achievement in art

Many folks claim no creativity or talent, that it was beaten out of them by standardized testing and a right-handed world eons ago. My feeling is that everyone has artistic tendencies. Watch a really good teacher manage 24 kids and you know it's nothing less than artistic talent. Some people might call it organization or training (most artists wish they had more of both), but I call it talent. It's training to present material in an organized manner; it's art when the kids actually absorb it. It's an art to recognize those "teachable moments." Same with computer programmers and the guy giving back change at the ski resort. Anyone who thinks counting back change correctly doesn't take talent hasn't done it for eight hours straight.

I take a pragmatic approach to art--mine and others. Like a porn star's attitude toward sex, it can be fun, scintillating, and I looove my job. But it's a job. Work. And the nature of worthwhile work is to humble us. Once you've bastardized yourself by selling your art--left little pieces of your soul behind in exchange for coin--the nobility of the thing takes a beating. But that's not bad. I think it's necessary for success, neccessary to keep an artist firmly in place, because it's only from the bottom rungs of the ladder that we are still forced to climb.

Some art that reminds me to keep my own in perspective:

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey * oil on canvas * Delaroche * 1833

This is an immense painting that hangs in the National Gallery in London. I probably spent about twenty minutes on a bench studying it when I last saw it. Horrifying, yes? I find it the perfect juxtapostion of tragedy and beauty. I can easily call it my favorite painting, and I've seen a few.

House of Augustus * trompe l'oeil * 30 bc

This was a modest house on the Palatine for the man Octavian, great-nephew to Caesar, who would someday see his Republic turn into an Empire under his own reign as Emperor Augustus. They feature four rooms of frescoes, including theatre themes, animals, geometric graphics, columns, gardens, and even a comedy mask. They are stunningly beautiful examples of liveable, living art. They open to the public tomorrow, but only five people at a time will be allowed to view them. Can you imagine the lines? Can you imagine the feeling of that ancient art, still speaking to us after two millenia? 30 bc. Need I say more?

Never Summer Mountains * stone and flora * God * 24-27 million b.c.

And of course, my own stomping grounds: Rocky Mountain National Park and the giant mountains throughout. Just driving home from the mall I get a sense of how insignificant anything I could produce in my puny lifetime will be. I call myself fortunate to get such daily reminders. How can I top this? I always ask myself when I read something that moves me. How could I ever think to build something as magnificent as a mountain?

But great art doesn't stop me from producing my own; it keeps me from thinking it so important that I'm paralyzed by the thought of perfection. There's a freedom in viewing my own art without the blur of significance. The lack of gravity makes room for more joy. And it only makes it more worthwhile to recieve compensation--our culture's best commendation--for my art.

I like to think my paintings remind people to take a gander at the world around them, to enjoy a spot of beauty once in awhile. I like to think my books and stories will entertain, give respite, and tickle a reader's memory or idea.

What do you hope to achieve with your art?

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