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Hubris and the artist


#1
Those who have spent years learning all they can about metal and
it's work....a lot of times they don't even call themselves
artists. You gotta earn it....and by that I mean live it.

Thanks to Kim Starbard for her insightful comment. Having just spent
an embarrassingly long time attempting to document a creative episode
in my life a lot of thoughts are still bussing around in my head.

I now realized that “Artist” is what I am only when one looks back
at my body of work, identifies its creative evolution and recognizes
value in what has been achieved. After nearly 40 years of creating
what should be made, rather than what has, my work stands on its own
evolutionary history of invention, discovery and refinement. It has
developed it own complex and mature aesthetic language, however
"artist" is not who I am and it is not what I do.

Who I am seems to depend on what I’m focused on. At times I’m a
goldsmith struggling with issues that push me to the limit of my
experience and skill, I’m definitely not thinking art at that point in
time. In fact I almost never think about making art, only about
pushing the work in hand to the emotional pitch that I’m visualizing.
Usually I come up a little short, so the next idea develops and I’m
in love with a new more demanding mistress. Eventual I reach a point
where I’m either satisfied or burnt out and I switch to something
else that fascinates me.

When I’m designing or inventing I’m intensely involve in each of
those activities. At those times I’m a designer or if I’m lucky an
inventor. At other times I’m a lapidary or if I measure up to it, a
jeweller. Every project ortask consumes me, I don’t multitask. When
I’m engaged in a new idea or project everything else is blocked out.
Most activities take longer, much longer than I expect to reach a
point where I stop. You could say that I sell my failures, it is my
evolving trail of failures that constitutes my oeuvre, each led me
to the next improvement. Its only in looking back that one develops
the perspective to see the creative force at work. I’ve had some
spectacular failures, creative turning points that changed me and
changed what I do.

In truth I don’t know what “artist” does. The trite answer “makes
art” is meaningless to me. As Kim so aptly put it, you can’t decide
to be artist. You might become one, you might not, it all in the
work. The art of a goldsmith, ok I get it, goldsmith artist, not a
clue.

If I were a painter I would be a painter to the very core. Maybe if
I discovered something fantastic, developed mastery over it and
evolved it into a real language, not a style, the paintings would
become works of art and you could say that I was artist, but in truth
I would be more concerned with being painter.

You might be thinking, wow that’s too hard to do, it might never
happen. I guess that’s the point. Art changes us, it exposes our mind
to what the best can be and in the process we develop expectations.
Exceptional works of art are thrilling because they exceed our
expectation and elevate our standards. They are rare because works
substantially above the norm are difficult to conceive and perform.

Now that’s something to live up to.

Dennis Smith - thejewelmaker


#2

This is interesting, I never considered myself an artist but people
call me that enough that I call myself that when I’m trying to
impress a woman. But, the title artist never feels right when I say
it. I have had a museum show, I have had lots of artistic accolades
and I suppose it is just easier to call me an artist rather than
gold/silver/platinum smith/jeweler ( who I always thought of as more
skilled than I am) /business owner/ marketer/ and what ever else I
try to do for myself. I live, eat and breath metalsmithing, I love it
and I do it despite all the evidence to the contrary that it will
feed me and my kids and pay off debts.

So to me an artist is what other people call me. That’s OK for now. I
have been around REAL artists ( painters) and they are a scurvy lot,
boy I thought it was hard to make a living doing what I do. But, at
least if necessary I can do repair when starving or even work for
someone else in my field, but a painter is really stuck unless they
have other marketable skills.

Hubris has gotten me in a lot of trouble, I’m full of it but I’m
working on that too.

Anyway, I love what I do and do it by choice and make allot of scrap
sometimes, I sell myself out like a cheap prostitute on occasion,
maybe I am an artist OK, I am an artist, enough bullshitting around,
TO WORK.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.bahti.com


#3

Back in the day when I was a Pastry Chef for a major hotel chain,
you could not call yourself a Pastry Chef until you were hired as
such…no matter if you were trained by the best Europeans and
schooled to the hilt AND even if you scored continuously in
competitions…if you did that after you were hired then it was bonus
time :slight_smile:

These days I call myself a designer…albeit in gold, silver, clay,
bronze, glass or stone…

