A couple weeks ago I attended a design event where one of the panelists made a statement that didn’t sit well with me. In fact, what she said has been bugging me for the past 2 weeks.
“You have to be stupid to be an artist,” she said. Met by our collective confused facial expressions, she tried to clean it up by saying, “You have to believe that you’re going to make something even though you have no idea what you’re going to make.”
But it was too late. The words were already spoken, the damage already done.
She’d given in to the usual stereotype of the artist as an idiot, as a madman, a drunkard, an addict. She was perpetuating the idea that there must be something wrong with you if you want to be an artist. It’s the kind of thing that makes you ashamed to call yourself an artist when you are around people like her.
You may even have grown up attending numerous performances and going on field trips to art museums as an effort to broaden your horizons, expose you to things, and keep you from being “culturally deprived.”
But apparently you were not exposed to all these things so that you would want to be an artist yourself when you grew up.
Instead, people will say, “You’re too smart to be an artist.”
A friend of mine told me her parents had basically said this, and I liked her response:
She said, “I told them I’m not an artist despite the fact that I am smart, I am an artist because I am smart.”
It is a different kind of intelligence. It involves seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated things, telling stories with pictures, creating harmony from discord, finding patterns, making new ones, communicating in a visual language, building windows into other worlds, allowing the viewer to see your vision.
It requires the judicious use of line, form, color, texture, symmetry and asymmetry. Artists give us views of the world as it is, as it should be, and as it never was. Art requires you to think conceptually.
It demands the genius of making something from nothing.
So to the lady who made the comment about the “stupidity” of artists, I politely disagree with your choice of words. You do not “have to be stupid” to be an artist. . . You have to be brave.