What makes art art?

This evening I had a wonderful conversation with a lovely young lady at the 5 ‘n’ dinner. I had decided to treat Keith as I had a little extra money this paycheck for something fun. The way to his heart is food, and he jokes around on being a kept man and using his sugar momma money…lol.

Anyway… our waitress, a kind, energetic young woman(with fantastically fun hair, I might add) had served Keith with his desert along with an apology about how the whipped cream looked. Apparently she had to grapple with the can as it was not cooperating. – I think we’ve all been there! We had a brief conversation about art in which I stated something along the lines of “It looks like a beautiful work of art to me”. I then went on with my usual art quote about how art is not art because you like it but because it moves you in some way. She had no way of knowing that what she dismissed as whipped cream craziness reminded me of the joys of shaving cream.

Shaving cream?! Really? Strange, I know… but, my mother used to color shaving cream and let me paint the bathtub walls with it during my baths. I created so many magical, fluffy worlds with that shaving cream paint… I can’t help but relate whipped cream to those memories. Whipped cream – fun, fluffy, an important part of any bright desert. This is most certainly comparable to shaving cream creations… surely!

Regardless, this young woman, a high school or collage student, has all the potential in the world. She and others like her are only now beginning to see the possibilities that their life can hold. She seemed so interested in the topic of art. Many are. Unfortunately, many are discouraged from their creative interest, and grow up forgetting about the joys and possibilities within our imaginations, easily accessed during our childhoods.

“Art is not art because you like it. Art is art because it moves you in some way.”

The point here is that I think a lot of folks, artists and non artists alike struggle with what art actually is(although some would argue that they have everything figured out).

Even as I paint I think to myself “Is this art?” or “Is this good enough?”. But what is art really? What is it that makes us like or dislike it… and why does an overwhelming majority of the population think art is not art when it is not likable? Personally, I feel that anything and everything can be considered a work of art. In my experience, art is an accident or “a happy accident” as Bob Ross often said… but it is also very much planned out and executed with precision. “Bad” art is art that still serves a purpose. Even thrown out art has meaning.

One of the main references I hear when one is critiquing their skill is something along the lines of “I can only draw stick people”. This, honestly, means nothing to me and doesn’t define whether someone is capable of “art” or not. Although I’m not an art history expert, the Japanese, for centuries, experimented with lines and color in such a way that the beautiful results hold a special place in history and in museums and personal collections today.

In fact, not only do I slightly cringe inside when I hear “I can’t even draw stick people”, but I am slightly saddened that so many folks are uneducated about the potential that the arts hold and the potential held within those tiny little scribble stick people. I always ask those folks why they think stick people wouldn’t be considered art. The answer I usually get is “Well…  no one likes stick people… they are just stick people.”

… and here, we made a full circle.

Art is art if it moves you in some way. Who says this “way” must be up? Art brings us up, it brings us down, it reminds us of our treasured childhood memories, it reminds us of our worst night mares… it even brings out the best or worst in us as a kind of personal therapy. We may not like a piece because it reminds us of our great aunt Gertrude’s home decor… BUT, that still stirs something. It still moves us. It is still art.

I think that certain elements of society and some notable artists make art out to be this unreachable, untouchable thing… this goal that nobody but the best can achieve. My question is WHY? Why don’t we encourage young people to experiment with non-traditional art techniques? Why do we discourage stick people as being beneath “art”? Why do we pretend that in order to be an artist, you must have some sort of out-worldly mind?

Being that I am a digital art and design graduate and not exactly trained in the traditional world of classic art, I know that I don’t have much to stand on in way of my opinions in regard to this topic, but skill training aside, weren’t some of the most iconic and memorable artists throughout history recognized(or scrutinized in many cases) for their out of the box thinking? Didn’t they take risks and experiment in ways that were not known or encouraged that resulted in their cemented place in history?

Indeed… everyone needs to learn skill and gain knowledge in regard to anything they wish to pursue. We all need a foundation in which to grow. But, as a society, we have got to stop discouraging folks that are interested in pursuing the arts. We have got to stop checking off disliked or undesired art as a lack of potential and we must start seeing the small glimmers of purpose and inspiration that certainly exist.

Encourage each other. Break the cycle. Be art. Live art. Breathe art.

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