A while back I stopped thinking of myself as a technician and started thinking of myself as an artist. This came around the point at which I had gotten enough of a handle on my techniques as to feel the overwhelming need to do something personal and creative with them.
As time wore on and I had conversations with my incredibly artistic wife I started to turn over in my mind the question of what exactly art is, and how I can get better at it.
What I came up with was this:
This post will discuss why I define art this way and why it matters to me. All of the content here is my own, and was not copied or borrowed from anyone else. Feel free to read this as my opinion on the matter, but don’t read much more into it than that.
So put simply:
Art is creativity expressed through technical means.
The reason I love this definition so much is because of both what it allows in and what it excludes.
I’ll start at the beginning.
Art requires creativity.
Creativity is as it sounds. It is the creation of something new. If there is no creativity then there is only repetition of things before, and rote repetition is not art. A mass manufactured bottle churned out by a machine is as much not art as the original design for the first one is. Plagiarism is also not art unless it required creativity beyond what the original creator did in order to replicate it exactly.
Art requires a medium.
Art requires translation from one individual to others in order to exist. It needs a medium. Without a medium you don’t have art, you only have a dream. Dreams and thoughts are important, but alone they don’t constitute art.
A medium can consist of anything from words to paint to physical movement to sounds to ones and zeroes. The only concrete requirement for a medium is that it be observable by others. Some art exists in multiple mediums simultaneously, but all art requires at least one medium in order to exist as an actual work.
Manipulation of mediums requires technique.
There is a craft that comes before the art can arise. Whether in sounds or images or piles of dirt or pencil and paper, the prospective artist begins the artistic journey as a technician. The more refined the artists technique in manipulating the medium, the more fully and truly the creative ideas can be expressed through that medium to others. The less refined the technique, the more frustrated the artist.
Well, if I now consider myself an artist I need to be able to evaluate the art of those around me as well as to do the things that will make me a better artist tomorrow than I am today.
Now that I have in my head what I believe to be the building blocks of art, I can begin to pursue some specific things that will make the art that I do better and at a faster rate than those who don’t think about these things.
I naturally gravitate towards the technique side of the artistic equation, and by recognizing that in myself I can do things like force some creative endeavors here and there, and also measure myself objectively against the technical achievements of my peers.
I also just enjoy art generally, so now that I have it defined more clearly in my head I feel like I’m able to look at things like computer programs and paintings and guitar performances and every part of a film (acting, makeup, dialogue, set dressing, lighting, cinematography, foley, sound design, mix, location, coloring, etc) and say “Man, that’s really great art” and know what I really mean by it.
So there it is, my definition of art. I like it and I’m sticking by it. In the future I may discuss the way I measure high art vs low art.