Fri 8th July - Tip Three
Don’t be afraid to be different, but never be different for its own sake. We live in an age where [artists] think more of originality than they do the craft of their [art], with each subsequent piece becoming more shocking or inflammatory. The Victorian Arts Critic John Ruskin once wrote “Great [art] is precisely that which never was”, but doubtfully foresaw this provocative statement being taken quite literally. After the age of Victorian conformity, [artists] set out to create what they wanted to create, and although they still possessed the technical knowledge of their masters, they felt freed from such disciplinarian fetters. This tumultuous time was aided by the rise of government-funded cultural organisations; the power of patronage went to the state.
With no patrons to impress but those working at the central body, [artists] became increasingly aware that in order to gain funding for their work, they’d have to justify why they wanted to create it; they weren’t being offered jobs by patrons who’d seen their previous masterpieces and wanted to commission them especially, they were having to apply for work. Out of financial desperation, [artists] started putting their efforts into making each concept sound unique, neglecting the importance of technical superiority and sense of aesthetic principles within the work itself, instead preferring to indulge and celebrate mediocre talent with sophistic speculation on the subjectivity of [‘art’]. The plague of post-modernism was the unfortunate, inevitable result.
In wanting to create something completely different, [artists] usually end up creating unoriginal, sub-standard pieces of work which in reality reflect poorly on their potential as a[n artist]. This is why craft is so important (see Tip Two for my thoughts) - of course you’re expected to experiment, but once you’ve found your niche you should remember to hone it with time, dedication and/or lessons, because this is how the artistic voice (or personal ‘style’) will emerge. If you’re too busy trying to be ‘different’, you’ll remain [metaphorically] mute.
The worst thing [artists] find in the process of developing said voice is that their work isn’t particularly liked, but the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge defended his then-unpopular peer William Wordsworth with “Every great and original [artist], in proportion as he is great or original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished; he must teach the [art] by which he is to be seen.” Critics may brand your personal style as ‘over-exposed’, ‘unoriginal’…even ‘rudimentary’, and this isn’t to say that they’re not correct (only a fool ignores criticism), but if you remain true to the development of your own style, your work will inevitably gain the distinction it deserves. Remember never to pursue difference; let difference discover you.
Weds 6th July - Tip One
Stop telling people you want to be a[n artist] - whatever the discipline - you’re either one or you’re not. A good friend of mine (Nathan Leverton) once told me a story about a creative seminar: the speaker asked “How many of you want to be [artists]?” and when everyone raised their hands, he shouted “No! You’re all [artists]! Go out tomorrow, make some business cards; make sure they all say your name and the word [artist] underneath!”
Kevin Smith, before starting out on his successful film-making career, once said to his sister that he really wanted to make films…so she gave him some similar advice. When he told her that he feared people wouldn’t take him seriously, she said something like “Look, you are a film-maker, and a good one at that - you just haven’t made a film yet.” The ‘old’ Kevin Smith reportedly went to bed that night, and Kevin Smith: Film-maker woke the next morning. The rest, as they say, is history.
These examples both illustrate one important point, and that is that perceptions are everything when it comes to starting out. You need to instil faith in your art and in your abilities - if you don’t take yourself seriously, neither will anybody else. In Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Yvaine tells Tristan ‘There are shop [people], and there are [people] who just happen to work in a shop for the time being’, so from now on, when people ask you what you do for a living, don’t say “I work at Tesco”, tell them you’re a God-damn [artist]!