11 Nov 2014

The Artist and the Art

Art. It is all around: in the breathtaking magic of nature’s own beauty; in poetry; in music—and, you could say, in life itself.

I consider myself an artist. Perhaps it is foolish of me. Perhaps, even, art is an illusion; a veil of colourful perception over grey reality. But that’s a terribly depressing thought, isn't it?

Whatever may be said for art (much; I have written another essay on it) so too there is much to be said for the artists themselves. For they—we—are strange, wonderful people: devoted and dedicated (often seemingly beyond reasonable limits), intelligent—for the most part at least—and, in a way, quite special.

I don't believe we experience life in the same way. Where you see emptiness, we see possibility; where you give up, we soldier on; and where you see banality, we see magic.

I am not certain as to whether we merely interpret the world differently, or whether we do indeed create beauty and power where there was none. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between. But regardless: this piece will focus primarily on what it feels to be an artist, not on art itself. (The aforementioned essay will serve as a primer; and for more, well, give me some time...)

How Does It Feel?

In a word: intoxicating. In a few more: liberating, but difficult.

Allow me to elaborate. The first thing you need to understand: art is hard. Writing in particular I believe to be very difficult—though of course that’s debatable—but all art is, to a degree, tough.

You can’t just sit down and write a book. You can’t just grab a brush and start painting. To create something worthwhile, more is involved. You need a kind of tenacity that is beyond all too many; you need belief in the self, fire in the heart, and the power to create.

You need magic.

That said, art is a blessing as well as a curse. Sure, it can take—boy it can take—but you must think of it like this: imagine your favourite work of art. It could be a book, a song, a drawing; it doesn't matter. What does: the feeling. Think of the time when you experienced it—when you felt something akin to discovery, to meeting a new friend; to finding love.

Now imagine how it would be like to have created it. To have experienced those passions—those melodies, those greens of newfound life—not as an observer, a spectator; but as the magic behind it all.

Can you imagine that? I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t. Imagination is, after all, a power great in few.

My Art

It is said that artists create what they most desire in art. There is truth in this: I desire magic, and worlds of possibility; I write fantasy.

And yet, my art contains a great deal more. It does, for one, contain love. It is also distinctly ‘literary’ in nature. But I don’t see the merit in words for the sake of words; nor do I crave the things that so define the word ‘literary’: the meaning of life, hardship, friendship; the human condition. In fact, I tend to dislike such works.

Is it a paradox that my art resembles both my most loved works, and the works which I find wholly execrable?

‘Your art attemps to correct the perceived problems in other works,’ you opine; but the question is really a different one: why does my art—my most personal, most cherished labour; my opus magnus in life as a whole—express itself in many of the same things I find utterly devoid of merit?

I'll admit this isn’t the case for all of my ‘literary’ themes—I'm a teenager, so it's only fit that I write on love, for example—but what exactly makes me question the paragons that are said to lie at the end of the road? What exactly do I find so compelling about a life troubled by vicissitudes, or the bonds of strange other creatures?

Some answers may be found in my own life; others elude all but my subconscious.

‘What are we to get from all this?’ you ask. I shall admit that I have no definitive answer. What I can say: who you think you are—and who you really are—is not a question with a straightforward answer. Art may give you an idea. I do not think to say that it will illuminate the answer in bright glory; for art is a strange thing, prone to misinterpretation and governed by forces mysterious.

What is the Point?

Art can bring succour in desperate times; it can bring answers—difficult ones, but answers all the same—and it can give you a whole new purpose in life.

Perhaps it is but an illusion. I do not think so; and, anyway, that’s a topic for my other essay.

The question of the art for the artist is a different one however. Even if we are to accept that art is a wonderful thing, to be nurtured and cherished in full; questions remain. Can art destroy a person? And what about bad art?

Bad Art

You could argue that there is no such thing. Even the most childish drawing—even the poorest poem, even the most dischordant, disharmonious melody—still bears a kernel of the being that created it.

And that’s true. But art is more than that: it is about inspiring those around you to do greater; it is about discovery—of self and of existence—and it is about beauty.

Beauty is a strange and fickle beast. Some would even say that she doesn’t exist; that she is a mere flicker in the mind—an illusion subtle and perfidious.

I am not of that persuasion. To me, beauty is something that transcends ordinary experience. It is a jewel that need not justifiy its master’s profligacy; for she is freely given, and requires only that we appreciate her.

Bad art does’t have beauty. It has emotion, correct; but it does not entrance the mind, or give pleasure to the senses. Not in the same way. A piece of well reasoned, empirical argument can interest the intellect; emotion can instil visceral fire in the body; but only art—good art—can bring you to a place you didn’t know existed.

So: should bad art be practised?

Yes—But...

Even if bad art does not charm with its tales of mighty heroes; even if its colours blur and swirl without meaning—it still brings its creator a pleasure. An altruistic direction in a life that so often seems confused.

So yes. Even bad art has something to give.

It does not, however, deserve to be brought to the limelight; nor, indeed, must one dedicated a life to it in some vain hope of future glory; for life, too, is a gift, and must not be wasted.

Even so, bad art is worth some attention. It can, for example, reveal the flaws in better art. And, maybe—just maybe—you’ll find a jewel in need of polishing...

The Destruction in Art

I do not believe dark art should be reprobated. Nor do I believe art can sow the seeds of destruction, or add fuel to hungry flames.

Nevertheless, I do not say that it is unable to harm; for if not, it would have no power.

Art is too abstract a thing; too beautiful a thing. Even its dark side cannot bring about terrible fate. That said: practise caution. The poisoned book can make many a man sick...

To Conclude

This has not been a long post. I still have much discover on this journey to places unknown and far away. But this is what I am sure of: art is a gift. Embrace it, and you will find fire in cold ice; fight it, and you will curse yourself to eternal regret.

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