Does art come from a mystical spirit that comes to artists? Or does art come from our mind?
I have been telling the following story for years when people ask me “when did you know you wanted to be an artist?” Since kindergarten I have always answered, and then I tell them the story of my winning first place in the all school art show at the end of the year for my age group. My mom even saved the snowman and I have it prominently framed in my studio workshop. Needless to say the story got better and better every time I told it. I would embellish the story with how I could never set still in kindergarten, back then kindergarten was only half days, never could take a quiet ten-minute nap like the other students in the class. The teacher would put me in-front of an easel and I could be as quiet as a mouse and extremely content. I loved watching the paint, which was extremely watery run down from the marks I would make, some resembling something real others filled with muddy colors and frustration. From kindergarten forward there was a verbal trail that followed me, I never read it but I know that I was a very visual person, there were other examples I could site that definitely left a mark on my and on my way visual of knowing the world.
Truth be told though about the snowman. The teacher was trying to teach us about circles. We were given a large, medium and small pre-cut white square which we were to tear out a circle from. She had a very difficult time convincing me that I couldn’t just tear off the corners of the square and call it a circle. She sat with me very patiently during nap time showing me how to tear a perfect circle from the small white square. As I look at the snowman now I know I didn’t tear the large or medium circle but I did tear the small head. The corners were trimmed and the bottom part still had a straight edge on it. I made several attempts at making a perfect circle all of them ended up like the head and I told her we could use it as the sun, and the small corners that were scraps I pasted on as snowflakes. She helped me put the hat on the snowman, explaining one was a square and one was a rectangle. She gave me a red crayon and said I would put a face on my snowman. I put one on the sun, I am not sure who put the face on the snowman.
So what happened here? I really didn’t make that snowman that won first place for my age group. And the first place was only, stated in today’s terms, a participatory award. So much for thinking that my snowman was special in my adult years and triggered a major event in my life. True I believed this for a long time that I was just supposed to be an artist since kindergarten. But the reality is the kindergarten teacher put me on a path that created a menu for others to work from in how to work with me as a student. This event became part of my history. And it was the origin for my work as an artist.
I have also been telling people when they ask me when did I know I was going to be an artist – that I have felt that I was called to do what I do, that I have tried to give it up, move onto something else but always come back to making and creating art. But now I find I ask myself what does it mean to be called to do what you are doing? Who is calling me to do this? Where does it originate from? For me it is a mystical calling, it was God calling me. God made me the way I am and I just needed to listen to what God was telling me. I know there are many others who feel the same way as I do and did, and they still believe it is some spiritual calling and full filling this calling will lead to a full life.
I ask myself with both situations, is there an origin to my work as an artist? Do I just have a foundational history and cultural background that made me who I am? I have come to believe that my history has a lot to do with what I believe and I have always believed that art, and artists are unique, one of a kind, unconventional things in themselves. To have my work represent my history just doesn’t work for me because there are many others who have a similar history. And my art and myself would be no different than all those others. So I believe that from my historical foundation there was a crack, something emerged, and I took this something, this abstract something, conceptualized it, imagined it and created my life from it. I have chosen to be an artist, it makes me happy, art represents my fundamental view of myself and my existence. I am unique, I am an original. Out of all the sensory perceptions, chaos, contradictions in life, as an artist I am able to isolate the things which are essential to make me a thing in itself, and my art work a thing in itself.
Can anyone do this? Yes. Do they? No, it is hard work and anything but simple. I frequently tell people that it would have been easier to be a physician, or a lawyer, with rules and procedures to follow than it is to be an artist.
Art is of the mind, the origin of art and becoming an artist is of the mind. The mind of the individual, unique, self. That enters the metaphysical world which is very complex. And will be discussed in future posts.