Sunday, January 02, 2011
What Makes An "Arteest"?
Everyone can draw- not everyone is an artist. The same way that everyone can write but not everyone is a writer. I think the difference (aside from actual talent) is having a great measure of determination and persistence. Hard work in other words. It is interesting to watch people who have recently taken up art as a hobby (or perhaps as an intended profession) wax enthusiastically about making money from selling their paintings. It seems so easy. You paint something, stick it in a gallery or shop, it sells, you become famous and wealthy. After a while you watch the enthusiasm drain away as their work hangs there unwanted like a limp piece of lettuce on a greasy plate after a BBQ.
There is no quick easy way to become an artist let alone a financially successful one. I believe it's important to have a good grasp of the basics- in particular drawing. You need to be able to draw properly in order to construct a viable painting. Picasso was an amazing draughtsman. Perhaps you look at one of his abstract nudes and wonder how the hell that could be since she has one eye in her forehead and the other one in her chest but you need to know the rules before you can begin to break them. You need to practice your craft in order to make art.
Art is more than merely copying. Photo realistic paintings can appear dead because the painter has just copied what they see with photographic distortions and all. Yet these paintings often sell because the public find them safe to relate to. However unless a painting has something to say there is no point in even hanging it up unless you just want to show off your technical proficiency.
Art is not about the destination. It's about the journey. If you look back at work you did a few years ago to what you're doing today there should be a definite progression or else you're doing something wrong. Not necessarily that what you're doing today is "better" than what you did then but that you have made a journey, that you have discovered something about yourself that you have put down on canvas or paper.
We're too caught up in making something perfect that often we aren't aware that it's the actual making part that is the most important aspect of being an artist. Too often you see people painting what they think people will want to buy as they equate selling a painting with success. But believe me I have seen some really bad paintings sell. I wouldn't call them art any more than I would call that painter an artist. Can that person draw? No. Can they think up new and original concepts and ideas? No. They take a photo of a landscape, copy it (sometimes badly, sometimes not) onto canvas and then preen when it's sold because they think they're a success. The truth is they're no more an artist than my cat is.
There is no quick or easy way to get to where you're going. You have to draw or create every day. You have to read, to experiment, to talk to other artistic types. You have to watch people, learn to look at light sources, examine the centre of a flower, sniff new sketch blocks with all the appreciation of an art supplies addict. Most importantly of all you must learn that it's OK to be imperfect, it's alright to make a fool of yourself because to try something new is more important than seeking the approval of others. Being an artist is not about selling art. It's about creating art. About living your life as a work of art with a sense of adventure and a good sense of humour in tow.