Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and accessible to anyone who chooses to embrace it. Art goes beyond something sold in a gallery or performed live on a stage; it’s the distinctive work of a human being, labor that touches other human beings in a meaningful way.
Making connections between people or ideas, attempting new things boldly, and pushing into uncharted territories – these are all works of art. If this describes you, you’re already an artist, regardless of whether you wear a suit, sit behind a computer, or work with hordes of others all day long. Speaking your mind when the way forward isn’t clear, making yourself vulnerable when it’s easier to disengage, and caring about both process and outcome – these are genuine works of art. The world is full of ordinary people like you and me, doing extraordinary things of this magnitude every day.
Making art is especially sweet because the possibility of rejection, failure, and thwarted connection lies waiting in its promise. That we might “outright fail” is what makes original art worth doing – the fearlessness to move forward nonetheless, without attachment to what comes next, is an unbridled act of bravery. We make the art,then brace for the feedback. Still, the art must happen first, which means courage is basic. Owning your own point of view brings with it, risk.
If you’ve decided already that you’re not an artist, it’s worth rethinking that decision and how you’ve come to view yourself that way. This is because all human beings are naturally creative, and our attitudes about whether we see ourselves as creative or not, are more a function of cultural belief than actual ability. Art can seem threatening because it always involves moving away from comfort zones and into the unknown. The unknown is the strange and unfamiliar, the place where failure or success can happen. All people wrestle with this intersection between comfort, danger, and safety every day. The trick is to find some semblance of balance between vulnerability and the willingness to risk sharing what we truly think and believe, with who we intrinsically are.
Making art is an emotional labor, an exclusive chance to do what only human beings can do, and to do it differently every time. The great mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell said that we make art ” for the experience of being alive”. Art is in many ways, a chronicle of being alive, and the pain and uneasiness we feel in facing the unknown is where art lives. Anxiety is simply part of the deal – our stretching into a better self.
So why make art? Because you must, and because you can. Art is what it means to be human, and artists use bravery, insight, creativity, and impudence to challenge what is. The work, the process, the feedback from those we strive to connect with – artists take all of these things very personally because art isn’t an outcome; it’s a lifelong journey. The challenge in every life is to uncover a voyage, worthy of one’s heart and soul.