Ask any kid what art is, and they’ll show you something they just made. If you ask their mom, she’ll start to explain that art is something artists make. She’d maybe say that art is painting, or drawing, or sculpture. And it is, but it’s also so much more and it’s created by people every day who would never claim to be an artist. What’s your definition? Have you ever really thought about it? I believe art is the sum of who you are, what you experience, what you imagine, and what you do. It doesn’t mean you’ve never seen anything like it before. It doesn’t mean it’s absolutely original. It does mean it’s unique. Here’s how we create the unique.
Being an Artist is…
When I was in high school the boy I was dating out-and-out told me I wasn’t an artist. I started to argue, but then he explained why he thought that. Art, he said, “was when you made something up in your head and then painted it”. Because I was into drawing landscapes at the time, my work didn’t fit his definition of art. His friend who painted images of monsters and aliens that he saw in his dreams was a real artist. I painted what I saw. Ergo to him, I wasn’t an artist.
I couldn’t even argue with him, because our definitions of art were so different.
How would you define art?
It’s funny in retrospect, but true too. It’s hard to argue if something is art or not when you don’t agree on the definition of what art is.
Merriam Webster defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the product of aesthetic objects.”
That’s a pretty good definition. But I would take it a little farther and say art is when you choose to pull on certain threads that you encounter in the world around you. When you take those threads, and gather them up and pull them through who you are. Then, using the skills and experience you have- you make something.
The visual overwhelm.
In today’s world, there’s no shortage of visual ideas and inspiration. Screens are everywhere, Pinterest and YouTube are our go to’s for getting visual answers to our questions. And thanks to the internet, a large part of the world is seeing the same images we are.
Part of the role of the creator today is to curate those images and figure out what they really like. You may do this unconsciously, simply pinning an image on Pinterest because there is “something about it you like”. But if you were to go back and view all your pins together, you can see you actually have a pretty good idea of what you like. This is your experience.
It’s not uncommon for me to compliment someone on something they made, only to have them shrug off the compliment because “they saw something like it somewhere.” They think less of what they did because they got the idea from someone else’s work. But no art was ever created in a vacuum. With so many visual images in our lives, it’s almost impossible to know all the sources we’re drawing on. And it’s not something artists have ever done before this. In fact Pablo Picasso was known for having said once, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
How we create something unique.
When you imagine something you’re starting to create it in your mind. You’re making decisions on the form, and function in your head. It’s all in your imagination. You’re asking “what if” as you turn the idea around in your mind, and trying to find a way to fit it together into the form you’d like.
You’re processing the threads of inspiration that you gathered through your experiences and deciding what you’d like them to look like. Then when you decide to try and create something you are bringing that idea into the physical world. Using the talents and skills that you’ve learned to make it– you create something unique.
Yes, someone else may have been exposed to the same YouTube and Pinterest ideas as you were, but if they don’t know anything about woodworking, and you do, your results are going to differ. And in fact, they may decide to manifest the idea in sugar sculpture instead (how much would that rock?). It’s not just about what you see, but how you think about it, and what you do with it.
What’s your definition?
What do you think art is? I’d love to be sitting with you, having this discussion over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. It’s the type of conversation that makes me super excited. I love it so much I even added this idea of what art is to Well Crafted Studio’s Creativity Manifesto (above).
Maybe thinking about and defining the word “art” may not start your heart beating like it does mine, but I hope you’re more aware now of the process behind and before your act of creation. It’s not as simple as “seeing something somewhere” and “making something like it”.
There’s the act of sifting through experiences, of choosing your influences. Then imagining what you could do, and using your skills and abilities to create something unique.
Love me a freebie… or two!
Art is the sum of who you are, what you experience, what you imagine, and what you do.– Well Crafted Studio’s Creativity Manifesto
If you like this and would like a copy of my Creativity Manifesto, you can get it free from my Creative Resource Library. To get the super-secret password simply sign up below and you’ll get the password access to a ton of creative templates, pdf’s, SVG’s and more. You’ll also get email list only newsletters that I craft specifically to love on and encourage my tribe. I’d love to have you join, AND I would LOVE to know what your definition of art is and if you like or disagree with mine.
For more artsy inspiration!
Interested in more posts like this? I also have a post about my “aha moment” that made me realize that I could and should tell others that I’m an artist. “How to give your best answer when someone asks what do you do?” Maybe you can relate! And another post that explains a little more about the Creativity Manifesto statement, Creativity is a Breathing Exercise. And if you want to geek out with me about the concept of originality in art check out this article from MOMA’s website, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”
I’ve also written a post, How Copying Can Jumpstart Your Creativity that features free wallpapers for your phone or iPad with this Picasso quote.
If you found this post resonated with your very soul, please take a minute to share this on social media or pin the image below! Thanks for reading!