is this art? who’s an artist?


“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it” ~Vonnegut

What makes an artist? Maybe the ability to deep listen to the subconscious/collective unconsciousness of the zeitgeist to reveal something fresh. By my definition, art pushes the envelope of the unseen to illuminate, soothe, disturb, delight.

Not all artists (by this I mean writers, songwriters, filmmakers, etc.) are doing this. Many of us know who is and who isn’t, except everyone has different ‘levels of vision.’ Hence: Art is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe. But there’s quite a bit of narcissistic crap passing as art, particularly in film and most know it when we see it. [see: wolves & liars & cons, so what?]

A few craft-people do create art, but most don’t. Most go for safe. Nothing wrong with safe; it sells. And it’s art-like. But I think the idea for what they make is just that, an idea. From the head. I think artists hear/see something beyond anything the head can conjure. This opens up the can of worms whereby the more you do something the more layers you see and explore. If you do safe, you usually don’t, see more, that is. I wish we had a distinctive word—that’s not derogatory—for ‘prudent’ art, one definitely not defined by the elitist art world or academia, those experts at marginalizing.

Moving on: there are those who must have the perfect desk, computer, pen to begin writing or the ideal studio space to paint. Every duck in an uptight row. They collect tools but rarely use them. Are they artists?

The trick is to be in the middle:

  1. Hold true to your vibratory vision. When it’s ‘right,’ you’ll know. There are no short cuts. No artist does this. Easy is the refuge of fools.
  2. Eschew perfectionism, believing those ‘if only’ critical voices: if only I did X, acquired Y, explored Z…I’d do it then. Unfortunately the bar gets pushed farther and farther out by unrealistic ‘head lies.’
  3. Accept ‘good enough.’ This doesn’t mean settle. As William Stafford says: Lower your standards. He wrote a poem a day, feeling blessed if he got 12 good poems a year. By doing. That’s how you get better and thwart the unfeasible, unreasonable voices within.

My teacher once noted that we only know the level we’re on and the ones we’ve already done. Do whatever level of ‘art’ calls you. Have faith that you’ll be able to tune in deeper and deeper as you immerse yourself in listening, doing, listening, doing, listening…

It won’t be easy, may even be painful but just keep on.

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