Tears, Elevation, and Bleeding

In my last post I explored the importance of understanding why we create the things we do. But is there a difference between something we make with that understanding in mind and something that's just an off the cuff creation or an imitation?

Why even ask why we're creating anything?

And does it matter at the end of the process? 

I think (and I may be wrong) it's the difference between art and craft. And while craft is important, it is not what elevates a creation to art. 

A great example of this difference would be the difference between a Pollock painting and one of those YouTube videos showing the viewer how to make their own Pollock painting. I'll give you a hint. If you're watching that video, you've probably missed the point of the whole endeavor. Your 'Pollock' will be an imitation. To be fair all art is imitation. But art is not all imitation. 

My premise is this. What elevates something to art is not the quality of the craft, but the inexplicable traces of the question why.

The thing created is merely a container for something that transcends the thing itself. 

I'll tell you, I love Jackson Pollock's paintings. More than that, I love the idea of what he was doing. And once, I happened to see one of his paintings in person. It was a complete accident, I didn't even know any were in the museum. I just walked around the corner, and there it was. And tears flooded my eyes. Yes, it was visually beautiful. Yes, it was massive and imposing. But that's not what brought the tears. I could feel the question being asked and answered and distilled in this creation.

Here's another example. I know a great photographer. Yes, she went to school and continues to work on her craft. The composition is there, the quality is high. But that's not what makes her work so good. I told her once, "I notice you don't try to shoot the subject or capture the moment, you're shooting the emotion." What comes through in her work isn't the quality. The quality just keeps the viewer from being distracted from the thing you can't see. It's the thing you feel that makes it art. 

Here's the tough part. You can't practice painting a Pollack and eventually get it, and you can't try to take photographs shooting for the emotion.

This is where art has to bleed into life somehow.

What you can do is live. Be moved by the creations of others. Find art, in and out of the frame, that stirs you. Ask yourself what those things are doing in you. Then go make a thing. And your life, the movings and stirrings unique to you, will bleed into your art.

Thomas Karst