“Art is not a thing; it is a way.” –Elbert Hubbard
Usually when I talk to people about my pursuit of a career in music, I stress that I’ve never really felt as though I was pursuing a dream so much as fulfilling a basic need. Music is something that’s always been there and, much like eating and sleeping, will always be around just begging for my attention every day. I hesitate to use terms as dramatic as “life force” when describing it, but despite the lameness, it is pretty accurate when describing creative and artistic pursuits in my life. I thrive on creating and otherwise being involved in artistic endeavors, whether it be music, drawing or writing. Even humor is a creative aspect of my personality that is stubbornly embedded into my being. Art isn’t something that I do, it’s something that I am–it happens naturally and necessarily.
Most artistic types will stress that they simply have a need to express themselves. Actually, just about everybody seems to need a venue for self-expression, artistic or otherwise. Although I essentially agreed with the self-expression goal behind art, for quite a long time I wondered why something like that would be so urgent. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot of important stuff to say, so why feel the need to express myself?
What's Mine Is Yours
But I’ve learned that self-expression isn’t so much about yourself as it is about others. It’s a means of connecting and sharing with people. So many of the most important moments of our lives are those that we share with someone–could be a feeling, a memory, a learning experience, etc. It’s true, particularly for more introverted people such as myself, that much personal development occurs from self-discovery, shaping our values, viewpoints and perspectives on our own. But self expression is a means for us to share what’s been internalized. When we have ideas, learn and experience, the energy we feel from that helps us grow as people but is near impossible to keep to ourselves. We end up needing to pass on what we’ve learned, what we’ve felt, what we’ve internalized and made a part of ourselves through some medium.
People do this in many different ways, and most of us in more than one way. Some people teach (a very direct way of passing it on). Some people do it through family and parenting. Others do it through loving someone (hopefully we all do some of that). Artists in particular do it through their art; art that is often self-satisfying but reaches its full potential when someone else recognizes and connects with it. And the beauty is that it doesn’t have to be a lot of people for it to be valid. Quantity is unimportant.
What's Yours Is Mine
And that’s why self expression is so vital. It puts who we are out into the world, partially in hopes that it will lead to a connection with another person on some level, or many levels. But it’s not just about creating, even for the creators. It’s about receiving that connection as well. One of the reasons I love listening to music so much is that when I hear something that resonates with me, I feel like I really get it–along with whoever the creator was. This helps continue the chain of interconnectedness and passes on the inspiration. We give and receive, create and absorb. Art reminds us that we’re never really alone. And when you share that, you tap directly into The Collective, which to me is the very essence of life. Feeling a kinship with that is liberating and exciting.
But it also brings to attention the greater simplicity of art, and the fact that we’re surrounded by natural and manmade art all the time. If you look around you, you can find art in everything–lines, shapes, symmetries, colors, sounds, figures, aesthetics, personalities, humor, beauty, thoughtfulness. Finding that makes me feel alive and a part of a beautiful whole. And that’s all it really takes to be an artist. You don’t have to be adept at watercolors or a violin prodigy. All you really have to do is see the beauty surrounding you in everyday life to create art. And that makes us all artists.