Sunday, November 8, 2009

Norvell J. Rattman

Um... hey, it's a drawing of a rat.

This is a long one, so get comfortable and click below.

During my first week in college many years ago, I drew a picture of a cobra for one of my art classes. I was very proud of my drawing and as I handed it in to the professor, I expected him to be overcome by the sheer beauty and perfection of it, hold it aloft and tell the rest of the class that they should strive to be more like me.

Instead, he looked at it and said, "What's this?"

Cue the "needle scratching a record" sound that they still use in movie trailers, even though 74% of the audience has never seen a phonograph.

"Um... it's a cobra," I stammered, completely deflated.

"I can see that," said Professor McSmarty. "But what does it mean?"

"Uh... it means... um... it's a cobra!" I said.

He proceeded to tell me that while my drawing was technically proficient, it was ultimately without value because it had no meaning. Great art must mean something, must challenge the intellect and nourish the soul.

Oh reeeeeally?

I was just a dumb kid back then, but I wish I could hop in a time machine and go back to that conversation and have it over again (and to also give my younger self the winning lottery numbers for the next twenty years).

I'd ask him to tell me what's the deep, profound meaning in a still life painting of a bowl of fruit (that the artist was hungry?). How about a landscape (trees are pretty!)? What's the secret meaning in a figure drawing (that boobs are good?)? What about abstract art (the artist can't paint, but he can slop pigment onto a canvas?)?

Art doesn't have to mean anything. Art is all about creating! Art is having an image in your head and transferring it to paper to share it with others. Art is making something that no one else ever thought to make before. Art is about having fun by expressing yourself. Who cares if it means anything or not?

If I wanted to draw a picture of a cobra, who was that guy to tell me I couldn't unless it meant something? Luckily I ignored his ill-conceived advice and have spent my life drawing meaningless things. God knows how many budding artists he may have damaged and discouraged during his tenure with that drivel.

So with that said, here's a drawing of a rat. And it doesn't mean a damned thing.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original doodle of the rat. It doesn't mean anything either.


  1. Wonderful, meaningless rat. I once had an art teacher suggest it was irresponsible of me to draw a landscape because it didn't mean anything. Then I saw her artwork which consisted mainly of eccentric handwriting with lots of curly-queues.Hmmmmm.

  2. HA! yeah that is exactly why i switched my major from Art to Economics. I figured I might as well learn something useful.

  3. Jason: I forgot about landscapes. Another good example of meaningless art! Thanks for joining my blog!

    Brad: I really wish I could find that professor and tell him he's full of crap. If great art has to have meaning, what about the Mona Lisa? Surely that's considered great art, but what does that one mean? The statue of David? Even the Last Supper painting. Sure, it represents something, but it doesn't mean anything. That guy didn't know what he was talking about.


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