Is our hobby art?

A blog post I was reading recently asked the following question:

Is our hobby a creative art form?

And added a quote from John Updike:

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better”

I was mulling this over, and it occurred to me that the quote doesn’t really support the question.  As far as Updike is concerned, ANY activity can be creative.  By this definition, it certainly is creative for some people to sleep, drink (a lot), walk the dog, or hoover the carpet.

There is no doubt that our hobby is creative.  But is it art?  Well, perhaps the bar is set very low….  From the news this week:

British artist Tracey Emin wasn’t the first to spend a week in bed after a bad breakup.

But she could be the first to sell that bed — with its vodka bottles, cigarette butts, pregnancy tests and pantyhose — for upwards of £1 million when the installation that first premiered in 1999 goes on sale through Christie’s auction house later this year.

If that’s art, what isn’t.  Buy a book on art theory from Amazon, and you may find that:

In today’s art world many strange, even shocking, things qualify as art. In this book, Cynthia Freeland explains why innovation and controversy are valued in the arts, weaving together philosophy and art theory with many fascinating examples.

She discusses blood, beauty, culture, money, museums, sex, and politics, clarifying contemporary and historical accounts of the nature, function, and interpretation of the arts. Freeland also propels us into the future by surveying cutting-edge web sites, along with the latest research on the brain’s role in perceiving art.

This clear, provocative book engages with the big debates surrounding our responses to art and is an invaluable introduction to anyone interested in thinking about art.

The more I read about it, the less I want my hobby to be art!  But surely, by any definition, model railways must be art.  An effective piece of artwork fuels the imagination, and takes you to a different place.  How true that is of a well built model railway.  Our imagination takes us to a different place and a different time, and generates a response.  It may be appreciation of the scenic work that frames the trains.  It may be excitement at the trains in the landscape.  There may be an element of awe and wonder at the skills involved in making it all work.

“She discusses blood, beauty, culture, money, museums, sex, and politics”.  Well, we do blood (see two posts ago).  We definitely do beauty.  Culture, yes, as our model railways offer a social history of a selected time and place.  Money, that disappears fast enough, the price of model trains these days.  Museums, yes, too, each model railway is a museum exhibit in itself.

Politics – just you go to any model railway club AGM!

And sex – well I’m just not going there.

So, ladies and gentlemen, what is our conclusion – YES, model railways are art!


About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Layout design, Weird and wonderful and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is our hobby art?

  1. Dunks says:

    Thank you for the reference: thought, and hopefully debate and comment, provocation is my intention. That post was purposefully sparse, like a good Japanese painting, the white space was more important than the detail provided.


    • And I rushed to fill all that white space! You got me thinking, anyway…


      • Dunks says:

        That’s the purpose of the white space on the canvas: the artist has not filled the work area with art, but left an untouched area for the viewer to fill in with their own interpretations and extrapolations. It is in the nature of blogs to capture those interpretations.
        In fact, that’s the purpose of blogs.

        Works for me.


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