Diane raised a question about pictorial (aka representational) art on her blog. Here is my 2cents (ok, it may be a nickel.)
I LOVE abstact expressionist art (like Emily Mason , whose work I'm nearly obsessive about) because for me it connects so directly to the thoughts and emotions created by pure color and form. It is such a joy and inspiration that I feel compelled to share (repeatedly). We can easily think of other artists whose work does the same (Rothko, Frankenthaler.) For an artist, working in this format can be absolutely freeing, but creating successful art without any definable image can be very difficult. You might be able to stand back and use some design or color theory to analyze the work, but in the end it falls short. A piece can be absolutely successful technically, but fail to "sing".
That being said, I also LOVE art that shows us something easily recognizable (figures, irises, beloved grandchildren, shoes). It doesn't matter what is pictured, it matters how the intangible is expressed. Why not make it into a quilt if that is the artist's medium of choice?
Should we use photographs or software or computer manipulated images in our art? Of course. Any tool that helps to express what we need to say should be included. I like to see the artist's hand in a piece, so my favorite works usually are less realistic, but that doesn't mean that extremely representational art or photography can't be very moving. I think focusing too much on the detailed process of achieving realism CAN take away from the art if the "realism" is what you obsess about, but knowing HOW to do it is worth learning.
When I look at art, I ask myself "is there a little something there that you can't quite express in words?" Whether I understand it or not, did the artist put some of herself in? Was something intangible made tangible? To me, that is what the quest for art is all about, making the intangible tangible. Spirit captured and made visible. A glimpse of inner world.
Thanks, Diane, for sharing your workshop with us (one more tool) and for sharing this very interesting question in your blog.