I never really understand what art is or what it’s for, until I read this. This makes sense to me. I want to share it with you. Words by Amanda Palmer.
“You may have a memory of when you first, as a child, started connecting the dots of the world. Perhaps outside on a cold-spring-day school field trip, mud on your shoes, mentally straying from the given tasks at hand, as you began to find patterns and connections where you didn’t notice them before. You may remember being excited by your discoveries, and maybe you held them up proudly to the other kids, saying:
Did you ever notice that THIS looks like THIS?
The shapes on this leaf look like the cracks in this puddle of ice
Which look like the vein on the back of my hand
Which look like the hairs stuck to the back of her sweater …
Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works.
Collecting, connecting, sharing.
All artists work in different mediums, but they also differ when it comes to those three departments. Some artists love the act of collecting …
Some artists devote more time to connecting the dots they’ve already collected …
… Like most stage performers, I’ve always been most passionate about the final phase: the sharing.
There are lots of ways to share. Writers share when someone else reads or listens to their words in a book, a blog, a tweet. Painters share by hanging their work, or by sliding a sketchbook to a friend across the coffee-shop table. Stage performers also collect and connect (in the form of experiencing, writing, creating, and rehearsing), but there is a different kind of joy in that moment of human to human transmission : from you to the eyes and ears of the audience, whether fireside at a party or on a stage in front of thousands. I’m a sharing addict. But no matter the scale or setting, one truth remains: the act of sharing, especially when you’re starting out, is fucking difficult.
There’s always a moment of extreme bravery involved in this question:
“…will you look?”
It starts when you’re little. Back in the field: the veins of the leaf looked like your hand, and you said it, out loud, to the kids walking next to you.
You may have seen the lights go on in their eyes, as you shared your discovery – Whoa, you’re right! Cool ! – and felt the first joys of sharing with an audience.
Or you may have been laughed at by your friends and scolded by the teacher, who explained, patiently:
Today isn’t “looking for patterns” day.
This is not the time for that.
This is the time to get back in line, to fill in your worksheet, to answer the correct questions.
But your urge was to connect the dots and share, because THAT, not the worksheet, is what interested you.
This impulse to connect the dots – and to share what you’ve connected – is the urge that makes you an artist.
If you’re using words or symbols to connects the dots, whether you’re a “professional artist” or not, you are an artistic force in the world.
When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn’t visible before.
Have you ever noticed that THIS looks like THIS?
And with the same delight that we took as children in seeing a face in the cloud, grown-up artists draw the lines between the bigger dots of grown-up life: sex, love, vanity, violence, illness, death.
Art pries us open. A violent character in a film reflects us like a dark mirror; the shades of a painting cause us to look up into the sky, seeing new colors; we finally weep for a dead friend when we hear that long-lost song we both loved come unexpectedly over the radio waves.
Artists connect the dots – we don’t need to interpret the lines between them. We just draw them and then present our connections to the world as a gift, to be taken or left.
This IS the artistic act, and it’s done every day by many people who don’t even think to call themselves artists … “
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