Art: A Lost Art?
Doing Art Is Daunting
Doing art can be a daunting thing, or so some of us are conditioned to think.
I had a teacher in grade seven who used to complain when his students said “I can’t draw”. “You don’t mean that you can’t draw,” he would reply.
You mean that you don’t want to try, that you’re discouraged because you’ve seen drawings that you love and you fear you won’t be able to recreate them. Don’t try to re-draw. Try to draw.
Just trying will feel good if you let it.
An interesting point was made in the article “Putting the Arts Back Into the Arts”, which discussed the relationship between art and policy: regular people don’t do art anymore. Through a series of unfortunate events, art has been hijacked by culture, in the sense that we expect “artists” to do art so we don’t have to. We don’t feel comfortable doing “casual” art anymore.
This was of course referring to Western—and in particular American—culture, but it could be a lesson for all and a warning for some. I won’t go into detail (because the article does, so you can just read that), but the realization that we are, as a society, too daunted by the arts to either understand them or participate in them is perhaps a significant one.
Is the refusal to participate in making art—and I mean participation both by invitation and by self-motivation—an attitude that stifles creativity?
We at Real Life Artist believe that everyone can be an artist; everyone has the capacity to be creative.
Professional artists can approach it from the other end:
It is the ego’s dicey proposition that as artists we should always be “special” and different. The ego likes to be set apart. It likes to look down its nose at the rest of humanity. Such isolation is actually damaging.
—Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Art Is Not About You
Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.
My wonderful friend Janis knows art and writes great emails. Many of the quotations used here come from her researched, insight-laden and artistically driven emails (including that last one). Once, she shared excerpts from a section in The Artist’s Way in which Julia Cameron impresses upon her readers the importance of “joining humanity”. I quoted one already, and here are the last two:
It is only by courting humility that we stand a chance as artists. When we choose to join the human condition rather than set ourselves apart from it, we begin at once to experience relief. […] The minute we identify with the rest of mankind, we are on the right track. The minute we set ourselves apart, we are in trouble. When we start thinking that as artists we are very different from other people, we start to feel marginalized and hopeless. When we realize that we are probably in pretty much the same boat as everyone else, we begin to edge toward solution. Our shared humanity is the solution. Our specialness is the problem.
The ego doesn’t like the proposition that artwork is like any other work. The ego likes mysterious and self-serving hokum like ‘artwork requires inspiration’. Hooey. As any honest artist will tell you, inspiration is far more often a by-product of work than its cause. We don’t feel inspired, far from it, but we begin anyway and something in the act of beginning seems to jump start a flow of ideas. In cozy retrospect, we can call such ideas ‘inspiration’, but as they occur they are far more workaday. One thing seems to lead to another and another, and before we know it an “inspired” day’s work has transpired.
One translation (in my mind, at least) of my oft-used phrase and moniker “real life artist” is “creative but humble person”. I so appreciate the coexistence of these qualities in a person; they seem perfectly complimentary. Perhaps this is because it’s a juxtaposition of the ultimate divine act (to create) and the only act impossible for the divine (to accept insignificance). In any case, humility is a praiseworthy quality; we won’t get anything done if we spend all our time shouting our own names from the rooftops.