Sunday, June 5, 2022

Art for Art's Sake

 This is what art is for me...

"Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost."    

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, social theorist and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Ever since I was a child, I got lost in my art, lost in the world of imagination. Yes, occasionally, it got me into trouble--not lots of trouble, more of a frustration for my parents and teachers. If I wasn't daydreaming, I was doodling or writing. Even as I write this my heart goes aflutter with a peaceful, airy feeling. 

Unfortunately, life usually had to come in with a big BANG. That's why I consider myself so lucky today. I can work on my art with abandon and even teach the same subject endlessly. Being semi-retired is certainly a bonus as well, even though I probably produce more work than ever. 

So what does that have to do with you and your art. In one word, RELAX. Instead of approaching each project with the thought of it being your masterpiece, why not just approach it with "let's have some fun." As I expressed in my article on creating sloppy copies before settling on the "real" thing, I'm here today to encourage you to let go and enjoy.

When we were kids, we did not have preconceived notions on what is good or bad art. That came later, when we were around 11 or 12. Suddenly the gooey paint brush had to create something realistic or it was no good. That's when our internal critic was born. Oh hurray.

I still fall into that trap. For instance, I am currently working on a lesson plan for drawing with ballpoint pens. If you go online, you will find incredible portraits done by people with ballpoint pens. I am astounded looking at these works. Here are couple of artists:

PASSENGER, 2018, 86x106 cm  Oscar Ukonu

Absolutely stunning work. Some artists who do this type of photo realism actually project the photograph onto the paper and create from there. Photo realism has been around since the 1960s and has depended upon photos with amazing art results. See Deborah and Zoe Gustlin’s article on the subject. Even Norman Rockwell projected his photos to create his delightful paintings for the Saturday Evening Post.

Obviously, it is totally unfair for you to compare yourself to these artists, as they may be using tools that are not at your disposal. But more importantly, I submit, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with any other artist. Instead, I think it’s important that we concentrate on our own style, our own skills.

Yes, we can learn from others and it’s good to adapt ourselves to improve, but comparing oneself to another can be inhibiting. And the worst thing we can do as artists is to create an environment that can be negative—always wishing and hoping. That’s when the internal critic pops in and tries to convince us that we are just imposters, not very good. Can you imagine what the world would be like if Monet, Pissarro, even Van Gogh crushed under that negative thinking.

So this brings me back to art and fun. After spending over 40 years in the advertising and public relations business, I’ve had enough of creating art and words for someone else. It’s time to make art and word for myself. It’s time to relish in the absolute, glorious fun it takes to create something from within. Thus, I challenge you, wipe out the critic in your head and move forward. There’s nothing gained without risk, and besides, like I've heard, "It's only a piece of paper."

What's happening in the studio. The next session will be a bit different than most. I will be talking about three aqua-based  media: acrylic, watercolor and gouache. We will be exploring how to use them all with some basic techniques as well as learning to mix only three colors. I invite you to attend. It's all live online on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays. See below for more details.

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