As creative professionals we spend our time in the space of design, animation, music, film, writing, etc…
Most of society looks our way and says, “Those are artists. They’re creative types.”
But the line between Art and creativity can be a blurry one.
It’s that line between our work as professionals, and works of art, that have profound value in human culture and society.
Before we can begin to think about this, we have to ask some very basic questions.
Does Art exist?
I firmly believe that Art exists. Which might sound like a weird statement but it’s an important qualifier to the following concepts.
Asking if Art exists is basically asking if there is some underlying harmony or beauty to the universe itself, that can be touched by the human soul.
Can anything be intrinsically beautiful or special, or is that concept a human invention?
I like this debate because it’s considering the most fundamental question about human existence.
Is there divinity?
Is there order or is there chaos?
Thats a larger discussion, but in my life, I choose order (and subsequently divinity). I choose to believe that at the absolute bottom level of existence there is harmony (symmetry).
I didn’t always feel this way, and maybe I won’t always. But right now I do.
Separating Art from Creative Services
I have been strongly influenced by the writings of Lewis Hyde, and much of my current view came into alignment after reading his book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.
Basically Hyde argues that Art is defined by the reason it exists in the first place. That true Art is a gift and not a commodity.
Work in creative services can be done with an artistic mastery and be made to look like art, but if it came into existence out of a desire to sell someone something, then it’s not really Art.
Hyde makes the statement, “Where there is no gift, there is no art.”
This distinction helps me to separate my work for clients and the times when I truly want to create art (which to be honest I now realize, I’ve done very little of).
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t create work that exists as advertisements or the like.
We can and should preform at a high level for clients, it’s just not Art.
This might be obvious to many, and if it is to you, then I think your head is in a healthy place. But it wasn’t always clear to me, and making this distinction has been of great benefit in my life.
It shifts my focus when I serve clients.
I can be in creative services with a bit more detachment (which makes feedback and revisions and more revisions) not actually seem bad, because my heart isn’t tied to that work, in the way it would be tied to my art.
I still work really hard at delivering high quality work, it’s just not gut wrenching anymore if the client hates the first draft, or even the second.
And I’m pretty convinced clients like me better this way. What they want is someone who is willing to work to get it right, not be an emotional roller coaster who thinks they’re painting the Sistine chapel.
Hyde makes a truly wise defense of the value and nature of art, beginning his thesis with a view of gift giving in ancient cultures.
True Art is a gift and not a commodity.
This book helped me to make some healthy divisions between my work as a motion designer and my Art (where my journey is truly just beginning).
This is a pretty big debate, that goes to the core of some big questions.
I encourage you to read his book and think about it for yourself.
As I said before, some of the basic views about existence will influence how we view these things.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.