Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0145, November 6, 2017


  The Joy of Being an Artist

     "Architectural Space No. 489"

Copyright 2017 by S.W. Paul Wyszkowski

     In some earlier essays on the subject (see side bar: Archived Essays) I defined Art (with capital A) as the Artist's expression of her aesthetic experience in a personal and sometimes highly idiosyncratic language. I had in mind visual Arts but this applies also to the Literary Arts even though they come with their own pre-installed but mutable languages. I noted that it is necessary to master an Artist's language to fully appreciate her Art, and Prickles, our resident Art critic and a very erudite hedgehog, suggested this may or may not be worth the trouble.

     Language problems aside, the larger question is: what exactly is an aesthetic experience? What is its value? And to whom?

     My observation is that the act of creating the Art and the Artist's aesthetic experience are one and the same. The aesthetic experience involves inspiration, visualization, planning and execution (not necessarily in that order and often concurrently). Accidents, unplanned events, ambient conditions, the particular qualities of materials and techniques used, the Artist's own well-being, mental and physical, all play essential roles in the Artist's aesthetic experience. The chief characteristics of that experience are play, adventure, experimentation and exploration of new territories. Its value lies, first and foremost, in the Artist's enjoyment of it, despite many set backs, frustrations and challenges, overcoming which only adds to the essential joy of the overall process.

     So Prickles and I propose that the old adage "Art for Art's Sake" be replaced with more factual "Art for the Artist's sake". Art's social values (if any) have always been secondary or incidental, even where the Artist is actually motivated by social activism and her Art is intentionally put in its service. An Artist's success as an Artist is independent of her political agenda or any agenda other than the joy of creation and this joy, we contend, is Art's sole justification. (Social activism may be a species of Art in it's own right but that's another story.)

     The act of creation often includes a desire to share something of that experience with others, a legitimate aspect of its aesthetics. But it is also almost always tainted with a desire to show off the brilliance of the Artist's ideas and the excellence of her craftsmanship in hope of gaining fame and fortune or, at least, a living. These are competitive and commercial, not aesthetic, aspects of an Artist's experience and they are a potential distraction from the aesthetic one. Nevertheless, Prickles points out, Artists, too, have to eat.

     The bottom line: anything done not to impress anyone or to profit in any way or to achieve some practical goal but simply for the sheer joy of doing it is Art. "And," adds Prickles, "the perfect trifecta of an Artist's life would be if her Art also happens to have social significance and turns out to be profitable." As usual, I'm letting Prickles have the last word.