Friday, October 20, 2017

The Specialist, the Anti-Artist

Artists often become specialists, gradually becoming better and better at their chosen technique to the point of mastery, yet this, like any restriction, is a death of creativity, and thus the death of artistry. In such artists, their technique becomes less and less creative as it becomes more and more focused and refined (consider, for example, a hyper-realistic portrait painter). The philosophy at work is that the subject is what is creative in such artists, not the technique, yet frequently this too becomes more and more restricted because as artists attain their mastery they tend to specialise in subjects as well as in their craft, specialising in portraits, or trees, or animals, limiting both their subject and their technique, always moving down a narrower and narrower tunnel as they work over the years, more and more constricted, mechanical, blind. At this point, is the artist creative at all? More to the point, does and artist need to be creative?

The answer is of course, yes, yes! The point of art is creativity, to discover new things and to push humanity towards new ideals. If art is about humanity, communication between people, then the artist must be an explorer and curious, a communicator or feelings and ideas. To specialise is to become more mechanical, as machine-like as our hyper-realistic portrait painter. A camera or computer can never be an artist, they can only communicate what it means to be a camera or a computer, which is of interest only to other cameras (or academics, the killers of art by analysis).

The artist is an explorer, and what he or she explores is the new, the future, things that are now unseen. The only way this can be accomplished is creatively. Specialisation limits creativity, and at its most extreme is a hindrance, not an aid.

If art is about creativity, how can an artist learn? Advancement is ruling in and ruling out, evolution, and mastery of technique is important if an artist is to create good quality work, yet an artist must always be aware of the limitations of specialisation. In short, the ideal artist is master of all techniques, and able to pick and choose the best one for each situation.

It is always more creative, and a greater display of ability, to be good at several techniques than to master any one.