Thursday, January 10, 2019

Are You an Artist?

Are you an artist?  

    A common misconception arises when people think about art. People are quick to put
themselves down as not being an artist. "I'm no artist." "I could never do that." And, "That's not art!", is a criticism I hear about abstract works. 

Innocence and Joy, w/c, Steve Sidare
    The problem is that these mind sets act like viruses. And they have spread across society. 

    I'm sure you've had some idea that got kicked in the head one way or another. Your idea for a solution gets invalidated or ignored. 

    Or you create something you're proud of - a song, painting, recipe, gadget or whatever - but people talk through the song, just stare at the painting, don't even try the recipe you made for the Christmas party and just eat the "same ol' same ol'" like hypnotized zombies at a brain-fest. 

    Or someone acts like you're nuts for your clever invention that keeps squirrels out of the bird feeder. 

    There's no shortage of invalidation on your attempts to create. And I believe it starts with your childhood imaginations! Perhaps you've forgotten because there was a bit of emotional pain connected with it. So now you're "practical", "sensible", and less creative.

Well... let's look at the word and see what it means...

ART: My 1960 New World Dictionary calls it, Creativeness, Skill, ...even, Cunning

My American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd Edition, has these: 

Winter Pier, watercolor, Steve Sidare
    1) Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter or counteract the work of nature. (Hmmm...)

    2a) The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; especially the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. (Wow!)

    In 3, it says: High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value. It also has 6a) A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of activities, as in "the art of building". (Sweet!)

    Number says: A specific skill in adept performance, conceived as requiring exercise of faculties that cannot be learned solely by study, as in, "the art of writing letters".

    The definitions include: tricks, artfulness, contrivance, cunning, etc, as well.
It originally comes from [<OFr <L ars, astis, skill.]

    ...Now we have -IST. ...Of the 5 choices, we have: 1b) One that produces, operates, makes, plays, or is connected with a specific thing, ie, "Novelist". [Greek, -istes, agent.]

     Notice that "skill" and "beauty" come up more than once. Also notice how it's not limited to creating art forms, per se. Anyone who becomes adept at an activity is an artist in their field! [Now anyone can be "out standing" in their field! (Enter eye-roll here)]

    Definitions 3 and 7 above make me think of the Japanese traditional concept of making many activities a skill and art - all the way from archery to tea. Their culture put beauty and flair in their daily activities!

So why do I bring all this up? 

Distant Boat, watercolor, Steve Sidare
    First, I see art forms that might not be readily labelled "Beauty". They just might not. Are they creative? Yes - to a greater or lesser degree. It came from an idea and was created. But isn't emphasizing beauty more helpful to all? 

    Second, to point out that you too are an artist in what you do if you are employing creative skill. Do you entertain guests? Do you do sales and make customers happy in the end? Are you a matchmaker? Are you an inventor - even if not official?

    Third, to also point out that we are always creating, every second of the day. We are creating thoughts, physical motions (walking, working, building), sounds, problems, joy, you name it! We are natural born artists. 

    So YES. You ARE, in fact, an artist! How are you going to use your creative impulses? 
For Good? Bad? Ugliness? Beauty? 

    Instead of just talking AT you, let me know what you think in the Comments section below!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Confidence, Persistence and Rejection

"Winter Walk"
    Being a self taught watercolorist, I've had my nose buried in plenty of books and magazines, my eyes surfing pictures of pictures and videos of watercolor creations, the likes of which I thought were untouchable, made by the earlier generation of artists - my mentors, you might say. A little bit along the way I started reading articles on legal issues, getting into galleries, making portfolios and the rest of the gamut. Occasionally I see articles or blogs on the subject of "rejection". Most of us have had at least a little of that in life - job seeking, relationships, high school cliques, etc. The writers of these articles always seem to approach it with a bit of tone of Sympathy.

    While I won't venture to write a book about it here (although I could), I'm no stranger to it and have found in life that if I wanted to pursue a goal or a even simple activity, I had had to do it myself without company or so much as a blessing in many cases. I refused let someone's lack of agreement and camaraderie control or dampen my goals, activities and pleasures.

    There's a word I believe has fallen out of use today: "Effective". We have a world glutted with pretty and fancy, but rather "user-UNfriendly" products.  With lots of bells and whistles, fewer people are thinking in terms of simple effectiveness. And nowadays, pleasantness presides while being effective and "getting it done" is heavily measured by how few people were "offended" in the process. Getting the product takes persistence and guts.

    Well, this applies to art, too. It takes guts to show your paintings around, especially when you're fairly new at it. Dealing with criticism and the world's indifference requires undying, burning embers in your heart. This is where that "thick skin" becomes needed and handy if you are going to pursue art as more than a hobby. I personally recommend throwing in a dash of defiance! If you've been sharpening your skills  - learning, practicing, observing, over and over - you're probably already your own most severe critic! (But don't forget to be your own best audience as well!)

    People go around saying, "Be confident!". Oh, yeah? Confidence, to me, is a byproduct or result of wins and successes. Until you get enough of these under your belt, no matter how they come, you'll need your stubborn persistence to lead the way. Talent alone is not enough.

    Rejection? Pffft! Even the best artists get it. I get local awards with relative ease, yet I got turned down when applying for signature status directly in a couple groups. I achieved it anyway in one club due to being accepted into 3 shows - 2 with awards from an outside judge! (Clique mentality? Maybe) I even have a place where I collect rejection notices! It's a game, a numbers game. The more I get, the closer I am - given that my quality is improving!
"The Whispering Wood"

    So, with persistence in hand, you now need to increase your skill. These will increase your successes. And who can deny that more skill equals more success? Be good - so good your work can't help but be accepted. It may not be 100% of the time for reasons out of your control, but you'll come to realize as you progress that it wasn't because of your skill. You know now that your work is usually pretty damned good, outside of "low periods". You've become "undeniably good".  And that's my solution to the question of rejection: 

"Be undeniably good".