Am I an artist, I have no idea…I do what is in my heart and soul
and follow it through to which ever medium it wishes to express
itself in…my pocketbook follows accordingly :frowning:

At any rate, whatever I am, I am grateful that the inner resources
are there for me to be expressive and I consider ALL of us expressive
people rare and sooo LUCKY to have such a gift.

cheers
Simone
http://simonechoy.com


#4
Am I an artist, I have no idea....I do what is in my heart and
soul and follow it through to which ever medium it 

I call myself an artist when I talk to a stranger that I don’t
really want to tell that I work in precious materials. Same for
filling in profiles online - things like Orchid. Just as a generic
term. I’m not an accountant, I’m “an artist”. Beyond that I don’t
see that it really matters much. A “Sanitation Engineer” still has
to do what they do…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#5
Am I an artist, I have no idea....I do what is in my heart and soul
and follow it through to which ever medium it 

I have been blessed/cursed with above average hearing (don’t tell my
wife). When I do art shows I overhear other “artists” carrying on
about themselves, their art, their inspiration, creative process,
blah, blah, blah… It all sounds to me that they are full of
themselves.

My father was an artist. He had a degree in fine arts. He could
paint and he could sculpt. When I was a kid he used to draw sketches
for me to color with my crayons. Now that is what I consider an
artist.

When people refer to my work as art I usually respond that it is
just a bunch of rocks and metal. Call me an artist if you like but
just make that check payable to Rick Copeland ordinary human who
works with rocks and metal.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
http://rockymountainwonders.com


#6

I was to busy to take part in this discussion before, but today I
have a few spare minutes.

To establish the framework I would like to begin by saying that I
take a great exception to what was said about the artist and his work
so far.

Having art education does not make one an artist. Not having art
education does not preclude one from been an artist. From all the
comments in this thread I can conclude that understanding of what is
art is totally lacking.

An artist is in a sense a scientist. Where scientist would use
microscope to study some phenomena, an artist would use a pencil, or
a brush, or precious metals for the same purpose. Art does not mean
duplication of what we see, but the revelation of unseen. An artist
sees what other people do not, an he makes these invisible properties
obvious by utilizing unique properties of the medium selected.

I said before that to be an artist does not require an education,
but to be able to understand the art, most definitely does. To give an
example I would advise to make an effort and study the painting by
Bruegel “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”. Spend some time trying
to understand what the artist was trying to say. It should be a good
start on the road to understanding of Art and it is very appropriate
for our discussion.

Jewellery is no different. The way painters were proving us with the
insight of human condition, the same way goldsmith reveals to the
public the secret world of gemstones and properties of precious
metals. I would suggest to study the work of Fulco Verdura. While
there were many others, Verdura stands out in my opinion. On the
other hand, famous Faberge Eggs, while impeccably executed, fall
short of the artistic standard.

This subject can take many volumes of fine print and still remain
unexplored, but that does not mean that one should not try.

If one finds it, to paraphrase one contributor to this thread, “full
of…”, to him I would responds in the words of russian poet M. Y.
Lermontov

“Born to crawl, shall never fly”

Leonid Surpin


#7

I prefer to assume the more humble position when it comes to my
work. I usually start my cutting the stone, letting the stone dictate
the shape, then create a piece that displays it best. No sketching,
no designing, just doing what feels right. Does that make me an
artist? I think not. My goal is to present what god (or mother earth
or insert your deity here) created. My work makes no statement. It
just looks nice and people like it and buy it and wear it. Nothing
more nothing less.

And I in turn have a quote from Benjamin Franklin:

“To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors
nobleness.”

Humbly yours,

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
http://rockymountainwonders.com


#8
From all the comments in this thread I can conclude that
understanding of what is art is totally lacking. 

How can you, or anyone… possibly be the ‘decider’ of what is art?

I said before that to be an artist does not require an education, but
to be able to understand the art, most definitely does. I would say
that if there is a difference…you have it backwards. Only if one is
an ‘art genius’…out of whom it flows fitting the definitions
developed over the ages of Principles and Objectives…would an
’artist’ not require an education. Is that your definition? What type
of education are you suggesting is required for someone to be an
observer… of art. It seems to me that, as in jewelry, painting,
drawing etc., if one is not aware of procedures …an art education
is necessary. An observer is capable of understanding any of the
Master’s or not-so-masters…through the perception they receive in
the act of observing.

