Art is Art, Part 2
Last week, I expressed some of my intentions behind one of the most controversial pieces I’ve posted on social media. The point of that piece was not to make people mad, nor to get cheap likes.
‘ART IS ART’, scrawled in capital letters with an acrylic marker over one of my acrylic landscape paintings, was a deliberate statement designed to spark an important conversation about the nature of art.
Last week, I mainly focused on how it’s important to have a childlike sense of play and experimentation when you’re making art.
Not only will that make art more fun, but it will free you from the fear of judgment that keeps so many artists from exploring their real potential.
Please go read that blog if you haven’t because that idea is so central to everything I do! I still feel like a carefree child when I create and I want every other artist out there to experience the same freedom.
This week, I’d like to focus on another aspect of what I meant when I wrote ‘ART IS ART’ in all caps, and that meaning is that:
Art is a Journey, Not a Product.
I think we need to remind ourselves sometimes that nothing is permanent.
Leaves fall off of trees in the Autumn, our favorite clothes wear out, and even we ourselves are only on this planet for a limited time.
That might seem like a scary thought at first, but I think it’s actually very comforting and freeing. Let me try and explain what I mean by that.
I personally believe that the more attached we get to things as they are, the more we prevent them from growing into something better.
Growth is a natural process that we can see in nature: reptiles shed their old skin, caterpillars cocoon themselves so they can become butterflies. Everything lets go of the old so that it can transform into the new.
Can you imagine if that caterpillar decided she was too attached to being a caterpillar and refused to cocoon?
She’d be depriving herself of the chance to join her friends in flight as beautiful butterflies. She’d be missing out.
Art is no different. We get so attached to the idea of a painting that we forget the beautiful process and journey that led to that painting. The journey started before that painting, and will continue after it.
The painting itself is just a postcard from a stop along the journey.
Yes, there are economic realities of art. I want to acknowledge that. Many artists, myself included, pay some or all of their bills by selling art. But ultimately where is the value? Your value as an artist comes from WITHIN!
It’s the years of practice you’ve put into your craft. It’s the unique way you see the world. It’s your unique life experience. You can’t see or touch the true essence of an artist; it comes from your soul, put there by God.
It is for that reason that I want you to remember that as artists, we are not products! We are not corporations or brands.
Yes, I have a brand that I use to pay my bills, teach people, and spread my message of encouraging creativity, but the brand is not the core of what I do.
The core of what I do is art itself, the creative gift that God gives us all.
Making money from your art does not diminish that gift, as long as you don’t make the money or the paintings themselves the whole point.
The point is celebrating God’s gift, celebrating beauty and nature and what it means to be alive.
The business around that just enables us as artists to have more freedom to keep doing what we love, while allowing someone else to have something beautiful to brighten up their space.
So at the end of the day, a painting is just a painting.
A beautiful painting is a nice thing that brightens a room or makes you feel something when you look at it, but it is just a snapshot of a certain point in an artist’s journey.
I think that by detaching from the idea of a painting as a product like a couch or a blender or a pair of shoes, we can better appreciate its meaning as part of the artist’s larger journey and our own journeys through life.
That is also why I’ve been so comfortable painting over old works in the past.
The old work was beautiful in its own way, but sometimes I don’t want to cling to old versions of myself as an artist. My ideas change, develop, and grow.
I can appreciate the old work as an important stepping-stone to where I am now, but I’m ready to try new ideas and experiments.
I can always take a photo of the old work and keep it on the Internet as documentation of where I’ve come from, but beyond that, I don’t want to just keep trying to recreate the past.
Like the butterfly, I think as artists and as people, growth is a beautiful and natural thing and inevitably involves leaving behind old versions of yourself.
I think the more willing you are to move on to new things as an artist, the more your creativity will flourish, because you are honoring this natural process.
So to bring it all together, when I wrote ‘ART IS ART’ in stark black over the top of my colorful acrylic painting, a big part of what I wanted to do was cast off all the ideas that get attached to what it means to be an artist, and to get back to the art itself.
I am not a product, I am not a brand. I’m just a regular person like you who’s figuring out his own path through life and art.
