How to find your artistic vein
"I just want to make pretty things and get enough sleep."
Don’t we all? Deep inside, isn't this our universal ache? To build/write/do/be something beautiful.
Chuck Palahniuk concurs, and even insists that it is our calling:
“The first step—especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money—the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”
I’m happy to let you know, Mr. Palahniuk, that this is already being courageously carried out by the youth of today. Thanks to the Internet, this vast awakened thing, we now have a floor on which we can express ourselves more openly and become not just onlookers but also storytellers, rendering us contributors to the enrichment of our cultures. In fact, so many young lives are starting to flourish socially, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially altogether. Though as fortunate as we are to have been graced with such phenomenal advancement, this has also heightened the need for a more effective transfusion, that is, a more effective means to convey our art.
But first, I think it's necessary to first clear away any lingering mist that may have veiled us from fully living our artistic visions — the definition of art being an imperative.
Yes, art is about telling a story or painting a picture but it doesn't end within the limits of a pen or a paintbrush. I can’t stress enough how badly I want to extinguish the notion that what makes artists real artists is their ability to dabble some green and brown onto a paper and turn it into a convincing tree. Art is not just a technique, a hobby, or a thing. It's a way - a method of doing, living or being. A unique and courageously personal imparting of a vision.
“Art isn't only a painting. Art is anything that's creative, passionate, and personal… Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” - Seth Godin
I used to believe that we only make l'art pour l'art' - art for it’s own sake. But while with art that wasn't entirely motivated by any objective other than aesthetic assertion I was happy to have been seen and recognized in the industry, it was only when I cultivated a bigger WHY (intent) and channeled an even more devoted HOW (medium) that I was able to expand and establish a deeper connection with those who receive my work. And that I believe is creativity's truest currency: connection.
“Art for art's sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.” - George Sand
And so if creating art for the sake of the good and the beautiful is also an irrevocable part of your agenda, if you - like me - ambition to challenge the society to expand out of its usual conditioning and onto a kinder and more intelligent way of living, it pays, dear creators, to first be thorough about how you create your art. The medium is the message. The way you do things should enhance why you do it. That's how you start a revolution.
Allow me then to introduce to you 5 tips to help you find the perfect creative medium for your revolution, embodied in 5 questions:
1. What do you love?
The heart has mysteries the mind has yet solutions for. This means, until we can decode its reasons, anything it says is right. What is yours saying, then?
What makes your heart race or skip stones? What’s your bliss? What causes the fire in your belly or the rush in your head? What makes you laugh and weep at the same time? What makes you believe in the impossibly real stuff? What do you love? Know you can have love as a reason and it would be enough.
“Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell. “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you."
If it sounds abstract, it's because it is. It defies logic to know what it is that you makes you come alive. Only you can tell. You wake up in the morning and you just know. This is it.
2. What do you want to say?
To me, what often sets a notable artist apart is the clarity of her message or story — especially when she need not even utter it out loud. There is something obvious and striking that weaves all of her pieces together.
What is it that you want to express or make known to your viewers. Do you want to speak of freedom? Of unity? Of pop culture? Of style? Of God? Of unrequited love? Once you know what it is you want to say, it should be less difficult to figure out HOW you can say it.
I liken it to preparing a DIY sandwich: if you carefully choose your contents, selecting the type of bread to go best with the filling usually just comes easy. But just like any DIY sub, it never hurts to go and experiment with other ways to make your art richer to the taste.
Speaking of taste, what finer example of a creator who knows how to weave her stories together than the Mademoiselle herself, Chanel. From the little black dress, to the tweed jackets, to the diamonds to the lions to the No. 5, she knows what she's talking about...
3. Where is your "territory"?
What is your turf? Where are you already a master? What can you do efficiently even with one eye closed? More importantly, how can you give it value? How you can make it more You?
So you’ve been a hotelier for years now? Why not start a blog on how this experience is teaching you a lot about travelers and strangers, discomfort and kindness? So you’ve been drawing realistic portraits of people for as long as you owned that Bic pen in grade school? Why not ease your way into creating stories around them? So poetry is your jam but notebooks just don’t cut it for you? Why not make the streets your canvas? Whatever skills you have, don’t be confined by them. Expand your territory.
Take it (literally) from conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. Though writing is her main medium, she has created large format public displays of her 'truisms'. I personally love her cinema marquees and projections on buildings.
4. Will this medium deepen or diminish the meaning of your message?
Your medium should be able to support and not subtract the meaning of your message. Real connection only happens if you can effectively bring others to consider your perspective. You can be the bearer of the most brilliant solutions for Peace, for example, but if you can't say that without arresting and affecting those who receive it, your message will fail to affect. As creators, we must seek not only to transmit but to transform.
Let Jason Silva exemplify what it means to make an impact through your medium as he delivers this riveting speech on creative non-conformity.
5. How would you tell your story if you weren't afraid?
If you were told there was only one way to do things, how would you do it anyway? If criticism were never an issue... If you have nothing to lose... If it didn't matter whichever method you use, how will you do it? At the end of the day, you have the last say over the way you present your art. This is to say that, above all, have courage in telling your story no matter how you wish to tell it. Courage breeds authenticity. Authenticity creates connection. Connection humanizes. And that is the point of a.
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." – Arthur Schopenhauer