Friday, May 7, 2010

Living With The Consequences Of Not Being An Artist
I'm asking myself a relevant question with the title of this post... And it's because I've recently read something that made me think carefully about it. 

The first thing I had to mull over was what art meant to me, and that is something I periodically examine as its an important issue for me.  It's a question that most artists (if not all) end up wrestling with periodically...

So I sat down to consider that age old question and I've found some answers that fit my psyche. 

When I paint, I do so to express something within my soul that needs to come out.  I know that probably sounds a bit hokey, but there it is!

Many times, I lose myself in the act of painting and time flies by without me being aware of it.  That's an almost meditative state for me. 

Real art, not just the flexing of the muscles of your skills for the sake of it, comes from the soul and has some sort of impact on the audience.  If it connects that is... 

Sometimes, I really think that part of the process depends on where the viewer is at, they may not be able to understand the 'language' that the artist is speaking.

So to me, art is a different language that has no rosetta stone and no words to it.  It can have clear cut meanings, but usually good art has layers of metaphor and subtlety to it that can be interpreted in many ways by the viewer.  And that can also mean that the audience can have a slightly different experience each time they view that artwork. pushes the boundaries of not only the viewer, but lives outside of the comfort zone of the artist as well...  Good art isn't the same as everyone else's art, it isn't easily classifiable or interpreted, it challenges the viewer and can often bother them or hit them on a visceral level.

I've mentioned before in previous posts that I started out as a portrait artist.  And I started selling portraits when I was just sixteen years old and not really settled into my own identity...  It made me very uncertain about my own boundaries with regards to my art and also very malleable on what I would draw for others...  I was a very gifted artist, so my portraits were very realistic and my customers loved them. 

But over the years, I ended up seeing many different scenarios as to what people wanted and how the art was treated.  I learned that I was actually a conduit for producing a commodity'How would this fit in my living room; can you put in more blues and greens so it goes with my sofa;  it should be bigger/smaller;  no I don't want them in profile'...

In time I felt like I was just slamming them out with no real room for creativity or changes in composition, and basically, no real artistic input allowed from me, the 'artist'! 

It really killed my enjoyment of the art itself, as it became a job, and a chore, something I didn't really do for my own enjoyment anymore.  The end result of the process was that I just about killed my own love of art expression with twenty years of portraiture.
Last year I did a portrait, probably the first one in over fifteen years just to see how it felt. 

And I was very, very surprised to find that time can heal, if you're patient...

Although I wouldn't ever return to commissioned realistic portraits, it was fun to flex those muscles again.  Just to see if they still existed!

And even though the finished product you see is really nice to look at and my friend and his wife loved to have a portrait of their children... I don't call it art.

I'd classify what I did above as the product of a technical skill on my part.  I'm not truly expressing myself, there are no layers of complexity and metaphor to the piece and it's just a record of that point in the development of those kids.  A good photographer could do the job here, it's just a novelty to see it in pencil format. consequences of my earlier foray into an art 'career' were that I stunted my own creativity and exploited my own technical skills without any real idea of what it would do to me psychologically. 

The consequences of this were that I literally turned away from identifying myself as an artist and quit following that career path.  I lived my life the same way as everyone else did, marriage, children, career, and in my case, divorce and so on...

As I went through the stages of my life, the art started coming back in quiet ways...  I had started doing surrealistic drawings in my early teens and since I never ever sold or marketed that type of artwork, it was a safe haven for my creativity. 

Over time, I moved away from realism and my expression flowed into surreals and abstracts...  And as that happened, I found I could include portraits of a sort in some of my pieces, since I now had creative control and the faces melded into the art to express my personality within my art.  Much like a window into my own soul.
The upside of that coin is that I felt I had to discover my art from within myself, not through external sources or influences.. I was on a personal mission to hone my style and focus it into something truly meaningful for me personally.  I slowly started pushing my own boundaries and definition of what I would create...   As I did that, I found out that I regained something I thought I had lost; the joy of just creating art.

Don't get me wrong;  I was lost, really, really lost; but I figured out that I had to find my answers on my own, without commercial pressure to produce a product, or copy someone else's expression...

And that's what I ended up doing. 

I've been surfing the Internet lately and looking at different websites, checking out what other artists have created, and I've noticed that my art doesn't look like anyone else's.  I'm happy with that, because at the very least, I'm truly only expressing my soul, and that is what art really means to me!

