If my hobby is painting, but my day-job is a postal worker, can I call myself an artist? If I screw together basic shapes of wood and make a table, am I an artist? If I crochet blankets for my grandchildren, am I an artist? Some would say not. Some would hesitate to say so about themselves. I propose that art is something anyone can make. Anyone can be an artist. And anything has the potential to be an art.
Art is a way of making something that builds on a skill. In applying the skill, art requires the intuitive judgment of the maker on how to apply it just so. While making art, we engage with the spiritual side of ourselves. We give it a transcendent quality. To make art is to take that which does exist, and transform it into something that goes beyond its original state.
Some feel to say “this is art” or “this is my art” or “I am an artist” is too lofty or grandiose because we attach the artistic quality of the work to a special quality the maker naturally possesses. “He has a gift,” we say. But what he has is a way of taking this skill to the next level, applying more than just a science to it. To consider oneself an artist is to see a vocation, or calling, of oneself to this particular art form. It implies a commitment to seek opportunities and produce this particular art.
Craft is to make a thing that can be used. The art one makes may or may not be useable. It may be visual or performance. Art is a quality superimposed on the craft. We do not need terms like crafters, creatives, or makers. For those who put their heart in the things they make, let them call themselves artists.
Start with a skill, and allow time to ponder its production, to get lost in the effort or plans of making it. Continue with the skill. Learn the rules in order to break them. Do not set out merely to break them.
Make beautiful art.
What type of art can you make? Emily Freeman in A Million Little Ways encourages us to find the things that give us joy, that we desire, that make us feel the thrill of being alive in a healthy way and then do those things. One’s art could be painting furniture, pencil sketching, making music, dancing, computer programming, gardening, or practicing medicine. As there is no limit to the tasks we may encounter, so there is no limit to the types of projects that can be considered art when approached with a fullness of intention and freedom of spirit.
How can I make great art? Renowned artist, Robert Florczak, describes great art as demanding the highest standards of excellence, improving upon the work of previous masters, and aspiring to the highest quality attainable. We can bring this down to a beginner level with the intention to give every work our best. It is not worth it to merely turn out quantity, we must aim for quality, even if it means we produce little, but what we do produce is magnificent. For most of her lifetime, Harper Lee published only one novel; and it is one of the most beloved American novels in existence, To Kill A Mockingbird.
Next, educate yourself on what others have done and what others are doing, start by copying in order to develop your techniques. You learn the skills and techniques in order to later make them your own and find what works best for you. Lastly, continue to learn and seek to grow with every endeavor. There is always more to learn. You may only paint one tree, but if you love that tree, there is nothing wrong in painting it over and over again.