I could be nothing more than a brand if I wanted to. I could pump out landscape paintings every week and give the majority of people exactly what they want. I could then turn around and sell those paintings and make lessons out of them - if making money was my objective, I could be doing a lot more than what I am now.
But that is not my path. That is not what art is about. ART IS ART; it’s about the journey.
It’s about the act and joy of creation. It’s about honoring that divine spark of creativity inside of all of us by constantly challenging ourselves to learn and grow and make a bigger positive impact on others.
The fact that I have this large platform that you’ve all given me makes it all the more important for me to spread that message.
ColorByFeliks is the livelihood of me, my wife, and our future family one day. So there are real stakes when I do things like this that cost me followers and income. But I can promise you this: I am not in this for the money or the follower count. I am in it to spread a message.
I was making art back when I worked at the wastewater treatment plant, and I will still be making art even if the ColorByFeliks brand goes away for some reason.
I have great peace and joy in this mindset: knowing that at the end of the day, it’s all about the artistic journey itself. It’s about the joy of art and spreading that joy to as many people as possible.
Art is a journey, not a product. ART IS ART!
Replying to Your Comments
Now, I’d like to specifically address some comments, both positive and critical. I welcome both kinds, as I think it can lead to deeper discussion and insight for everyone! I’ve paraphrased these comments from the original post:
“This seems like such a waste. Why not give away the painting instead? I’d be happy to have it.”
I take it very seriously that you guys have given me the privilege of having such a large platform on social media. I want to use that platform to spread messages that encourage people to move beyond their fears and discover the joy of making art.
I think that modifying this work in front of everyone had a much greater impact at sparking that conversation than simply giving a painting to one person.
As I mentioned before, the impact would not have been the same if I’d written over a quick doodle. It had to be a time-consuming landscape.
And by the way: photos of the original still exist online, including literally hundreds of gorgeous versions made by your fellow artists who took the tutorial. The painting exists now as a multitude, not just my one canvas.
These paintings belong to the community, and I love seeing you use my tutorials as stepping stones on your own artistic journeys, as well as seeing how you bring your own unique point of view to the work!
“He’s just doing this for attention.”
You’re absolutely right, but I think it’s a different kind of attention than you imagine.
Like I said above, I want to use my platform to get as many people as possible liberated from wrong ideas of art that restrict them and keep them in fear and self-doubt.
Art is not about talent, nor the time it takes to make a work, nor how realistic it is.
Art comes from the soul and from God and is an act, not a destination.
If modifying one of my works in that dramatic way was the best way to bring attention to that message, then I was going to do it. I wanted attention on that message, not attention for attention’s sake.
“I think this work means that it's not about what others around you think of your decision to paint or draw. It's your art, not theirs.”
That is an awesome interpretation and very true!
I would say that art is communal and meant to be shared, but at the same time that people have a tendency to think that they “own” an artist or are entitled to a certain kind of work from them.
Ironically, the more an artist stays true to themselves and doesn’t listen to outside pressure, the more EVERYONE wins.
This is because the audience is getting work that is the product of freedom, joy, experimentation, and growth, not fear and limitation.
“Try to look beyond him "messing it up" and to the feeling that he's trying to convey.”
You nailed it! Only a very small segment of art is focused on representing things in a 100% photorealistic way as they appear in real life.
Even in realistic paintings like my landscapes, I am bringing my own interpretations of colors and textures and letting my imagination bleed into the work. That is because art is about communicating a feeling, and in some cases that feeling can be a specific message.
In this case, that message was “Art is Art,” which as I’ve explained in these two blog posts, can have a lot of meanings. But those are meanings that I am passionate about and so I made the addition to the work in a spirit of love, with the desire to get you, the viewer, to feel the joy I feel about the process of making art and being free in the act of creation.
Whew! That was a lot to be said about one quick sentence written in marker!
Thanks for sticking with me while I unpacked my thoughts these past two weeks and I hope you feel inspired to make some art and to feel joyful while doing it, because that’s my ultimate message:
Be free, be creative, and remember that art is art!