Just some thoughts elicited by your comments. I haven’t seen any
other of the ‘threads’ on the subject. Perhaps, I missed something…

Born to crawl, shall never fly 

“Caterpillars crawl…only soon to fly”…(Barbara)

Barbara
Barbara Johnson
http://www.forestkats.com


#9

Expressing oneself openly, and online, is not an invitation to
another to judge. We are all born with a Heart, some never learn to
use it.

Hugs,
Terrie


#10
I call myself an artist when I talk to a stranger that I don't
really want to tell that I work in precious materials 

This sort of reminds me of the term “goldsmith”. At what point can
someone call themselves THAT? At first question, I will do the same
as John, “I’m an artist”. I use that more generic term simply because
I don’t work in one medium. Sure, my main work is jewelry, but that’s
certainly not the only work I do. And if I’m talking to someone &
they want clarification (or I want to clarify because they think that
means I’m a painter), I will say I make jewelry, I’m a metalsmith. In
descriptions of my work, I will say I work with goldsmithing
techniques (i.e. I don’t just string things), but I’ve always been
uncomfortable saying I’m a goldsmith. Maybe it’s because I spent 3
years in Germany answering the government’s question, “Are you a
Master Goldsmith?” (auf Deutsch), with “Nein”. I’m not a MASTER
goldsmith, certainly, but could I just be called a “goldsmith”? I
don’t want to cross the line when I shouldn’t, step on any toes. So,
where is the line between “goldsmith” and “metalsmith”? Is this a
silly question? I don’t know. My Mommy taught me there are no silly
questions, though. :wink:

Thanks,

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#11
My work makes no statement. It just looks nice and people like it
and buy it and wear it. Nothing more nothing less. 

Herein lies the perception which people like or don’t like…they
connect or don’t connect. How do we separate your part in the
process…as art or not art…since you are participating in the
development of the final form which is perceived and chosen…

As you said, previously…the endless pursuit of art…Isn’t it
wonderful?

Barbara


#12

I thought one of the responses to this thread was a wonderfull
example of the hubris part of the thread title.

As for me one of the reasons I never thought of myself as an artist
was that few if any of my pieces had any meaning to them. I made
pretty pieces, they were not political or tried to make any social
comment. I suppose, and my knowledge of branding teaches, that to
wear one of my pieces says something about the wearer. That they
"get it" and not everyone will get it and not everyone can afford to
get it, that my work would make the wearer part of some exclusive
club that not everyone can belong to. That is the branding/marketing
talk.

I always thought that if someone understood how a piece was made and
the evolution of my metalsmithing education, they would really like
my work and they would “get it” and be willing to spend their hard
earned money for it. But, it seems that most of the market doesn’t
care how things are made and are willing to spend their money if
they have an emotional connection to the work or they just like
pretty pieces. That is my experience to sales.

The hubris part,for me, got in the way when I thought due to how
much success I had in the art world my work would just sell, no
matter what. I had to get over that and understand that pride in my
work has to be a certain size or I am setting myself up for
disappointment.

I enjoy the definition of the artist as medium or technique driven
scientist, that is always how I thought of myself. So I’ll stop
second guessing how others will hear the word artist and just be an
artist. I’ll stop short of dictating to the readers of this post what
they are or ramming my definition down anyone’s throat, hell, you
guys would just laugh anyway.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.bahti.com


#13
I always thought that if someone understood how a piece was made
and the evolution of my metalsmithing education, they would really
like my work and they would "get it" and be willing to spend their
hard earned money for it. But, it seems that most of the market
doesn't care how things are made and are willing to spend their
money if they have an emotional connection to the work or they just
like pretty pieces. That is my experience to sales. 

I find that customers are interested in the fact that I start with
rough stone and metal and end up with a finished piece of jewelry.
“It’s all just a bunch of rocks and metal”, is my usual response to
compliments from customers. But that is my personality coming
through.

It’s a good display prop to have rough pieces of stone displayed
along with my work. I also keep a couple of stabilized Chinese
turquoise cabs around for examples when discussing the fine points of
natural vs. stabilized turquoise. It gets the customer involved in
the piece.

