Realism and Abstraction are built from the exact same Elements of Art
In general, I disagree with judging art. However, competition is a reality. Judges are human. Humans have personal preferences, priorities and prejudices. In an attempt to balance my own bias, I use a point system when acting as a judge. It isn’t perfect, but it helps me to be more objective and focus on the artists’ understanding and consideration of the basic elements of art. All paintings, whether realistic or abstract, are created from the same basic elements: shape; value; color, line; texture. When a painting is not consciously designed, it can fall short of its potential and ability to express the artist’s intention. Additional elements that contribute to the design of a painting are: edges; space; color temperature; color hue; color intensity. In Alex Power’s book Painting People in Watercolor, A Design Approach he explains how design principles govern the design elements. The four design principles are: dominance, movement, variety, unity.
My point systems rates the strength of each of these tools, as I see (or don’t see) how the artist has used them in the painting. Though it is challenging to evaluate all the elements in the brief four to five minutes I spend with each painting, I do the best I can. Each painting has a separate evaluation sheet that is confidential and available to the artist. The scores serve less as a judgement and more as a critique that may be helpful to the artist.
Each criterion is scored on a scale of one to three. The scores of the four dominant elements are doubled. The four dominant elements are as follows: Two that appear to be the artist’s personal preference for expressing the purpose of the painting. These are used to direct the viewer to the focal point(s). Two that appear to be the artist’s choice to direct the overall movement within the painting both toward and away from the focal points.) These elements may or may not coincide.
I assign between one and three points to each of the following: edges; line; value; shape; texture; space; dominance; movement; variety; unity; use of element for dominance; use of element for movement; technique. I break color down into three areas: hue; intensity; temperature. I average the three scores and divide by three to assign the color score.
I use this method of evaluation to critique my own paintings and to discover the areas I need to strengthen. It is far easier to deceive myself than it is to deceive others. Using this system of scoring the elements is the only way I can be objective about the purely visual aspects of my paintings. As a final note I must say that often, my personal favorite (both at exhibitions and from my own easel) do not receive the highest scores! I have thrown away many paintings that score quite high but don’t make me catch my breath or make me want to dance. In the end, it’s not the score that matters, it’s whether looking at the painting makes your day a bit better.