Robert Genn sends out weekly emails about all things related to art and the art process. I especially loved today's gem and thought of several friends who might enjoy this as much as I did. The above drawings are by Sierra, who hasn't learned to compare herself to "serious artists" yet takes her art seriously.:)
June 19, 2009
I'm out here on a rocky Donegal foreland. Below, on
the beach, one of those smart-looking black-and-white
Irish farm dogs is running loose. With no master in sight,
the dog has a tennis ball she tosses in the air, chases and
sometimes catches. Hit or miss, each attempt is announced
with a joyful bark. She's telling me something: "Come on, Bob,
loosen up. Put joy into that stuff. Get a life. Don't take yourself
Everyone has heard of the "serious artist." The term
has a lot of different meanings. To a person who paints
only on Sundays, one who paints every day might be one.
An artist whose work is difficult to understand may consider
those who paint understandable things "not serious." On the
other hand, realistic artists sometimes consider modernists
to be only wanking the public and therefore not serious. Some
think serious artists are those who deal with serious subject
matter--poverty, war, politics, injustice, etc. Except for a bit
of irony once in a while, these folks don't generally think humour
has its place in art. You may know of artists who take themselves
so seriously they become significant hazards at dinner parties.
Hey, it's okay to be serious about honing technique,
learning the ropes and trying to understand the muse.
When I was younger and much more idealistic, I used
to worry I was not serious enough. In my studies,
I eventually got around to the critic Bernard Berenson
and was relieved by his idea that art ought to be life-enhancing
and not life-deprecating. I figured it was okay to please, both
myself and others. Anger and angst were just fine for anyone else.
Further, I've always thought that in an ideal state
people should do only what they love--perhaps an
impossible, hedonistic position. I'm sticking to it.
The pursuit of personal joy is serious business.
To experience joy one has to consider play. The British
writer G.K. Chesterton said, "Children's play is the most
serious thing." Unfortunately, age and accumulated wisdom
tend to interfere with play. It's a human condition. Or is it?
That dog down there is seriously immature, but she has
a wisdom that is worth looking into.
PS: "We have an infinite number of reasons to be happy,
and a serious responsibility not to be serious."
(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
Esoterica: "God," said Voltaire, "is a comedian playing to
an audience too afraid to laugh." Obviously, some folks think
all this seriousness is a byproduct of a great cosmic joke.
And these little stretchy things--these canvases and the
stuff we mark them up with--are truncated playgrounds
of the human soul. In the end, it is we who can become the
master jokers. "It is not necessary for the public to know
whether I'm joking or whether I'm serious," said Salvador Dali,
"just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself."