Arts and Crafts

What is art? I don’t know, but I know it when I see it.

What is craft? Hard bloody graft.

Can you have art without craft? Nope. You can have beauty without craft, you can have meaning without craft, you can have reaction without craft, but you cannot have art without craft.

Why?

Because art requires intent. You have to intend to draw that line, use that word, hit that note. You can draw, write, or play without thinking about what you are doing — without a goal, just doodling along — and create art, by happy accident, because of the hours of work you have put in learning your craft.

Grafting.

As I writer, I don’t call myself an artist, ever, I don’t even think of myself as an artist, ever, but occasionally, if the world lines up just right, I may create art. I can’t waste my time thinking about that though, because my intent is to create good stories. I have spent hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades developing my craft skills.

In the beginning, when I knew nothing, it all seemed easy. I have a facility for words, for characters, and for plots. I’ve always had the ability to write a great line, create a memorable character, and form a plot that holds together. This is not ego talking, this is just the way it is, but it is also not enough.

I know people who can sing, have great voices, but who have never bothered to practise, to expand their range, to learn how to sustain a note or twist it into another. Because of this they are not singers, they are just people with great voices. Potential is not enough, at some point you have to put the work in. You have to graft, you have to practise your scales until your fingers bleed on the strings, because otherwise, when you need to hit that particular note at that particular time in that particular improvised bridge, your fingers will fumble and the music will stop.

Talent is not enough, but then you can graft as hard as you like for as long as you like and without talent you will never be anything more than competent. Sorry about that, sorry if that offends your proletariat principles, but grafting is not enough either. You do need to have a flair for what you are doing.

I think talent, for the arts at least, is just creativity. Some people are born more creative than others and then at some point in their childhood they focus on some expression of that creativity and people call it talent. There is nothing mysterious about it, but it has to be there. If you don’t have that twist of mind then you can practise as hard as you like. It won’t matter, because knowing your scales is not enough. Anybody can learn to play their scales, but there is only one Jimmi Hendrix and he grafted for years to gain the ability to make a guitar do that.

Some lucky folk have a sort of generalised creative talent, music, drawing, writing, they all come easy for them. Lucky buggers. But, unless they practise each particular form of expression, they still won’t be proficient in those skills.

Some people want to take short-cuts, they hire in craftsmen to create their visions, or they develop their skill for bullshitting so they can convince people that this badly drawn doodle is art, because they are an artist and they say it is art. It’s a living I suppose, but in the deep dark dead of night do they realise that they have squandered whatever talent they had in the pursuit of some ideological nonsense?

Art requires craft and craft requires graft. It is what it is. If it was easy then why would you need to spend all that time practising?

The graft raises your craft skills to the point where art can happen, but even without the art a craftsperson creates great stories, great songs, great images, all the time. Things that hit you between the eyes, get your blood pumping, make you think.

Because they have grafted and grafted and grafted to learn the skills to do that. Because they have taken the craft seriously. Because they don’t think they are artists.

PK’s Caveats: Caveat 1: I may not know what I’m blathering about. Caveat 2: There are no rules about writing, there are just things you can get terribly wrong. Caveat 3: If people apply the words never or always to storytelling techniques, ignore them.

First posted to ‘Firedance Blogs’: http://firedancebooks.com/blog/

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