So is there an art to being artistic? It seems like being an artist shouldn’t be an art in itself. The idea of that seems really fake and non-creative in the worst sense. But lately I’ve come across some situations where it seems like being seen as an artist, or playing the part of an artist is an art in itself. There’s never any real product or fruit of one’s labor showing how truly artistic and creative one is. It’s just the anguish and confusion shown on this “artist’s” face that is the art itself. It’s all struggle and no art.
Now I’m perfectly aware that the struggle of making art is part of the process. Hell, it’s half the process really. And then when the artist has finally completed their masterwork more often than not it’s this anti-climactic kind of thing. Before anyone has a chance to love what this artist has created the creative force is back at it attempting to one-up themselves. The struggle that they suffered through for however long was this quick jerk off. The thrill is gone and now we’re off to the next struggle. The next creative, angst-y ride to self-fulfillment. That to me is the life cycle of creativity. But that’s just how it is. Can you have true art without struggle, personal conflict, and soul-crushing defeat? Or really, can you have true art with only the starving artist part? No creative climax, just some guy or gal dry-humping “art” until they’re chafed and have worn a hole in their hand-me-down jeans? In my opinion, I don’t think so. You can have all the pieces you want, but unless they eventually come together it’s never really art. It’s just a grab bag of ideas. Or even worse, nothing more than a hack wearing the mask of an artist. Playing the part for years in order to have some sort of identity.
I’ve never seen myself as an artist. I’m just a working class schlub, married and with kids. Doing the 9 to 5 thing to keep food on the table, a roof over our head, and a record spinning on the turntable. When time allows I go down to my basement dungeon and write, record, and play pretend that I’m a songwriter. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was about 14 years old. By the time I was 19 I had a 4-track tape recorder and began this long journey of putting sounds to a form of share-able media. I was a closet artist, I guess. From back then to right now I’ve never been a performing artist. I don’t do stages, crowds, and general pomp and circumstance. I’m an artist in solitude. It’s very much like my love of being a fan of music. There’s nothing better than spinning music in my living room and enjoying what it does to me emotionally. I just prefer writing songs and sharing them for others to enjoy in their living rooms, cars, or wherever. I have the utmost respect for musicians that can hit a stage and play for a bunch of music-hungry folks that want that communal experience. That’s just not the kind of artist I am.
Okay, so I do sorta see myself as an artist. Sorta.
I do create things. I create sounds and turn them into something palpable. I’m not saying I’m great or anything, but at least I’m finishing what I start. Painters are artists, songwriters are artists, sculptors are artists, photographers are artists, chefs are artists, writers are artists,….as long as they finish something.
What brought all of this on you are wondering? Well, I recently hosted a musical to-do in my studio. I was asked by someone close to help them work on and possibly record a song or two of theirs that they want to record. I was happy to help out. Well after years of planning this get-together it finally happened on Friday. This musician friend had several parts that would add up to a song, but they weren’t sure how to put these parts together. We spent a good portion of the day contemplating, second-guessing, and him-hawing around attempting to assemble this song. After six hours we pretty much had nothing, although my musician compatriot did say I’d helped him out. He had mapped out what he thinks might be a viable way to present these parts to make a song. Nothing recorded, nothing to really show for all the hard work except a piece of paper and some words scratched on it. To me it seemed like a total bust, but he felt like he’d gotten somewhere. In the long run I guess that’s all that matters. I wanted to help him out and apparently I did. But it got me thinking about the struggle of art. I mean, he was really struggling. He’s had these pieces of music for a very long time and hasn’t been able to make something of them. He said he can’t work on his own. He needs someone to feed off of. He needs a sounding board. It seems like it’s more struggle than creation with him. It almost doesn’t even seem worth the trouble, at least to me. I know there needs to be struggle, but there also needs to be some sort of satisfaction or what’s the point?
Anyways, this “art of art” thing has been rattling in my head for the last couple of days. I needed to write it out and look at it. What do you think? Is this all just psycho-babble? I mean, in my head this all sounded so profound. Maybe there’s such a thing as the art of struggling? Maybe there’s someone out there that’s the Picasso of struggling. If so, more power to him or her. I’ll stick with the old adage of hard work will get you something. Something besides gray hairs, bleeding ulcers, and constant worry.
I struggle enough to find pants that are comfortable. At least let my art come a little easier than that.