I make pictures
The word “artist” is used to describe a lot of individuals on this planet. Personally, I try not to use the word “artist” to describe what I do for a living but inevitably, I have to. When asked what I do for a living, I often get informed that someone’s mother, father, aunt, uncle, child, brother, sister or cousin is an artist. Individuals who deface public property are called artists, as are many other individuals who make “stuff.”
Trying to figure it all out.
Having such a wide scope makes it so hard to figure things out. Then there are the phrases “art is in the eye of the beholder” and “one man’s trash is another man’s art.” Ours is a world where seemingly everyone is an artist, and everything is art.
But is it really?
I’ll make things simple for everyone. Art is what we see in museums and very high-end galleries. Art is time-proven. There is a consensus of what is and isn’t art, whether you agree with the choices or not. There is “Art,” and then there is everything else.
Let the experts figure it out.
As I have gotten older, it has become a lot easier for me to sit back and let other people debate the good, the bad and the plain old ugly “other stuff” that isn’t in museums (yet).
What I know
I have come to realize that just because there is evidence of skill or the lack thereof involved in someone’s “work,” it does not necessarily mean that what they have created is “art.” For example, sticking to a strict diet of “realism” in one’s work does not a great artist make. Most of the rabid realists I have met are so biased in their opinion that they fail to see any beauty in anything else. Acceptance and an open mind, in my opinion, are hallmarks of a truly creative and artistic individual. These “realists” quickly dismiss anything that other artists created after the late 19th century as irrelevant. From my point of view, the mechanical process of “copying” what one sees and a strict and steady regimen of techniques will stifle creativity and forward-thinking.
But is everything art?
Without the freedom of experimentation, there will never be anything remotely new to look at or think about. The same can be said of individuals who work only in “abstraction.” People who claim to work intuitively because of some belief in spontaneity may be, in fact, unskilled labourers who only hope for a positive outcome. They pray that their “creativity” will make up for their lack of skill which leads to sporadic results.
More on abstraction
Abstraction is many of the newcomer’s choices because they believe there is no skill involved in painting “abstractly.” This obvious lack of understanding and skill is quite apparent when one looks at the result in both a compositional and a technical sense. Many of these newcomers to “art” churn out derivative works to garnish favour from galleries and buyers alike, and ironically many are quite successful at it. More power to them!
What adds to the confusion is that self-declared professionals in the “arts” will tell you that no interest in their work is a sign that what they are doing is “true art.” Many of these professionals seem to be willing to overlook the fact that perhaps it is also a sign that what they are doing is just plain “bad art.”
What it takes
The fact that so many believe that a “true artist” must behave in a certain way leads them to promiscuous behaviours, alcoholism and drug addiction, and on some occasions, a premature death, all in the name of being an “artist.” It still seems that some people out there still strongly believe that “acting” like an artist will open doors that have otherwise remained closed to them. We’ve all witnessed the weird clothes, weird hair, and weird behaviours, haven’t we? Julia Cameron says that having a messed-up lifestyle is not conducive to being creative. Clean up your act if you want to truly be creative! As a matter of fact, most successful artists have pretty stable lives and a regular work schedule.
Doing the work
From my own experience and research, I know David Hockney is right in his assumption that artists work all the time. They are methodical, well-read, and absolutely devoted to their art to a point where everything and everyone falls by the wayside. They work whether their work sells or not. The outcome has very little to do with financial gain and everything to do with the creative objectives in the work they chose to do, and there is homogeneity and a profound sense of clarity in the works they create. There is no “hit or miss” involved in their creative process because they have a profound understanding of where they wish to take their work even before they pick up a brush. Their financial concerns are not first and foremost in their minds. The artist knows if the work is good, so will the money.
An artist knows that one has to spend years plying one’s trade. They are fully aware of the ten thousand hours that Malcolm Gladwell speaks of in his book “Outliers.” They also know the importance of art school and working under a mentor or teacher of some stature for several years. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to be found anywhere. We can only have resulted in the blood, sweat and tears of several decades at the easel and keeping an open mind about the nature of art. For many, this reality sounds discouraging.
Discover the joy
The reality is that a life of art is one of the most rewarding ways to live one’s life. It is not when you start working as an artist that really matters either. It is not just the number of hours you do hone your skills but also the passion you bring to the process every time you step in front of your easel. For many of us who have been working for a very long time, rediscovering the joy in the work can reignite our creativity and renew the connection with something greater than ourselves!
Quote of the day
“Most artists work all the time, they do actually, especially good artists, they work all the time, what else is there to do? I mean you do.”
~ David Hockney ~
Buy the drawing
Title: Model with Blond Hair Hair
Size: 22 x 30 inches
Medium: Mixed media on paper