What’s the difference between bad art, good art, and great art?

Here’s my theory.


Bad art.

Bad art is simply produced by an artist who is learning. That’s what failure is. And it fails because the artist didn’t have enough discipline, preparation, focus, or inherent talent. It fails because it’s a first experiment, a shaky start, the artist wasn’t sure about it, and it’s the only way to find out how to improve. The artist simply hasn’t learned, from experience, about what feels best (for them).

But bad art is an attempt at good art, or else why would someone put in so much bravery and effort in the first place? It has merit.


And, if harsh critics attack bad art, remember: Critics only pay attention to the artists they respect. They criticise art because they want it to be improved. (Think about it, critics would be out of a role if every artist gave up at the first bad review! It’s in their interests not to break you, but to improve you – and whittle out those who aren’t serious.)


Good art.

Good art is technically, physically, lyrically, aesthetically beautiful. It’s a well-articulated, well-expressed moment in time, a new perspective and a new thought.


It’s creative and clever and original, it succeeds at being funny, or serious, or witty, or bitter.


How much I can appreciate is the measure of goodness.


Great art.

Greatness, however, is something else. It is more than just the art itself. It is the feeling produced in another human being, many human beings.


If I actively pay attention to an artist’s work, how it makes me feel is the measure of greatness.


Not just creative, it made me feel renewed. Not just clever, it made me feel mentally powerful. Not just original, it made me understand how it feels to see the world through a new perspective. Not just funny, it made me light up with laughter. Not just serious, it took my breath away with suspense and I cared so badly about the story and the characters. Not just witty, it represented my own optimism and cynicism. Not just bitter, it hurt.


The secret to great art, then…

…Is to start with a clear idea of the feeling you want to create in the audience. Imagine that and focus on that while you work. That is true artistic creativity.




When we see great art, it appears easy, because it’s natural to discover we have the same kind of feelings. But it is hard to be conscious of how you directly make someone feel – and guide someone through that. However much you succeed, that is your greatness.


That goes for art, and it goes for life.


Do you agree? Do you have a different theory?