Sunday, February 24, 2013

Creative Authenticity

The following are notes I made for a book review that I did not do. This is a very small book but in many ways a very important piece of writing on art. It is directed toward painting but is every bit as applicable to photography.
There is much that I would like to share of this book, but I am going to limit it what I consider quotes with strong implications toward photography. The essence of the book is explaining in great detail the difference between two words—originality and authenticity. It is not originality that makes our work worthwhile, it is authenticity.
Creative Authenticity
16 Principle to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision
 by Ian Roberts

“Subject matter functions as an armature through which you as an artist engage your intensity of feeling. It is the quality of your attention that influences how you see and how deeply you feel.”

“It’s one thing to give expression to something you feel strongly about. It is another thing to find a simple way to express what you have discovered so another person can appreciate it.”

 “Within the initial artistic response to something is a core idea or feeling, and most of our work comes from stripping way everything that is extraneous for it.”

“All great actions have been simple, and all great pictures are.”

”One thing is clear. The artist does not look at art the way others do. They don’t look at the finished product the same way as everyone else. They have different concerns. Any experienced gallery owner can tell when an artist enters their gallery and looks at representational paintings... because the artist is concerned with the whole and how the work was created.”

“Your creative expression is like your handwriting or personal calligraphy. Unique.”

“With patience we gain fluency in both the creative process and artistic technique. When people say they can feel within what they want to say but can’t seem to express it, they are saying they lack technique. The Greek word for art is techne, which implies that the feeling or inspiration is not art. ONLY the realization of the inspiration in some manifest form is art. In other words, you must have the technique to give your inspiration life.”

“If we’re serious about giving expression to our voice, we need to master whatever skills are necessary, whether it is the ability to draw or a better sense of composition. Until we deal with this, these problems will continue to stare us in the face graphically, boldly, in every painting we make.”

“Internally we build a foundation by going to the headwaters of our inspiration. We need to be clear about where our inspiration originates. I don’t mean trying to figure out why we’re attracted to this or that or what it means. That isn’t necessarily relevant. Rather, we have to feel the truth, and trust in the current, the flow and go with it. If we don’t find and follow that current from our own source, then we will feel enamored of and distracted by every mark, effect and subject we happen upon in other artists’ work. We will want to add that and try this. Obviously, we will be attached to and influenced by different kinds of art and rightly so. But that attraction needs a foundation.”

“Our painting will only be as deep as the depth we uncover in ourselves. We’re communicating. We’re translating our vision.”

“If we’re going to create art for the rest of our lives, we need to come to terms with what is uniquely our own. If we sidestep ourselves and derive vocabulary from someone else, we may feel we’re making great strides at the moment. But ultimately, we can’t continue. We have to come back to address the matter of authenticity. Unless we do, it’s like trying to use someone else’s handwriting or personality. It can’t remain satisfying.”

“We need to look at other art. We need to study it and react to it. We’re not trying to reinvent artistic expression. Artists, as artists, are moved by art as much or more than they are moved by nature. Artists see subjects to paint based on how they have assimilated the art that has moved them in the past. There is of course a melting pot of influences. But have the influences been fired in the crucible of your own vision?

“Making art that is authentic means eliminating those influences that have been picked up superficially and incorporating new ones that are more authentic.”

“The source of truly authentic work is within. Each time we ignore it, we diminish it. Each time we reject it, it goes silent. We need time alone, and openness, to re-entertain our inner inspiration.”

“Work that truly expresses something personal and true can sometimes get away with technical inadequacies. It rides on its power to move us, to communicate something to us. Art demands technique—but it amounts to little if we fail to bring it to spirit and vision. Spirit can illuminate a work with life even if there are technical flaws. But technique cannot breathe life into work that lacks vision. We’ve all seen paintings that are technically perfect and perfectly dead. On the other hand, we can think of the cave paintings at Lascaux. They have as much feeling as any high-tech film today. We’ve had advancements in technique, but few in depth of feeling”

“The question is, what are your themes or ideas? And can they be given expression? You can’t rush this. Those ideas may be buried and surface slowly in pieces. Or they may burst out fully formed—and scare the daylights out of you. You can’t rush and you’ve got to listen carefully.”

“Getting started is essential. We feel engaged when the brush hits the canvas. And in consciously learning our craft we open the channel for our voice to flow. But ‘it does not matter how well something is done if it is not worth doing.’ Expressing our voice, what we want to say, is what’s worth doing. Technique allows that to occur. In every case the development of our work will be an intermeshing of mastering craft as we unfold clearer expression of voice. They advance together like two side of a coin.”

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