The Art of Making Art

One of my recent oil sketchesRecently, someone asked if the art of making art is putting it together.

That’s a good question… with two different answers.

Oh, I could say, “Art is what you make it,” or “Art is where you find it.”  That’d be the flippant reply.

However, the genus — the germ of the inspiration — of the art isn’t quite that easy to find.

Process v. Product

For some people, art is in the finished product. They aren’t thrilled with what it takes to get there, but they become experts at technique just so they can see the original idea manifested as a finished work of art.

For others, art is in the process.  They find delight in every step of creating the art, or at least in the happy discoveries.

When their art is finished, maybe they keep it, maybe they don’t.  For them, the joy of the creative process was the real reward.

And, some artists enjoy both the process and the delight of seeing the completed work.

It’s a “shades of grey” kind of deal.

How I work

I’m a process person.  For me, nearly half of the creative process is how different the world looks to me, as I’m working on any related to art.

I notice more colors. I appreciate the light and shadow in the landscape.  Even if I’m watching a movie, I’ll notice how the director used color or lighting to emphasize something in the plot.

Older movies such as Dr. Zhivago and Queen of the Damned did that very deliberately.

Zhivago is quite stark and an interesting history.  Look at how the scenes favored black and white, until something emotional and/or dramatic was about to happen, and the color red is used.

Queen is over-the-top and gruesome, but the colors made it worth watching.  Notice the limited palette of colors at the beginning, and how each plot step adds another color to the scenery.  There are some exceptions to that rule, as you’d expect from the quality of the film.  I saw that movie twice, just to study the use of color in it. (If you know me in real life, I do not usually watch gruesome/vampire movies.)

As an artist, I’m less interested in the mechanics of a technique than in how that technique inspires me to try something new.

So, I might work with materials in ways that’d make a purist turn pale.  For me, it’s about the energy and inspiration, not the technical details.  I’m only interested in the technical aspects as far as they’re absolutely necessary to achieve my goals.

Generally, those goals include:

  • Creative exploration,
  • The expression of the initial creative vision, and
  • Achieving that “in flow” experience that accompanies moments in which my entire focus is on art and beauty.

Keep going

If I pause to contrast the work in progress with some precise finished image, I’m lost.  That’s where the inner critic rages forth, ready to rip my efforts to shreds, point out my shortcomings, and convince me that I’m not really a very good artist, after all.  (That’s when I re-read The War of Art, and recover my sense of creativity.)

However, that’s me. That’s what it means to be process-oriented.

Others’ opinions

I’ve talked with other artists who always have to hold that precise, finished image in their minds, and work steadfastly towards it.  For them, the process is a sometimes-inconvenient means of achieving what they want to create.

So, for me, the art is in putting the art together.  It’s in the process.

That doesn’t make me more or less of an artist than the person whose entire focus — and joy — is in the finished work… or someone in-between those two extremes.

Vital reading if you’re an uncertain artist:
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3 thoughts on “The Art of Making Art”

  1. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. I too use media in ways that purists would shudder over. I learn all I can about a new technique and then I completely change it up. For me, the actual act of making something is art to me. Sometimes the product I end up with is awesome…sometimes not so much. But that isn’t what matters to me. I have to create things. Period. It would be nice if others appreciate the product of my fits of creative hyperactivity, but it is not required. I see something in my mind and then play with different media and techniques until I have explored the idea fully. I guess that’s the only way to describe it. I look forward to more of your posts.

  2. I agree with you. If anything else to add to your post and TAM’s comment is that I have gone through the same process with writing. I have freed myself from whatever others think something should be like. At the same time I am thankful for the contrast it brought to my life which has made defined better what I am and what I want. Looking forward to keep reading. 🙂

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