“Hey, Ruby, where is your fish?”
The fish they were referring to was a clay sculpture of a Koi that was about 3 feet long and weighed 30 pounds or more. It had been pit fired and had some nice blacks and reds on the white clay. Ruby had it for sale at every Christmas and Mother’s Day sale for the past 4 years.
“Oh, I sold that,” Ruby said, “so now I’m a real artist.”
It was a nice piece. Not to my taste, but that’s not the point. I don’t know what she got for it, but I wanted say, “Selling one sculpture doesn’t make you an artist, it makes you a merchant.” I didn’t say that, of course, but I wanted to.
But it got me to thinking – when does the artist become the merchant and vice versa? I have a friend that I think is a very good painter. He gets a reasonable amount of commissions and teaches at the college. I ran into him at the mall and said, “Well, Well, if it isn’t Norm the artist.”
His response was, “I’m a painter. That’s for sure. Whether or not I’m an artist we won’t know for another 50 to 100 years.”
His remark got me to thinking. What makes an artist? It is more than just loving to paint, or play an instrument, or even being artistic. There’s a big difference between being artistic and being an artist. Nor is it just loving art and involving yourself in some creative process.
I love working with clay but I know I will never be a ceramic artist. Someone said to me when I gave her a small sculpture I had made, “Oh, Paul, you’re such an artist.”
My response was, “No, my dear, at over 80 years of age I have neither the strength or the energy nor the 20 to 30 years it takes to be an artist.”
What does it take to be an artist? First I think it takes a love for what you are doing so for 20 to 30 years you immerses yourself in the medium, whatever that may be; painting, clay, stone, wood, violin, piano, guitar or whatever. But just that is not enough. Added to that dedication there has to be talent. And, I hate to say this, but a little bit of luck, or maybe a great deal of luck.
So, now that I’ve told you what I think an artist is, what is art? A ceramics student asked me the other day, “What is art?” My answer was, “Art is anything that enhances your world.” I think that’s true to an extent, whether it is a bridge or well-prepared food. In the visual arts for me it is something I look at and then have to go back and look at again. If after I’ve walked away it comes back to mind, then it is art, and the person who created it is an artist.
Almost everybody is familiar with the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Even as you read this the painting comes to mind. That is Art.
Three of my favorite artists are Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wythe. They are three very different painters and it is wonderful the strange times their paintings will come to mind. For Dali it is the melting clocks.
Rockwell did covers for Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker, painted presidents and other famous people but the one that comes to mind is a painting entitled, “Outward bound.” It has an old sailor, a boy and a dog sanding on shore looking at a departing ship.
With Andrew Wyeth it is “Christina’s world.” There is just something about that girl sitting in the field looking at the barn that haunts me, in a nice way, but for me there is something haunting about that painting.
As for me, well, My dear, I will never be an artist, but that doesn’t prevent me from loving to play in mud.
I told someone the other day, “You see I have a habit and selling my pottery supports my habit. My habit is writing.” I may not be an artist, but damn, I’m having fun pretending.
Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.
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