indicate that a certain level of skill or artistry is required to create it?

3. Does it inspire you?

4. What initial impact did it have when you first saw it? Wow, awe, impressed, dazzled, puzzlement, ugh? <grin>

5. Do you secretly wish you’d done it? (If so that’s a good sign!)

Color/Contrast Considerations/Checklist

1. Is it intended to be in color, selectively colored, B&W, Sepia or monochrome?

2. If it is a color photograph, are the colors under or over-saturated?

3. Is there pixel noise/distortion?

4. If it is B&W, Sepia or Monochromatic photograph, do the tonal values enhance or detract from the composition?

5. Is the image too dark, too light or just right in contrast?

6. Is the white balance right or off/blown?

7. For fine art, it’s a matter of personal taste, the medium used and whether the tints and shades used are aesthetically pleasing in relationship to the composition.

Clarity Considerations/Checklist

1. For photographs, be it a macro or not, the focal point/subject/main point of interest of any composition should be clear and in focus.

2. It’s important compositionally as well that images with horizons in a composition are level, this is true as well in landscape paintings whether they are realistic, impressionistic or surrealistic. And as I write this looking around the room at Peter Max, Marc Chagall, Jean Claude Picot, Marko, Joanne Margosian, Beatrice Sasik and Dali even, all of these fine works of art have this aspect correct in perspective…and their stuff definitely sells <grin>.

Commercial Appeal/Application

1. If the work was done purely for your enjoyment, your family’s or friends with no thought to selling it then that’s fine, then this “C” will be meaningless to you as an artist and as a buyer/procurer and is not one that is likely to receive the 5Cs Award.

2. If however, you are interested in exhibiting or otherwise selling your works via Redbubble or any other venue then you’ll want to give serious consideration to Commercial Appeal or Commercial usage/application of your work when composing it and creating it and consider the following:

3. Who is your target audience/buyer/market?

4. Would this work be appealing to that audience/buyer/market?

5. How or in what manner could this work be used?

a. For example, if your target audience is individual collectors, galleries, exhibits, art shows etc. then your work should be created and composed with that in mind. Not sure what that would be? Do a little research, go to your local galleries, art shows and exhibits, attend a few art auctions (those are loads of fun anyway, even if you are not able to buy work, it’s a great way to find out what buyers want and will spend money on! I can assure you, it will be a fluke if you walk into one of these venues and see any fine art and photography works up for sell or selling that are of bugs, macro or not, people who are not famous or of historical significance, journalistic type works etc. as those subjects have very limited appeal to collectors/buyers of fine art and photography as they are too common and too personal. Looking at my own collection, the only fine art I have purchased that contain people are: Nude I by Tarkay, Purgatory No. 15 by Dali, Grace VII and Grace VIII by Peter Nixon and four works by Emil Bellet…why? I bought them because I could relate to them compositionally, as the faces in these works are not personal and identifiable as an individual. Tarkay never paints any woman with her eyes open as it is “too personal.” The women in Emile Bellet’s works do not have any discernible facial features. Even the Angel in Dali’s work has no discernible facial features. The reason for this is, it makes the work appealing to the widest audience possible. You don’t look at their works and go that’s somebody else’s son, daughter, Mother, Brother, Grandkid, etc. These types of images are better suited for other groups.

Now if your target market or audience is more commercialized such as those that buy or mass produce products that contain images for resell, you need to consider again what content/subjects and types of works appeal to the buyers of mass reproduced products such as: Greeting Cards, Calendars, Coffee Cups, T-Shirts etc. Not sure what that is…again go out and look in stores that sell these types of products and look at the images they’ve used…pick up some magazines, flyers, billboards and view some online publications to get a really good idea of what images appeal to publishers and focus on producing work that would be appealing to those markets/buyers.

I hope you have found this helpful as it is intended to be and will share your own thoughts, experience and tips in reply.*_

P.S. If you see the following banner on any work from me, you’ll know right away, it’s a 5 C’s work of excellence and eligible for submission to the DeeZ 5Cs Awards Showcase group HERE!

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