Brought to you by Primordial Productions
Feb. 1, 2022

What is Art?

What is Art?

A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.”.

- Vincent Van Gogh


How can you put on a meaningful drama when every 15 minutes proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper?”

- Rod Serling


What is “Art”? I can only speak to what it means to me as both an artist and as an observer. In this capacity I’m primarily going to promote visual arts in the medium of painting/drawing/sculpture etc. This isn’t about “The Arts” in terms of music/acting/writing and various other methods of performance, just the notion of visual art in terms of canvas painting/mural design/graphic arts. A musician/actor might be considered an artist, particularly if they work with ease between multiple platforms (several comedians come to mind), but I am largely speaking to the world of visual/illustration.


At its soul art transcends time & space and we can still see those first glimpses of imagination and expression with various cave paintings from around the world. Wondrous and perplexing, some dating back 40,000 years or more, long before the first known human civilizations. At its best, Art is a glimpse into another world and perspective which perhaps seeks to raise just as many questions as it attempts to answer. A transcendental state of discovery and heightened awareness MUST be a calling card of “True Art” if we are to properly pay respects to our history and heritage.


For me, art is therapeutic. I've produced hundreds of works, both painting and digital, and aside from the occasional commission piece I never once created art for the sake of “maybe this will sell”. I produced so much art for the sake of art and just to experiment and explore with what might become my personal style(s). Of course, I’d LIKE to sell more art, I don’t mean to sound pretentious to say that it’s not, at least in some capacity, about money. It’s definitely a bonus when your materials can at least pay for itself and you feel some appreciation for the countless hours you’ve spent on your craft.


Yet, to me, an artist which only creates for financial gain or adulation, isn’t really an artist in the truest sense of the word. And the same can be said about the musician who only plays for money, or the writer who only writes when getting paid per word count. The True Artist, in my opinion and in whatever capacity or medium of their choosing, simply feels they MUST do it. Often, they get an idea and the curiosity about whether they actually CAN do it, which motivates them to at least try and push their boundaries of comfort and familiarity. They venture beyond the norm to communicate with their calling.


I can’t help but to mention the tragic portrait of Vincent Van Gogh as the perfect example of the True Artist. The man created some 900 paintings and 1,100 sketches in his lifetime, yet despite all of the devotion to his craft, only sold 1 painting before his death. Perhaps for him (as I find with myself sometimes) the LACK of sales and attention only served as a motivator to do more & push harder. A negative trait on my part? - But opposition and being ignored has always served as inspiration. I work best when nobody gives a fuck & I’m forced to dig a little deeper and discover the core.


To me, that is another sign of a True Artist. I have seen too many people, particularly musicians, give up when they don’t achieve their goals within some narrow window of time which they've set for themselves. “I’m not in a famous band by the time I’m 25? I quit! I haven’t written a great novel by the time I’m 30? I’m a failure!” Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing unreasonable with the desire to make a living as a musician, writer, or artist. But one must be realistic about what they actually hope to achieve and their intentions (and perceived limitations).


And please let me say, I am not expounding that I am a “True Artist”, but I do know what a true artist is. From my perspective it’s always been a therapeutic way to deal with some flickering subconscious figments and test the waters of what might actually be achieved on a visual level of creative interaction. Ultimately, I found myself back at the roots of what I consider to be ancient “Cave Shamanism”, and my self expression took on a more obtuse route of interdimensional communication and otherworldly visitation / initiation rituals. Looking for The Primordial Fire, I believe I’ve glimpsed it.


For me, art became a personal mythology that I was obsessed with for a couple of years, even though I knew that 9 out of 10 people wouldn’t “get it”, wouldn’t care, and probably wouldn’t purchase it (nor did I even WANT to sell it). Hell, many people would probably say it “sucked” and “my 12 year old nephew can paint better than that!”. Yet, despite all of that, I still painted, created collages and digitally manufactured hundreds of pieces over the course of a few years time. This experimentation showed me that I’m capable of more than just famous comic book characters, cartoons, and horror icons.


I began to find my own form of self expression that wasn’t merely catering to pop culture standards and expectations. Having already painted dozens of pop culture characters, many of them which actually did end up selling, I just wanted to move on to another genre/style. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that is, and I’m sure I will experiment again with comic book and horror icons (those are my roots), but I don’t want that to be my artistic voice. Cereal boxes from the 1980’s were cool, but do I want to paint them on canvas for a living? Probably not.


The true artist must discover that which speaks to them on some deep and profound level. If you are a stencil artist spray painting countless mass produced images of Star Wars characters, is that really speaking to what is deep and profound within you? Or are you motivated by sales and targeting a specific type of fan base? There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily. Yet, consider, should the cover band of musicians, or those merely copying style, be considered “artists”? For that matter, should the typical MSN or FOX News anchor really be considered a “journalist”?


I’m probably getting off track here, but I’m about to visit the beautiful and immersive Van Gogh - Lume Exhibit at the Indianapolis Newfields again next week, and it made me question, not for the first time, the matter of “what is Art?”, and particularly, “what is a True Artist?”. If anyone reading today is offended in some way that I would say there is a difference between an artist and an Artist, and a musician and an Artist, or an author and an Artist, I apologize. I am a huge fan of many illustrators and musicians and writers and actors which I do not necessarily consider Artists (with a capital A).


Fame/popularity/views/followers are no indication of whether or no you are an actual artist. In the end, only YOU can decide if you’ve actually broken the threshold of considering yourself in the landscape of being an actual Artist. Likewise, many of those who actually do become Artists, aren’t even aware of the fact. And maybe that’s for the best: the art has an impact that even the artist doesn’t fully understand. ART is more in the hands of the observer than the creator and we all just try and seek some warmth amidst its revelations.


As with our under-appreciated cave ancestors of the ancient past who marveled us with vast mythologies, I suppose a True Artist in whatever medium they are engaging, must ask themselves if they would STILL be partaking in that creative endeavor if only the most rudimentary of tools were at their disposal? In the strangest, most dangerous and mysterious of conditions, even when no one else was looking and no one besides yourself even cared, would you still venture into the unknown self? What of your talents and energy would you freely give to discover your own soul?