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What’s In A Definition?

September 24, 2010

I was listening to CBC yesterday and heard a young boy say “Everyone is born an artist, the challenge is to remain an artist.  I think Picasso said that”.

I spent this morning thinking about that statement and the statement I have heard countless of times from people that come to my studio or attend my shows…What, me?  I could never draw or paint….it is just not possible.  I can’t even draw stick figures!

I decided to go online and look up Picasso’s quote and it reads “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  I almost prefer the young man’s paraphrase of Picasso’s quote.  The quote, regardless of which one you prefer, is rather profound.   I actually believe it to be true.  Teaching art helps one appreciate the artist in us all.  Those that struggle with the act of creation have spent too much time listening to the discouraging words of others.

After going online I decided to look up the definition of ‘artist’ in my dictionary.  What a disappointment!  The words read:  Artist:  A skilled performer, one who is proficient, one possessing address, competence, neatness in execution, combined with aesthetic feeling and taste:  a true, thorough, artist.  How intimidating is that!!  Many of my professional friends do not fit that definition.

My dictionary was printed in 1970, not 1870!  It is no wonder that many people do not have faith in their creative abilities and are paralyzed when it comes to giving a new creative outlet a try.  We have been programmed to believe that “if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well”.  If it is worth doing, it is worth doing.  The ‘doing well’ comes when the artist, from whatever discipline, has put in the time (those 10 thousand hours again, ha).  But, that does not mean that fun cannot be had by doing something for the sake of doing it.  It is not unlike what I use to tell the boys when they were small “go ahead and try the green beans, they may be you next favourite vegetable.  If you don’t like them, then fine but at least you can say that you gave them a try.”

Being creative basically means producing something from nothing.  That can be done systematically or with great abandon.  Neither way is the right way and there are plenty of people around to appreciate both methods.  My job as an art instructor is to help people to realize that it is ok to let loose, go for it, THINK OUT OF THE BOX.  I consider myself to be a reprogrammer, an assistant to the sifting of a paradigm.  I am still programmed enough myself to think that we should try to do the best we can with what we know at any given time.  I am not an advocate of ‘se laisser faire’ when it comes to creating my own art.  As an artist and teacher, I am constantly striving to improve my methods and my outcome but at the same time allowing myself creative freedom.  It’s all about the balance.

So, for all my readers who have been putting off trying that little, niggly something that has been haunting them for years, I say go for it!  You’ve got nothing to lose save your belief in the dictionary definition of an artist.

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