November 2, 2014

“Everyone is an artist”. This is a highly interesting quote. Because, on the face of it, it is clearly untrue. Not everyone is a painter, not everyone is a sculptor, nor is everyone a draughtsman. In fact, most people are none of these things. But, although these are extremely important as mediums, these are not pre-requisites for art. Art, in its purest form, is about the expression of the intangible aspects of the world we live in. This is what is really interesting - what is seen by one person cannot ordinarily be seen by anyone else. You may capture an image, but it is rather more difficult to capture a subjective experience.
In fact, the process of creating art is rather larger than the process of constructing the final result. The first step is an analysis of experience. Artists have in common with philosophers that they should be questioning the frameworks of our experience. But they have a different approach, which is that they don’t seek a unifying framework to describe or prescribe ways of living - instead they need to make observations, typically of things that fall through the cracks of everyday perception. In simpler terms, an artist is on the lookout for new ideas, for freshness and perhaps also for strangeness.

From this analysis comes the themes of the work - the ideas that are identified as ripe for exploration. And artists often return to the same themes again and again, refining their understanding and recombining the same ideas in different groupings to create different lines of dialogue on the same subject. By the way - although I am using words like “analysis” and “understanding” it doesn’t mean that you should have a rational or methodical approach. By contrast, typically those ideas which arise naturally and evoke strong feelings may often be the most productive.

From there the skill sets start to become slightly more specific. Up until now we only described the creative process of generating ideas, but the next thing to do is to transform these ideas into an objective representation. Into a photo, a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, or anything else. Of course, there are millions of possible representations, but in practice we are slightly more constrained. The kind of representations you want to make in art are generally those which have some kind of visceral, powerful, emotional impact. And at this point you also need to constrain yourself to the mediums in which you have the technical skills to create your desired representation (of course you can also choose to try to acquire additional skills).

It is the plurality of possible representations that is empowering - and allows us to say sincerely that everyone is an artist. You don’t need to be an expert in the technical aspects of a medium to create an interesting representation of an emotive idea. It is only true that these skills provide a greater range of what it is possible to express and a greater resolution in your representations. There is also a different class of skills which suggest generally applicable ways to make a piece of artwork more effective in communicating - things relating to the understanding of human perception and of general guidelines for good composition, and of precise vision and of sensitive discrimination. It is possible to create art which doesn’t conform to these principles but it diminishes the chances of effective communication. So, we must always seek to learn more to increase our chances of communicating our themes effectively but this truly does not preclude the creation of art by anybody.