The Crystal Wizard

So You Want to be an Artist?

Becoming an Artist is easy. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is make something, copy something, or even just point at something. And then, the important bit, say “That is Art. I know, because I am an Artist”.

‘Surely there is more to it than that?” I hear you cry. There really isn’t. And don’t call me Shirley. Well, there are the details: what medium to choose, what subject matter, some kind of theme or message, But these are mere minutia. The important thing is to think of yourself as an Artist. The definitions of Art are so broad as to make it almost impossible to disprove anyone’s claim to the title.

Unlike other professions, it takes very little to be an Artist. I can say you are not a Doctor, or an Engineer, but once you have declared that you are an Artist, we must take your word for it. And even if you do not believe you own claim, that in itself is not enough to make it false.
There are those who will tell you that there are requirements, qualifications, rites of passage to becoming an Artist. A study of the Great Masters, an understanding of the History, training in the tools of the trade. They have names for so-called Artists who have not fulfilled these criteria. They call them "primitive" or "naïve", or if feeling generous, "folk artists". But they are still Artists, and their creations are still Art, no matter how "primitive" or "naïve" or "folk".

Now you have taken the first step, you need to decide what sort of Artist you want to be. You need a Motive, a Medium and a Message. Despite the wide array of choices, the Medium is the easiest. Will you work in clay or paint? Stone or music? Oils or watercolours? While each has its pros and cons, and traditional associations, there are two main factors in your choice: which are you good at, and which do you enjoy? These are quite likely to be linked, as you get to enjoy the talent you possess for a certain form, and improve through practice at the form you enjoy. Other factors might include space, cost, portability and convenience.

Photography is not cheap (although modern digital cameras have lowered the cost considerably), but is very convenient. It only takes a moment to whip out ones camera and take a shot. Making music can be cheap, but costs will vary depending upon what instruments you choose, and whether you need a large, professional recording studio. The Internet has brought distribution costs down, but live performances may need a costly venue. Painting very much depends on your style. Some find an Art Studio essential, and have an array of large canvases, palettes, brushes and paints, while others work with a small case of tools that can be carried almost anywhere. Some find that a pen and small sketchpad is all that they need, making it a cheap, portable vocation.

The one essential tool I suggest for any Medium is a notebook of some kind. Even when not directly creating Art, you can jot down ideas, sketches, musical scores, and take notes about others' Art, for inspiration. A modern smart-phone with camera works very well for this, being able to take notes, capture pictures and even short movie clips, and send these through The Cloud, back to your home computer. Other people find a traditional paper notepad more to their liking, while some can commit things to memory easily. Whichever method you choose, always review your notes regularly, even going back to older ones, for new ideas.

The Message of one's Art is entirely a personal matter. Are you trying to reproduce your own emotions, be they positive or negative, for others to share in? Are you wanting to put forth a political position, or argue against one? Are your works an attempt to clarify your own thoughts and ideas? Is your Art meant to add to the beauty in the World, or provide a respite from the utilitarian forms around us? Do you mean for your Works to outlast you, or are they temporary exhibits, ephemeral like dreams? It is not essential that your Art has an obvious Message, but it can be useful for you to examine the signals that it is sending, the thoughts and emotions it raises in yourself and others.

Some decide upon their message long before reaching for their tools, while others will produce many a work before they know what they are trying to say, and some move back and forth, flitting like butterflies between different Messages. There are some who will never attempt to define their Art, but leave it to others to say what they get from it.
Whatever you choose, and however close you try to stick to it, the only thing that is certain is that your audience will take their own meaning from your work.

And this brings us to the most important question: Why do you want to be an Artist? What is it that makes you pick up your brushes? What compels you to shape and form the World around you? Money is only a good Motive if it works. It is possible to make a living from your Art, but is can be a long, hard road. If it is only the monetary reward, there are probably easier jobs to have. If you have a strong Message, spreading that Word can be Motivation enough. This has served many a Political Artist, who feel that they can make their point better through their chosen Art than through speeches, leaflets and debates.
Do you find the Creative urges difficult to resist? Do you seem to have so many Ideas that you must give them form, lest you burst? Are they so good that it would be a crime to not share them? Have you taken inspiration from another, seeing their work, or their dedication, and decided to follow in their footsteps? Do you stay true to their ideals and methods, or bring your own perspective on things?

What is it that makes you want get up from the sofa, and produce Art? What drives you? Through bad reviews, or worse, no reviews, through lack of sales and lack of interest, through the cold Winter nights without money for fuel, and the urge to give it all up and get a job in admin, why do you keep going back to Art? To examine, and re-examine, this, to see beyond the How and the When, to the Why, is to reach a deeper understanding of yourself, and therefore of your Art. Many an Artist before you has tried to find their own answers to these questions through their Art. Others have thought long and hard on them, while some brush them aside, letting the answers come, or not, concentrating more on the Art at hand than questions that distract them from it.
Only you are able to find your own answers. You may even find different questions. Art is a big, wide World, and no-one is able to answer for you.
Although it is likely that many will try.

So, do you still want to be an Artist?