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What is art?

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist.”

Oscar Wilde

I agree with much of this sentiment but it may not be in the way that you would expect. I tend to believe that an artist who fulfills their role properly is one who is free.

Free from any attachment to the creative ideas that percolate in their minds, free from distortions imposed by commercial influences and fear based emotions that may distract them from crafting a work in a way that resonates with their own aesthetic sensibilities.

Art is art. It is what it was intended to be. It is as unique as the vision of the artist that created it.

My internal artistic compass tends to guide me towards natural beauty. Shapes and lighting found amongst the trees, mountains, fields, lakes, streams, rivers and oceans tend to win my attention more often than not.

Sometimes the marriage of human structures like buildings, roads and cars within a scene can be incredibly interesting too. As are portraits, animals and wildlife.

Nearly every painting has been shared publicly on social media. Yet my inventory of unsold works will likely forever far exceed my collection of paintings that have been shipped to buyers. I am completely alright with this. The process of sharing the work after, or near completion seems to free up focus and energy so I can move on to the next project.

“You’re successful as soon as you send your work out into the world.”

-Rick Rubin

Where I see a departure from this point of view shared by Wilde is in the disparaging nature of the comments related to the”dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman.”

I think there is tremendous artistic value within the efforts of folks toiling as craftsmen — even if the work is being performed as a purely commercial endeavor.

Whose to say that a great painting, completed as a commission without any emotional attachment between the painter and subject is any less valuable than a painting of equal quality of a subject the painter loves. It is hard to say… yes there are times when the artist’s affinity for a subject comes through the work and the love-filled approach to application of paint is felt by the audience.

Yes, conversely a lesser connection between painter and subject can lead to a less desirable outcome but this is not always true in every situation.

Even great painters can struggle with the trappings of attachment. This can lead to skilled painters overworking aspects of a scene as the rendered may be too precious and lead to a lesser result.

If time and effort was taken to transmute a confluence of elements, observations and/or feelings into a work it is by its very own existence a work of art.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Be well, Tom

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Picasso painted differently in stages of his life. He made a living painting for the public. Hard to think of him as Oscar Wilde would.

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