I’ve always wanted an art car. (I’ve admired them for years.) And after spending the July 4th weekend with my friend Dorcey (she’s one of the most inventive, wild, eccentric, creative people that I know), I went home and started painting my RV. It’s sort of like I broke through a barrier of some sort—from “I wish I could do that…” to “I can do that!”
It’s taken me years to claim the artist part of my psyche. The reason I’ve never thought of myself as an artist is because I don’t have any training in art, no techniques or developed skills. My definition of an artist has always been someone who could produce a product that looked good (and usually good enough to sell commercially.) Don’t we all do that? The standard definition of an artist is something external, rather than internal. We see someone’s crafty sketch or beautiful quilt and say, “Oh! You’re an artist!” We don’t typically look at art as a process that is central to life.
The first line in Robert Henri’s book The Art Spirit is: “Art…is the province of every human being. It is simply a question of doing things, anything, well. It is not an outside, extra thing.” In other words, art happens when you care about something. In her book, Learning by Heart, the artist Corita Kent wrote, “The root meaning of the word art is to fit together and we all do this everyday…Each time we fit things together we are creating—whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.” We are artists when we fit things together with care, curiosity and feeling.
In recent years, numerous writers, scholars, and others have proclaimed the centrality of aesthetics and beauty as the way toward social change. The cosmologist Brian Swimme has said, “beauty is what is going to lead us to a new era of being human.” Business consultant Michael Jones argues that aesthetic consciousness is “the primary new work for leaders.” Our task as humans now is to follow and learn from those things that we find beautiful, those things that inspire our creative passions.
It’s time to reclaim our inner artists.