It’s not a crime being an artist!

By October 5, 2014Art, General

My mother, up until my 40th birthday (maybe longer) would still ask me; “When are you going to get a proper job?” Like being an artist isn’t a proper job. Like it’s really Bohemian and way out there, and not grey suited and paying their taxes like all the other little plebeians out there. Well, I think it’s about time society started to be a little more respectful to and with regard to artists. After all, art has been around a lot longer than most of us could imagine: as long as humanity itself. It’s a little bizarre that the classic ‘oldest’ profession and art are the two career choices that are most scorned and looked down upon. I was once told by a friend, who went to a party as a single guy, hoping to meet a lovely lady. This is here in my present location of Greece. Whilst moving around the room, he came across a lovely desirable, who never even engaged in the chit-chat, but instead went straight in with; “What do you do for a living?” When my friend replied, he was in creativity, the lady walked away. Not even a goodbye! This is because there seems to be a sigma about art and creative fields in the eyes of many. And here in Greece it is more desirable to marry a lawyer or doctor. Guaranteed money earners.

I must say, that my own personal trek in the art field has to been flamboyant, nor paved with gold, but I do mention this to my students, that this was not really a choice. There is something running in my veins that drives me to do this. It’s never about wanting to make money. More, create and be pleased if it does make money. But after 30 years of freelancing, I am still kicking and creating and have no real desire to stop. So, I decided to share some points about this in a little post. Some observations.

I had a recall this week, as I was doing an induction talk with the new students at the college I teach. It made me think back to my days at lectures whilst at art college. One in particular, that seemed to be relevant; both to the educational roll and the economic positioning of artists in society. This later has inspired me to research some matters on the fall of artistic practice in some monumental steps in social development. Anyway, back to the lecture. The lecturer, David Gray, was talking of aspects that lead education as a negative aspect to the role of the creative mind. He cited Marx as a key player in this theory base. Noting that Marx had written several essays on the subject of art, and that the key aspect and point to his writings was to deliver the defining classification that art is subjective, where as education (modern education) is objective. By this it is meant that the whole process by which art is/should be created is via the emotions. It even has the roots in Greek, via the word aesthetic, which translates as relating to perception by the senses (aisthētikos). And the modern education system is about the simple process by which students are trundled through the classrooms in an attempt to brainwash and formalise them for their future in a capitalist structure. Sidebar: Very interesting talk by Sir Ken Robinson on this exact point, can be found here! What my lecturer was trying to get at, was the simple fact that, as an artist, how can you spill your inner soul out into the awaiting world, to then find an educational or even logically analytical world is there ready to give it a value. As for education; a mark.

The modern education system has completely negated art as a practical process of developing a young mind to a state of possibly choosing it as a career option. Why? Can you not choose to be an artist? Not that I ever tried this, but what would the career adviser say at school if a bright, sparky kid sat down in front of him and requested guidance to be an artist? Maybe laugh and give leaflets out for military service, or accounting or slave labour in a widget factory. So much so, that even though there is still art in education, and formal examination, the structure by which is taught seems to have NO structure. Here in Greece, they even stop the art lessons three years before their final exams. The books handed to the students are never used. And it is seemingly looked upon as a wasted lesson. Often my daughter would have the art lesson cancelled to have extra maths lessons.

So why is it that something that most children strive at (more than language) and enjoy in their pre-school years, is systematically educated out of them, and made to feel unattainable? I am sure we have all heard of this actionable comment; “He’s got a talent.” Well the truth is, there is no such thing as talent. Aptitude maybe, but no ‘god’ given ability to draw. The more we get into understanding and analysis of the human brain it is easy to see that some people have a natural propensity toward the art field. As much as another may have a desire and ability with numbers, or communication. It is all to do with sides of the brain, and socio-reflective upbringing. Example; note how many children follow their famous actors parents into that career. It’s because it has been learnt from being around them. I recently showed, and often sure with my students the course from my first drawing to my latest, to show that talent is not given, it is earned from hard work. So, the myth of the lazy artist living in a garrett and living off the social welfare state is not entirely true. Many times it is hard work, countless hours and a struggle for financial gain; but it is all done with the passion that the subject deserves. And this is the key connection with the issue in society.

Living in Greece for many years, I have come to learn many things about social development and meanings. All of which develop a connectivity that aids in defining the issues of my life as an artist. One of these findings was about a race of Greeks called the Philistines. They were around at much the same time as the dawn of democracy and challenged the public view of a need for aesthetics. Hence the term being used in common, social circles to define a person who has no art interest. Now, if we all step back (well the artists) and look at what we know about the world and it’s economic growth. It is obvious that it is solely reliant on a mass production aspect to it’s survival. Two points about this, a) mass production that started in the advent of the industrial revolution almost wiped out the craft movement, which was one of the strengths of art in the day. b) the mainstay and mandatory lessons taught at school, and seem to be the method of grading education itself are those fundamental to upholding the corporate machine; maths, sciences, and language. You need the minions to know enough to operate the machines, but not enough to be able to take control. So, coming full circle.

Artists are free thinkers. They are the rebellious ones in society. Able to express emotion, show emotion in their art and to fight for their right to this ability to have aesthetic approach to their living. Why would a corporate minority wish to allow this to be part of a system they need to control? So, what society has cleverly done, is to ostracise the artist. Made him out to be a valueless entity. makes them social outcasts and even now, the the modern world forces a value on them, that controls their ability to make a living from their passion. It is a shame, if you look at things this way. Mainly, as if you look around you then you realise that everything has been designed. As some aesthetic value. So, imagine how much more beautiful the world would be if this thinking toward our environment was a little freer? To end on a happy note! Unlike the totalitarian visions we see in such books as 1984 or films like THX 1138, the formality of a corporate world can be fought against, and luckily the nature that is so often shunned in an artist is in fact the passion that keeps this passion alive.

Artistic License

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The head honcho at Artistic License that sets the code, follows the users and basically strives for the better justice in art theft on the internet. Any questions, email me.

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