in Business, Creativity, Marketing, Motivation, Philosophy, Psychology

Yes, But Is It Art?

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle

The woman in front of us was speaking about a piece of art that she felt didn’t fit in at the gallery. She pointed out the qualities and what the artist was trying to convey with the work. Then came the classic question: “Yes, but is it art?”.

Now, at this point I wanted to facepalm so bad. I contained myself and asked her what she meant so that I didn’t read stuff into what she was saying since she’d made perfect sense up until that point. Being so knowledgeable she must have had some reason for saying this. I mean, she must have, right?

Facepalm Statue

*Le sigh*

I can’t give her explanation justice here, it all sounded very eloquent but in the end it was all just based on opinion and not on any factual evidence of the piece not qualifying as art. My interpretation was that the focus wasn’t on the painting but turned the focus on the artists expression. In simple terms she thought the artist was saying: “Look at me! Aren’t I great!”.

So, I wrote it down as her opinion and that it didn’t really have any factual basis other than her personal tastes. Which is a totally legit reason by the way!

I was reminded of this incident because I was watching an episode of “Simpsons” and in the intro I saw this:

Bart - Pixel Art

Whoa! Don’t be dissing the pixels bro!

I was talking to a guy who actually makes pixel art who spoke really passionately about the craft. We got into it when I mentioned my love for isometric games and the art. He explained the basics of how you do it and I was really intrigued.

He’d been getting great feedback from a couple of communities and was showing some of his work. Then it went a little silent for a while when he said he wished that he could make a living off of it but that besides some music videos being done in that style there wasn’t all that big a market for his niche.

We talked about following ones passions and that he still could do other stuff on the side that would allow him to keep his passion alive. He’d been thinking about it but didn’t see it really happening so he got a job at a design firm instead of going it alone.

I didn’t hear from him until about 2 years later when he sent an e-mail about an indie game he’d been doing graphics on. I was delighted to see that it was all 16-bit old school! He was really lucky that during those 2 years there’d been an underground community swelling up where those graphics had started becoming popular again. He could ride that wave and his work was in demand!

Back to the Future - Matt Frith

Note: This is not the guy i’m talking about but for more pixel art visit: http://www.mattfrith.com/

There’s something to say about timing here though. Had he been 5-10 years older he might not have had the same opportunity to go for it. It’s not impossible mind you, i’m just saying that it might have been harder to step away from the work he was doing. Stepping into something that doesn’t mean a stable income and security isn’t an easy thing to do.

He was “lucky” in the sense that he’d only worked for the design firm for 1 year, he was 23, didn’t have anyone else to support. I’m not saying that it was easy, just that it was easier. All of those things played into it.

I think that another thing that really helped was that he had feedback from a community of peers who told him: “Dude, your work is great! Gimme some MOAR!”. Had he been sitting alone in his parents basement noodling (ramen) away with his art and just dreaming of a day when pixel art would be in demand he probably wouldn’t have had the same assurance that it was a worthwhile pursuit. I mean, any one of us would have?

xkcd - Angular Momentum

So worth it! Visit: xkcd.com

This also plays into the argument: “Yes, but is it art?”.

Here is a definition of the word “art”: Something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.

Simple enough. Did all of these artists do this? Hell yes! Mic drop.I find it interesting to also have a look at the etymology of words so as an added bonus (limited time offer etc, etc) here it is!

“Art (n) – Early 13c., ‘skill as a result of learning or practice,’ from Old French art 10c. Latin artus ‘joint’. In Middle English usually with a sense of “skill in scholarship and learning” (c.1300), especially in the seven sciences, or liberal arts.”

This is why I think it’s important to distinguish between art and creativity. Art is at its core to make things skillfully. Creativity on the other hand is coming up with ideas and making them come alive. It doesn’t need to be skillfully crafted, it just needs to serve its purpose.

Let’s say you have an idea for a game, you don’t need to have all the skills required to create it. You just have to get the general idea out there. Draw it with simple shapes on paper, use whatever objects you have lying around to convey what needs to be done and show it to the people who can make it happen.

The words art and creativity join together a little bit too easily and it’s hard to see which is which at certain times. The best we can do until someone comes up with a word to describe when the two come together is to try and keep them as seperate concepts.

M.C Escher - Relativity

Art & creativity can get relatively confusing.

There are going to be a lot of critics when you start putting your work out there to be seen, heard and experienced. Listen to the criticism when it’s constructive, people might say nasty stuff but they might also want to help you get better.

Put your focus on the people who get what your expressing. Communicate with them. They want to go along with you. Also, make sure to maintain some boundaries. There is a thing where you can be too open with people who might not, even if they appreciate your work, desire it or put you in an uncomfortable situation as a result. Be clear with both yourself and them where you draw that line.

I’ll give you an example. A pretty popular video game YouTuber/Streamer had a close relationship with his audience. During the years he’d revealed some things about his personal life like what company he worked at, that he had a wife and what his favorite hangouts were. Harmless pieces of information he thought.

Well, when he reached something like 200.000 subscribers some people used this information to “accidentally” bump into him and started calling his workplace etc.He went out and asked people to please stop doing that and that he’d be more than happy to set up a meet-and-greet once a month so that they could just hang out and talk games.

Luckily this was good enough for his audience. He didn’t have to move, change jobs or anything like that but he realized that talking about his personal life had to stop. The focus went into the games and just having a good time talking about very limited personal things like what beer and what snacks he liked to have around the house.

Straight Line

Draw clear lines people!

What we’ve talked about today is this: Just as in life it’s hard to know where to draw the line between art and creativity. The reason I feel we need to make sure we know where those boundaries go is to let us freely roam in the space between.

That’s enough thinking for today, now it’s time for some serious video gaming and relaxation. We’ve earned it peeps!

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