The always not-quite-ness of being an artist.

Part of being an artist is always feeling incomplete. If you were content, you have no need to create. You would not have a lack, a hole, a vacuum, an emptiness. Artists create to fill that blank space. They must.

But the problem is that they never feel complete. They make the painting, the poem, the play, the piano sonata – and it isn’t enough. They still don’t feel done. The piece may be good enough for now, but it is never what they saw in their heads. So they have to try to fix it, or make another one, or move onto another project.

It is like living in a world where you can hear another language in your head, but you can’t ever fully speak it. Just trying to say the words is like speaking with your mouth full of water. Yet you keep trying, because to not try means to not communicate at all.

The language you were given as a child, be it English, Russian, Somali, Korean, is a pale second to your first language, which is being creative. Then, because nobody teaches you how to speak that language, you are constantly frustrated in trying to express yourself.

Yet the more you try, the better you get. Try learning different techniques from other artists, either in person or in a book. Get different art supplies. Learn a different thing entirely. If you paint, write a poem. If you write plays, learn to play the guitar. Art is art is art and it all feeds into the well you draw on to find your “words”.

Make something every day, even if it is a small something. Be okay with not being perfect. The only failure is to not try at all. Instead of getting frustrated at that not-enough feeling, learn to embrace it as why you create. Without it, you’d be a robot.

Occupy the art.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our society valued creativity more? Students would get scholarships for their art instead of their ability to play a sport. People would flock to see them perform a symphony they created instead of seeing them face off against each other on the field.

When we support sports over arts, we are supporting aggression over creativity. We are saying with our stadiums and our sports scholarships that violence pays. We are saying that the jocks are the heroes and the artists are the zeros.

Now, we certainly need sports too. We need physical activity. We need movement. There are way too many kids and adults who are inactive and obese. They are way too many people with diseases that could have been prevented by being active. And there are many valuable lessons to be learned from team sports. People learn about discipline and how to work together. They learn about how each member of the team is important to the outcome.

But sports aren’t everything. We can encourage sports and the arts. In fact I think that everybody in school should learn both. Have the jocks learn how to paint or play a saxophone. Have the artists learn how to play tennis or swim.

Arts and sports need to both be offered as team and individual options. There is a lot to be learned in working together and also in shining on your own. Basketball and being a gymnast should be equal. Playing in a symphony and painting a picture should be equal.

People need to learn as many ways to express themselves as possible. Humans have a lot of pent up energy in them that needs to get out. That energy is physical, emotional, mental, psychic, spiritual. We have many different parts to our personalities that need to be expressed. Communication isn’t just with words.

Perhaps when we get to this point that I see, we won’t have any more school violence. We also won’t have anywhere near the levels of depression and anxiety that we currently do.

But let’s not wait for the schools to do it. We don’t have to wait for committees to study this and funding to be allocated and lesson plans to be created. Let’s just do it on our own. Let’s do this from the ground up. Let’s start at home.

Let’s start an arts revolution right where we are. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Get some crayons and some paper. Buy a kazoo. Go to the dollar store or Goodwill or Big Lots and find inexpensive art supplies. Get a notebook and start writing. Make up a play. Sew a costume. Design a garden or a house.

It won’t look great at first. Nothing ever is. A child’s first steps are pretty wobbly. A first sketch is pretty wobbly too. Just keep doing it. The point isn’t the product. The point is the production. When you are making art, you are making yourself at the same time. The goal isn’t the painting or the sonata. The goal is the part of you that you found along the way.

This isn’t just for kids. Adults of all sorts will benefit too. I’m interested in all people learning to express themselves creatively. I’m a little more interested in getting kids to be exposed to the arts because it means that they will not be as self-conscious about it. They will learn that being creative is a normal part of being human and not an extra.

“Successful” vs. “Starving” artist.

Notice how unusual it is to say that someone is a “successful” artist. Usually they are a “starving” artist. You never have to say that someone is a successful doctor or successful engineer or a successful plumber. It is assumed that they are successful. But artist? It is assumed that an artist isn’t successful. It is assumed that they are scraping by, just barely making it.
Why don’t we put more value on art? I mean real art. Art that is one of a kind, not mass produced. Art that is so amazing that it doesn’t match your sofa and you don’t even care. Art that is so amazing that maybe you even buy a new sofa to match it instead of the other way around.
Real art is one of a kind, just like the artists. It takes time to make and it takes love. That is worth supporting.
When you buy original art, you aren’t just buying the materials. You are buying the artist’s time and dedication to her craft. In the same way an Olympic athlete has to train many hours to get good at what she does, an artist has to work many long hours to get good at her craft. Good artists, like good athletes just make it look easy. It isn’t.
Notice that very few people get art scholarships, and many people get athletic scholarships. What do we need more of, arts or sports? What lifts our spirits and helps us see beyond ourselves? What shows us how we are all connected? I’m not saying to get rid of sports. I’m saying that arts need to be equally supported.
So go buy some art today. Or better yet – go make some. Art is for everyone, and it makes us better people.