The New-Millenic Period. Featuring Hand Crafted Functional Art

Studio Sketch – Concept Art 1961

The topic of Art has come up a lot lately. This past Sausage Sunday had a wonderful Concept art piece of a 1961 Chris Craft and the question of it being art or not came up. I also just got finished watching “The Price Of Everything” on HBO. A documentary on the topic of art prices. It’s amazing to get into the weeds on the topic of art vs non art, and the topic of our beloved Wood Boats has a genetic vein right in there. So here goes.. Again. Our boats are no longer just boats. There I said it. They are “functional art. And thus, we should treat them like art. Some are great, some not. PURE ART. They are in the truest sense an artistic statement made by you. Sure they were not sold as art, they were sold as a boat, a water craft or Motor boat. Designed by artists and artistically styled to be appreciated and sold. In many cases form did not follow function. The battle between engineers and stylists, was won and lost on many occasions.

magazines.. Now art?

But at some point in there lives, there usefulness as boats stopped, and thus became useless as a functional item, making through the transformation of need vs want. Are we all following here? Because this is where it can change your life. First, if you are reading this, you love classic boats, so sorry, you are an art lover. it aint no fancy painting type art, but you love art. Let it go.. You have a soul. Embrace it. Now embrace the fact that your boat is art and treat it so. You can make it yours, or as the designers wanted to have it. You can restore it. Or leave it original. The debate of original, vs restore a true test of art Vs Boat. An original boat has ONE USE. ART. It still retains its original soul. The brush strokes of the varnisher, the lettering, the texture of time. All of it is deep in the grain.

Chrome from the artists at Graves Plating, Finish From Artists at Katzs Marina

A restored boat, restores the functional part of the art and can be argued that its retaining the tension between art and function, which is the true should of the boat. See, either way its art.

Ya! Thats Art!-  Apachee – Lee Anderson

What about you engine guys? Flathead art. OH, HELL YA. No one needs that pile of metal. The color, sound, smell of a vintage engine is Performance art. You want an engine that isn’t art. Get a new one. It will suck the life from the auditory experience of the boat. You will lean your artistic influence towards the functional part. I suppose this is why I bristle when I see modern stuff on our Woody boats. It changes the balance of function and art.

Canvas like a painting – Gull Lake

So what part of this diatribe on the balance of art and function. Art sells to a higher end market. As in if we agree on the topic of art. And the brokers market it as such, like an art dealer. It will make the passion of Classic boats a stronger value. We should avoid words like, HOBBY, COLLECTABLE, SPORT, and start using words like. Aesthetics, Reminiscent, Not Pre-war, but Hand Crafted. Not Classic, but Timeless Design, Iconic Design. Just look at a barrel back, look closely at the aesthetics, The hand crafted curves are reminiscent of ……. You get the idea.

Vanity Fair

Instead of being featured in Boating magazines, be in Architecture Digest, vanity Fair, instead of a boat show, call it a SHOWING. An Opening. Maybe Lake Dora should be an Opening, of the New-Millenic period. Featuring Hand crafted moving sculpture… Man do I need a boat ride!

Note the art of the patina on the steering wheel, it contrasts the fresh varnish in a timeless statement of….. AHHHHHH


20 replies
  1. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Don’t worry. It’ll come around and our old boats that survive will be recognized as true masterpieces. It’s just going to take a couple hundred more years. I’ll wait. In the meantime, let’s GO BOATING!

  2. Johnny V.
    Johnny V. says:

    The opportunities for flowery embellishment are limitless! As Matt says it’s time to elevate our hobby into something on a higher plane! Although behind the scenes someone still has to get dirty and greasy…………….make sure not to leave a Boatlife fingerprint on your wine glass at the showing.

  3. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    There is a long debate about the differences between art and design. Those interested can google the subject and find some very interesting discussions. I think the thing we can all agree on is the concept of beauty. For me at least, one of the main attractions of wood boats is that many are objects of beauty. We probably all have different ideas of which boats are beautiful and why, but can agree that attraction to beauty is an important aspect of interest in the hobby. Too often we get focused on issues relating to wood or engines, and don’t celebrate the aesthetic aspects. Thanks for reminding us of this.

  4. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    If an old flat head 6 cyl engine is art, why isn’t a fuel injected 350 art?

    This may even be better than my “Coffee Varnish” mug.

    (image may be subject to copyright)

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      A well done custom engine install with decorative wires, hoses, and fittings is definitely as much or more “art” than a standard assembly line factory install. That is one of the big areas where the current judging environment drops the ball.

  5. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    A very good point. When I got to the fairing part of my boat restore I felt like I was sculpting a large piece of wood so I guess you could say that’s art. 😉

  6. briant
    briant says:

    Sorry Matt….

    If I ever get the chance to put this engine into my old 1930 woodie, it is gonna be Art.


    and oh my God, Art.

  7. Martin Field
    Martin Field says:

    What pisses me off about all this art crap is that at no point was the term craftsmanship mentioned and that’s what these things are, craftsmanship where a certain element of artistry has been used, not ART, per se, but artistry. In the manner of how wood is manipulated…artfulness, maybe, but mostly it is all craftsmanship and that beats boring art into a cocked hat any day. But then, I come from a family of top end craftsmen. Cabinet makers, grainer and marbler, paint maker, craftsman plumber, etc. and I have made my living as an industrial modelmaker/patternmaker, so I’m biased./

  8. briant
    briant says:

    I would have to mostly agree, except that my take is craftsmanship is one of the prized methods of working towards a goal – the hands on portion, after the thought and design stages – and that the goal is both the process of art itself – that putting your thoughts, feelings and soul into something that reflects such, and arriving at what the maker considers to be the final product, the point at which you stop and for whatever visceral reason, you are finished. (People then enjoy slapping a label on the finished bit by calling it ‘art’.) It obviously takes a highly skilled craftsperson to work with and form the wood (in the case of our boating discussion here) into the final goal – that blend, balance and conflict of form versus function. But you can also be a craftsperson that uses machines to form a lump of metal into a cylinder head or a propeller. It is that hands on interaction between the human and the material. A designer is mental and the craftsperson is the physical. Both are necessary. One can be a great designer and a sucky craftsperson, and a craftsperson can be a master woodworker or metal worker etc and a rotten designer, and in the rare cases, a person can be both. For our boats, I think craftspeople are required to bring that mental idea and picture of the designer, into our physical space, and that the road traveled and the end product, is art.

      • Dave Nau
        Dave Nau says:

        What about the design of an outboard motor, rather than a lump of metal hiding under a box or hatch? The 50’s and 60’s outboard motors had a certain design style, that the later models just don’t have. Pre-1950, they were just engines with little or no styling. But the 50’s and 60’s were the golden age for outboard styling, in my opinion.

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