Many things have been said about creating art. Coming into college, I knew none of those things, and I am sure neither do a bulk of the first-year art students. So here is the very best of 3.25 years of art school in two columns.
You won’t find great ideas in the clouds. Ideas are not hiding somewhere, and you have to be a champion at hide-and-seek to find them. The best work comes from looking at and interpreting the world around you in your own way.
Taking ordinary things and making them into something more is what creativity is truly all about. Look at Andy Warhol “Campbell’s Soup Cans.” He took an ordinary, everyday object and made it iconic. Not that you should do that; in fact, you shouldn’t do that at all. That is a very bad example, but it is the best example for this. Do something more with your work. The best work takes the mundane and makes it unearthly.
Ideas come and go. What stays is worth creating. What goes is worth being written down. Every idea is not a good idea; in fact, most will suck. That’s just the way it is. A good idea does not necessarily mean a good piece will come from it; it just means that it is a good idea.
Write everything down. The worst thing is to have an idea or thought and lose it, so carry around paper. If it sticks out, write it down. Write it now and edit it later. If it cannot be written, then sketch it. If you can’t draw, take a picture with your phone, print it and attach it to your sketchbook.
Don’t just say you like it. Why do you like it? Is it the color, texture, composition, meaning? Figure out what you like so you can implement it in your own work. If you like it, someone else does too and likely for the same reasons.
If you like it, steal it. Now this isn’t to say you should blatantly copy it because you shouldn’t. In fact you shouldn’t copy anything; you should reference it. Good art references other good art. It comments on the world around us and interprets it.
Which brings me to another good point: Nothing is original. When you understand this, you will begin to make good art and get your head out of your ass.
This idea that nothing is original may be great news to some, but this does not mean you can go to the nearest museum and copy the first thing you see.
It means that there are no original thoughts. This means that others can take your ideas and make them their own. This also mean you can take their ideas and make them your own — creative commons. Now you may think this is wrong. Your ideas should be your ideas only. If you feel this way, then you might want to rethink. The buildup of today’s art culture is based upon the copying of ideas from generation to generation. Imitation is the ultimate compliment.
Good art is also accessible. Make an art piece about your family, and it will only be of value to your family. This is not to say do not make your work personal because you should; in fact, you should connect to the viewer on an emotional level. However do not make a work so personal that only those who know your story will understand it. Your work should first and foremost be about the aesthetics. If the piece is about balance, then it should clearly be about balance. If it is not, then tough shit — you did it wrong.
It’s nothing personal. Critiques are hard. Putting your work out there for others to judge is tough, but it’s not personal. The critiques are about your work not you. Let the critiques fire your drive not detour you.
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT cry in the critique.
Look sad or upset if you must, but DO NOT cry. It will make you look weak. Critiques are so you can hear the truth about your work. You need the truth, or else you will walk out with a piece that could have been much better if you could have taken the criticism.
If someone does not like your color choice, defend it. If someone says your proportions or lighting is off, shut up and take another look. If your professor makes a suggestion, for the love of all that is holy, do not argue. It tarnishes your reputation, and your professor loses respect for you.
Defend your work, but do not make the mistake of thinking it is perfect. It is not — no work is. No work is ever finished; there is just a point where you can no longer work on it. The professor is paid to help you, so shut up and let them help you.
Be passionate. If you are not passionate about art, then you have chosen the wrong thing to pursue.
If you are not passionate about your work, then you are doing it wrong; change mediums, change locations, change concepts, change something, because if you are not passionate about your work, then why should anyone else be?
Be devoted. Spend time on your work. Give it the amount the work deserves. Do not half-ass it. Do not pull it out of your ass.
Anything that comes from your ass will be crap and nothing else. If anyone says anything other than this, they are lying. If you are not going to do it right, then don’t do it at all. Create something that you are proud to stand beside, call your own and sign your name on.
Take care of yourself. Art is a physical as well as a mental process; you must stay healthy in order to work. Many are under the impression that good work comes from drug-induced stupors with lots of alcohol, sex and music. It doesn’t.
All it will get you is an early death and maybe a few children. Eat three meals and get a good night sleep. Stay up if you find sudden inspiration, but take care of yourself. Your body is a sanctuary; it gives out what you put in.
Everything you touch will not turn to gold. In fact, it won’t even be silver, at best bronze. You will make some incredibly bad work — like complete crap. But have no fear because you will rise from that pile of crap and learn from it.
I’m not suggesting that I have it all together, because I am nowhere close. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. These are the things I wished I’d known my freshman year.
So, here I am, a senior extending a helping hand to the class of 2019. We can all get by with a little help from our friends.