Uncategorized

My Art Philosophy and the 5 Books that Shaped It

Good morning, everyone! The sun has arrived after many long weeks of rain and clouds, and it truly is the best.

For years, I’ve been thinking of my personal philosophy about art. More so out of rebellion against the university I was attending, which only wanted to view art through a political perspective, I’m happy to say as someone who is just a few years shy of her thirties, I think I finally FINALLY came up with an art philosophy that I am happy with. I believe my time in Italy, and being surrounded by beautiful art every day, most of it not costing me a three cent penny, helped shape it, but the books below, were probably my biggest influences.

DISCLAIMER: Now, I’m going to come and say it, yes, these are affiliate links. If you purchase any of these books, I do get paid a tiny bit, and yes, my writing this post did start off as me trying to use affiliate links effectively, but as I got to writing, and reopening these books for this article, I just fell back in love with them all over again. I enjoyed writing about these books and how they helped through roughly the hardest times of my life. If you want to buy any of the books below, or know somebody that might enjoy them, you would not only be supporting me and my dream to become an independent artist, but you would benefit from their wisdom.

My dream for the future involves filling everybody with love and inspiration for art- to want to take the places they love and fill them with beauty. I want everybody to discover the artist within. I am convinced if everyone read these books, then my dream for a future where everyone, especially you, can become an artist filling everyone you love with joy through the power of art, this dream might just be just a little bit more realized.

1. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Don’t worry so much about making art, just do it!

I believe one of the greatest challenges artists of any medium face is creating a new idea. It doesn’t help that copywrite laws are seemingly becoming murkier and murkier.

Steal Like an Artist is the first book I read in this list. It’s a short little book with adorable illustrations. Not only does it tell you to stop worrying so much about creating an original art (after all, nothing is truly original), but how to stop overthinking and actually get started in becoming an artist.

It’s a very short with easy to follow rules. They are as such:

  1. Steal Like an Artist
  2. Don’t Wait Until you Know Who You Are to Get Started
  3. Write the Book you Want to Read
  4. Use Your Hands
  5. Side Projects and Hobbies are Important
  6. The Secret: Do Good Work and Share it With People.
  7. Geography is No Longer Our Master
  8. Be Nice (The World is a Small Town)
  9. Be Boring
  10. Creativity is Subtraction

My favorite of these rules (after the first one, obviously) is rule 3- which translates to Paint the Kind of Art You Want to Paint. It helped me imagine what kind of art would I like to see in the world? If I could make the world more beautiful with anything, what would it be? I then create that art.

I came to find out Kleon has written some other books as well, including a Steal Like an Artist Journal. Kleon has also written Keep Going (10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad), and Show Your Work! I’ve never read these books, but if they’re half as inspiring as Steal Like an Artist, then I’d say they’re worth looking into!

2. Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

Protect your history, and above all, don’t let yourself be the one who destroys it.

I actually came across this book in a bookstore for cheap while living in Italy studying art conservation.

The thing about it that struck me the most was one of the terrifying second chapter. It was written through a perspective of a man seeking what I wanted most, to beautify through art, his beloved place he called home:

“As a young man, he had dreamed of being an artist and an architect… He had wandered in the wilderness for a decade, almost destitute and virtually living on the streets. But his true destiny had finally revealed itself. He was not destined to create, but to remake. To purge, and then rebuild…”

Robert M. Edsel pg 15

Reading that chapter filled me great rage and discomfort. This man and I shared this vision for our respective homes, but this…monster… was also responsible for the slaughter of many of my ancestors.

If you haven’t guessed by now.

That man was Hitler.

The great adventure of seeing the Monuments Men team up and recover the art Hitler kidnapped was exciting, but it was over shadowed by that second chapter. Like a foreboding warning. Whispering, “When creating and protecting art, Beware. Do not be driven by hate. Beauty, history, and legacy will not be obtained by the blood of your enemies.”

