It is true that there are those who, by some stroke of luck, were endowed with artistic talent. Certain people have a sense of vision and creativity that comes naturally; an artistic sensibility that can’t be taught in any tangible or straight forward way. Certain people were in fact “born to be artists.” However, the idea that drawing or any other form of art “can’t be taught” or that people who aren’t good at it are beyond instruction, is not only utterly false, but it also discourages people from breaking the threshold of those first few bad pieces, and keeps them from discovering the benefits of analyzing and translating the world around them into their medium.
The novice artist is constantly confronted with all the ways in which their work falls short of reality and their own expectations. But the practice of an art form is something that I think everyone can benefit from. Once you are able to produce a work that is satisfying to yourself—even just a little—you will begin to see why art is so important to the world and how it can energize your own human experience with an appreciation of the beauty around you.
Often times the best part of my day is the walk back to my dorm after my drawing class. We’ve been doing a landscape mark making unit where we draw with charcoal in the style of Van Gough, capturing the movement and essence of nature. That kind of close and intense observation of trees and grass seems to always shock the mundane and marginal imagery of my routine full of a new sense of life and novelty.
Instead of just thinking of creative work as trying to depict the best illusion of life, think of it as a way of sharpening your perception. I urge you to take some time with technique. If your medium is visual art, watch some instructional youtube videos, give the shapes of trees and movement of water a second look, and figure out how you can communicate it on paper. With enough practice you’ll begin to notice how artistic rhythms in your work are present in the universe and how they all contribute to the amazing visual experience that goes unnoticed every day you pass through your path to school or work.
Writing also has this same effect on our lives when you reflect on your process. If you’re a poet and you’re posed with describing a flower, for example, you’re challenged to see and record that flower in a way that it hasn’t been before. Fiction writers are challenged with describing situations and human conflicts is new ways too. This trains your mind to attribute a lot more value to your own experience and you are able to see, think, and feel the emotions and aesthetics of your life in terms of its richness and beauty.
Mitch Van Acker