Thursday, February 03, 2011

the real artists

I've been reading a lot about artistry and creativity - people who claim to be artists, or don't and are in spite of their claim; artwork that is unconventional and wouldn't be called "art" per se (like, essays or cooking or website-design); how to be a "real" artist.

I wonder if our sense of what a "real" artist defined by pride.

Think about how much being recognized is part of how "good" an artist you think you are. Many people try to escape the trap of people-pleasing...trying instead to "do justice" to the art form...but humans are frail and mean and humble and feel the need for recognition, the need for significance at something.

And those of us whom God has blessed with some sort of extra-creative side to our brainworkings...I wonder if we all struggle with "art-for-art's-sake" vs. "look-at-me-and-how-much-I-contribute-to-the-art!" Or maybe it's as simple as the "can-I-be-labeled-a-good-artist-now?" insecurity every time we present our art form to public scrutiny.

I know, for me, I struggle with accepting that I can sing well/play piano well/teach music well, etc (anything to do with my musical self) if it isn't acknowledged by those who are, in my opinion, the "higher-ups" in my field. What I constantly come up against is my family, who, for all their other wonderful qualities, have little to no experience with classical music, and so have little to no barometer to measure my "success" with a certain concert/recital/solo passage. My mom reminds me all the time that God is blessing people through my singing, and it is just not significant whether or not it was, technically, perfectly executed.

Also, I think there is this belief out there that some people just "have it." And, I think, to some degree, this is true. Like I said, some people have been blessed with supernatural creativity. But, I went around for a long time thinking that I shouldn't be having to work so hard to get recognition, for, if I was truly talented, things would just get handed to me as soon as I opened my vocal folds to bless others' listening ears...right? (how pompous of me that I actually thought this at one time...but there it is)

The real deal is, the truly talented ones either fizzle out from not working at their art, or they become really amazing from working so hard at their art. Lucky is the person that learns early on that you cannot rest on your talent...hard work is the other 80%. Professional ________ (fill in the blank) work hard to be where they are at. They are famous because they don't just rest on talent and recognition for their natural ability.

For example - think of Terrell Owens...famous NFL receiver who has been bounced around from team to team because he is talented enough for any team to want him, but he slouches and doesn't work as hard as he is talented...and consequently has a bad attitude because coaches get tired of him. He thinks it's his right to catch more balls than anyone else. Now, what should have been a Hall-of-Fame receiver is wasting his prime years with a bad attitude and a team who is fed up with him. There are countless examples of super-talented people, some whom I know, and some whom I don't, who lack understanding that natural talent is not the entire means to the end.

I have been guilty of this, as I'm sure many of you out there have at times. I want to do better. I want to truly recognize that it is God who gives these talents, and He also gives the opportunities, but I have to work at them. He created us to work and give Him glory, not give ourselves glory. It's hard....I love the spotlight, especially when there's acclamation for something I just do I turn it around and make it about my Lord? How do I be an artist unto Him?

I think it begins with a lot of prayer and a lot of grace, learned at the feet of Jesus. He teaches that we are to desire His Father's approval, not the approval of men. Maybe being God's artist doesn't look like much to the world...wouldn't make me famous...but, then again, Jesus wasn't much to be desired during His earthly ministry, according to the Bible. Yet, to those who took time to look and listen, He was life and fresh air and truth.

This is an honest struggle I've been having for years...and I hope I was able to convey it somewhat accurately here. How do I become the top-notch artist I so desire to be, while not letting the pride that seems necessary to that profession overtake my desire for God's kingdom? Why would I have this talent from Him if not to share it? How do I humble myself in singing, but still sing "skillfully and with a loud voice"? (Ps. 33:3)

Any of my creative types out there reading, I would love your thoughts. :)

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