A real artist I mean – not some dilettante, dabbling and decorating – why, you might as well still be doing ‘Colour by Numbers’. No, a real artist is always striving for something, some elusive emotion, some new way of portraying beauty, of making a mark. But life makes us all complacent. We are constantly reward for conforming. It begins at school when you get gold stars for the right answers. As you get older you begin (at least some of us do) to understand that there are no right answers. We should be rewarding kids for originality, for ripping up the text-books, for questioning all accepted wisdom, for thinking for themselves rather than for the teachers (or Ofsted).
And it is the same as you get older. At work, if you keep your head down and do as you are told you get promoted. If you ask awkward questions you get the sack. No-one likes a smart-arse. But really, we should. It is those who break down the barriers who are the real progressives.
And in Art – be it music, drama, or the visual arts – we are taught how to see things. The way they always have been seen. But all the great artists saw things differently; the Impressionists saw photography as a threat – they realised that they had to paint in a different way, literally creating an impression of reality rather than a photograph of real life. Every real Artist, be they Musician, Actor or Writer, has a duty to strive for something unattainable. Each new creation must attempt (and almost every attempt will fail) to create something new. I’ve just been re-reading a book about Joni, and how she turned her back on the mainstream in order to pursue her muse, how she was always striving to create something different. Her record company begging her for another ‘Blue’, for another ‘Court and Spark’ – and yet she refused, she was a real Artist, always trying to discover that elusive yet vital spark of originality.
And so, as I continue my sporadic and sometimes half-hearted career as a writer, I try to write a different thing every time. I too am striving to show in my inadequate way – a different way of seeing. And it isn’t a choice – it is a duty, a necessity, to break all the rules, to do it differently, to try to show beauty in a different light.