Like many non-artists, I am baffled by abstract art – “my dog could paint that” – is an honest reaction to fine pieces in a museum. But, a few years ago I took an intro to art class in college and got a little bit closer to understanding. I began to compare visual art to my own art, writing. I know that when I put a string of words together, it is not just the meaning of the words, but the sounds and feel of the words that tell the story. So, when I see paint splatters covering a huge canvas, I wonder if in fact, the artist did not just get crazy one day, but actually splattered each droplet exactly where he had intended it to be.
[insert Pollack here]
I just started working a job that is located in Laguna Beach, which is something of an art hub. I grew up only 20 minutes away, and never knew that every first Thursday of the month, all the galleries are open and often artists and musicians do live work. I was thrilled to attend, and better yet, brought someone with me who has a degree in studio art and can make more intelligent comments than, “This one looks… cool.”
We talked about how art is done, and I came to another epiphany.
Well, first, I realized a falsehood that I’ve always assumed. I believed that I was incapable of visual art. I’ve tried painting, it looks terrible, unless I get lucky, and the paint never does what I want it to because I was not trained, and I do not have the patience to work with it until it does what I want.
But my friend compared art to a continued problem solving exercise. This is something I can relate to. By seeing it as problem solving, I can see creating art as steps to an end, not just a mystical talent that some people have and others do not.
The other concept that surprised me was when my friend said he’d like to create art full time, and never sell it. I know lots of writers who wish they could freelance or become novelists, and not have to answer to anyone, but I’ve never met one who wanted to write novels with no intention of selling them.
So, what if. What if someone really set out to express themselves in a novel and just let it be that?
I interned for a literary agent once, and we received loads of manuscripts, written by people of all walks of life, many not career writers. They’re always so sure they’re onto something.
When I think about writing, I always envision myself writing something to be a bestseller. So, am I truly that financially-minded? Do I just want to write for fame, and not for art, like I had previously thought?
This is my conclusion: Writing a novel is an act of communication. Sure, it is art, and it is a story, and it is always aimed at describing the human condition. But, it is also like a tree that falls in the forest if nobody hears – because, the act of writing a novel is to explain the human condition in such a way that another human being can understand. So, I think visual art is different – in sculptures and painting, and all the other things, it really is enough to just capture something.