Tuesday 12 March 2019

Artistic Doubts

The following are some questions and some responses to the artistic doubts of a friend. I am publishing them as they may be useful to other artists, whatever their medium. For context purposes, it may be useful to know: he is primarily a visual artist; I am primarily a poet with some experience in visual arts.

The Questions

“I'm thinking about my appreciation and desire to be a positive artistic force. Is it enough for me to just include diverse bodies in my art? Do I need to do less of the stereotypical beautiful and desirable people? Should I feel guilty that I don't do more? And how do artists bridge the gap between the art they create, which may be due to sell-ability or accessibility of models, and their own values and desires? … And, does my art have to reflect me?” JB

The responses

My uncle and two of my cousins are printers: they can produce very arty looking stuff using other works. So, perhaps my background has tainted my perspective of what is Art. They produce beautiful stuff, but being æsthetic in itself does not (in my mind) make something Art. They do not see themselves as artists. They are craftsmen who know how to make things look lovely so that they sell. They in turn can make a living.

Artists should be able to make a living: but the primary function must be to pursue Art, their Art.

Bodies: you have shown a range of ethnicities/races and body shapes. I should suggest doing some extra large and ultra skinny (size-ism works both ways) bodies, which would add to your artistic reputation. Also, maybe use disfigured/amputated individuals and those with vitiligo. But that is your choice. You have the freedom to pursue a broader range, as you are not primarily needing to make a living out of your Art.

Guilt: guilt that makes you feel down is of no use; guilt that is perhaps a prompt to move or change direction can be a positive.

Desires: some artists never move out of their comfort zone, sticking to what they know and like. I think you have to have some passion for your subject or if, not for the subject, be really excited to use your style & techniques - otherwise an undesired subject-matter would stymie.

Out-put: how can you possibly feel guilty about your œuvre! You are prolific given you work full-time. Also, life-work-art-partner have to be kept in balance.

Pride: I only believe in pride in as much as it ensures a good amour-propre. Pride that gets in the way is of no use to one-self nor to others. It leads to arrogance and a lack of sympathy, let alone empathy. So, someone with a well-balanced level of pride can listen to and accept constructive criticism; someone with out-of-kilter pride cannot. Positive pride wants the criticism to help the artist move forward and develop.

Semantics: how are people viewing the artist’s work and what does the Art mean? I suspect only you can truly know the initial meaning. In your case, if you do not think that your work truly reflects what you think, feel, want, do, only you are in a position to do something about that. In the UK we quite often use the analogy of a football team: eleven players, standing in a line. Most of the players will have a middling view and a couple each of players will be more extreme and have opposing views. In other words: whatever one does, it will be interpreted and misinterpreted by others.

I write poetry. Once my poems are published I treat them as children who have grown up and left the nest. They are their own entities. Some readers will like; some dislike; some will be ambivalent. It does not matter to me. I have done what I had to do, due to passion; and, I have intellectually accepted that I took the poem as far as I could, to where I want/ed it to be.

Whatever work an artist produces will always be contingent. Art MUST be done for the artist one-self: whether to express meaning or to follow the flow of one’s Art. Art is intrinsically selfish, egocentric in its outpouring. Its use is a different issue. Even if one has good intentions for one’s work, it is still the ego that processes and then outflows into creativity. The making of Art cannot be self-less; the use to which Art is put can be. But your intellect is also part of yourself and connects to ego. If you decide on an intellectual level that you wish to broaden your subject-matter, and if that is a genuine desire, then your emotions should kick in and you will feel passionate towards the work. On the other hand, if your brain says do such and such, but your heart is not in it, then the work will not happen, or at least not in a personally meaningful way. Doesn’t mean it won’t sell though! My personal opinion is that one should highlight failures occasionally, just to remind oneself of where things can go awry.

If you desire to do something, do it. It is your choice what to draw & paint. It is your choice to continue with an artwork or discard it. It is your choice whether to reveal and display at a later point. It is all your choice.

[Image description: the writer looking doubtful.] 

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