Images - artwork by Teresa Young:
1. Unnamed Glass Art - May 2010,  2. Fractal Node - Sep.2001,  3. Suspended Dehydration - Oct.2001,  4. Portrait of the Diehl Children - Nov.2009,  5. Unnamed Abstract - Jun.2002,  6. Unnamed Glass Art - May 2010.

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SF Girl said...

Teresa I do love your art! And, rest assured, it is different and truly unique and expressive.

Great post. A wonderful, genuine and courageous post. And it speaks eloquently to what art means to an artist.

A quote by one of my favorite authors, Isaac Asimov, comes to mind and is every bit as relevant to any other artist as to the writer: "I write for the same reason that I breathe; if I didn't, I would die."

Dalifan said...

Thank you Nina;-) I am truly honoured by your opinion!

The quote by Asimov is one I've known by heart since my early teens, I've always felt that he truly captured how I personally feel about painting... Thank you for mentioning it in this context.


muzuzuzus said...

I LOVE your art. It feels very much what I do when I draw---which is use flowing line etc...
When I went to artschool I did quite large pieces on the ground on unstretched canvas.
When I left art school I suddently realized i n would need space and when I realized this would mean a crap job and onto cold studio I copped out!
I also had had rejections which I dont like, even though I had said over and over Lmust deal with that, cause its part OF it---i didn't

SPACE--had never thought about that.

But can you kill the creativity in my soul? No---it comes out other ways. When I do my blog that is creativity

When I dance, when I play guitar (am learning it again :)), sing

I wasn't crazy abou the 'art world' neither, and was ecstatic finding this documentary which sang my song with its words images and argument

(OH shit---I went to youtube to link you to this great BBc documentary called Why Beauty Matters, but they have taken it down. I HATE that---these orgs are So copyright paranoid--they make me sick!)

The docu. totally decontructs the pretentious 'pm art world' with its ideas ideas ideas, and shows how empty and ugly most of its art and artists is are. It is a lot of 'look at MEEEE!!!'

Heres a typical example that happened at art school----The BA was more modernist (which actually that doc. slams as well) but the MA part was very post modern

Now one day there was this guy who came to do a lecture--David Tucker whose written about shamanism in modern art etc titled Dreaming With Open Eyes
I was really looking foreward to it. One of the MA students came round asking who wanted to go to a lescture about FOOTBALL TURF (this is no lie) and THAT leecture was jam packed whilst the amazing one by David only had me and a few other BA students and ALL the BA tutors

Guess what, I heard the football turf lecture was as boring as ...footbal turf. Surprise surprise, and very very odd!

oi! said...

Those are very beautiful pictures! I loved the portrait best.

Dalifan said...

Thanks Muzuzuzus! Glad you enjoyed the article;-) I agree with you that the creativity finds other ways to surface and express itself.

For me though, I think art is my primary channel as I am most creative there. Thank you for looking up the youtube video, too bad it wasn't there it would have been interesting...

I would have definitely attended the lecture, not the football game! But art is my major interest, of course!


Dalifan said...

Thanks oi;-)

oi said...

oh that is ironic. I did not read your article before I posted the last comment. just looked at the paintings. I hope you are not offended by my opinion. I liked the other paintings, I did, but the portrait was the first to draw my attention.
Your post reminded me of Howard Roark!

Dalifan said...

Actually, it's pretty funny as well! LOL!

Thanks again, Teresa;-)

muzuzuzus said...

"I would have definitely attended the lecture, not the football game! But art is my major interest, of course!"

It was about *painting* football turf.
As in on canvas.....

Dalifan said...

Sorry, I reread your comment and realized I peter pipered things there. I'm ADHD, so by evening, I can intend to say something and by the time I get to putting it down on paper, it can get mixed up as to details!

BBC --> Youtube
Football lecture --> football game.

Sigh, it's like that old joke about forgetting what you were talking about between rooms! Happens all the time.

But I did like your comment, just lost the details!


muzuzuzus said...

I am sad to hear you think of yourself as 'ADHD'. I believe that is a toxic myth imposed on children as social control.
I have an aritlvce that goes into this and the mental illness myth in general--unfortunately i cannot even find it myself clicking the archives on my blog, I had to type its title in Google which is 'Scientology, Antipsychiatry, and Psychedelic Healing'

Dalifan said...

