Be Yourself

June 15, 2021 By LifeArt School 2
Be Yourself

You're the only onw who can be yourself

written by Carolyn Henderson

Be Yourself

As an artist, why do you do what you do?

Be Yourself

I’m not talking general here, as in, why do you choose to be an artist — I’m asking specifically, why do you paint, or sculpt, or create in the style that you do, and why do you choose to address the subject matter that you focus on?

In other words, who, or what, influences you?

In other words, who, or what, influences you?

In my last article, The Artist’s (Narrow) Path, I identified two  main pressure points where artists are pressured to conform, and the first was in their artwork itself. I tossed out the loaded statement that magazines, art organizations, and the self-imposed elite of the art world dictate what is created and how, and made the observation that, when you look at what is out there, and what is determined to be good — notably by being promoted in art media circles — there’s an expectation of pattern to what you will find.

Recently, I looked through a random art exhibition and found the usual suspects:

Subway scene — Check

Homeless looking old man — Check

Requisite still life of vase of flowers, possible lemon in front, with dark background — Check

Person playing instrument, not looking happy — Check

Nude charcoal of woman whose body looks like mine {which is a fine body, but is much better clothed} — Check.

Be Yourself

Eighty percent of the works, especially the oils, are dark, both in palette and in emotion.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with subway scenes or old men with unwashed hair and unkempt beards, it’s just that they show up, again and again and again. Rarely does one see a cat, say, frolicking through the flowers, or a decidedly illustrative piece that tells a story, and I can already tell you why: “That’s not art. The first is something licensed that you’d see on a puzzle or a plate; the second is, well, illustration, and illustration isn’t real art.”

I’m not sure who’s saying this, but a lot of people are believing it, and many people who would be incredibly happy — and very good at — painting certain subjects in a particular style, force themselves, instead, to adopt other subject matter and adapt to other ways of painting it.
Paging through the magazines, they see that this person is considered very good, and that style is true art, and whether they want to or not, they start to accept what they are repeatedly told.

“Let’s do some art, shall we?” was the response.

When my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson, was studying art at the university, he was not so subtly nudged into painting large, abstract, highly purple, and disturbingly agitated inner city scenes because that, his professor who hadn’t painted a new work in 20 years told him, was the direction of art.

But his heart was in the country, and when he produced landscapes of South America, where a section of his heart still lives, he was met with chilled silence.

“Let’s do some art, shall we?” was the response.

It took years to overcome miseducation received, and success at this was achieved by the Norwegian Artist putting away the voices and urgings of others. Twenty years in commercial illustration assured that he knew the basics of creating art, and his internal stubbornness of being who and what he is resulted in an artist who paints what he wants, how he wants, and doesn’t judge himself by the judging of others.

This is a good place to be, but it’s not an easy place to get to. It means stepping out, stepping away, and walking a very narrow path — and the thing about a narrow path is that there aren’t a lot of people on it. Sometimes you’re alone, and in modern society, that means that you’re weird, but you can’t get to Shangri-La on a six-lane freeway.

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