Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art vs Craft

The other night I was at a local women’s business dinner when the subject of conversation turned to artists and a possible informal meeting of people interested in art in the community. The conversation was piquing my interest and curiosity and had grabbed the attention of a woman seating at my table who happens to be an artist specializing in carving and sculpture. The Artist mentioned that she would really like to see some sort of art guild formed in the area. Up to this point in the evening I had been enjoying my conversation with The Artist, but this is where I left my comfort zone and naively inquired “would you consider amateur artists part of the guild?” (Me thinking amateur as in not exhibited, not formally trained, etc.). So began a discussion on “art” vs. “crafts” and “artist” vs “artisan” and how one had to be careful in distinguishing the two. This is when my inner critic chose to show up, sit comfortably on my shoulder and begin the process of deflating my energy balloon by insidiously whispering “you are not an artist” and “you are not in the same league as the Big Kids” followed by hissing in a Gollum like voice “you do Crraaaffftttsss………”. Mr. Inner Critic carries a heavy weight and while he whispered, I nodded politely and began detaching myself from the conversation.

I carried Mr. Inner Critic’s weight home with me, my balloon now completely deflated and dragging along behind me as I pondered the evening. And then I gave Mr. Inner Critic the slap upside the head he deserved.

You see, I might not be a Big Kid artist, but then I’m not trying to be one either. The argument about what makes a “real artist” is the same argument in the writing circles about what makes you a “real writer”. Is it training? Is it how much you sell? Are you a writer if you self-publish? What about if your writing is only published online and you haven’t been paid for it? Professional vs amateur? These arguments, I suppose, have validity for those trying to make a living from their art. And don’t get me wrong, I love and admire the Big Kid artists and writers. Nothing moves me more than a well written novel or inspires me like a beautiful painting. I am in awe and envy of some of the work I see out there, and I try to support and learn from these artists as much as I can. I am not judging The Artist for her views on what constitutes art and an art guild is an awesome way to get the work of the many talented artists in the area out there for people to see. I just happen to believe that there’s a place in this world for all the artists, writers, artisans, crafters, journalers, bloggers, etc. It’s all good.

No, my dialogue with Mr. Inner Critic, my own personal art monster, gave me a chance to define what it is that I’m really passionate about and what art means to me. When I grow up, I want to be an “Inner Child midwife”. I want people to get back in touch with that child that loved to play with paints and crayons and got lost in the act of creating and not in competition or trying to impress. I love doing journal and art journal workshops and watching people transform themselves from “I can’t write, I’m not really any good at this” to total excitement about what they can do with their creativity. I love squishing people’s art monsters and Inner Critics. When I go out into my little cottage studio to create, whether it’s collage or clay or paint or write, I’m getting in touch with the creative essence of the Divine. It’s my form of prayer. Art is a sacred tool, an inner healer. There are days when the act of creating is more important than the finished product, and whether or not it constitutes art is not important. This is a process of self-transformation, not a competition with another artist. I think no matter what you are, it’s important to know what gives you joy and to stand firm in that no matter what the outside world thinks.

Call me a crafter, an artisan, an amateur, whatever. They’re just labels. But, if your inner child is longing to get out and play, call me. We’ll have some fun in the cottage – no art monsters allowed.

- photo, art journal page "Believe" @2008 * o


Hill Country Hippie said...

Well, when I first started reading this posting, I thought "Am I going to have to give that girl the same slap up side the head that she gave me the other day on my blog about writing?" Luckily, you did it yourself. Then things got really eerie, when you seemed to be channeling my thoughts. I just came inside from writing my morning pages on the porch, and it was all about my struggle to overcome my inner critic and finally learn to enjoy making art just for the pleasure it gives me, without worrying what others will think. Don't be surprised if my blog posting later this week sounds much like yours today!

Eveline Maedel said...

I know...I was thinking when reading your post yesterday that we seem to be in the same place right now...isn't synchronicity a blast?? :)

Hill Country Hippie said...

OK, there we go again! Synchronicity is my new favorite word, and I drive people crazy with how often I find chances to use it these days.

ByJane said...

This sort of judgment is rampant in the writing world as well. I just wrote a blog post about it last week (and I think hill country hippie used the S word with me as well). I've earned my living as a writer, and I'm a blogger now. I can tell you that there is NO DIFFERENCE. Find someone who says there is and you'll find someone who's got self-esteem issues!