The thing about Art

One day as I was walking through a dark room at LACMA, full of Picassos and rich, emotionally-charged color, I had a thought. I thought about the way that people comment on technically-simplistic art when they say, 'I could do that.'

If they could, would they? Do they?

It's only through the act of doing that any piece of art can be made manifest. And it's the creative act that makes someone an artist. They are the ones that do. Even this very observation came to me over a year ago and it remained a thought, dormant in the archives, until I sat down to write it.

Sometimes thoughts will twirl around in our heads about a book we'd like to write, or a brilliant idea, or a new invention even. But how often do we get to experience putting the brush to the canvas, or sitting down to write a new piece? The life of an artist seems so idyllic when you only picture it in your head. 

I've made judgements before about people who create and thought, I could do that. In fact one of my favorite pastimes in my early twenties was s***-talking a particular person that my friends and I went to high school with. We would laugh at him because he dropped out of college and then proceeded to embark on a public speaking career. He travelled around the country giving talks to college students as we sat on the sidelines wondering how they let him in. He even wrote a book. We wondered, about WHAT?! with so little experience, and at that young age. We cackled to ourselves about this over drinks.  

The joke was on us, because while we were paying him our attention he gained traction. With seemingly no credentials, he shamelessly promoted himself and successfully built a marketing company by leveraging his social media following. 

I've not read his book, and it might not be my cup of tea, but I can appreciate now what kind of an undertaking that is. And like the saying goes, 'when you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.' If you fear forever about what people might think, you'll never make a thing. 

There's someone that I once knew as a successful actor who decided to transition into producing. In the beginning, I thought that what he was doing was so cringy - making one low budget horror movie after the other, that I felt I had to avert my eyes. I thought of myself as being more sophisticated and of a higher echelon than him because I worked on higher caliber films, albeit in a much smaller role. 

I'd never even come close to that sort of an undertaking, like that of producing an indie movie. He continued at it, relentlessly producing one after another and they progressively grew in scope until he began making his own mega feature films that starred major Hollywood actors. Imagine if he had been so scared about what other people thought of his low budget movies that he never started out where he had to? 

Artists, my simple wish for you is that you create shamelessly, without fear. Go full cringe. Make your low-budget, no-budget movies and keep making them. Sit down to your book and have the courage to divulge your most intimate thoughts, regardless of how people would perceive them, and stick at it. 

Only then can we cross the threshold. 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great denotations; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

Books: The War of Art, The Artist's Way 


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