Something I’ve learned from the sending and receiving of letters is the defiant individuality and uniqueness of creative people. Beginners and seasoned professionals — each and every one of us are sovereign units. Intuitively, we tend to guard against unwanted influences and yet we are curious about others in the sisterhood and brotherhood. I flatter myself to think this is why this letter has found its niche. It gives, I think, a glimmer of insight and yet preserves anonymity and the privacy of each of our chosen paths.
This morning I was conscious again of doing something wrong, something that my better judgment has told me before not to do. It had to do with going into the higher tones early in the rendering of a face — but that’s not the point. “A poor thing, but my own,” I said to myself. When I looked at it on the secondary easel it began to have a resonance that I liked. “Damn it,” I said, “It looks okay, and it looks like it’s mine.”
I claimed that methodology for myself. I even gave it a secret name. Academically it was off the mark. Inconsequential as it all might seem to an outsider, this is the sort of epiphany I think we are all looking for. It’s what makes us happy. It sets us apart. It gives us that shot of uniqueness which we call style.
Our gardener came into the studio to get the extension cord for the weed-eater. He is a man of few words. “That’s different,” he said, looking at the same thing I was looking at. I had a little flush of joy.
PS: “My wish is that we might progressively lose confidence in what we believe and the things we consider stable and secure, in order to remind ourselves of the infinite number of things still waiting to be discovered.” (Antoni Tapies)
Esoterica: Isolation: I’ve often thought about an artist I met high in the Peruvian Andes — a chap from Illinois who called himself “Cosmos.” He didn’t communicate with anyone in the outside world. He told me he was “doing the most important art being done in the world right now.”
The following are selected correspondence relating to the above letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities. Thank you for writing.
Envy of individuality
by somebody, Iowa, USA
In your letter of yesterday, you use the phrase “defiant individuality… of creative people.” Does this include envy on the part of some artists when other artists succeed at something and they don’t. Some friends and I are involved in organizing arts/cultural events and it’s mind-boggling sometimes what hefty doses of sour grapes we encounter from time to time. My own take is that there are plenty of ideas to go around in this world and we should enjoy the successes of others. Even better is to learn from the ideas of others and, whenever possible borrow from but not directly copy them.
Appreciation of our differences
by nobby, Orillia, Ontario, Canada
I was enjoying a wonderful afternoon with a friend, and we were both painting away, enjoying the sounds of the brushes and our secret messages to the paint in order to direct it to do its very best work, and we both said to each other, how lucky we were to know what we wanted to do in life and also that we can share this time together and we respect each other’s work as it is so completely different in style as well as different mediums… It was so pleasant that, when it came time to leave, it was just hard to end this perfect time and appreciation of our differences. Our work is far from the accepted word of perfect, but it is ours and it is known for whom it represents.
The guy up in the mountains is a jerk. Art without an audience is like light without eyes.
No right way
W. Pattison, San Mateo, CA, USA
Having my own voice in my world is the number one thing. Frankly, I get tired of people telling me that I’m not doing something “right” in my painting and illustration work. People have to get this message: THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY IN ART. All there is is the artist’s voice and his interpretation. It may not be photographic, but that’s what we have cameras for.
Years ago my art teacher told me point blank that I could never do portraits of people. This pissed me off, because I realized what he was saying is that “he” never was able to do it. Soon after I quit the class.
After that I vowed I’d prove him wrong. And, if you’ve seen my work, you will know I succeeded.
Some people still say I don’t do people “correctly.” They watch the method I use for drawing a face, click their teeth and shake their heads. Some even have the nerve to come up to me and say: “My art teacher said this.” Robert, my answer to them is this: “That is fine for your art teacher. He might be a fine artist. He may have taken classes up the kazoo to get where he is. People may praise him for doing it the “right ” way. But, frankly, it doesn’t mean beans to me. When you’re dealing with “my” art you’re dealing with “my” art. I give you the option of liking it or disliking it. That’s all. If you like it, that makes me happy. If you don’t, then that’s up to you.
Trust the force, Luke
by Yvette, Montreal, QC, Canada
I smiled as I read about your successful experimentation. I have experienced the same with the making of tapestries. I dared to break rules, and it made my work unique. It’s a little scary at first… but it’s like your instincts force you to push on. Because instinctively we always know what’s right.
by Kalwant, UK
Some years ago we had a long and futile dispute with some musicians about the naming of a new musical piece. We resolved it by using the same word from another language. The original name was never used. So much about being possessive about creativity.
You may be interested to know that artists from 69 countries have visited these sites since March 30, 2000.
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