A personal take on ‘art appreciation’

by Vivian Lawson Hogue

The word “art” is very useful in crossword puzzles. The hint may be “craft,” “expertise,” “mastery” or “imagination.” Imagination is probably more important than expertise in any art, as it is basic to any product or expressive performance.

I still marvel at my hill country ancestors and the things they created for living their self-sufficient lives. They sewed, created tools, quilted, made lace and carved figures with a pocket knife. To me, what they did was something I could not do, therefore it was significant and much of it done in expressive ways. My mother could make something out of nothing because during hard times, nothing was sometimes all she had! My dad made whistles out of cane poles for my son. My maternal grandfather made beautiful furniture and small carvings as well as all his children’s shoes. These people had no schooling in the “principles of art,” but they were using them instinctively. 


I am always interested in elements of architecture. Some features are standard for certain styles, but the little details catch my eye. When an owner of decades ago planned his house, he dealt with the challenges of materials and special wants of the lady of the house. Thus, I have seen designs or implementations that were ingenious. They were designed for themselves, not for some future owner, as people of the past lived frugally and intended to live and raise their children in one home.

I remember Jack Strain as he remodeled our home in 1954. My mother told him what she wanted and he could instinctively interpret her idea. If she could not perceive how something could be done, he had a solution. As useful as it might be, it was also the use of design and imagination.

I also recall watching Elgin Rose, watch repairman for Fletcher Smith’s Jewelry, as he bent over his work surface. He would look through his loupe (magnifying lens) and study a watch or piece of jewelry, seeing what no one else could see. With an uncountable collection of small tools, he could refurbish the face of an antique clock or make an old watch tick again when it seemed hopeless. His work was an art, and in this current era of disposable clocks and watches, it is becoming a lost art.

Other people have the “gift of gab,” the “knack” for car repair, the “ingenuity” to produce a needful thing or the “know-how” to understand the way things work. If we observe what goes on around us, we can see many forms of art, some in wholes and some in pieces. Line work in factories where many people process pieces to make a whole will create a single product. Some created products have “form and function,” while others go beyond to include expression and beauty. 

Have you ever put dog grooming, saddle making or home remodeling in the category of art? Did you know you may have office colleagues who have artistic talents you’ve not seen or heard? Physicians are often musicians and artists. The guy in the next cubicle may work on more than one kind of keyboard.  

For those who say they have no talent, there is always the old saying about beauty being “in the eye of the beholder.” I have seen and heard some “artists” whose quality of performance was less than what I anticipated.  However, we do have to realize that while we may not find a final product pleasing, it is to the person who offers it.

Art is more than a noun with three letters to be filled into squares Across or Down. Although it is sometimes attempted by gorillas and elephants wielding paint brushes, man is the only being who can transfer ideas and feelings to others through expression or performance. While you’re using your imagination, imagine what this world would be like without creativity, inventions and the pleasure or convenience they bring.

Artist Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Therefore, do a drawing of your hand sometime. Dance with your toddler. Sing the national anthem with gusto! Buy some kindergarten clay and make a coil basket. I promise that a lot of dust will wash off and you will feel like you have accomplished something. And that, dear friend, really is what art is for.


A native of Conway, Vivian Lawson Hogue graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in art education. A retired teacher, she worked in the Conway School District for 23 years. She can be reached at [email protected].