Art

Sorry friends, this isn’t a story about something my husband, Art, has been up to.

A teenage girl was given a homework assignment to interview artists with a specific list of questions. Her teacher said to choose a ‘traditional’ artist, and then someone who others might not think of as an artist. She called me today and asked me if she could interview me, as she thinks writers are artists. Well, of course I said yes, and was very flattered.

Let me tell you, she asked some hard questions. Like, ‘what is art’, and ‘is art vital to society’. But oddly, the one that stumped me and had me floundering for a few moments was this: ‘how do you make art’.

From the writing standpoint this could almost be a variation on the cliché question of ‘where do your ideas come from’. But it’s not. Or at least, it wasn’t to me. At first I said that I don’t ‘make’ art, that it’s more like stories come from somewhere ‘out there’ and flow through the writer. Which sounded too out there for the conversation.

Then I realized that what hung me up on the question was the word ‘make’. Is anyone surprised that a writer would get hung up on a single word? Well, what made that word difficult for me was that it implied ownership. That I had some sort of right to art, or control over it. Yes, of course, the artist has a measure of control over their work. But stories don’t belong to me. Which is why we write, to share them, to free them, to let others hear them. (And I sure can’t make them do what I want…)

So in that sense, I don’t think you can make art.

She also asked me what I got from art. That was an easy one to answer. Freedom. Complete, total freedom. To create any world I want to be in, to create people I want to spend time with, or even create people who scare me. To change a story with an ending that didn’t give me what I wanted, or to create an ending where none existed. To answer questions and ask questions.

A final question was if one medium of art impacted another. That one, too, was easy. Music has always impacted my writing and always will.

But I keep going back to that one question. How do you make art?

How do you answer that?

Nature as art

Nature as art

9 thoughts on “Art

  1. Oh, my what a wonderful question! Equally difficult would be, “what is art?” My personal definition has to do with learning a skill so thoroughly, so completely that it becomes an expression of the artist themselves. Note that I mentioned learning to master a skill. I truly believe that without the mastery the artist is shackled. The flip side of that coin is that not every master of a skill becomes an artist.

    • Good point that not every master is an artist. Though, to me, mastering implies control, and I think that with art there has to be an element of no control. If that makes sense. I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say!

      • When I think of creating art, Picasso’s comments come to mind. I don’t recall his words precisely, but the gist was that he learned and mastered the skills necessary for drawing and painting before he “let loose” with his own style. I think it was in response to a comment that someone made about him not taking the trouble to learn how to draw or paint. The impression left with me was; learn the rules and the skills before you break them with deliberation. Of course there are those who believe it is just exactly the learning of the skills and rules that stifle the artistic spark. That may be true, but I believe it is the rare individual who can create exceptional art out of ignorance, and mastery of skills opens doors for artistic expression.

  2. How do I make art?

    I find inspiration or it finds me.
    I want it to be art.
    I consider what I want it to bring to the viewer/reader, or what I want my work to iilluminate.
    I study accepted parameters for the form I want to use.
    I decide on my personal parameters for the form I decide to use.
    I use my senses to the best of my ablility, to tell the truth as I know it.
    I edit, edit, edit — let my eyes rest, then edit again until it feels right.

    After that, I listen to other people’s perceptions of my newborn (my work) to consider if what they see works for my overall vision or does not. When the piece feels finished, I can send it out into the world like an adult child leaving home with all I could give, in the time I had to give it. Then I start the ‘bloodletting’ all over again.

  3. Ooooh, fascinating questions and I love Susan’s and Ré’s comments as well. I am a big fan of asking questions that seem simple but that no one actually asks; “what is your inspiration?” is trite, but “how do you make art?” feels different to me (as it did to you). Gosh. I want to say “I don’t know!” but that seems like a cop-out. I think… to make art, you say what you think (or feel). What you really, really think or feel. And to revise, or to make new art, you examine your thoughts and feelings to see if they’re really what you thought they were; and you examine the way you’ve expressed them to see if they really say what you hope they say. And maybe that’s all there is to it, but because you are always thinking fresh and articulating fresh, there’s always something new to be made.

    • I wonder how many people read these comments and didn’t know, until now, how much work goes in to art. And not just in creating, but also in releasing it. Letting go and leaving it to the world.

  4. Love this. And love every answer and how each one is different. The absorption is the only thing the answers have in common. The utter, unflinching, unwavering absorption. Like a meditation, I suppose. A meditation on truth.

    Teenagers are wonderful and the teenaged mind is something else. I bet she loved your answer.

    • Absorption is a great word and a great way of looking at art. It reminds me of how deep I can get into a new book I happen to be reading, how soaked in that world that the real world intrudes. I can get that way writing, too, where, when the writing is done, I have to take a deep breath and look around to figure out where I am again.

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