This morning someone on social media wrote to me: „Oh, I wish you were here to teach me.“ To be honest, I do feel flattered. Being seen in my craft, in my love for life and art is my favorite compliment. And: I truly believe that YOU are the greatest teacher for your own art.
Isn’t it interesting about this abstract notion of „art“ that some of us believe it can be taught, it is taught, and it should be taught? And if you are not taught then - of course - you can’t be doing „art“. Or at least not the right way? This results in so much pain and shame.
The sad artist says:
„I am not an educated artist, so therefore, I am not an artist.“
The „humble“ capitalistic brainwashed artist says:
„I do not live from my art, so I am not an artist“ (So, Vincent wasn’t one?)
The one who suffered under their own education says:
„Unfortunately we can’t accept you to our group of professional artists because you have no education.“
The one who suffers under the perception of today's so-called „art world“ what art actually is, says:
„We cannot exhibit you because you have not exhibited in great places before“.
Wouldn’t it be nice, if people would support each other to go wherever they want to go?
When did that happen to humanity?
Over the centuries art has been so many things. A status symbol. An investment. A speculation object. A decoration. A way to spent time. A self-healing process. An outcry to the world to be seen and heard. An inspiration. A way of doing politics. A craft to earn money with. A tradition in the family.
I believe that art is what an artist does. A self-expression. A sacred digestive process, where the artist takes in the world with all their senses and then spits out something. And the viewer - if they wish to - can look at it, reflect in it and on it. And maybe find a new perspective. Or themselves.
(Of course, I do not think that this is the only and the „right“ definition. This is MY definition. And it does not steal the notion „artist“ from anyone who believes it is something else.)
Judgment, whether it comes from the in- or the outside does not help the artistic process - or the world.
Who is an artist? Maybe someone who thinks they are one and someone who does art? And yes, I know, the money in the fine art business is entwined with ticking all the right boxes. The right schools, the right galleries, or even the right mediums or „products“. That’s how capitalism works. Creating demands which are not there. Creating shortages that are not there. Inventing an all but original story. But are you in it (just) for the money?*
To me, it does not matter whether you (or I) fit into categories someone else made up. (And yes, of course, I also do feel the need to belong and the need to earn money. And if I don’t work with my shadows I might even buy into one of these unhealthy groups or ideas. But I try not to.)
„Why is it even important to label yourself?“ I hear from grown-ass artists. People who already arrived at a certain confidence. I also do understand the need to be seen as an artist and therefore call yourself one as part of the process to become who you want to be (and who you actually already are).
Maybe we can just stop putting people - artists - on pedestals. This feels just good for a short while for both sides and brings a lot of pain of „living up to“ something someone is expecting and pain of „not being good enough“ compared with someone else. If you admire, cherish or envy someone it’s just a sign of what you want to have more of in your life, I believe. And of course, it feels nice to be praised, but it also comes with just one side of the story. Afterwards you might feel pressured to live up to the picture someone else painted of you.
(I guess, I need to write an article about why I don’t like the idea of gurus and masters and such. Let me know, if you find this interesting. Maybe this is something for my coaching blog here: https://www.simonerichter.eu/blog)
My kind of teacher is a doula
If I could wish for something in regards to teaching art, I would wish for art teachers to be trained as artistic personality doulas (i.e. coaches) who help you with the birthing process of your art. And the birthing process of yourself. Ideally, they know why materials behave the way they do and what the chemical secrets of art are. And they hand out their technical, artistic, and human knowledge generously, not being afraid of someone potentially being or becoming better than they are. Great art teachers are inspired by their students. I am sure of that. And they also understand the personal struggles an artist goes through, and they can support personal growth as well.
But in the end, knowing intellectually how things are done does not shorten the process of being able to do it. It does not help to know the grammar of a new language, you have to start speaking it. Living it. And yes, you might be never on a native speaker's level. But what does it matter if you learn to express yourself better and better and while doing that finding your own way for expressing yourself.
So, if you want to be able to do something - whether this is art or something else - just start doing it. If you put your gift and your passion out there while creating you will grow in what you do. Growth is just a normal process in life. Let the whole life be your inspiration. And inspire yourself.
„Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly“
Maybe you have guessed it by now, I am a self-taught artist. Which means, that I did not go to an art school while still being inspired and taught by so many other artists of all kinds. And while I don’t think there is something wrong with going to art schools I also want to mention that most people I know who went to an art school say that they did not learn anything there. How sad is that?
Not to forget: A big shout out to all the teachers who teach with their hearts. Who freely teach their (he)art. Who are not worried that someone could „steal" their skill and who give the emotional and technical support and hold the room for those who want to grow. Maybe send them a note today, letting them know how they helped you become who you are today.
I heard that Russian art schools actually do teach a lot of techniques. In a forceful manner, they seem to destroy the lust, the passion of an artist by squeezing them into a „this is the way it’s done“ costume. My experience with art universities is that students basically copy their teachers. To get good grades, I guess. But who needs another Picasso, Rembrandt, Schiele. They already gave their bit. I’d be interested in yours!
What’s the point in doing art, when it is not YOUR gift, YOUR expression, YOUR interpretation you bring to the world? If you want to find a way to earn money you can find easier ways of doing that.
But if you feel the call, if you feel by looking at what others have done that this reminds you of yourself, that you would love to express yourself like that, then go ahead, grab your brush or instrument or device of your art and do it. I am looking forward to seeing more of you.
*money: And yes, it would be also nice to explore what kinds of lifestyles are out there which involve earning money with art. So if I have the opportunity to do a paid artistic job, is that a lifestyle I want to live? And how do I take care of my inner artist, the expression of myself? How do I not forget why I was doing art in the first place. As soon as you earn money with something you kind of depend on the market. On a way of delivering. And only a few have the luck of just doing themselves and still receive the money they need to make a living. My perspectives on earning money with art I will discuss further in another article. So if you find this interesting, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Inspiring video about where inspiration comes from:
My all-time favorite book recommendation (don’t just read it, do it)
Julia Cameron: The artist’s way