“Creativity takes courage.” -Henri Matisse
When I was a kid I had two friends that were amazingly artistic, their skill set far exceeded the others in our class. It seemed as though they could create illustrations in any style. Comics, cartoons, realism, still life, portraits, whatever the project they always excelled, and the medium never seemed to matter. Whether they held a brush, a pencil, a marker, a camera, or if their fingers were covered in clay or paper mache, they always seemed to spin wool into gold.I was close with these two guys and was constantly comparing my work to theirs. Although I was considered one of the “Art Kids” I felt like I was lacking in some way. I felt as if my art was not up to par with theirs.
I remember a conversation I had with one of them about six months before I enrolled in college. I was thumbing through a graphic design book and talking about how I would love to create band posters for a living. My friend, an already professional artist whom for years had been my litmus test for quality artistic skill replied…”You should go to art school, you’d be good at it.”
A few thoughts went through my head simultaneously. Could I really make it in art school? Do I have the skill set, and could I develop it enough to become a working artist. Would I be wasting my time? Are there even any jobs out there?
After some thinking I decided to take a chance and enroll. Over the next four years I took classes in everything from drawing, to screen printing, to computer art, and photography. I worked on projects that I hated, I created work that I loved, and I learned a ton about art. As the years went by I began comparing myself to others less and less. I found that all art has merit (I’m sure there’s room for debate here) and comparing yourself to friends, family, classmates, or the plethora of result yielded by a google image search can be detrimental to your originality!
Original artwork doesn’t look like anything else that came before it. Matisse’s work didn’t mimic, nor did Picasso, or Seurat. The artistic talent of Andy Warhol mimicked the world around him, but the thesis behind the work didn’t. His originality was in the questions that he was raising.
When one’s own art looks like nothing else they have seen, it’s easy to write it off, or question its validity. It takes real courage to believe in one’s own self and keep developing an art form that the world may dislike, or not even respond to at all. Every serious art students has undoubtedly copied a famous work of art. Mimicking and comparing lines or brushstrokes is how we train our eyes. However, every true artist has also found the courage to cast all that aside, find their own style and voice. All art is valid, you just have to find the “why”.