I must admit that I find myself at odds with my art, or more precisely “my art”. If you ask me what kind of art I want to create, I invariably come back with wanting a more painterly approach. However, if you look over the course of my life nearly all my output is more illustrative in nature. The journey for me this year has been not just learning net new skills (aka, how to render digitally let along render at all), but also coming to terms with this shallow response to a question with deeper roots; I’m answering the question wrongly, as it were. It is not that I’m not doing more painterly work, but that I’m conflating, at my deepest subconscious levels, the medium or approach with the intent of art.
I will readily admit that what I create is not art. Yet. I do not consider this a damning statement, but an honest admission. It is neither my technique and approach nor my choice of medium that precludes me from applying this appellation: art; but instead, I’m missing the mark due more to lacking something deeper, more fundamental. If art, regardless of qualification or adjective, is fundamentally a question of communicating the internal to the external, then the question of medium or approach only has any legitimacy in so much as it instructive for the artist as a means said communications. To wit, it is the message, not the transmission itself, that matters. And this, the message, that I’m missing thus far.
In many ways, our medium is purely a preference as to what we, as artists, believe works best in our telling. And herein lies the true beast; the sanctimonious bullshit that still exists, that some mediums are more legitimate than others. Even some twenty years later, I still hear people who peg digital artwork below other, more established mediums such oils, watercolor and even acrylics. And here I’m doing it myself; internally struggling with the fact that my approach is illustration and not painterly! We do it with not only the visual arts, but the literary arts, too. There is literary works and then there is fiction. There is fiction and then there is speculative fiction. There are novels and then there are screenplays. There are screenplays and then there are graphic novels. And so only and so forth, a proverbial pecking order of all the heavenly host arrayed before us from high to low; those who sing ever above us and those who have fallen down only to tempt us with hedonistic pleasures from the flaming bowels of pop culture.
As I continue to listen to the many, many (and many more) hours of conversation from Chris Oatley, I acknowledge I’ve yet to find my true voice as a visual storyteller. And it is for this reason I cannot claim (yet) that what I produce is art. Yes, I’m creating pleasant visuals; but, I’m not telling stories with a deeper narrative as I did as a child and a teenager. As 2017 gives way from snowdrifts into flowering petals, more than refining my techniques and re-easblishing my mastery of the fundamentals, I’m excited to see the tell-tale traces of the stories I want to tell visually. I hope you are, too!