For years I masqueraded as an artist. Maybe 10 or 15 years. I could never work out why my work never developed a strong ‘voice’ or ‘path’. I’m an inherently creative person and I have an ease with ‘technical’ work.
Amongst the artist’s struggle, is the ever present role of the ego… and it is this that destroys any worthwhile meaning in art. I don’t want to sound abstract and academic. I’ll try to explain what I mean. Its actually very simple.
If I am invited to participate in a show, I am straight away excited. It’s an opportunity to show my work to people, and if the work is appreciated and critically acclaimed then that is a big satisfaction.
And there is the problem, the desire for that satisfaction starts to drive the work. Eventually, the work degrades and becomes almost solely driven by the desire for some kind of recognition. “Should I do this? … will they like this? no I’ll do that! its different and it will surprise people … etc.” Your work degrades.
Now, I always argue with fellow artists that all art speaks truthfully. And that 95% of art communicates that the artist wants to be an artist, or wants to be a success, or just likes painting pretty pictures. None of these ‘truths’ are interesting (and so they don’t make good art), but they are all truthfully communicated. Miles Davis said it best, “if you don’t have anything to say then keep quiet” (something like that).
The ego blocks sincerity and it is sincerity that creates a voice. Being sincere (as an artist) is extremely difficult, because it exposes, and to be exposed is to be vulnerable.
Realising all this, I began attempting sincerity in my work. I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t do it. Either I couldn’t see clearly, or when I did, I didn’t have the guts to expose myself…. and thus I stopped calling myself an artist.
But attempting sincerity is something I continue to try to do (whether or not that sincerity is communicated to others).
From a ‘life’ perspective, I would consider that being ‘sincere’ involves insisting that one does things that is engaging to ones self. The tendency will be to chase projects that satisfy the ego, so that one can be ‘successful’ (whether that is financially or by recognition)…. and that one will get caught spending their lives chasing a goal whose aim is only to satisfy the ego. That could be a definition for unhappiness.