The prompt from WordPress today is this:
Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to? What does it say to you? Describe the experience. (Or, if art doesn’t speak to you, tell us why.)
Photographers, artists, poets: show us ART.
So, here’s what I think about the artist’s eye.
I’m always surprised and a little saddened when I hear someone say that they aren’t an artist or don’t “get it.” I suppose it’s at least in part because I have trouble imagining being any other way. I am hardwired to see patterns, light, shadow, colors and other arty terms almost before I see actual objects.
(YES, DRIVING CAN SOMETIMES BE A CHALLENGE!)
Each art class that I have taken has polished and refined that quality, but it really was already there. So when someone claims they don’t have that, I vacillate between disbelief that it’s even possible and curiosity at what that might be like. But I mostly come down on the side of disbelief or, at least, skepticism.
Because I don’t believe I’ve ever met a child that wasn’t an artist, that didn’t possess the “artist’s eye.”
As those children get older they enter the “critic’s eye.” Someone will tell them that the thing that they are painting or drawing doesn’t look like the thing it is supposed to be. AS IF THAT SOMEHOW IS IMPORTANT.
Gradually, that child will internalise that critic’s eye to the point where they believe it is theirs. They put away childish things and focus on artwork that skillfully recreates actual things*. Often to the detriment of their own vision.
I recently gave a short lesson to a class of 1st graders. It was about how to be an artist. We just did a short activity where we all had the same instructions (draw 4 straight lines, draw 3 circles, color in one circle. that sort of thing). At the end, even though we had the same instructions, every single one was different. This shows us that the artist and his decisions are the difference between art and, well, not-art.
Prior to my talk, I met with my friend (the teacher) to show her some projects and also loan her some books on art that I have. It was parent/teacher conference day and she was squeezing me in between two conferences. As I was zooming through my spiel, the next mom and kid showed up and watched what I was doing. I made the comment that every child is an artist. The mom said, “Yes. but are they good?”
Later, after the class activity, that same kid said something about his not being very good.
It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. And something that no 6 year old should ever think, let alone say.
I tell you this because, to me, art and artist’s eye is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, it weakens. But you can strengthen it. It doesn’t leave. There are exercises you can do to bring it back to life.
I often ask people if they have a favorite color. Or a least favorite color. This is your art muscle showing itself in its small way.
You have one.
Don’t let anyone tell you different.
*I love technically skilled artwork. I just think that it often gets too much attention in schools and young people’s education about art. There is plenty of room for every kind of art. Let’s try not to exclude whenever possible.