Last week I did something for the first time. I entered the “comment stream” of a review on Amazon.
I went on Amazon to check the status of a book several peers in the design industry had recommended and found a snobby, snarly “Who told you you know anything about art,” review with a single star. In the review the reviewer validated everything she knows about art with all the initials that she’s earned. And she warns, WARNS, readers to steer clear of this book for the body image drawings are not anatomically correct. This made me smile. I thought briefly about my own body for the last thirty years and mused that it hadn’t been anatomically correct either, but it was still my body!
The point of this book was not to offer Master’s level courses in still life and body drawing. But rather to inspire and encourage people who had been discouraged from doing anything artful to try their hand at something creative. The warning ended ominously by announcing that this author needed a lot more practice (and training) before she was qualified to teach. And sharing the line from the children’s fable, “Remember the lesson of the Emperor’s new clothes.” Making art has been one of the joys of my life. And I was told early on that I had no talent for it. No sense of color. I understand now that those sentences meant, “You are not skilled at replicating the models we have put in place for you, as a student, to copy.” In my life time I’ve discovered that I WAS very skilled at expressing a line in my unique way. And that’s all that I’ve ever asked of the art that I’ve created, either for the industry or for my own personal use. I’ll be exploring this concept more in the weeks to come: Personal Authority. My art met the criteria of my personal authority.
Also in the weeks to come I’ll be introducing another artist to you by the name of Carmen Torbus. FYI – she’s got no BA or MFA in art, but she DOES have an INSPIRED HEART (no acronym, just a bunch of Capital Letters for EMPHASIS). Her first book is called THE ARTIST UNIQUE. Her greatest joy is to inspire timid creatives to get out their art stuff and just make a mess and see what they discover. But, I digress. Back to the comment in the book review comment stream:
Here’s what I wrote:
Several Professional Artists have recommended this publication to me. And I am anxiously awaiting its arrival from Amazon.
Here’s a familiar question I have encountered all my life, “WHO TAUGHT YOU THAT?”
Commentary such as this comes out of a highly academic path. Committed academics are much like believers of rigid dogma. Unless one has learned from the masters, their knowing is not considered viable. “Self taught” becomes a pejorative rather than an exclamation.
ART that enlivens a soul is about discovery, fearlessness and willingness. Assessments such as this one call to mind the red pen of the teacher that stripped many of their capacity to write or to create. “My freshman art teacher told me I had no talent or capacity and so I’ve never tried again.” Of course there is academic precision. OF COURSE! We need precision. We need the “masters,” and those who obey the rules of the masters. And we also need gentle inspiring souls who have the courage to step outside the lines of convention and invite “ordinary” people to experience the EXTRAordinary sensation of creating/making art.
I will also end this comment celebrating education and independent discovery, BOTH. And perhaps I will also admonish, “Remember the story of the boy and the Emperor’s new clothes.” One sentence spoken by two different individuals, with completely different meanings. Just like art. It’s never just “a line,” when it’s YOUR line.