Troubled, I brought up that chapter during a lecture from one of the Superintendents of Florence. She insisted that Hitler simply wanted to obtain the art to elevate his own power- nothing else.

I don’t accept that. It’s too… simplistic. And it doesn’t take into account that evil man was also human, and if any of us underwent the same life experiences he did, it would be likely we would have turned out just as cruel and vile.

It felt like watching Peter Pan with your child, who asks you, terrified, if there was a chance he could grow up to be like Captain Hook, you simply brush it off and say, “Of course not, Timmy. He’s bad. You’re good.”

It was an interesting choice to see the second chapter was written through Hitler’s eyes. In that moment, he wasn’t a monster, he was human. A human filled with inspiration, dreams of art, dreams to rebuild and a strong sense of vengeance for people he felt he needed to blame for everything going wrong.

I took this as a warning to watch out. There’s a monster in all of us. If we don’t pay attention to history, or ourselves and our own hate and resentment, we will become something inhuman and truly evil.

3. Glittering Images by Camille Paglia

After attending university and getting my art history degree, I discovered Camille Paglia (only to find out my mother discovered and admired her first, so in a sense I consider her almost a grandmother to me). She is a woman who has a passion for art and history at a level that I can’t even imagine- and the strength, boldness, and conviction to defend art. Her very words can tear your soul to ribbons and make you rethink everything you once believed. My passion for art as a tool of free expression and strength in the face of criticism and banality is heavily influenced by her.

The reason why I recommend Glittering Images is because it’s also a relatively short, quick, and easy book to read to get started into art history as well as Paglia’s sharp wit in general. The book was written specifically for the homeschool mother demographic to teach their children art history, the very art history they probably wouldn’t get in school.

Not only that, but because Paglia herself is such a strong woman who lives and breathes out of a hot, burning passion for art, strong sense of character and honesty, and is not afraid to speak out against the petty, spoiled, mutilated version of what is and isn’t acceptable art, she actually encouraged me to look at several forms of art of which I previously disdained (more out of rebellion than my own actual thoughts) with an open mind. Least of which, her beautiful analysis of the Mustafar fight scene from Star Wars episode III, a film that I just didn’t like, and yet,

The Mustafar duel, which took months of rehearsal, with fencing and saber drills conducted by word master Nick Gillard, was executed by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor at lightning speed. It is virtuosic dance theater, a taut pas de duex between battling brothers, convulsed by attraction and repulsion. Their thrusts, parries, and slashes are like passages of aggressive speech. It is one of the most passionate scenes ever filmed between two men, with McGregor close to weeping.

Camille Paglia

She showed this, and even the performance art of the 1960’s and 70’s that I previously disdained in a new light that peaked my curiosity in a way other than, “If you don’t get it/like it, you’re just dumb and don’t understand” like how it was taught in university.

Glittering Images is not just an art history survey book. It’s a work of poetry.

4. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Don’t take things so seriously, love your critics and enemies, or at least love the art you love more than you hate them.

For those of you who might not know, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a former Atheist who converted to Catholicism. Historian, Philosopher, and Theologian, He has written dozens of books and poems and is beloved by both Christians and Atheists alike.

Orthodoxy is the sequel to his book, Heretics, where he critiques by playfully poking at the the popular agnostics and atheist philosophers of his time of his time such. Including, but not limited to H.G. Wells, George More, and James McNeill Whistler.

If I were to put the sum of his critiques in one sentence, it would be,

Naturally, after the book was published, his critics were not happy. They, quite understandably, demanded that Gilbert explain himself. It was probably even more frustrating that he critiqued them very much like a court jester: not hostile, just gently nudging that there might be some holes in their serious beliefs, and now everyone in the room is giggling.

It would have been better if he responded like a stern, angry preacher, sure the wrath of God would fall on the heads of these godless heathens, that way they could feel martyred and justified in their discoveries. Not Gilbert. No. Gilbert, treating them like a five year old boy would talk to his big brothers, simply asked them to stop being such sticks in the mud, to take a break from bragging to everyone about how smart they are, and just come outside and play. It’s sunny out and Mom just made lemonade.

