A lot has been said of art being self-expression, and that’s not really true. It can be, but the diary of an angst-ridden 15 year old girl is self-expression, too, and that’s not art. If art is any one thing, it’s sensory communication of an idea. That idea might be self -expressive, but it might not.
Artists are not born, any more than brain-surgeons and accountants are. While the skills to communicate an idea might come more easily to some than others, it takes years to build the arsenal of skills necessary to capably communicate; to become fluent in the language of sensory communication.
I am an artist, but I am also an artisan; a skilled craft person. I don’t consider my jewelry to be art, although there are many metal artists who make jewelry which most definitely is. The difference? Theirs is idea-driven, and mine is not. Certainly, many of the skills I learned in my art education are applicable in my metal studio, but what I produce is decorative, and decorative is very rarely art.
Which brings me to the question I’ve been asked on many occasions since I began goldsmithing: What about your painting? And I’d have to answer, “you know I’m a bit neurotic, right?”
It comes back to this: art as communication of an idea. Well, to communicate someone must begin, and others must respond, right? The difference between an artist and a hobbyist is that one is communicating, and one is creating for themselves. One is engaging in an act with others, the other is engaging in creative masturbation. I can communicate, but do I want to? Yes, but……
Several years ago I was at a crossroads, and had to decide what would make me and my family the happiest, and I chose goldsmithing. While I had a lot of faith in my artistic skills, there was a very introverted person inside of me who would have gone batshit insane if she needed to continue to make painting the center of her life; to make a living from painting and the extroverted communication it required. While I’m compelled to communicate visually, extroversion exhausts me. However, if I didn’t need to make a living from painting, then the crushing pressure to expose and communicate ideas was no longer bearing down upon me, and I could approach communication at my own speed.
By removing painting as the central path and making it a side path, I hoped to become a better painter, a better artist. By being gentle with my gift and my skills and myself, I believe my painting is becoming stronger, and that is incredibly important to me.
Working for myself has its own challenges, and selling something I create can certainly make me a bit neurotic at times. I’m proud of what I make, and I constantly question whether what comes out of my studio is the absolute best it can be, sometimes excessively so. But, these short-lived moments of neurosis are nothing compared to what I’d be living with had my focus remained painting.
I’ve picked the gentler poison.