I was talking with someone today about drawing. It started off a bit dry, acknowledging the mechanics of leaning and teaching, but I noticed the more I talked, the more excited I got. I was caught up in the spell of artmaking, unable to keep my emotional connection to it out of the conversation.
I can forget easily how it feels to do the work. There’s a lot of discussion and analysis, and plenty we do in art school. But to connect the two is a great gift. Artists who write about what they do aren’t always the best at it. Read Jerry Salz, the art critic, and it’s bursting with love for art. Similarly (uncle) Paul Klee, though with less abandon.
I must remember the massive seas of feeling inside that connect me to art when I talk about it in an analytical way. I think our passion is the best connection we can have when we try to get others to understand or participate.
Speaking strictly about art (although it might apply to other things), what smart people in the distant past have understood is that your passion for your work brings out the deepest levels and the ideas that are most you. And being yourself is the ultimate goal.
We understand it today because it becomes obvious pretty fast—if you look—that imitating others’ success only gets a little traction, professionally and personally. You’ll almost certainly enjoy your work the more it comes from within you. You don’t have to wonder if it fits the current trends, just that it’s yours. It’s sometimes possible to game the system a bit, but it won’t be as fulfilling as following your own path.
We all stand on the shoulders of our heroes and our predecessors. We learn by practicing and imitating. But the most fun and the most rewarding things are becoming more completely yourself. And it won’t matter what that is, it’ll matter how you feel about it.