Also, since I use a wide variety of stones in my work I find
customers are interested in what the mineral is and where it comes
from. I always write the type of stone and location on the receipt.
It’s a great conversation starter and also gets the male significant
other involved in the conversation. I’m a rockhound by heart so it’s
not hard to get me talking about rocks. It’s getting me to stop is
another issue…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
http://rockymountainwonders.com


#14
I enjoy the definition of the artist as medium or technique driven
scientist, that is always how I thought of myself 

This is an interesting thread, and I for one am gratified at how
many posts are humble, or some word, about it all. We’ve always
called them “Nartists”, as in, “I’M A-NAAARTIST!!!” There’s the son
of a very famous 50’s jewelry maker around here - can’t make his own
worth beans, he just knocks off his father’s famous work, wears his
beret, all that. Doesn’t realize people are chuckling as he goes by,
all that. I’ll go into some happening club, and there’ll be some
suburban couple posturing because they’re so cool to be there. Well,
if it’s cool to be there, then we’re all cool, aren’t we? I think it
comes from olden times - DaVinci, Michaelangelo - when art was this
mysterious, arcane thing that only a chosen few could do, and
artists were elevated much like the medical profession was, but it’s
just not like that anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time. See
"Ratatoulle". Meaning that the hubris part is this longing to be
able to call oneself that, and mean it, because it’s a goal in itself

  • to become…An Artist! I’ve been mentoring a very talented 13
    year old niece of mine - she draws like ducks go to water - on and
    off, and more lately. What that means is no different than jewelry
    school: here’s the paint, here’s the brushes, here’s how you do it.
    There is the personality part, the “soul of the artist” part, and
    talent - that’s automatic in her case, but mostly it’s just a skill
    like learning to be a machinist or a chef. Here’s the brushes,
    here’s the paint… Most of us who are old enough to know
    understand the gallery opening thing - artists on that side, patrons
    on that side. Posing belongs on the other side of the room…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#15

Barbara and Leonid, I enjoyed your posts, in a sense you are both
correct. Education is the result of experience. What we learn from
experience depends on how each individual processes it into knowledge
and then into preferences or logic.

Formal education either in school or by apprenticeship is an effort
to pass the result of society’s accumulated experience or knowledge
on to the next generation. At some point in this process the student
takes over and pursues knowledge and ideas that are of interest to
him or her. This is where the possibility of new thinking and unique
stimuli develops. Selective experience or self-education is why you
are reading this, which you will either accept or reject based on your
evaluation of its truth.

Creation is the invention of something new, which in turn leads to
discovery that becomes the foundation of the next idea and so it
goes. You might visualize it as putting a new rung in a ladder and
then standing on it. After a while you’ve put so many rungs in the
ladder that you are way above the norm. Most new ideas eventually
burn out and are discarded. But if you climb far enough you will be
enter the territory of genius. The higher above the norm that you are
the more difficult it is for people to understand what you have
achieved, this why most important artists are only discovered after
they are dead. It takes that long for the world to catch up to them.
Of course “New” might not really be new to the world and it might not
be significant, just new for the individual who discovered it for him
or herself. This is vital self-education in the form of tangible
discovery. Is this art, high art, or self-expression, maybe or maybe
not, but it is a process of discovery.

Education or the getting of knowledge from any source including
creative experience is how one measures the importance of something
"new". Logically this might be “connoisseurship” or intuitively
"taste". If I observe a piece of jewellery and don’t find it
interesting its because my experience and therefore my preferences
and expectations are different then other people.

If I can explain logically why I don’t find the work interesting it
might be my knowledge or connoisseurship at work, or if I just don’t
like it, my personal sense of the aesthetic or taste. I might be a
knowledgeable critic or just opinionated and ignorant.

To quote my previous post: “Art changes us, it exposes our mind to
what the best can be and in the process we develop expectations.”

If it changed the world, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, I
guess it would be significant. For myself I can only endeavor to
elevate my collectors’ hearts and minds, one piece at a time. I
learnt a long time ago that people only exchange money for something
more valuable. If I succeed in exceeding their expectations they will
keep coming back for more. If not I’ll have to find new one’s who
don’t expect so much.

I also like Verdura’s work, but I can find pieces that blow me away
from most of the quality houses and that includes some of the work
of Faberge and many unsigned pieces at auction that I wish I had
made. Maybe that’s the craftsman in me, and not the result of an art
education.

