In trying to define myself as an artist, as we are often called on to do when creating a website, blog, store, or any other venue calling for an “artist’s statement, mission, or bio,” I found myself having to dig deep and look at some foundational stuff. First of all it’s annoying af to have to write about one’s self in this way; and then to try to ‘3rd person it’ feels even less authentic. Seriously, when’s the last time you tried to sum up your heart, soul, life, and career in 2 – 3 paragraphs? Now try to do it as if you were your own biographer.
So as much as I tried to mentally skirt around the issue and compose some superficial bs, I kept finding myself thinking deeper and deeper about what exactly art is to me and …why.
Visual art is non-verbal communication. To me. And it’s kind of that simple. In a very real sense I can relax my mind and just let my eyes and hands channel feelings, emotions, or moods that are constrained by trying to define them with words. At the same time, what I put down on paper or canvas (hopefully) does the same thing: communicates something without words. It doesn’t have to be the same thing, just something.
Art is about channeling energy.
Connecting with the ‘channel of energy’ is crucial to producing art (for me), but it’s just as crucial for the receiving of art; for what is art without a viewer? It’s an unmade connection, that’s what it is, like a dead end. To be a viewer requires connecting with that energy as well, like making a circuit, nothing happens until the circuit is complete.
Art is about giving and receiving. And there’s something important in the fact that the given and received need not be the same thing, just that there is a connection.
So why the deep dive, where is the point?
The point is that I haven’t been good about sharing.
I do what I do 100% for me with respect to whatever I’m painting or working on, this is my journey and mine alone. Because of this – and because I don’t share – I’ve been able to be completely free (for me) in whatever I choose to explore with paint styles or different mediums. Within the confines of my own studio space I am free.
This week, as I’ve pondered my art manifesto and my place in the art universe, at the same time I was looking at a bunch of fabulous Outsider Art and Modern Folk art and I got it into my head that I was gonna paint in this style, that it would probably be a fun experiment. By definition, Outside Art and Folk Art is characterized by a lack of formal training, with bold, primitive or almost immature lines, bright, sometimes harsh colors and patterns that all work together effectively to make an overall strong expression. By definition, I too lack formal training, and by this reasoning it should be an easy, fun experiment. So I’m at my table and I’m all set to go and I realize how absolutely free one has to be to paint in this style. And I just couldn’t get there, I could not get that free. I drifted into my usual style and familiar ways, even before I realized it.
At that moment I understood that it was about taking risks. Not unlike how I’m just understanding that sharing my work is about taking risks. It’s ridiculously basic and elementary when I type it out like this, but just as I have a comfort zone with my paint, I’ve gotten comfortable just making art for myself. Neither will allow me to grow, though.
Growth always requires risk. Dammit.