Judging Art

July 24th, 2017

I was at a big art festival with a hundred or so artists displaying. When you get that many, it’s almost too hard to take in unless you have some sort of measure of what to look for. After a cursory look around, I came up with my own judging system. It was simple. Just four categories:

The Best of the Best

The Worst of the Best

The Best of the Worst

The Worst of the Worst.

I’m not saying it was that easy to apply everything within those categories, many were in a class by themselves, but it helped me (and made it all a lot more fun). Here’s how I made the distinctions:

Everything in the top of the two tiers displayed a high level of craftsmanship as well as something personal, something extra, unique. There was also a measure of confidence displayed. The Best of the Best had a high level of this.

Those judged The Worst of the Best may have had a little less craftsmanship, but still plenty of individual expression.

As for the lower tier, The Best of the Worst, the maker displayed a high degree of craft, but not as much art. Often these are very impressive pieces and they get a lot of acclaim. The detail can be prodigious. They’re made by a person who can copy anything . . . and often does. The time put into each can be long and intensive. But there’s nothing extra, nothing personal, no risks, nothing for the viewer to interpret, and nothing left of the mess in the laboratory.

(Left) Father Joe (c. 2002) and (right) Father Art (c. 2012), both oil over acrylic, 44×27. (Click for larger view.)

The Worst of the Worst, of course, lacks in both craftsmanship and creativity. I didn’t see any of this at the big juried show, but there’s plenty of it being made. It may be a starting point for new artists, but shouldn’t be settled for.

By the way, these judgments had nothing to do with sales. Art may be liked by somebody and purchased in all categories. This is just my own attempt to make some sense of why I like a piece and why I don’t.

(Maybe another time I’ll write on doing all things with heart . . . sort of going along with all this.)

For the sake of illustration, above are two of my own works, painted ten years apart. By my judgment they are in slightly different categories, Worst of Best and Best of Worst. What do you think?

Or about any of this?


PS Enjoying your comments. Check back to last post for how they contributed to Creativity, A Funny Thing, under “Recent Posts,” right.



  1. Sue Jul 24, 2017
    1:38 pm

    You are the best of the best. Of course, I’m your sister. Mom’s not here so I need to chime in. How long’s the festival? Would love to pop down and celebrate Anne. And beat you in rummikub.

    • Hyatt Moore Jul 24, 2017
      2:56 pm

      Sue, Thanks, but of course yours doesn’t count. Nor was it to be about the person, rather the art. Best to you just the same!

  2. Marcia Jul 24, 2017
    5:51 pm

    And now I would like to see your Best of the Best and Worst of the Worst!

    • Hyatt Moore Jul 24, 2017
      9:05 pm

      Thanks, Marcia. I have no shortage of the latter category, but I generally don’t show them.

  3. Mary McKay Jul 24, 2017
    6:17 pm

    Overruled! These two are the best of the best.

    • Hyatt Moore Jul 24, 2017
      9:07 pm

      Mary, You’re too kind.

  4. Kristan Jul 24, 2017
    6:58 pm

    I like Father Joe. A lot. I like how the background matches his skin tone. The color itself, and his robe fading into the background at the bottom of the painting gives me the impression of Adam being created from the dust–an appropriate application for a man of the cloth. Father Art is more manicured, in spite of the dripping blue paint–I wonder if the paintings reflect the personalities of the subjects? Do you know them personally?

    • Hyatt Moore Jul 24, 2017
      9:07 pm

      Kristan, Very good observation. Yes, both these people I’ve known, and the paintings indeed reflect their personalities. I favor the Father Joe piece as more inspired, the other a bit too “worked,” thus, “Best of the Worst.”

  5. Trish Aug 5, 2017
    9:38 pm

    I was thrilled to see you there Hyatt. Thanks for the tour. Anne’s work is beautiful and I would judge among the best of the best! It made my night seeing you and Anne and introducing you to a friend whom we have prayed for in our group before.