The term “artist” has acquired so much baggage over the centuries. Originally it was just a word like craftsman or architect, but beginning in the Renaissance it began to acquire connotations of genius and something special or unique. Then, with the birth of Modern Art and artists like Andy Warhol, the term artist became synonymous with eccentricity and fringe culture. Calling someone an artist merely meant they were artsy, creative, maybe not so great at things like math or writing, and that they probably had a ‘unique’ fashion sense. While all of these are often true of artists, it is not the eccentricity that is the core role of the artistic identity. Artist is a term that has come to not define a role so much as a character trait, which is putting the emphasis on the wrong aspect of creativity. See my earlier quote from Nicolaides about the artist’s temperament here.
Artists are illuminators. They shine light on reality. They should be teaching people to see the world, to focus their attention on something outside the common cultural radar. The term illuminator gives the artist a purpose rather than describing his personality. I’m not about to start referring to myself as an illuminator and refuse to acknowledge the title artist (mostly because that feels incredibly pretentious), but I think it is time for an adjustment in our thinking and a new mental image to accompany the word artist.
What are your thoughts?
Good art operates on many levels; cerebral, emotional, physical, transcendental, etc. However, I have found that each category of art has a general strength or primary mode of functioning.
1. Music is one of the most emotional art forms. Every chord seems to strum the heart strings and carry the listener along through intangible and undefinable peaks and valleys of emotional experience.
2. Poetry, and by that I mean words used for their own sake as art, is the most cerebral. The language is already known to the reader and they engage with their mind first. Even if their mind takes them almost immediately to a place of emotions and images they are starting with the intellectual structure of words.
3. Visual art is the most immediate art form in the sense that a viewer can take in the gestalt of a piece almost immediately. Even if it takes them hours to notice or discover something their eye can rove the entirety of a picture relatively rapidly. Visual art creates a self contained aesthetic experience that can fully immerse a properly prepared viewer almost at once.
These are certainly generalizations and I have left much unsaid, but what are your thoughts?
From the Artist: This piece, a response to Ecclesiastes 1-2, was inspired partly by observing my own tendencies to work extremely hard for long periods of time–to excess, some would say. I remember reading this passage on a quiet fishing trip several years ago, and it immediately jumped out at me. Out there, away from cell phone coverage and reminders of work or school, it made sense. Nowhere else in scripture is it so blunt: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the teacher. “Everything is meaningless.” That can be hard to hear when we’ve been told all our lives that work = achievements = position = happiness. (It was tough for me.) While our accomplishments may bear short term rewards, will anyone remember (or care) after our short time on earth is up? With this piece I aim to question the toil-fueled, achievement-oriented definition of success that is en vogue in Western societies today. I’m not suggesting that accomplishments and work ethic are without value, but we need to stop and think (and consider higher things lasting things) before we pour every drop of our lifeblood into the temporary pursuits of this world.
Courtesy of the excellent people over at Spark and Echo, a multidiscipline Bible illumination project: http://www.sparkandecho.org/under-the-sun_landon-brands/
This is a drawing I did several months ago. I was inspired after reading Matt Kish’s illustrated Heart of Darkness to try my hand at a more literal illumination of the Tower of Babel.
More 5″x11″ experimental studies exploring imagery from the Tower of Babel and Choruses from the “Rock.” See my earlier post for more details.
Click on image for a larger view. All images copyright Jacob Rowan 2014
“Temperament is merely an incident, just as one banker may be temperamental and another not, while both have the genius for banking. The idea that an artist must be a tragic sort of figure is all wrong. Some artists are like Van Gogh and Gauguin. Some, like Titian and Renoir, are not. Tragedy is caused by a man’s nature and environment and is as irrelevant to painting as it is to other professions. Many young art students react against the prosaic world and feel they must be ‘different.’ They are afraid if they act like other people they will be like other people. The real difference between the artist and the one who is not an artist is not so simple as that.”