Of Effort and Magic

Great writers will often type out great works, just to feel what well-structured language feels like as it comes out onto the page.

Painters learn by copying the great works with an exactness that forces them to the same solutions and techniques that the masters used.

In school, we learn science by repeating experiments that were once groundbreaking and demonstrative of the Universe’s foundational laws.

Great athletes review film, generals study battles from the past, and musicians must learn the songs of others before they can compose their own.

In learning and perfecting any skill, there is a constant balance between the fresh energy of the beginner and the studied discipline of the master. It is the interplay between these poles that generates true excellence. Neither the undisciplined talent nor the technically skilled but stagnant veteran creates works that resonate and endure over large spans of time.

It is the serendipitous convergence of tremendous effort and spontaneous inspiration that fixates and mirrors the vicissitudes of the human spirit. Western culture tends to revere the spontaneous more than the cultivated, while in the East this value is flipped.

In spending our novice years in a long apprenticeship, prostrating ourselves before and imitating the great masters, we create the substrate in which our own coherent style and the accompanying techniques may arise.

Piccaso, both a great master in his middle and old age, as well as a prodigy in his youth, articulated this notion eloquently.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”

Not everyone is destined to paint like a child. But every great artist and craftsman have some novel contribution for the greater culture, and the pursuit, as well as the honing of that gift, is of great importance no matter how meager its impact may appear to be.

 

 

Art Is Insanity

Why do we create things with no clear utility?

In the hopes that another person will understand the artifact of our personal experience. That someone else will recognize themselves in our creation, and by so doing allow for a moment of perfect kinship.

Art is nothing but communication.

Artists are those who find conventional means of communication insufficient for their personal experience. Those who have inner storms and glories that conversation cannot translate, that standard speech cannot make intelligible. And so they splatter paint onto the canvas, forge steel, craft words, form melodies and do so compulsively until the result is something they recognize as themselves, but also more than themselves. This, the transcendent work, the timeless masterpiece, is the goal of every creator.

Every artist has their own motivation. Perhaps they are attempting to justify their own existence. Or maybe they are making their own gravestone, something to stand beyond their lifetime as a sign of significant existence. But each of the manifold motivations contains the same seed; loneliness.

The artist hopes to be understood, no matter what they may tell you.

For why else would they create at all?

Therein lies the angst making paradox.

The great artist must hope to be understood yet they must never let that end direct them. To submit to that motivating hope is to be swayed by convention. For if you aim at being understood, within or without your lifetime, nothing you can make will transcend your narrowest limit. All will be restricted by your fear. The deepest, noblest depths of your unconscious will remain submerged, untamed by conscious direction and ecstatic abandon.

This is why most art is neither good nor bad. Instead, it is nothing at all.

Within it, you see the artist’s loneliness, their hoping for esteem and understanding strapped around their ankle like a weight, holding them back from what might be an honest expression.

Art is Insanity. Art is the weirdo’s only chance at pure kinship, raw communication. It is the solace of both loners and Kings. But if your fear and desperation contain you, the insanity will remain where it was formed. Deep within you, hidden and waiting for release.