Carl Blair: Art can be fun if your standards are low enough.


Blair had boiled what he knew and believed about art down into a few pithy sayings and he didn’t hesitate to repeat them to us over and over. I often think that was part of his success–he operated on just a few principles.

“Art can be fun if your standards are low enough” was one of them and maybe the most memorable. It can be read either way–as a directive to lower your standards and have some fun, or as a warning that if you’re having too much fun then you’re probably not setting a high enough standard.

As his student I was pretty unsure about my abilities and about myself, so I latched on to it as a directive for seriousness. Lately it’s become a call to take myself less seriously and has liberated me to a quantity over quality mindset that I’ve adopted in part to deal with some of the unhealthy behaviors I’ve adopted that keep me from working consistently–perfectionism that limits my production. 

The genius of the statement is that it illustrates what it is it’s trying to teach. It’s not one or the other–it’s both. The practice of art is an ebb and flow. If you knew Blair, he modeled both. He was prolific, he worked hard and believed in what he was doing. He was also fun. He could be silly. He had a sense of play. He didn’t overthink things.

Blair worked, for the most part, at a little easel in the back of his office that he shared with another Professor. He painted every single day. There had to be a bit of standard lowering for that to happen, but the end result is a massive body of work and an equally massive number of students that came under his influence.

This is one of a number of posts about Carl Blair who I was fortunate enough to have studied under in college. Carl passed away on January 22, 2018.