As I walk through this life, I have been many things. I have done many, many things. Some quite poorly while others I have sunk my teeth into and made it into a way to make a living.
As I woke from a deep sleep that, for me, only happens occasionally, I was in the middle of a dream speaking to a room full of folks about what makes an artist an artist.
At the beginning of the talk, no one was much listening to a word I said. The rain was falling outside making the space in which we were in hard to hear. However, as my voice rose with timber as well as intent, the room fell silent. I realized that I had so much to say on this subject that I was slowly turning into a fervent preacher on a hot summers day.
As soon as I woke, I realized that I needed to put these words into some sort of order not only for myself but perhaps for anyone else who might need a little clarity on the subject of what it is to be an artist. Who is an artist, who has the right to be an artist and who has the obligation to live as one.
I am an artist.
I am an artist because I can’t be anything else. This artistry comes from somewhere deep inside of me, above me, surrounds me and overtakes me. It is in every word I say, every gesture I make, every damn thing I create. Is it my skill shining through? I don’t think so. Is it my judgment of others work leading the way? Nope, not that either.
As a gallery owner, I see others come in who work at a craft. They walk through the gallery, silently, or not so silently, judging the work of others. They wear a chip on their shoulder and beat an insecure heart within their chest. They espouse their work and their accomplishments and take no notice of the blood, sweat and tears that others have shed along the way.
Then there are the replicators. Those that can look at some else’s creation and make it. There is no life in it, no authenticity, no real joy coming from it, but yet they can do it.
I have spoken to “book smart” artists who have learned every skill and technique known to humankind. They are technicians and executors of plans, strategies and drawings. They make something so refined as to have no light shining through.
There are crafters and hobbyists. Part-timers and old-timers. Heritage crafts and modern riffs and the list goes on.
What sets all of these apart from a true artists is this.
Taking a skill and turning it into an art form. Putting away the books and opening up your heart. Realizing that the only reason you create is because you have to create. That all of the accolades and accomplishments; all of the awards and workshops; all of the breakthroughs and breakdowns have gotten you to a place where all that matters is that you create.
You let it flow because if you don’t it will take you down like Volcanic molten lava wiping out a village. It will suffocate you and cause you to deconstruct. The volition of your art has the weight and heft of a Sumo wrestler and you can do nothing else than to submit to its wiles of creativity.
My friend, that’s when you know without a tenuous shadow of a doubt, that you are an artist. At that point, the drive to be in the studio is greater than the need to cut someone else down. You will work tirelessly, without outside influence or direction, just because your need to authenticate your life is greater than being part of a trend or using the Pantone color of the year.
Strip off your considerations, roll up your fucking sleeves and get to work. Without fanfare; without direction and just create.