What does an artist need?

Virtuosity

The artist has to have mastery of the techniques and skills with which he/she creates art. Like all great artists and indeed sportsmen, musicians and actors as well, true virtuosity makes the mastery of technical skills look deceptively easy. Other elements here might include:

  • The intention to produce something – art is not produced by accident, nor do chimps, elephants or cows produce it. The ability to produce more than an accidental one off is crucial
  • A desire to illustrate in its widest sense – the ability to produce in two dimensions what we ‘see’ in three, or in the case of a sculptor; three in three
  • The ability to exhibit a skill – for example, drawing to a level we would see as being above the ordinary
  • Art is self rewarding activity – the artist should enjoy what he is doing even though it can be vary frustrating at times

Innovation

Since the Renaissance Western Society has encouraged, praised and valued innovation. To be the first in any endeavour almost certainly ensures a place in history. This is one reason why artists such as Picasso are seen as giants of art, because they innovate whereas others merely develop or extend the innovation of others. Innovation by definition challenges accepted rules, conventions and ideas. To be a true innovator requires great courage and determination. Ways in this might be achieved could include some of the following:

  • An ability to unite dissimilar things – e.g. Picasso’s sculpture of a Bull’s head made from the saddle and handle bars of a bicycle
  • A fascination with change and variety – artists constantly try to offer new insights on the world, or change and challenge accepted ways of doing, seeing or accessing things
  • An ability to create illusions – M S Escher manipulated space in his graphic drawings to make us believe that water could indeed flow upwards as well as down.
  • Challenging the familiar with elements of surprise – Rene Magritte was a master of surprise. His painting The Call of the Summit 1942 is a good example.
  • Imposing order on disorder – the classical landscape gardener Capability Brown brought order on the chaos of nature
  • The ability to manipulate our perception of reality – we have only to look at any painting by Salvador Dali to see how artists can influence the way we perceive the world. Damien Hirst might be a more modern example.

Artistic vision

Artists who have a total belief in and complete commitment to the works they are producing, have the potential to produce great works of art. Their total belief in their idea is one of the elements that give credence to their work. Artistic vision is also to do with the ability to see, exploit or give meaning to the chaos and absurdity thrown up by nature and humanity. Other ways in which this might manifest itself are:

  • A attempt to make sense of life – the artistic interpretation of life’s great or insignificant moments, for example, Edvard Munch’s painting, Death in the Sickroom, which deals with individual and collective grief – the death of his sister.
  • The creation of fantasy – artists such as Richard Dadd created a mystical world based on Shakespeare’s play, A Mid Summer Nights Dream in his painting, The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke
  • Indulging in sensuousness and the erotic – an example might be Velasquez’s painting of the Rokeby Venus 1648
  • The glorification of self or others – good examples are Jacques Louis David’s painting of The Crowning of Napoleon’ , which captures the moment crowned himself Emperor of France, or elements of Michelangelo’s painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel in Rome
  • A wish to shock or surprise – Damien Hirst uses shock tactics to make us consider our attitudes towards the use of animals for food in such works as, This little Piggy went to Market and this little Piggy stayed at Home.

Hopefully, this gives some indication about what it is that we artist’s get up to and why we continually strive to keep producing this stuff we call art! Having said all that Andy Warhol seemed to reject most of the above and he didn’t do too badly.