Brief Notes about Making Art, and a Digression
In the form of visual memes. Then a digression.
Catharsis in the arts is underrated. Why do people play the blues, or punk rock, or industrial rock? Because it's cathartic. I've played in bands in all those genres, and more, and rehearsals and gigs were almost always cathartic. I was reminded about catharsis a few days ago, when a lot of bottled up emotion around the Christmas holiday season suddenly came spilling out, triggered by a moment of aesthetic beauty. I remembered that I hadn't been making art for the past few days, and had been tied up in knots with the stresses of the winter holiday season. And then I remembered about catharsis, and was forcefully reminded about how making art keeps me grounded, centered, focused, and literally alive. Catharsis is more than just a pressure-release valve, it's a change of being, even if only for a moment. Art gives catharsis to the audience as well as the artist. The aesthetic moment that triggered all this was a sequence in a favorite movie that always, always gets to me on a very deep level, triggers an emotional response, and leaves washed clean afterwards, the way a good weep does.
Too many new age and neo-pagan artists are so focused on the light, on growth and healing and reminders to "keep it positive," that they forget that Shiva is both Creator and Destroyer. Parvati must be given her due, but so must Kali.
Sometimes you just have to get the darkness out of you by putting it into your art. The Wrathful Deities must have their due.
Art needs to be discursive, digressive, and distracted. All the best art takes you away somewhere, creates a new reality for you to wade around in, be immersed in. Art is nonlinear and even irrational. And that is its strength, and as it should be. Because that is what imagination is. Imagination is anarchic, not rational. Making art must be a journey for the artist as well as the audience, a free exploration of undiscovered and unfamiliar trails.
Life is messy, so is art.
Making art requires improvisation and intuition and inspiration, and not being in control, and not knowing what you're doing, or where you're being led.
Life is an improvisation, a guessing game at times. So is making art. Fingerpainting as well as technical pens. Disorder and chaos as another condition of orderliness. Dionysus and Apollo both.
And a digression:
Why do I share some of my art online? I think of it as advertising. Marketing for my arts business, as well as for fun. And I usually share only bits and pieces, and not the actual piece at full size. For that, or a print, people need to visit my online store.
Why don't we respect our artists? Because we have been convinced that art is a hobby, or that we don't need it to survive. Wrong on both counts, of course, but what do you expect from a culture that avoids self-reflection as much as possible, in favor of the loud and brassy self-display of narcissism and mannerism and self-absorption? When was the last time you shared something on your Facebook wall that was for the sake of others, and not basically a form of self-advertising? If you can honestly say, yesterday, then gods bless you.
So why do artists self-advertise online? Finding their audience. Your niche audience can be anywhere in the world, now, and at last you can connect with them. Calling that narcissism seems like a category error, though, because it's about the art, not about you. Note the subtle difference.
Every week I get requests from strangers to use my art for their website for free. These days I mostly say No. Folks, I am trying to make a living from my art.
Can I stop someone from stealing and using an image of mine online? No, but I can remind them that I probably worked as hard to make that piece of art they just "borrowed" as they did to earn their weekly paycheck. Maybe harder, because there's no downtime in art-making, and you never take a vacation. So I can't stop the thieves, but I also won't let them make me paranoid, and I'll continue to share some of my art, to find my audience, to make connections, and to let people know the art is there. Our culture pays lawyers hundreds of dollars an hour, and artists nothing, that's where our priorities really lie, and actions always speak louder than words.
But you can only buy my art from me.
If you like what any given artist creates, support them by buying their art, rather than stealing it or "borrowing" it. I got one of those freebie requests in my email today. I'm thinking about how to respond. I'm thinking out loud.