So, You Want to be an Artist? (Art and Being Authentic)
‘Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known’ Oscar Wilde in his essay, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism'.
When I was ten, like every other parent, my mother enrolled me in a multitude of classes ranging from Bharatnatyam to swimming, hoping I would find my thing, a prodigy in the making. One of these classes, of course, was art. My art teacher lived down the road from our apartment complex, a brief ten minutes’ walk that gave us 10-years-olds an overwhelming sense of freedom since we made those trips on our own. ‘Capture the essence! Where are you? All I see are pencil strokes.’ would always echo off the walls while the lot of us sat in the stuffy summer heat of her home, every Thursday. As a child, hearing these words on a weekly basis left me extremely confused. I always wondered if it was because she did not like my drawings but it didn’t cause me enough anguish for me to brood over past those walls. I was there because this was part of the schedule my mother made for me. It took a couple of years for me to understand what she meant by where ‘I’ was in these drawings. She was referring to my ‘pizzazz’, something that was authentic to me and only me.
What is authenticity? Julia Christensen, a senior research fellow at Max Planch Institute, described it as ‘the true self (that) is genuinely present, unmuffled, and visible to anyone who cares to look’. How can you foster this authenticity? There is no hard and fast rule. Some may find it in nature or in looking inwards, accepting the burden of freedom and choosing how to act. Some may find it in God, in religion. What matters is how you define authenticity. This requires you to answer the big question: What makes you YOU? Now, this entails the difficult part of facing the rusty, unpolished crevices in your armour and screaming ‘THIS is who I am’. That’s the first step to finding your ‘pizzazz’.
The next step is telling what you know best. You cannot create art with an inspiration not stemming from your life. You cannot capture pain without experiencing its magnitude. Like Louise Bourgeois rightly said, ‘Tell your own story and you will be interesting’. So, yes, an element of authenticity requires you to step out and live. Indian artist Atul Dodiya found his element of authenticity intricately woven with the bustling energy of Bombay. Singaporean artist, Yin Chua, found it in spirituality achieved through meditation. What perfectly encapsulated her tranquility was by playing around with oil and water colours. Her goal is for her paintings to capture peace and exude self-love so accurately that it should be the only thing the viewer feels long after moving past her painting.
Given the whole list of hurdles an artist has to cross to achieve commercial & professional success, one aspect that will certainly keep them on track is Being Authentic.
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