What is art to you?

A doodle from my journal.

When many of us think of art, we think of a famous painting or an exhibition. When we think of an artist, we may think of the famous painter Van Gogh or the neo-artist, usually existing on the fringe of society: quirky and misunderstood. There are a lucky few who reach notoriety these days, but I guess that’s a small percentage. Art just doesn’t seem to be a central part of culture like it once was (or maybe the idea of art has just changed).

Growing up, I wanted to be an artist. I would create paper dolls and tiny clothing that would fit on with little flaps I painstakingly cut out. I still love drawing, and it comes through in my daily life. I create comical sketches for web site mockups to give my colleagues a laugh, and I always doodle in my journal.

But I never took myself seriously as an “artist”, simply because I am not recognized as such by the public and never had an exhibition. Thinking it over though, it’s kind of a dim way to think. What if we are all artists – artists of life? Even what we do for a living, our craft, is that not also an art? Apparently the two words were almost synonymous up until recent history.

The authors of the book Art and Fear: the Perils and Joys of Art Making tell a story about an experiment where an art teacher divides his class into two groups to make clay pots. In the first group, the goal is to make one pot that is of the best quality. In the second, he ask them to make as many pots as possible within the same period of time.

“Untitled” (or me trying out my new paint)

The result? The group going for quantity made higher quality pots than the group focused on one pot. The mere repetition and practice allowed them to learn from their mistakes and each time they began a new one, the quality improved. When we approach art or any activity for that matter, it usually requires practice.

They say that the greatest works of art, when studied, show layers and layers of paint where the artist changed his or her mind during the process. I’m sure if many of the great painters of the past had their way, they would still be perfecting what is considered the greatest art in the world. Are our lives not the same?

I remember reading a story about a couple that had major problems and ended up divorcing, but they got back together by “designing” their life. They put conscious effort into creating the life they dreamed of. I just wonder if this is so different from creating art. Maybe it is, as a relationship is dynamic, and art is usually something that is frozen in time upon completion. But what about the people that interact with it by mere observation? They are dynamic and their reaction to art, in a sense, creates it anew. Thousands and thousands of interpretations of the Mona Lisa exist in the world today.

We human beings were put on this planet to create. Whether it be a painting, a photograph, a scrapbook, a cutely assembled outfit, a loving relationship, a delicious dinner from scratch, or a knitted hat: we are creators, firstly. We were born that way, babies.

This book inspired me to see my life as a work of art. To follow your bliss is to follow your creativity. To create what gives you joy, physical or spiritual, is the art of life.

I will view all of my creations as works of art. My day job (which thankfully allows creativity), my garden, my relationships, and yes, my purposeful art. I will pick up that paint brush and canvas that has been waiting in my spare bedroom for a couple of years now.

Creating art is not about recognition from critics, it’s about a process of creating something meaningful; an interpretation of life. It’s wonderful if you can move others or inspire them in some way, but to me, it should not be the primary goal. Besides, if it’s not the primary reason for creating, you probably will move someone anyway.

Seek the artist in yourself, and enjoy the process! Paint, draw, dance, teach, love, build…whatever. Just be the human being you were meant to be. You were put on this planet to create a world.


  1. Cybergabi

    Great post, J. I love the clay experiment. And it’s so true. I notice that in photography, too: Due to technology which allows us to cheaply take more photos today in a day than we did in months still 20 years ago, the quality of the average photograph has increased dramatically. I blogged more about the ideology thing with art (or, in that case, photography) a year ago: http://bluetwothree.blogspot.com/2011/10/ideologies.html

  2. Just read your post cybergabi…awesome take on the subject. 🙂 Thanks for the link!

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