From The Free Dictionary, an artist is:
1. One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.
2. A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You are an artist in the kitchen.
3. One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts.
4. One who is adept at an activity, especially one involving trickery or deceit: a con artist.
The key words in these definitions (leaving out "trickery" and "deceit") are "imagination," "talent," "skill," "adept," and "exceptional creative ability."
We can have the skill, but without the imagination and creativity, we produce lifeless work. And imagination and creativity will get us just so far without the skill.
Whether we're photographers, ceramists, quilters, calligraphers, collagistas, painters, or gardeners, to excel at what we do, to be artists at what we do, requires the wonderful fusion of creativity, ability, skill, talent, and imagination. And all that requires practice.
Tomorrow is Sunday. Just another day. But it's the beginning of 2012. The start of a new year. A brand-new calendar. A "starting over" of sorts. I have no resolutions (other than to spend less time sitting on my butt here at the computer), but I do have plans. Do you?
My plans are to play this year. To play with a new project I'm working on in photography, which will show up in the next few weeks, and to play with learning how to be a better collage artist. Those are my plans. Each of those activities requires creativity, ability, skill, talent, and imagination. How to approach that?
My photography/Photoshop skills need buffing up. So each week I'll be learning a new Photoshop technique, trying to use it every day so that it becomes an automatic part of my repertoire. Because I have a mind like a sieve, a little cheat sheet of how-to info hangs on a clipboard on the wall by my desk. Easy for me to look at, to constantly remind myself.
My collage work needs to be looser, more free. I need to worry less about careful placement of precious papers and just do it. And do it often. So every morning, for at least an hour, instead of sitting looking at blogs and seeing what others are doing, I will be doing the doing. (Did that make sense?)
What this boils down to (for me, and probably for you) is daily practice. Every day, create something. I don't care if it's a doodle on a scrap of paper, a photo of a piece of string, folding an origami crane, or gluing glitter onto macaroni. Create. Anything.
And study. Each week, learn something. How close can you get with this lens? With that lens? Open your camera's instruction manual and read just one thing. One. (If your manual's as miserable as mine, often that one thing is totally incomprehensible, but try it anyway.)
Go to the library or a bookstore or online and look at -- really look at -- art other than photography (if you're a photographer). If you're a quilter, look at paintings. If you're a ceramic artist, look at quilts. Study the forms, the patterns, the structures. You may find yourself turning a corner in your own field as a result. Those carved and scratched patterns someone made on a clay bowl might inspire your quilt work, your photography, your painting. You never know. And it's never time wasted.
I'm going to shut up now. My point today is that 2011 ends in a few hours. Look at 2012 as a new beginning for you and for your art. Take it to the next level with daily doing and weekly study.
For me, I plan on playing more. But I'll be taking this playing thing very seriously! Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. ©Carol Leigh, Artist