Hi Muzuzuzus,

That's fine, you can believe whatever you want, I'm not one to get in the way of personal rights and freedoms. But I'm going to do the same thing. It's not an issue with me, I view it as an input/output disorder and something external, not a disability.

Of course, I've read extensively on it and no, I am not self-diagnosed, so don't bother to pity me as a hypochondriac;-) And mood disorders such as ADD, ADHD, PDD, and autism are not myths when you deal with people that actually have them, you might realize this if you had to deal with it on a daily basis.

Have a good day!

SF Girl said...

Well, Muzuzuzus, ADHD is alive and well in North America--medicated or not... :)

You might find my post on Alien Next Door, but particularly the comments to it, interesting regarding ADHD, percepetions of "normality" even mental illness...

Language is so important here. It defines our acceptance of our own diversity, cultures, beliefs, etc.

Here is the post on Alien Next Door, entitled "Hitting a Moving Target--What is Normal?"

muzuzuzus said...


I sense I may have upset you saying my views. I didnn't mean to. I Do know I have got into a lot of hot water with people when I challenge the myth of mental illness--mostly misunderstanding because they assume I mean 'myth' as in I am implying that they are not suffering what they claim to be---that I am saying it doesn't exist. I am not saying that.

Understand I am not trying to get into some endless debate with you about this, I am just making it clear where I am coming from. From there I have spoken my case.

An example--a child doesn't concentrate in school, is fidgity and causes a riot. NOW s/he most likey--if this persists--be labelled 'ADHD' which as you and me know but other might not means 'attention deficit hyperactivity disorder', and then they will often get put on drugs.

Well there is no actual medical test for this so-called disorder. School itself is NOT questioned---ie., the whole artifical enforced unnnatural freaking schooling system gets off the hook--NONE it seems questions that. But many poor kids who hate it, and are full of energy are targeted as not fitting in. Same at home---many parents say they cant cope with their kids. RARELY is THAT situation as a whole looked at---which includes the culture.

*I will just leave you with this recommended book that goes into this in deapth and exposes the lie of 'ADHD'. it is up to you whether or not you check it out:
The ADHD Fraud: How Psychiatry Makes Patients "Of Normal Children"
By Fred A. Baughman

(sorry about the LONG address) :)

Dalifan said...

Hi Muzuzuzus,

I'm not upset, I just want to point out that there are two pieces to this. First off, your first statement was 'I am sad to hear you think of yourself as 'ADHD'.'.

The tone of the statement questions my intelligence and on some level my sanity... To point out that I think of myself in this group in the context you used it is to question my perceptions and beliefs.

The second part of the comment stream is your opinion that mental illness is a myth... Well, unfortunately, you should look up the word 'myth' and reevaluate that phraseology. To call something a myth is to imply it's a fantasy with some possible roots in reality and this does trivialize it on some level. No wonder you get some sort of backlash reactions to that.

I've read a lot of books and done my own research, and I live in a different part of the globe than you do so the parameters are different than you paint in your last comment. While our school system did originally fall prey to categorizing hyperactive children as you describe, and some teachers encouraged parents to take their children to doctors to get diagnosed... About twenty years ago that was brought out into the light of day here in Canada and it has not been the case for years.

When I was working on a masters degree in engineering fifteen years ago, I did a term project that involved showing the MRI data done at that time on brain structure and how the oxygenation in the brain appeared differently for people diagnosed with ADD under stressful conditions than it did with people in a control group that did not have the disorder. I was doing a lot of questioning myself, and seeing obvious data that supported a lack of oxygen in the brain in the people with the disorder did a lot for me to form a basis for what I would believe. No definitive test, I know, as it would be expensive to MRI each possible case, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Ironically enough, I do believe ADD was over diagnosed in the schools, and I also think it can be a copout, making things too easy for people who should be able to take responsibility for themselves and their actions... But I do also realize that there are a kernal of individuals that do have the disorder and I refuse to lump them into the other group.

Nothing is black and white in this world. Nothing. There are shades of grey everywhere and to call a single group a fraud is an oversimplification and too easy as well.


Dalifan said...

I just did a google search on MRI + ADHD and came back with this link that discusses the scientific basis using data from MRI.

The title of the scientific article is 'Brain Scan Reveals Physiology of ADHD'.