Sometimes a cheap, pandering title is just the thing to tangent from.
We obsess over stories like nothing else. It’s another essentially human thing. Obsession is good, in moderation. We have to have some measure of it to stick with anything when it gets hard.
Just as it’s hard to watch made up people you care about get killed off on screen, it’s hard to watch your ideas fail to find a firm place to take hold and then fade. But there are always more ideas. If we keep on making them, there will be a few that make it.
It’s not as if it’s a guarantee of anything, even that you’ll feel creatively fulfilled—or some other vague notion—or emotionally stable.
I used to see the phrase “you do it because you have to,” sprinkled around. This seems designed to weed out the casuals and dilettantes, only serious commitments, please. But obsessive-compulsive behavior can be destructive. And I’ve always thought we need more casuals and dilettantes. Art isn’t for trained professionals, it’s for everyone, it’s part of what makes us human. We should all make it.
We want to feel the deep connection to the universe outside and our deepest selves within. Art is the bridge. It blooms from within by processing everything without. Sure, want to feel it really, really badly, if you’re driven to create.
But if you only want to a little, it’s okay. We still need it out here.
If you aren’t relatively old, you probably don’t recall that phrase readily to mind, but it’s from the Disney animated film, The Aristocats. It echoes a common feeling that cats are cool, they’re independent, they’re self-sufficient.
But we are human and we need other humans around, being human with and at us. Cats are great, but we’ll never be one. We think and feel like a person, and have people needs.
We also have human abilities and potential. It’s better than actually being a cat.
Notwithstanding the problems some of us have giving blood (sexually active gay men are still prohibited), if you can, it will likely save someone’s life.
Art is the same. It can save, after it can also excite, enrich, and enliven the people you give it to.
The piece above is by one of my drawing professors, Siobhan McClure. The drawing was a gift to me, in thanks for a supplies donation I made to the School of Art when I left L.A. it was unexpected, and it delighted and humbled me.
Art is so very basic to our humanity. Giving it to each other is an act of acknowledgement and celebration of that essence. If you make art, don’t overlook its power as a gift to others.
An Appreciation of the Small Aspects of Humanity, in Observed Sympathy
A few days ago, I was leaving work in a very light rain. The sidewalk slopes sharply down outside the parking lot of this particular strip mall, and I started to slip and fall. I caught myself, just barely avoiding falling or sitting down, hard, with a drink in one hand. A regular customer at my store, someone I’ve greeted and said goodbye to on a regular basis.
I turned, after catching myself, and caught his eye. I could see the concern on his face, then the relief, reflecting my own, that I hadn’t fallen completely.
This simple, very human connection seems to me the central concern of art. It’s essential to connecting the things I make to the people I want to see them (which, to be perfectly egotistically honest, is everyone). We can’t be creating things too far outside the relatable, because what makes art relevant is that connection to experience. Keep letting your thoughts run wild, but remember we’re making these things to express our common experience.
Artist to artist, the Connections We Make Are Vital
From the ever-bountiful @WomensArt1 on Twitter, this wonderfully caring and open-hearted letter from Frida Khalo to Georgia O’Keefe is a reminder that we need our friends. And some of those friends who are fellow artists often understand best how the journey feels.
It coincides with this article on how artists tend to find their fame through their professional networks, that is, their artist friends. Food for thought.
Appreciation for the Little Things Is Best Practices
This goes for bosses, cow-orkers, friends, and family. Everyone likes to be recognized, and this is a small way to keep up with the positive ways they all impact your life. It’s also a little bit of a humility check.
None of us get to where we are alone, and we don’t just need each other for the big things. Lots of small acts of generosity, accommodation, and support go mostly unrecognized day-to-day. If you go out of your way to notice them and say something to the ones who make them, you’re ahead of the human game. It can feel like a more angry world out there. We need more love and more expressed recognition.
Lots of film and visual media get criticized for being just plot. Simply story with no subtext or message.
But even simple story has value. I’m not advocating for stupid or ill-thought stories, but meaning can come from characters and their situations and conflicts that remain true to who and where they are.
When You Feel Like You’re Worthless, Try to Remember You Aren’t Worth Less
‘Ey, clever, huh? What I mean by the title is that we all have crises of confidence, and they aren’t limited or even able to be headed off. But your value and contribution aren’t limited to what the rest of the world notices. It seems like the human condition to doubt. I’ve written about confidence and your work before, more than once, and I think it’s interesting how this blog is becoming a little less dogmatic over time.
It’s my hope to be wise, but beyond that to be a sympathetic and understanding teacher of—well, something. We tend to listen to the voice of success, that is, the voices of the famous and those who sell a lot of work. But everyone who’s been doing their work for a long time has valuable and insightful things to say about how to do it and why you should.
I think it’s a common human good to make art and put it into the world. I think it expresses and enhances our collective humanity and enriches and informs your own life.
What you’re doing, whatever form of art it is, has value, and I hope you find ways to keep doing it.
Fairs, and the Fine Art World Catering to the Fancy and Overlooking the Littles
It deserves as much longer post, or a series of them, but the Frieze art fair debuts in L.A. this week. It’s long been staged in London and NYC, and I’m glad the west coast is being recognized by the organizers as a worthy art center, but still have major problems with the concept in general.
As with the secondary market (auctions and such, the phenomenal prices of which are what make headlines), small, lesser-known, and—let’s face it, because it’s practically a detriment—living artists are often paid less attention. It’s true lots of contemporary creators get to showcase through their galleries who pay a high entrance fee to exhibit, but the fairs are there to make money, primarily.
This is fine. But it leaves out a vast section of artists who may feel, well, frozen out. I don’t have a ready solution, except to say I think we should be thinking more about what art gives to humanity, and the capacity we all have to make it.