Alright, they said, He explained their philosophies, but what about his? Gilbert, seemingly believing he was being challenged to a duel, picked up his pen and with much delight, responded:

“No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne. I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all the other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.”

G.K. Chesterton: Collected Works (Orthodoxy), pg 214

As little seriously as he took his brothers, this silly man takes himself the least seriously of all.

While Chesterton specializes in theology and not so much as art, his wit, humor, and glowing sense of benevolence probably was the thing that shaped my art philosophy in the most important way. His almost jester-like response to his critics

When you’re passionate anything, In Chesterton’s case, religion, and in mine (and most likely yours too) art, you’re going to face critics or encounter people who are just… wrong.

Now, I’m not talking about legit criticisms, where people offer feedback that if taken seriously, could be used as an opportunity to improve your art. I’m talking about bitter, nasty people who insult your work because they just get a kick out of making you feel bad.

Should you get angry at them? Insult them back?

No.

You should instead treat them like they’re stick-in-the mud older sibling who thinks they’re so much better and smarter than you and need to show it. You should respond to their insults with a sense of humor.

5. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Yes, I have an affiliate link above, but since Meditations is in the public domain, here is a link to the free pdf if you would like to download it!

As an artist, it’s easy to get swept up and emotionally invested in things. It’s easy to compare yourself to others or think you’ll be great if you could achieve X level of skill, or make X amount of money or what have you. I found that many artists, myself included, tend to get very emotional especially when it comes to their art. I know for a fact there is a sense of hopelessness I feel knowing that the thing I’m most passionate about, and the most skilled at, doesn’t exactly put bread on the table as easily as getting an office job.

But, there is a strong wisdom in stopping, looking at the present situation around you, no matter how terrible, and realize that’s the only moment you truly live in. Might as well figure out how to enjoy it with dignity and meaning

Marcus Aurelius is one of the greatest philosophers known to mankind. Both he and his meditations on the philosophy of Stoicism have withstood the test of time on such an impressive level. People usually think “Stoicism” and imagine an emotionally repressed man who just does not care and is very good at suppressing his emotions. Not so.

One of the key tenants about this book is being happy. Particularly, finding happiness in your current situation. It’s very difficult, but the truth is, you can’t change the past, you can’t always predict the future, it’s just best to this one thing: Live in the moment. Bad moments will pass, and the good moments are worth stopping and being grateful for.

I downloaded the PDF to Meditations two months ago and have made a habit of writing a journal about it every day while analyzing each little section of the book and how it can be useful in my own life. Meditations helps put the insecurities and hopelessness I feel about my art in perspective. Since then, I found that I’m more willing to accept things as they are rather than getting angry about things in the world that I can’t control, I can focus better on the things I can,

Advertisements
Uncategorized

How to Fight Modern Art

It’s a pretty well known fact that modern art is bad. It’s supposed to be bad. Once, the purpose of art was to transcend the ugliness of this world and reach for the virtue of beauty, but that’s all done away with. One of the most heinous crimes committed by traditional art was preaching beauty was the same as good, but there are ugly things in this world that, when seen through a different lens, can also be beautiful. This is very true. Rembrandt took vagrants, elderly people, outcasts in general, and painted them in such captivating, ecstatic beauty while still retaining their shabbiness, wrinkles, and age.

300px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

Modern art doesn’t do that.

Instead, artists like Duchamp, Manet, Jeff Koons, and so on seek only to desecrate and offend, not the artistic academics who hold the power over what is and isn’t considered art, mind you, but people who love beautiful art and long for meaning and beauty in their own lives who’ve long since given up on the art world after what the cesspool it’s become. They stole art from us. They distorted it so the only ones who can enjoy it are those who are “clever enough” to understand it. Of course modern art must be fought, must be rebelled against. By their (the Academics’) own definition, the ones in power are only there to lord it over the rest of us, and stole said power from the rest of us. Why should they be surprised if their precious and meaningful world of modern art was suddenly toppled down by an angry mob to tear down their vision and replace it with a more caring and brighter ideology?

