Saturday, July 22, 2017

Louis Prang Did Not Die For the Prang Challenge

Louis Prang, Polish immigrant to the US, artist and publisher, inventor of the American Christmas card, supported women artists, pioneered lithographs in the US, and forwarded the cause of art education. He died at the age of 85, but not due to the sins of artists not engaging in the "Prang Challenge."

I've been stewing about this, on my own, for a day or so.

The Prang Challenge started up on some art forums as a fun challenge: use cheap art supplies to paint cool art. In particular, the specification is for Prang paint sets, which were invented by Louis Prang, intended for decent yet bulk-affordable art education in public schools, which is why they are very good but not professional grade.

And that's all it was ever meant to be: a fun challenge for people who volunteered to engage in it.

The challenge was not meant to be used to levy a charge against artists who use professional grade products that they aren't good artists if they can't create art with Prang paints, or to shame people for using artist grade paints.

Look, the saying is that the quality of a craftsman or artisan is due to their own skills, not the quality of their tools. This goes both ways on the quality of tools: a person is skilled whether they use cheap tools or expensive tools.

Let me repeat: a person is skilled whether they use the cheap stuff or the expensive stuff or anything inbetween.

This means that not only do you not thumb your nose at people who don't use artist grade paints, but you also do not do it to people who do use artist grade paints.

Trust me, if someone is truly unskilled, it's gonna show even if they use the "good stuff."

Art is riddled through with reductionist arguments advocated by short-sighted folks, and we don't need even more of that. We never needed any of it.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.