Sunday, August 12, 2007

The makeup of an artist

Most children are born with the potential to be an artist. A child’s imagination is pure creativity, and the basic instinct every child has; is to show off. “Look mommy, look at me.” The problem is the creativity, in most cases, is educated out of the child.

A child comes to a parent with some fantastic story, and they are told, “That’s not true, you made that up.” Instead of given credit for creating something, that is possibly quite cleaver. A better response might be, “That’s a wonderful story; did you make that up all by yourself?”

A child needs to be taught the difference between fact and fantasy, but what is writing a novel other than making stuff up and writing it down. In other words, child’s play.

I was fortunate that I had a mother who encouraged me to be creative, to draw and paint, and make things. She gave me praise for what I had created, and more important she told others about my creations. She built my self-esteem.

If your look up the word “ego” in the dictionary, it refers to self esteem; contrary to an “egotist” which refers to a self-centered person. As I see it, an artist can have an ego, and not necessarily be egotistical. However, we are often taught throughout our life that it is wrong to have an ego.

Children are taught that it is wrong to “show off.” Showing off is only wrong, when you have nothing worthwhile to show. The loud mouth in the bar is saying, “Look at me,” but when we look, there is no talent, nothing to see.

Most artists have an ego, the desire to “show off.” Without it, there would be no art. No TV or movies made; no books to read, and no music on radio or CD. Why would any actor get up on a stage or in front of a camera, if they did not have the ego to say, “Look at me, and look at what I can do?”

Initially an artist creates for their own satisfaction of seeing what they have created. I always got a tremendous rush from looking at my finished bicycle frames. For some this is enough, but for most, we need the validation of others. This usually comes in the form of people putting down their hard-earned money for what you have created.

The driving force behind most artists is not money. Those who become artists to make a lot of money usually are not good artists and rarely make any. Some artists do make a lot of money, movie stars for example. The money is really a validation of their work; a large number of people appreciate what they do.

All artists are successful, there are only varying degrees of success. The simple act of creating something is a success in and of itself, even if it only benefits its creator. Who would even attempt to write a book if they didn’t think in the first place that someone would read what they had written? If no one tried in the first place for fear of failure, there would be no books.

No creative work is a complete failure, sometimes it is necessary to create one piece of work, simply to enable the artist to move on to the next. Failure paves the way for success in the future. Success cannot always be measured in terms of money. This blog has a readership of 300 people a day; I would say that is successful, even though my rewards are not monetary.

The line between ego and egotistical can be extremely thin. How do I write about myself and not appear egotistical? I tell myself it is okay as long as I have something worthwhile to say.

I was blessed in this life to have been given the ability and the opportunity to build a few decent bicycle frames. Along the way, I gathered a great deal of knowledge about the bicycle and its design. Most of this knowledge is in my head and when I am gone, it too will be gone; that would be a shame and a waste.

Writing satisfies my creative passion, just as building bicycle frames did in the past. My purpose is to share knowledge, enlighten, and attempt to entertain. Statistics show that readership here is steadily increasing. As long as this trend continues, I will continue. This is my validation.


Jerome said...

I like these thoughts. I agree with you that creativity is educated out of children. I performed miserably in school, and was led to believe, by my teachers and piers, that I was not smart. I like you, was fortunate to grow up in a home, where regardless of what others said, I knew I wasn't a failure because I knew my parents believed in me. They nurtured my creative mind. I was a total nerd. When I was 11, I didn't want my mom to wake me up the “normal” way, so I rigged up a cable-car style setup that would run across my room and drop rubber snakes on my head. All my mom had to do was press a button outside of my room. It even had home home-made limit switches from popsicle sticks and aluminum foil to stop the motor. I ended up perusing a trade and because my parents nurtured my creative ability to make things, I've done well for myself making things. Now, being a father of 2 young boys, I see their creative abilities coming out and it excites me. My oldest is 3, and I have been amazed at what can go on in the mind of a 3 year old. It's very exciting. You see the innocence and creative innocence that we loose as adults. I rid the television from our home when our oldest was born for the very reason that I didn't want him influenced from what everyone else was doing. I also wanted him to be productive and make his own entertainment with his creative abilities. TV encourages mind-shut-off and disengages you. Television’s pop-culture doesn't embrace creativity very well either. They will if it's the in-style, but if it's not, you’re a geek for being creative. Imagination I think is one of the greatest gifts we've been given, and it's so great to be brought back to it though my boys. I'm learning again its excitement, while playing with my sons. I laugh every time I pick up an imaginary object the wrong way, or step on the imaginary tool my boy is using. It's pure joy.

Very nice piece you've done. Thanks.

Doug said...

Dave...Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!

VintageSpin said...

And just how are schools taking away a child's imagination?
They don't do PE anymore; art and music classes got cut in new budgets as schools focus on preparing children for SAT testing.
Where does imagination come from? Diverse sources such as literature, music and paintings, both classic and modern. How important are these to a civilization?
Sometimes the most inspiring ideas happen during recreation time, or a reflective moment.
But they come from our brains, our thoughts. That is how some art, no matter its form, is timeless. To behold it is to be inspired by it.
And that is something to be proud to pass on.

Anonymous said...

In 1972 a elderly co-worker and I (kid) discussed the shame in losing a lifetime of collective experiences once one passes.
Still searching for an answer to this age old quandary, WRITE ON!

Katherine Muschick Schneider said...

Dave, Interesting, thought provoking bit on creativity. Profound comment-"The simple act of creating something is a success in and of itself". Also your statement "Sharing your art is validating". I agree and think this my be a major factor in the popularity of blogging. Every blog is someone's unique act of creation.

About Jerome's comment here: I had so much fun visualizing his "cable car" style morning wake up system that "dropped rubber snakes" on his head. I'm betting he and his young sons share a lifetime of creative fun together!

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on a subject important to us all-young and old alike.

Tony said...

This article really speaks to me.
For much of my life I felt as if I had some artist in me. I can't draw or sing or act, but I have always been able to think of something and build it out of whatever was laying around. A few years ago (at age 34) I built a few tall bikes, a moped and then a Dutch style cargo bike. At some point during the cargo bike construction there was a distinct "a-ha" moment where I realized that this was it for me. For a while I struggled with calling framebuilding "art." Over the past year many people have come up to me and said, "Beautiful bikes, you're an artist." I would often say "no, no, it's just a bike." Lately though I've begun to realize that what I do is a vivid expression of my creativity and is nothing if it is not art. Thanks for your writings. They are inspiring and help to ensure the survival and advancement of the art of framebuilding.
Cheers, Tony

Anonymous said...

Very Nice Blog. If you ask most kids under the age of 8 if they can draw -- they say "YES!"...ask most graduate students if they can draw and the answer is "NO."

The fact is that most people lose interest in art or simply decide at some point to grow up.

Those of us who hold onto our childhood passions....i.e. bicycling...singing out loud...cuddling a little dog...are destined to be young....forever.