kw: quotes, creativity, artists
Sometime in the mid-Twentieth Century, composer Dmitri Shostakovich said, "A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one." This quote was the cryptogram in yesterday's newspaper, and once I had solved it, I said to myself, "No way!"
I'll first get this out: To do art is to be human. Everyone has artistic creativity, whether in the visual arts such as painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, scrapbooks and collages, architecture or design; performance arts such as singing, dancing, acting, or playing an instrument (or several, even at once!); or language arts such as poetry, essay writing, all kinds of fiction from "mini stories" of 100 words to novels and trilogies, plus script writing for stage or screen. The terms "skill" and "art" have enormous overlap, and may be entirely synonymous.
I suppose Mr. Shostakovich was talking about his own feelings, that after completing each composition, he felt dissatisfied and impelled to immediately begin another. He must have been so seldom happy! Does the impulse to create truly stem from dissatisfaction? I think not. The natural world, including that mass of human artifice we call civilization, is filled with beauty. Of course, not all. A rundown house may have some majesty left in its structure, but is mainly an eyesore, so of course the impulse to fix it up does arise from dissatisfaction. And a scene of devastation from a flood or other disaster has lost its beauty, but we can either participate in cleaning up, or protect it while nature restores the landscape in her own way. I think of visiting Mount St. Helens a number of years ago. The result of the 1980 eruption was a moonscape, beautiful only if you prefer your scenery lifeless. After just a few years, the biosphere was rapidly restoring itself, and now it provides many a pleasant view.
Of course, some places are naturally devoid of life and yet are beautiful. The wallpaper on this computer consists of many pictures taken in national parks. One on the screen right now is a picture of water-and-wind-scupted sandstone ridges and valleys, situated in the "four corners" area in the American Southwest. Peering hard, I notice there are a few bushes clinging to rock faces, but one does not notice them amidst the scene of geological beauty. This is an area in which life is expected to be scarce. But in southern Washington, with its heavy rainfall, one would expect a thriving biosphere cloaking nearly every inch.
When we have a settled workplace, whether office, cubicle, or the cab of a delivery truck, what do we do? Don't we hang or set some things we like here and there, or even clutter it up with trinkets? Show me an office with no hint of decoration, nothing expressing the occupant, and I'll show you someone with way too much self-control, or perhaps a security super-chief who is too paranoid to allow any smidgen of personality to be known.
Some people make their living from providing art for others. Are they driven to create work after work by dissatisfaction? Each work may be perfect. But there are so many things to express! I had the tremendous pleasure to attend a performance by a talented folk songwriter. She performs others' music on occasion, but she has things to say, and says them well in her songs. I also perform folk music, but seldom perform a song I've written; it wouldn't take long, because I've written only four that I think worthy of public consumption. I get sufficient joy from performing another's work skillfully and with the warmth and affection that an audience will love. So the work of art that I produce isn't the song itself, but the audible package the audience receives. Sometimes I might be dissatisfied with a performance. Thus I continue to practice. But even if it has gone perfectly, that doesn't mean I will do it exactly that way thereafter.
My main area of visual arts is making mobiles. I don't do so frequently; it is time consuming. I typically use found objects. Light ones. Sometimes when I'm done I find the mobile satisfactory, sometimes not. I made one using feathers picked up over many years and kept in the freezer (Always freeze a feather you want to keep, to kill mites and other parasites the bird may have harbored). A feather mobile can be quite beautiful. It also gathers dust quickly and is the very devil to keep clean. So that one is satisfying in one way, but not in another. Only once have I "repeated". Many years ago I made a mobile using pine cones of different sizes, from different kinds of trees. Around 15 years ago I made another one, because the first one had been lost or destroyed; I don't recall which. But I have one photo of the older mobile, so I won't forget it. I gave away the newer one, so perhaps one day I'll make a third.
The reason an artist who is not living of his or her art continues to create is because that is what humans do. We can't stop ourselves, or if we try we go insane.