Are we forgetting art?

Obviously, some among us are getting that art made all the time, doing the painting and the playing and the poeming for the rest of us. Making art might be your job, your hobby, or something you end up doing because your kid needs a story, a song, or a drawing buddy. Some of us forget to do it, the pointless bad art you do to throw away because at least it’s not as big of a waste of time as sudoku.

When I need to wind down after a long day of writing (highly un-arty) lit crit or teaching, I sure do waste time. At my best, I cook something really difficult and new, and that seems like a good outlet for my creative needs. But if there is one thing I miss about being a little kid (and seriously, there’s exactly one thing), it’s that I was surrounded at all times with materials for creative endeavors. I could always draw, paint, play piano, record something, write, program computer games, sew, or just sit and imagine things for a while. The time and materials to create things were once so fundamental to my experience of the world that I still think of them as practically basic human rights.

I was never going to be a professional artist of any kind, but fuck the capitalist imperative anyway. Maybe we’ll just make some sounds and shapes and words today, and maybe no one will ever see them. I don’t need to express myself to anyone to have the right to do it. But I stopped writing poetry and fiction in 2003, and haven’t painted anything in two (three?) years; my last band broke up in 2009. I get embarrassed of myself.

But now I’ve just turned in my thesis and I’m really anxious. I can’t fix anything anymore. I can’t go ahead and move to my new job. There’s only so much pointless wandering around that I can stand. I have nightmares that my roommate and Owen Wilson (dreams are weird) confront me about the fact that they are so sick of my shit. I might actually feel quite a bit better if I draw something every day. When I was a little girl and I got anxious, I’d sit for hours and draw and draw.

I’m still allowed to do that, right? Do you ever make creative crap just for yourself?

11 responses to “Are we forgetting art?”

  1. F. P. Smearcase says:

    I have periods where I’m jumping out of my skin because I’m doing nothing at all creative. My four years in Chicago (two miserable, two good) I was very much sustained by my Shouty Siberian Choir, despite the fact that the director was a raging asshole. Then I got here to this city packed with creative people and found there is no outlet for any expression unless you’re REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT IT. I’m exaggerating, but that’s what it feels like.

    So I’ve cobbled stuff together. Utterly superficial outlets for creativity (knitting), very half-assed solitary music-making (plonking out jazz chords on P.D.F. until I can make my way through a brutalist rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me”)…it helps. I’m jumping out of my skin about it less. I recommend half-assed creativity, yes.

  2. A White Bear says:

    “Then I got here to this city packed with creative people and found there is no outlet for any expression unless you’re REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT IT.”

    Yes, exactly, this. I stopped writing poetry in part because my first roommate here was a somewhat-famous poet, himself the son of two very famous poets, and the brother of a famous poet, and I suddenly felt really small and dumb. He was completely encouraging and nice about it, but the way he would respond to my work was really obviously the way you respond to someone you’re trying not to humiliate.

  3. A White Bear says:

    Even my attempts to paint in the park or sing in a band have been somewhat poisoned by the hyperprofessionalistic attitudes here. Someone sees me painting and immediately comes over and asks if I’ve been trained, where I studied, whether I sell my work, and I’m like, are you kidding? I’m truly a terrible painter. I’m not doing it because I’m soooo good. I just like it. Isn’t it OK to like it?

  4. Dave says:

    I think you should go to a park this afternoon and sketch stuff. Sketching might not attract the same levelof scrutiny as painting. Also, you’ll be outdoors.

    I confess that last night I thought about doing some music stuff but watched Docor Who instead.

  5. A White Bear says:

    Alas, I’m going to do my laundry and then meet friends at a bar. But maybe I’ll have some time to sketch. I just really want to be able to find a space where I can do it in public without being interrupted by nosy people. It’s very hard to have privacy in public when doing something other than staring into space, as Mister Smearcase has noted about knitting.

  6. PB says:

    Hell yeah I make creative crap for myself. I cut stuff up and take it apart and put it back together and make shit up about repurposing and women’s work and creative blah blah blah. Mostly it is just repetitive and different from what I do at work. And that is enough.

  7. A White Bear says:

    Hell yeah you do! I love it!

  8. swells says:

    I’m on this road too. Used to like making art idly until I moved in with someone who is actually An Artist, who has artistic urges and drives and stuff like that, unlike me, and that sort of made me realize that I am Not An Artist and that was the end of that for a while. The Artist has been very encouraging to me to play with my art supplies anyway and of late that has been very helpful, as has the realization that it doesn’t have to be Good, just enjoyable to me in the process.

  9. SG says:

    The Art can and should be defined as broadly as possible.

    My current understanding is that there are two types of artistic processes: one which involves preparation, study, research, education, concentration, and often a great deal of pain. And one in which the artist (and we are all artists if we only have the courage to say it out loud) lets go and taps into the transcendental, allowing herself to become a conduit.

    This latter type of creating can be one in which the artist sits and hums for an hour just because that seems like a good idea, or it can be channelled through cooking (without a recipe). It is this type of creativity of self fulfillment that we all can and should do. All it takes is thinking these magic words: “I am an artist, and I am giving myself over to wherever the Art wants to take me.” And BAM! you’re making art…

    Try it some time, it’s crazy magic, but it works!

  10. lane says:

    scotty’s right.

    the thing is the pridlidge that is given to painting as the means of being an aritst. making something physical, be it food or a building or a book is all self expression. that’s what painters wresteled from the bougiouse to get, the right to self expression.

    and i guess beethoven did too. but i donn’t know the history.

    i think it’s a matter of visuality and tolerace for staring, for a painter, or tolerance for word construction if u r a writer or a love of hard labor if you are a scultptor.

    i guess SG is right about the transcendental part too. but it’s a drunk dial, so… great post.

  11. SG says:

    Is it wrong to comment on one’s own comment? We do it all the time right?

    Lane, when I was writing my comment, I assumed that you would respond and rip me to shreds. I’m a little stunned right now…

    Yeah, ART! Go make something… Or as Mike Watt yells at the end of his gigs: “START YOUR OWN BAND!”