I read something today, written by the ever-inspirational Seth Godin, asking who is in charge of putting the magic into your corporate project, or whatever it is you’re all working on together. It’s a very good question. Who, indeed?
It occurred to me that putting the magic in is the vital step that ordinary artists almost always forget to do, too. The outstanding artists never forget.
When creating your art, here’s a good thing to ask yourself: How can I create delight? How can I make my art visually, sonically, spatially, texturally delightful? What will turn my ordinary artwork into something remarkable? Can I push the envelope of my technique, my materials, and my imagination, to produce something I can be justly proud of and which might possibly be memorable or change things for the better? What can I think of doing to it that nobody else has thought of doing?
I think art, perhaps more than anything, not only deserves an element of the magical about it, but it requires it. Yes, that might be vague and indefinable, but I bet you recognise magic when you encounter it! Who hasn’t felt that they’re in the presence of something very special, when viewing a painting by a great master, or when seeing a musician perform who is already a legend?
To me, adding the magic means going that little bit further, to mindfully include some aspect to your work that is deliberately designed to surprise, excite and enchant. That’s an interesting mind set to contemplate. Beyond simply producing your art in the way you know best, you’re actively thinking about future audience reaction and trying to shape it and influence it, across the span of time, by choices you make with your media right now. It’s an exercise in anticipation and second guessing. It’s almost time travel.
Some obvious ways to add magic are to increase the quality of your work along some important dimension. Use better or more spectacular brush strokes. Ensure the colours work well together and are balanced on the canvas. Dial in the perfect tone and blend the right instruments in your counterpoint melodies. Add that piquant and aromatic ingredient. Present it in an unusual or unexpected way.
Another way is to add something that you know to be emotionally affective. Perhaps you can dazzle with a splash of virtuosity or make your sounds or colours dance with each other harmoniously. Maybe you need to play with contrast and dynamics, using light and shade. Perhaps you’ll add breathtaking beauty, or elegant simplicity. You might add a flourish or a poignant, poetic gesture. Maybe choose to include a “mot juste”. Alternatively, you can hide something clever, but discoverable, inside your work, waiting for somebody to find it. A little wit also goes a very long way. So does some heart and authenticity. Make your artwork blossom.
Whatever your field of art and however you produce it, you will already know what it is that makes it feel magical. Your influences, mentors and heroes will have taught you and embedded that in your own taste. The key is to make the decision to actually put the magic into your art. On purpose.
As Seth Godin says, it isn’t going to get there by itself.