“Anything You Can do I can Do”… But why should I?

First the title of this blog is not necessarily true in and of its self, but I am trying to paint a picture with words here, so follow along will you? I am not sure if you are familiar with the old musical “Annie Get Your Gun” Starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. In the movie there is a song that they sing to each other. Its more two people shooting arrogant verse at each other as if they are bullets. “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” As artist we are all looking for our own place in the world of art, our own voice. Even when and while we are inspired by and appreciate the expressions of others we can sometimes find ourselves looking at fellow artist with competitive eyes. “I can do that and I can do it better. Maybe I should try.” If you are an artist or even a writer you can go ahead and admit you have done that once or twice. 

In an older post, I quoted Octavia E. Butler on how she became a science fiction writer. (Did I mention she is the winner of the Hugo Award and Nebula Awards?) Anyhow she said that when she was twelve years old she watched a dreadful science fiction flick. It was so bad that she was determined to write “good” science fiction. And she did, obviously. But her attitude was “I can do better than that.” And that attitude payed off. (If you have not read any of her work, check out Wild Seed)

Since this blog started I have been on a constant journey trying to identify my voice as an artist. Truth be told I have been on this search since I have been an artist. I have always been very eclectic. But one thing that has come to mind with all of this is that I have to make art that I care about not just art that I can make. As I have said for years, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. That is when you get stuck in ruts of hollow, soulless work, be it writing, visual art, whatever it is. Always do art that you care about.

I am on a hunt to find what it is that I care about. I love doing oil paintings, I love writing (writing will ALWAYS be my thing. I love to tell a story.) but with visual art, it just all depeneds. I find that even with oil painting, though I have a talent in it, I am finding that I prefer not to get as messy, so I feel like I am leaning towards exploring more pencil work, with graphite and colored pencils. And there is always the option of mixed media illustration.  There are so many options.

I remember in undergrad during a departmental review, my professors telling me “All your work is amazing but it looks like the work of 20 different artist.” On one hand this is not a bad thing at all. It’s like being multilingual. I speak 20 different artistic languages. 😀 On the other hand it begs the question, are you perfectly fluent in any of them? Jack or rather Jacqueline of all trades and master of…only a few.

Art Band
This is a sample of my work. Do you see the connection? Can you hear the same voice? Can you tell the that the same artist (ME) did these? Don’t feel bad, me neither…

We need to create on purpose, with purpose.”

There are 3 verses that come to mind in this regard. I will pluck at each. One is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

It is comforting to know that if I set myself to do things that He, Messiah Yeshua has placed in my heart to do, that no matter what, if I trust Him, He has given me the strength to do them. I want to make art. He has given me the gift to do so and also the strength.

I Corinthians 10:23 “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is beneficial.”

But with that strength and with this gift I need to operate in wisdom. So what I can, sculpt. I don’t feel ANYTHING when I am sculpting apart from a loss of time. Dash the great reviews of my audience. (Just using sculpting as an example) Where is the benefit of doing something just because I can? I did not benefit from my efforts and in the long run no one else will. The work is void of any life because my heart was not in it. This is arbitrary actions at its best.

Both of these verses bring me to Isaiah 30:21 “and your ears hear a word behind you, saying “This is the Way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or whenever you turn to the left.”

What is the point? The point is not to be arbitrary, not to be competitive. Art, to me, creation, is sacred. It needs to be treated with respect and care. We need to create that way, on purpose with purpose. Not in a way to “out do” the person next to us. There has to be meaning involved. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

In conjunction with this, we should not only do art that we care about, but we should do art that we care about on subjects that we care about.  If you are not interested in what you are doing your work “on” you are still going to get the same empty results, a pretty picture with no life to it, even if you are doing it in a medium that you love.

My path is still winding forward. I am discovering more about me and what I want out of my career as an artist but I still have not uncovered my “niche” and voice. At least I can be reminded to do art that I care about on subject matters that I care about and leave all the competitive “i can do better than you” mess behind me.

Cheers Soup Seekers and happy creating!

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