Crafting Beauty

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What is art, anyway?

I was surprised that my art professors spoke so seldom of passion and so often of rules and formulas when I was in art school.

Of course, in a sense they were right because formless passion is impossible to read because it’s too chaotic. The mind needs it organized and made coherent.

And yet, if passion is absent you’ve got a souffle that didn’t rise, not art. I think your job as a creator is to never lose touch with the soul of the nascent creation. A training that says you can create art by following rules and formulas has misled you. In fact it has probably killed that delicate flame of passion that made you want to create art in the first place.

My first focus is always to identify some little light, some little warmth in me that can animate my artmaking impulse. It’s not always easy to find. It’s not always at your beck and call. Knowledge of composition, tools and procedures all go to naught without that extra energy.

That extra energy is a little bit wild in the sense that it’s shy, ready to flee, to disappear into the forest. If you want a relationship with it you have to be trustworthy, accepting of its ways. You have to know how to bring it forth. Our world is not necessarily friendly to energies that are attuned to beauty and the meaning of existence.

The world wants certainty, predictability, but that’s a mechanical thing. Art is unruly, a little crazy at times. It’s not tame.

But why else be an artist? The vision of an artist sees more comprehensively, more in detail, more wholly, or strives to. Making art requires craft as a foundation, I know that, but one must never lose the connection with why one is attempting this thing called art in the first place.

It’s certainly not so that one may be entitled to the label of “artist.”

If a creative person longs to make something using their mind, body and tools, they hope to fashion something penetrative into the secrets of life. Nobody dreams of making a cliche. The work of a creator is to identify and express something they wish was already in the world but isn’t.

It isn’t because only they can make it happen. They must learn to use their uniqueness, and that’s where passion comes in, because that’s the only way that energy will enter the world. Passion connects to that voice that only you have.

Your job is to affirm and encourage that voice. The world is waiting for it.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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