From prehistoric cave paintings to digitally-enhanced images, mankind has come a long way in art production. Creative expression, an exceptionally human trait, is one that makes us stand out among all living things. Yet, in our modern era of increasingly AI-generated content, it’s easy for artists to start feeling a bit disheartened. Because is AI art still art? What makes art ART, and where do we find our place within it now that machines can do the work (seemingly) as well as we do?
“It’s about our choices. The digital environment has completely exploded the number of choices that we have. And yet, in some ways, we feel more conditioned and automated than ever. And then there’s the fact that you can copy and paste anything, or things like deep fakery – that’s another dynamic of the web that makes you think, is anything truly original? What’s the role of the maker and the artisan?”, says Anne McCrossan, ceramicist and digital business owner, in an interview we’ve done for CBA Content’s How Creators Create series.
To be or not to be? To create or not to create? In order to make sense of this new external reality, we, artists and creators far and wide, need to dive deeper into our individual internal nooks and crannies. So, let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
Defining the Undefinable
According to Greek mythology, in the beginning, there was Chaos.
However, as soon as, we (humans) developed abstract thinking, we had to construct some sort of order around it. We started building communities, cities, and devices to help us navigate life. We learned how to control the chaos around us but we needed something to understand the chaos inside us. That’s how various forms of creative expression came to be.
Therefore, art can be considered a tool to control inner turmoil. Of course, we could describe art as a painting, a song, or a poem, yet this simplistic definition would severely lack depth. As the saying goes, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Some things are felt rather than understood, and that is precisely the case with art.
What binds all art forms together is the human element in each and every one of them. It’s the emotions and feelings that find a home outside of us in what we create. Who we are takes shape as a sculpture, a theater play, a doodle in your journal. AI might be good fun, yet while it’s relevant to this conversation, it loses all its magic in the truest incarnation of art. After all, in the words of writer Joyce Carol Oats, “Art is the highest expression of the human spirit.”
Feel the Sparks of a Friendly Fire
At the risk of sounding overly metaphysical, we are all one. Thus, when we create something, it is immediately born with the potential to resonate with others on levels we’ve never even known existed. It’s kin to sorcery — when we conjure up artwork, we could be breathing a new kind of hope into someone’s heart, dispelling heavy clouds in their soul, and helping them see new reasons to enjoy life.
A sad scene in a movie will make some people cry. But when it speaks to somebody’s trauma, things go deeper than surface-level empathy. Art is storytelling which makes it so uniquely human; no other species is capable of narration of any kind. We can write our tale exactly how it happened, paint it in colors that convey its atmosphere, or imagine something completely unreal and tell it in metaphor. All while knowing that someone on the receiving end might just have their heart mended.
The Blending of Senses
So how does it feel to engage in the act of creation? Well, it’s often unpredictable, sometimes painful and frustrating, but ultimately always exhilarating or even cathartic. It will feel remarkably different to each and every one of us because we all have our own reasons for picking up a pen or a paintbrush. We are connected, we are one, but we’re still individual forces to be reckoned with.
There are no doppelgangers in the art world as we each bring something special to the drawing board. For example, have you heard of synesthesia? It’s a neurosensory wire-crossing in which senses seem to blend together. So you might hear music and, in your mind’s eye, “see” colors. While this phenomenon is generally very uncommon, it’s something that some artists (including yours truly) report experiencing.
Art is fascinating because life is. And life is fascinating because humanity is. To make art is to be human.
Art for Art’s Sake
We would not go as far as to say that everyone is an artist. Then again, who are we to tell you who you are or who you’re not? And that’s precisely the point: you decide. You decide if, when, where, how, or why. Day by day, you already create your life as you go so why not keep designing your future?
Start with searching for the sublime.
The sublime is the experience of the infinite that resides in your heightened awareness of the world. It’s the kind of beauty that takes your breath away and fills you with so much awe that you need to sit down for a moment. Anything could spark that kind of reaction within you: first love, a stunning sunset, or — you guessed it — a piece of art.
Do you have something important to say? Do you feel the rising urge to express a feeling?
Brace yourself then, as you may now encounter the invisible force that writer Steven Pressfield calls resistance. In his book The War of Art, he argues, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” Resistance makes us procrastinate and find all kinds of BS excuses that not only inhibit our progress but might even prevent that first line of chapter one from being written. Especially when, as writer W. Somerset Maugham brilliantly put it, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
But that’s the beauty, the magic, the sublime in action. While you could easily buy a guidebook to teach you how to draw a horse, the interpretation of it is entirely up to you. Yes, there are rules in art. But you can also break all of them in art. Loosen up, let your heart guide your hand, follow your bliss, stay flawed and therefore interesting, and trust the process. Art is freedom.
Art is to the soul what water is to the body – it sustains us on more levels than one.
Art makes us see more.
Art makes us think deeper.
Art takes us beyond the confines of the physical world.
Art sparks both new feelings and emotions long forgotten.
Art connects us to kindred spirits and realms we long to belong.
Art provides an outlet for our internal struggles.
Art communicates what we are to the outside world.
To make art is to be human.