Amidst the Vines, photograph
“Artists never seem to get bored with life.”
– John Kurtz
For the first 40 years or so of my life I was not a creative sort. I certainly was not practicing any form of art. When I look back on that time I now wonder how I filled the enormous void that is now occupied by my creative pursuits.
As an artist, there is always something new to do. It’s impossible to perfect our practice of art and the array of opportunity for improvement and exploration is limitless. How can we get bored with all that potential staring us in the face? What did I do in the past that was this exciting?
It is a tremendous gift to be an artist. We constantly play by the shore of the ocean of creativity. So many people I know feel they can’t make art, believe there is some gene they’re lacking. I know this is not true in the least. It only takes a willingness to take the first few steps, to let the ocean’s waves begin to lap at our ankles, to experience the vast realm of what could be.
I guarantee you, you’ll never be bored again…
standing tall, photograph
“When an artist is more concerned with what is said than how it is said there is no art.”
How, not what. What is static and one-dimensional, weighted down by reality. How is dynamic and multi-dimensional, revealing our personal vision.
This is why artists can return to the same subjects over and over and still create work that inspires or intrigues. In fact, some artists paint or photograph the same subject many, many times, intentionally challenging themselves to represent it in new ways. This in-depth exploration of a single subject can be both demanding and rewarding, forcing the artist to explore nuances and subtleties that the first few visits fail to elicit.
The most mundane of subjects can manifest the most sublime of art – because the art is not about the subject, it’s about how we tell you about that subject. And those stories are without limit.
vintage vines, photograph
“What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.”
– Elizabeth Bishop
First of all, I think Bishop is being facetious here in her phrase “perfectly useless”. There is little that is of more use to us than the still point of concentration we experience when creating art or being moved by it. “Self-forgetful” is a state sought by most spiritual paths as a requirement for deeper understanding.
What struck me about this quote, however, was the way in which Bishop equates, at some level, the experience of creating art with that of experiencing it. When I see art that captures my attention, there is a sudden suspension of my surroundings as I focus my attention on the piece in front of me. It is similar to the way in which we become unaware of what’s going on around us when making art.
This shared state of mind, this self-forgetful concentration, is at the root of the connection between artists and their audience. It occurs at a level underlying the specifics of any individual, at a more essential stratum. For me, this is one of the reasons it is so rewarding to be an artist – knowing that I share a bond with others making and experiencing art that exists regardless of our differences.