I'm going to substantiate that claim a little bit throughout the rest of this post, but consider this a modest attempt to show what I've grown to understand. Creativity is simply an evolutionary process, the evolution of art and creativity, on which we place our human stamp over time.
Why am I writing this? Over the past years I've come to a realization I want to share as unsolicited advice to all my artist friends out there:
Just be yourself.
Seriously. It will save you so much time, trouble, and worry. You think your art sucks? I can give you a laundry list of exceptionally talented people that feel the same way. Artists are some of the more insecure people you could ever meet. And I've found that the more arrogant an artist is about their work - more often than not their work isn't that great.
Since there are MILLIONS of artists in the states, (I'm not speaking hyperbolically here, there really are) I think it's really important for artists to make the most of their time, their work, and their contribution.
What, then, is the best possibly way to do that?
I see a lot of artists striving to be original and do something "that's never been done before." I see many artists missing the opportunity to use art as a mechanism to truly express themselves because when they do that, they think their work doesn't look "cool" enough. It looks too much like X, or not enough like their favorite artist Y. I see so much insecurity in my exceptionally talented artist friends that it absolutely blows my mind. So this series is my my plea to all of the artists out there, young and old.
Just. Be. Yourself.
History shows you that the only way you leave any significant legacy is if you do just that.
A mentor once said to me: “if we are anything like God, it is in that we are creative beings.” For a very long time I believed him. As my personal philosophy on the concept of God waxed and waned, that was one belief I clung to. Without God, where does inspiration come from? How can we explain these seemingly inspired marvelous works?
It's the evolution of art, and nothing more. Creativity comes with small changes over time as one by one, artists throughout history put their stamp on techniques, motifs, music. And I'm not talking marketing here - I'm talking art and creativity.
Cueva de las Manos
Art is a voice My definition of art in it's purest sense: art is what people use to communicate what is important to them. Art can communicate concepts without words. Art bridges the boundary of language and often the boundaries of culture and geography as well.
If you're not already familiar with it, the image above is from Cueva de las Manos, Argentina. The cave also has within it pictures of hunting scenes, animals and other activities. They used their art to communicate the things that were important to them. They used hollowed bones to "airbrush" one of the oldest known paintings - 9,000 years ago. They left their mark in a practically timeless and still captivating way.
Art is connected
Painting by painting, image by image, art builds on or deconstructs works before it.
What I say is not new. Art did not "spring" forth - art developed. As history moved people around geographically, styles and movements grew and spread much like species of animals grew and adapted. You can study the evolution of art as much as you can study language and biology. It is a gradual, traceable byproduct of humanity. It informs our study of sociology and history along with our archaeological efforts.
If you are hoping for your inspiration to spring from nowhere - you could spend your life hunting. If and when inspiration does hit you - it will still be in the context of what you've seen and studied (whether you consciously know that to be the case or not.)
Even your own art evolves.
I already noted that art is a voice - to the point, your art should be YOUR voice. I remember talking once with an artist friend. He was going through some struggles in his life, and noticed that the sculptures he was creating most recently had animals walking carefully on steep cliffs, teetering towards the edge. What he was going through personally had subconsciously incorporated itself into his work.
So, what to make of all this? What's the point?
Stop killing yourself trying to be so damned original.
It's all been done before. It really has. I think the ONLY way to do anything truly original is to do something that has YOUR mark on it in some way.
Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you - Dr. Seuss. Cheesy - but spot on.
Have joy in what you paint. Let it be irregular with the awesomeness that is your creative fingerprint. Let it drip with your unique imperfection. Let it be horribly ugly, cute, or obvious - but let it be yours.
Rogue Citizen - Live Painting at Altered Esthetics
And once you get comfortable... don't be so scared to collaborate sometimes.
All of the best projects I've been a part of have been collaborative ones. I was able to be a critical part of making them happen - why? Because I found a group of people that are not only wonderful to work with but they also are a good fit for me. Our skills compliment each other and we communicate well. We each brought insight to the table. Everybody contributes ideas and efforts. Together, we were able to accomplish greater and bigger things than I ever could have done alone. It pushes my boundaries creatively and I learn and am continually inspired by my fellow collaborators.
So collaborate, share your knowledge with others and gain knowledge and inspiration in return. Not to say that collaborations don't sour occasionally... but when they do work, they are well worth the effort.
Thank you if you've made it this far, and I hope this post wasn't a giant disappointment. I felt very compelled to write it, especially after a wonderfully creative and uplifting weekend with friends. I hope it made you feel at least a little bit more confident in following what you think you should do with your work, not what you think somebody else thinks you should do - be it a gallery, or a studio, or even me.
Art is an ongoing response in a creative dialogue. I hope you become a part of the conversation by adding your own voice.