What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I learned everything I needed to know in 6 years of college (except everything else I needed to know) - What price art.

First an update, Chapter 17 stands at 682 words. About half of that was from this previous week. So, some progress. Not much, but some. And now back to your regular blogging.

This one is going to piss off a few people. To start off you need to know that I hold a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Akron Meyer's School of Art. I have a lot of Art History floating around in my cerebellum, including a bunch that most people have never seen (History of Ephemera, anybody?). I can sling the wonderful magical words of art like a pro, because I am one. What I'm about to say launched a semester-long fight in art school. It took place in the sophomore level classes. That's when the revelation took place as our instructors told us the dirty truth.

What we do isn't art and we aren't artists.

It may quack like a duck, and it may waddle, but it ain't no duck. It's a goose. What's the difference between a duck and a goose? A goose can feed a family of four.

Yes, uproar, consternation, and a general "What you talking about Willis?" attitude pervaded the Graphic Design 200 classes. How dare they (the instructors, all working designers) say we aren't artists? Well, Sparky, we ain't. I'm not going to tell you what we actually are because you won't like it, but we aren't artists.

Now, the two year degree and the actual profession at the time were referred to us as "commercial artists." What we created and sent to press (and even now when it's bits on a disk or email) is called "art." And we're the ones people talk about when they say they "need an artist."

Art isn't what we do. We create communications. And there is a difference.

Right now there's a subtext argument going through the ranks of SF/F/H about literature versus popular fiction. The whole Adam Roberts letter about the Hugos is an example. See, there's those who feel we're still artists and we're making art. Art has "merit." Art has "permanence." When you're creating Art it is to be expected that the great unwashed masses won't get it, because that's what Art is. Art needs to be appreciated. The struggle to produce Art needs to be recognized. Art works deep into the mind and massages out Truth and Meaning. Add in the mythos surrounding the long-suffering struggling artists and it makes those people struggling feel a little better about it.

And it's a steaming pile that needs to be hauled out with a shovel.

You buy "Art" at auctions. I'm on the street peddling my wares. I go to the highest bidder (mostly), the one waving the cash in hand. And I'll create something for them. I'll create something that's from them (and that's what divides us from artists).

See, Art is individual expression. It can even be expanded to be the voice of a generation, but in the end, Art is a singular effort. If I'm creating a piece of "Art" that needs to mimic that it belongs to and comes form my client, it can't be Art.

So how does this relate to writing? Well, it really comes down to what kind of writer you want to be. There's the kind of writer that will do the things that College English professors will use as examples of literary form and function and that the National Book Award will recognize as a fine example of what people should be reading. Except the people tend to read all this trite piffle like Dan Brown, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Daniel Steele, Laura K. Hamilton, and all those low brow types. And they read it because the don't know any better and can't appreciate what true artistic merits all these other books that sell less than 5000 copies despite the rave reviews in literary magazine have by the truck load. Or do you want to be the writer that people actually read and enjoy, even if they only sell 5000 or so (I know quite a few books like that)? Do you want to be the writer than entertains and is accessible to the masses (which doesn't mean you can't do all those literary things, you just handle it in a different manner, one which usually doesn't involve the "look at me I'm so clever" pee-pee dance)?

I'll be the later, thanks.

Oh sure, my story will massage parts of you and might impart a little meaning. But with my massage you'll get a Happy Ending(tm) (and, no, that's not the literary term you think it is).

Art? I'm not creating Art. I'm making art. I'm drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. I'm putting out posters and pasting them up all over town. It's my job and I approach it as work. And that's the difference. It may look and feel like art, but it isn't.


The Ferrett said...


Mac said...

I needed that. :-D

Steve Buchheit said...

Ferrett, yep, there's a lot that don't understand it though. And within the genre circles there are all these arguments about "literature" vs writing lately.

Mac, glad I could be there for you.