One last thought: Someone once said, “He who is self taught has a
fool for a teacher” although by definition “all genius is self
taught,” so take your pick.

Dennis Smith - thejewelmaker


#16

I don’t get why we keep going over this artist thing again and
again. Is it started, each time, by people who are fairly new to
Orchid? Have they ever checked out the archives?

Try putting “define: artist” into Google. I like the first
definition (from Princeton, no less): “a person whose creative work
shows sensitivity and imagination.” Sorry, folks, but if I feel that
my creative work shows at least a little sensitivity and imagination,
I don’t think I’m engaging in hubris (you might try "define: hubris"
too–I am not comparing my creativity to that of the gods).
Actually, one could easily argue that judging someone’s creative work
as not showing sensitivity and imagination–even if the work is
one’s own–is a form of hubris. Why not leave such judgments to the
gods?

In addition… almost all discussion related to this topic happens
among people who have been deeply affected by the post-Renaissance
perspective on “the artist.” Despite this being an international
forum, few people outside of the “western” tradition contribute to
these discussions, which they may simply find bemusing. I’d love to
read a comment from, say, Bali.

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US


#17
Meaning that the hubris part is this longing to be able to call
oneself that, and mean it, because it's a goal in itself - to
become......An Artist! 

Here is my goal:

I will make something and, when I am finished, I will sit back and
look at it and say “wow, I can’t believe I made something so
beautiful”, but then, this is only half of my goal.

The real goal is to wake up a few days later, look at the same
piece, and still say the same thing.

When I used the word hubris, I knew that it was a word that had
originated in Greek Literature and that it meant “to act or feel as
though one were one of the Gods”. However, we have come a long way
since Greek Literature and not too many people believe in the various
Greek and Roman deities anymore. In modern literature (with poetic
license) it is used to refer to someone who is thinking very highly
of themselves at the moment, very simply. This is how I used the word
in the original post.

I like what John is saying. It’s what keeps me moving forward. The
ethereal and elusive goal of becoming something (artist, goldsmith,
not a Greek God etc). When I reach my goal someday (soon), someone
will let me know.

Thanks John

Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#18

my 1971 printed copy of websters defines " hubris - insolence or
arrogance caused by inordinate pride ; exaggerated self confidence "
I missed the original post on this one but if i was going to stay on
the topic i would discuss the artists i feel have an over inflated
opinion of themselves not defining what is art or who is really an
artist self proclaimed or otherwise. so far ive not seen anyone say
they think so and so or mention names as to who they think is
arrogant. i did see a public television special on mount rushmore
and that the artist who carved the mountain up was quite arrogant. i
am sure that presidential advisors recently stepped down are full of
exaggerated self confidence but the topic is how exaggerated self
confidence is contextually applicable to an artist. sooo how many of
you BENCH MONKEYS [ including myself ] out there are egotists and
hyperconfident i think that is the topic here all hate mail will be
framed and proudly displayed in my grand hate mail gallery with
senders names honored in bold print - goo


#19

I can resist no longer.

I live among native Americans in northern NM and I’ve been told
there is no word in Tewa, one of the pueblo languages, for artist.

As I reflect on this I suspect people in the past, say the
Renaissance and the Classical period did not refer to themselves as
artists. Self regard did not come along until the Romantic period.
Romanticism brings the individual to the fore as in “I think
therefore I am” Previously the focus was on the community.

My area of expertise is literature, if indeed I have expertise.
Writers did not in those earlier periods write original work. They
were usually very careful to attribute things to their predecessors.
Whether they were writing original work or not is an entirely
different question.

KPK


#20
Despite this being an international forum, few people outside of
the "western" tradition contribute...' 

Actually, I am new to Orchid and I am outside of the Western
tradition…as a matter of fact I am part Native Amerindian from
South America…where poor is poor and those images never leave your
mind or soul. What makes me tick is VERY different to most people I
encounter. What is great is to discover commonality as a group.

I don’t know that it is out of place for us to re-discover what
makes us tick…where that place is that we find inspiration. I
would liken it to a breath of fresh air for someone who maybe has
kept their head down and been filing for too long… :slight_smile:

Sometimes just the question is enough to re-spark
imaginations…sometimes…and as for us newbies, we ask your
indulgence in being repetitive in our repetition…

I appreciate this forum

paz
Simone
http://simonechoy.com