I went to a local art fair today. It was at a public school in the auditorium and it wasn't curated; they hung everything that was brought to their door. As you would expect most of it isn't what you would necessarily call Art.
As I walked around, looking carefully at every piece hanging on the walls, I was touched at all of these people's attempts to create and express something that had meant something to them. Often times the idea was cliche, someone's notion of what art is. Occasionally the idea was quite sound, something genuinely felt, but the creator didn't have the skill or knowledge to be able to express it. Badly drawn, poor composition, no experience with colour, etc.
There were a few pieces by local artists. These were better. Perhaps skillfully created, the ideas more unique. I couldn't say that there was any work that made a real impression on me.
But why should there be? This was an art fair of local people at a public primary school.
As I continued through the show, I felt my heart start to crack. I realized how very very difficult it is to make art. How many years learning skills, developing ideas, getting together the courage to try and express what really matters to you. Then more years of honing skills, shoring up the courage to persist, more honing of skills, overcoming self doubt, more honing of skills, continually trying to reach closer to something... Real. Failure, more failure, disappointment, and persistence.
If you continue and persevere you may get to the point where what you are making is art. But then is it good art? Great art?
If you persist perhaps you can get to the point of making art, but I don't know if you have a guarantee, no matter how much you try, that you will make good art. Art that makes an impression, communicates Life. And then... Great art. Well, I have no experience to talk about what that would mean.
So, what is my point? I guess it was the change in my perception. Many years ago I would have gone to a similar show and ended up feeling rather depressed. Kind of anti-inspired. This time my response was very different. I felt cracked open. I felt touched, I felt admiration for the courage that all of us who create show. I felt almost an awe at the sheer numbers of people who create when it is so difficult and can be so discouraging.
I have taken a long long time to make anything I consider art. I look back at my early stuff and it was no better than anyone else's at that show. My early creations were awkward and cliche and embarrassing. Fortunately I didn't realize at the time how bad they were.
I am not an artistic genius. Most of us aren't. The vast vast majority of practicing artists aren't. Which doesn't mean that they can't become, or aren't good artists. Maybe some even become geniuses through hard work. I still make some bad work, fortunately not the majority of it. If I recognize it, I don't show it. Though it is hard to say what I will look back on and decide is bad and what is good when I know more.