Let my first say that when I speak about artists, or creativity in general, and the creative gifts you received free at birth by the luck of the genes that the fates awarded you, I am addressing each and every one of you. We all receive creative gifts – in music, art, writing, photography, banking, engineering, cooking, dancing, designing, sports and I could go on and on. We all get some of the creative pie. The challenge in your life is to find your unique gift and use it well for your own satisfaction and for the greater good, as I often say.
For about six months now I have been stretching my artistic muscles – venturing forward into new territory whenever the fancy strikes me – sometimes bravely, but more often barefoot and clueless, wearing pajamas at times – experimenting across artistic horizons. I have been attempting to find a new-ish artistic expression that will satisfy my constant need for creative adventure – thus tweaking and slightly altering my older style in that process. Since I have been painting for many decades now I do have a characteristic style, as is appropriate. It seems that no matter what I try, where I go creatively, and how much I rebel against myself, my distinguishable approach to art is a recognizable thread that runs through all. It can be maddening or it can feel comforting like an old blanket. The thought of drastic change feels rather…well…drastic. I am looking for a deep, soulful change that is a bit off-beat but still comfortable and satisfying for me. Many weeks I take two steps forward and one back, swaying back and forth into and out of my own damn self, looking hopefully for the day when I can take three steps forward and stay there.
Of course your art is a visual diary, revealing your unconscious but read-able state of mind as you paint images down through the years. If you have a body of work that goes way back, you will be able to remember what you were living through during each and every piece you painted. You will know instantly, by the level of skill and risk-taking in each historic and archival art piece, what it was in real life that prompted those mirrored emotions proudly displayed on canvas or paper. You are immensely proud of that creative record – you see it all as a timeline of your life. You are always curious to see where the bumpy and broken road will lead you next.
So when someone in your life does not understand your recent direction in art, nor does that person have the broad knowledge of art principle and history and theory with which to make an educated assessment of your new, risk-taking work, and/or does not have the self-awareness to realize that his/her critical remarks made to you are obviously built upon a house of cards that has no basis in art education – well then, that is pathetic and also hurtful. It should not be hurtful, considering the source, you think to yourself, but it is. We artists are all accustomed to criticism, of course. We are calloused and beaten up. We try to become accustomed to criticism in sheer self-defense because we get it by the boatload, not just from the art experts and the gallery owners but because everyone and their uncle has hollow remarks to make about art. Still, that particular kind of criticism spun of ignorance and innocence coming from the totally uninformed does not excuse it or render them worth polite and tolerant listening. It is not in my job description or yours to educate and inform people about art, so we need to be like Teflon and repel the unusable, unproductive critique. If push came to shove, however, I would be able to talk those people under the table – to bury them – on the subject of art. My passion and understanding of the subject knows no bounds.
Our primary job as an artist is to stretch – to grow – to continue to evolve, to whatever extent our skill level and our gift of creativity has afforded us. If we can manage to do that, then our message will always show up in our art as freshly expressed and it will keep not just ourselves but our audience engaged and interested in our careers. People hate boredom and so do artists because we are people too. Things need some shaking up every once in a while when we get to the point where we can almost paint blindfolded because our work has become – that dreaded word – predictable. We all know that we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. The people who are genuinely moved and fascinated with our art, at any stage, will continue to be inspired enough to ask intelligent questions about what has been the catalyst for our recent evolution. They will remain our enlightened followers.
The others, the non-learners, the ones whose appreciation for creative growth and knowledge has been stunted, will eventually drop by the wayside and walk away shaking their heads in perpetual confusion. It is of no use to try and explain the whys and the wherefores of our changing art to them, and that is not our concern. People who truly care about art make it their passion and seek book-loads of information on the subject. I say, put your money where your mouth is and get thee to a library! And if they don’t care enough to research, just let them go – we do not have to ever make excuses for our art or attempt to explain its adventurous direction. That is not a good use of our time. It is no one’s business but ours.
It all boils down to the question of freedom of expression and the yearning to grow. We need to shake off the most idiotic of the inquiries and walk back into our studios and paint, smiling as we go.