I’ve been thinking a bit about what it means to be an artist and what art is. This is, of course, a topic that has had many things written about it over the centuries. Here’s my simple take on it.
An artist is someone who creates art, where art is something that has been created by an artist. The programmer in me is amused at the idea of mutually recursive definitions (eg. the infamous “kumquat, see cumquat” and its reverse), but I’ll expand on it.
Art includes a wide range of media, including music, visual arts, multimedia, performance, textiles, text and even code. It involves some thought and decision making on the part of the artist, resulting in something unique. For my definition of art, there is no exclusion based on quality criteria. Sure, some works of art are masterpieces, but something doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to be art. Most drawings by young children classify as art. Strictly following a pattern defined by someone else is not making art. Adding creative input to someone else’s creation, for example, interpreting a composer’s work through performance, is art.
For someone to be an artist, I think there is more to it than just creating things. An artist doesn’t need to produce “good” art to be an artist. But I think an important criterion for being an artist is to reflect on what is produced and to learn from it.
Something that the non-artist sometimes doesn’t understand is that a quick sketch doesn’t necessarily reflect the capabilities of the artist, and that it takes time to do a high quality representational artwork. It is a common and useful technique to quickly sketch down an idea. A recent video that has been doing the rounds at demonstrating the effect of time on output quality showed this very well.
In between my main projects of music and language comics, I also sketch and draw. Lately I have been tinkering with the idea of colouring books. Here is a scan of a test colouring of a scanned and printed pen sketch. I will be cleaning up the drawing electronically to better suit colouring, but I like the effect of the colour scheme I chose, and having colouring as part of the picture-making process.