Emin-My-Bed
Tracy Emin’s “My Bed.” Where it’s not enough to just credit the artist, I couldn’t even put in this blog post without linking BOTH Wikipedia pages because “It’s so special” or something.

You see how evil that last paragraph was? How resentful?

Some of you might have enjoyed reading it (I sure enjoyed writing it), or a version of it where “modern art” was replaced by some other ideology you don’t like.

I’ve been writing (albeit not often enough) about this for years. I’ve always loved art. I love looking at it and making it. If I was to live alone anywhere in the world, it would be Florence or Rome where art and beauty is literally everywhere. I naively hoped that the Art School would nurture that love. Instead, all I got was snobbishness, disdain, and hatred from the teachers and students for any Classical art with a glimmer of hope and beauty.  I felt personally and spiritually injured by these people. As a result, many of my past blog posts have been attacks. They were criticisms that I was either to scared or too incoherent to convey in the classroom. While it was cathartic, it wasn’t helpful. Not in the slightest.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to Roger Scruton and G.K. Chesterton. These were two men whose beliefs I felt were similar to mine. Roger Scruton, in his almost pompous, Oxford-educated demeanor, also believed modern art was an enemy to civilization, but he effectively portrayed a great love for the beauty of art.

Somehow, around the same time of discovering this wonderful man, I also started listening to an audio book by G.K. Chesterton. His words were concise, intelligent, but also filled with a great love.

Gilbert_Chesterton
Anyone with hair like that is a guy worth grabbing a beer with… Or a cup of tea at least… he looks more like a tea person.

He did criticize rationalists, people like Nietzsche, but rather than in a disdainful tone, his criticisms were a mixture of light humor and sadness. To him, these weren’t people who were evil and just wanted to watch the world burn, like how we typically think of those we think are our enemies, but instead, pitiable (but still loveable) people who are missing out on a great joy and mystery in life.

The following words came into my head, they weren’t anything that Chesterton or Scruton explicitly said, they just kind of formed in my brain on their own:

“Love your friends more than you hate your enemies.”

I was thinking about these words, and I thought to myself,

“Do I really love art? Or do I just hate modern art? And if I do love art, do I love the art I love to look at and make… more than the art I was demanded to accept by my teachers?”

And, to be honest. No. I don’t think I did.  This was a scary thing to learn about myself. But I really had a lot hate and anger built up. For YEARS. It took me this long to realize it wasn’t doing me any good. I wasted so much energy on my hate than I didn’t have a whole lot left over for my love. I myself desecrated the art I loved by thinking “It’s better than garbage being made today.”

There’s so much ugliness, guys. There really is. There’s war, there’s tyrants, there’s people online who say nasty things they never say to that person… in person. In our political climate, all I see are people finally having an excuse to destroy, not people who really care or want to change things. Every day, we just want to use the misery of our own lives and ruin it for everyone else. I don’t have to be that person. Neither should you. I hope you’re not, or at least on your way.

If you want to fight modern art, or ugliness, or hate, or anything that’s damaging to this world, then think about what you love, and be the best of what you love. Be kind, make things that bring meaning to others. Don’t hide behind your meaning (and computer screen) as an excuse to hurt people or tear things down. There is ugliness in people, but there’s beauty in them too. When people see you acting this way, and that you fervently believe and act out your meaning, then it will inspire them to do the same. If they don’t agree with your ideas, but you don’t attack those people or tear them down, they’ll be more likely to listen to you.

And yes, there are truly terrible, psychopathic, malevolent people out there. With that in mind, love your family and your friends more than you hate the psychopaths. And certainly love those in your life more than those who disagree with you.