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Art Myths

The most prevalent myths about Artists and Art Making are:

1. Artists are born not made – Accomplished practitioners in any discipline have worked long and hard to master the skills they need. Malcolm Gladwell says in “Outliers” that experts have worked at least 10,000 hours to become accomplished. Athletes, artists, academics, anyone who is recognized as being at the pinnacle of their craft, will have devoted about 10000 hours to learning their expertise. No one is a born musician, painter, baseball player, or scientist.

People often challenge this. They always point out people they know who has been really good at something since childhood. In truth, the person they refer to had some reason why they began to developed their skill very early. More about talent later.

2. Art making is natural and fun – Every serious artist will tell you that, while art making can sometimes be fun, on many occasions it is just work. One of the biggest challenges is establishing a routine so that you spend enough time in the studio. It is like any other job. It isn’t a natural, easy process, it is the result of setting a goal for the piece and then seeing if the you can create a work that does what it is intended to do. Meeting the challenge and extending your ability to express what you intended is what art-making is about

3. Artists are crazy – Or at least very weird.

I will admit that some are; but some accountants, plumbers, and doctors are too. There are stereotypes for every job category, and in art school people tend to dye their hair pink and be provocative as they experiment with who they are, but that isn’t a prerequisite for the profession. Artists need to be willing to take risks but that needn’t include eccentric behavior. The two things don’t necessarily go together. Many artists who made the most impact in the art world would never stand out in a crowd.

4. Inspiration is the key to good art – Yes, a good idea is important, but making something, (anything), is more important than waiting for a brilliant idea. It keeps the juices flowing and can lead to the next, more creative response

5. Art making cannot be taught – (talent versus genius) There is a common idea that art making is innate. You may not believe me, but it isn’t. Just as attorneys, athletes, and salespeople benefit from training, artists need to master a body of knowledge that includes the elements and principles of design, technical skill, and an understanding of what has come before (art history). Ignorance will limit the choices of any would-be artist because they will be unable to build upon what others have learned.

6. Art is about emotion – Some is. Some isn’t. Art is about many things. If you look at the page Art as Communication you will see that the choice of materials, technique, design, content, and context are important to how the piece will be understood. Artists must consider what to do and how to do it as they plan their work. A drawing done in crayon says something completely different than the same imagery executed in oil paints on canvas.

7. Real artists don’t care about money – Everyone needs to make a living. We all aspire to continue growing, do what we do well, and be compensated well. Some artists are savvy enough or lucky enough to be financially successful but they all hope they will be. Few of us can be creative when we can’t eat.

8. Good artists can draw – Drawing was important before the invention of photography. By the late 19th Century draftsmanship became less and less important as art became more abstract. Drawing is important when the art depends upon it but that isn’t necessarily true in contemporary times.

9. Personal taste determines what is good in art – Subjective judgment will dictate what you like, but there are standards that are applied to artworks. Notice that art history books discuss most of the same pieces. These are the works that have stood the test of time and found universal appreciation. There are many different approaches to art; when you don’t understand what makes an acclaimed piece good, you can assume that the criteria of assessment are different than yours.

10. Using technology to make art is cheating – The artist’s job is to make art that resonates in some way. It needs to surprise the viewer emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. The tools used don’t matter—only the outcome is important.  Drawing aids like the camera obscura have been used since the 1600s and photography has been important to many artists.