True masters of their art make what they do look easy. It seems so simple. They execute with such facility and ease that onlookers conclude that what they’re doing must actually be really easy. It’s not. Just because it looks easy doesn’t mean it is easy. What cannot be seen, in the moment of creation, is the years of learning, application, practice and struggle that went into developing and perfecting those artistic skills, unless you realise that the giveaway, tell-tale sign is the fact that it looks easy. Those with less ability make it look far harder.
If an audience incorrectly concludes that something that looks easy is easy, then they tend to devalue it, as if anybody’s child could do it. Indeed, anybody’s child that was willing to dedicate themselves wholly to perfecting the art could do it, but showing one of those kids as proof of the valueless nature of the art doesn’t prove the case at all. It’s the exception that actually proves the rule. Making creation look easy is, indeed, very hard. Yet, it’s common for people to regard art that looks easy to make as something worthless. It unfairly denigrates the artist and the work that went into making it look so straightforward.
As a consequence of this peculiar way of evaluating well-made art, produced without needless ceremony or theatricality, some artists have realised that they need to make what they have mastered look like a struggle and a supreme effort, in order to have the audience value what they do. A famous guitarist’s party trick is to play a piece he calls “Arpeggios from Hell” at a fast pace, grimacing and sweating as he does so, finishing on his knees, with an exhausted flourish, to rapturous applause. Thereafter, he slowly regains his composure and gathers up his last ounces of energy to wanly acknowledge the crowd and the curtain falls. It’s all pure stage acting. I’ve seen the same piece played by a bored-looking teenage girl in France, on YouTube, note perfectly. Clearly, both are accomplished players, as you need to be to execute the piece flawlessly, but the wealthier of the two makes the performance appear as if he has suffered and bled.
Whereas an author, for example, will crow about having written their latest book, a multi-talented creative person, or polymath, may also have written their book, to a similarly high standard, but will have also created many other things, to an equally high standard. In saying they also created a book (usually rather casually, by comparison), people compare the polymath’s effort to the dedicated author’s claims and conclude that the specialist must have done a better job than the polymath. It isn’t so. The polymath worked just as hard and diligently, but because they have many accomplishments to tout, the conclusion others reach is that any single one of their achievements must be inferior to that of a specialist and hence, below par. A simple comparison of any one of their works, in isolation, is all it takes to dispel the fallacy, but people seldom do it.
I think that it’s possibly a regrettable truth that artists need to make their work look much more difficult to do than it actually is and beyond what any normal mortal could possibly contemplate attempting, so that they retain a God-like image, in the minds of their audience. That, I am afraid, seems to be what the public wants. They want to imagine that the art is special because it comes from aliens. The truth that they wish to avoid acknowledging is that any one of them, given sufficient effort and insight, could achieve the same results. In avoiding this truth, it permits complacency to remain, so that they don’t have to challenge themselves or try to become better at things. It’s much easier to attribute artwork to alien beings and remain cosy and safe in a cocooned little world, where they don’t have to risk very much or work very hard, yet still remain content with their own achievements. It’s not their fault they were not endowed with gifts by the Gods, after all. That’s how the thinking goes, I believe.
All artists know that your so-called “gifts” don’t get you very far. They might help you have the confidence to start, but the road is long and arduous. Even the most gifted and talented find that to perfect their art, supreme application, effort and struggle will have to be a part of their daily life for years to come. Indeed, many who believe they are gifted fall by the wayside, once the truth dawns on them that reaching the required standard is going to take more work and effort than they bargained for. This is why child actors and child prodigies so often lose their way, on the road to adult mastery of their craft. A promising start is just not enough.
So, should artists play-act a little more, to disguise their alacrity and mastery over their art? Should every work they produce appear to involve agonising personal sacrifice and the supposed donation of a vital organ? Such a ruse could make them more money, after all. I find that a distraction, personally. It’s just art. I would rather put the work into getting good at what I do and then not make a fuss about it. Sure, I might remain relatively poor because of that decision, but I think my work will stand on its own, timelessly. When the feigned suffering is forgotten, what remains is the work and I would prefer to produce that, giving it my full concentration and effort, rather than being distracted in the moment of creation by the need to appear like it’s all so difficult to do. It is difficult enough to do as it is, damn it! I may be many things, but I have little aspiration to become an actor as well. At least work that is the best I can produce gives me a sense of satisfaction. The play acting, pretending to be a martyred artist, doesn’t thrill me at all.
Will my own accomplishments become lost in the noise of individuals shouting about their latest creation? Possibly. If I market my art at all, I tend to be rather low key about doing so, or as low key as I dare. It’s not for me to tell an audience how to appreciate what I have made. It’s up to them. Of course, the risk I run is that they don’t notice it at all, let alone evaluate it. That said, I feel the only valid praise is unscripted praise. It could be argued that ranting and raving about what I have made is the wiser choice, but it doesn’t sit well with me. In fact, it sits uncomfortably. Perhaps I am more introverted than I think.
When you make art, do you make it look painfully difficult to produce (involving obstetrics-grade suffering), or like something you could do in your sleep (with one hand tied behind your back)?