The set-up had drawn quite the audience. Expectations were high. Now, it was time to see if he could deliver.
He had a white canvas laid out on top of a heap of newspapers spread out around him. A white construction mask covered his face to prevent him from inhaling fumes but also giving him the faint resemblance of Bane. Techno music blared from his speakers generating a unique ambiance.
Within a few moments, he started to get to work.
Whipping out spray can after spray can, he moved seamlessly across the canvas creating the image he had in mind. Tools, like a torn off piece of cardboard, were used to create unique effects. Colors were layered on top of each other to generate just the right shades of black and blue.
Within minutes, it became apparent that he was painting the mountain ranges with the silhouette of the moon in the background.
The man in question was a spray paint artist on the sidewalk. It took about 5-7 minutes for the piece to come to full fruition which garned a large round of applause from the eager audience. He was showered in tips, and our crowd moved on to explore different avenues while he drew in another group of folks for his next rapid-fire round of painting.
He had a gift – no doubt about it. The kid was unique and imaginative. He fit the description for creative. He was an artist.
When I was a kid, I used to be terrible at art class. I couldn’t paint to save my life. No matter how many times the teacher gave me instructions in pottery class, my vases always leaked and wobbled side to side. Despite lacking any artistic qualities, I loved to draw. The only problem? I wasn’t any good. My drawings never really looked like the intended picture. I would trace Pokemon cards to make it easier on myself. Then, I would proudly look at my work knowing that I was a great tracer of art – not a great creator of it.
Much to my dismay, I couldn’t paint nor was I particularly great at playing music. I remember wanting so badly to have an artistic prowess. I would practice and practice, but it didn’t matter in the end. Some people are just born with it.
What defines an artist?
Is it creativity? Is a painting or a drawing more creative than giving a proposal? Is a chef more creative than a teacher? That obviously depends on your view of creativity.
By default, the first thing that likely comes to mind when you ponder creativity is art. Artists are generally known as the most creative people on the planet. But, I want you to expand your view of art. Forget the definition you currently have in mind. Forget any preconceived notion of galleries and paintings. For just a few moments, consider the true meaning of the word art.
In its basic form, art refers to any mastery or skill.
In the traditional sense, we separate artists into a different category. But, at the end of the day, aren’t we all artists? Don’t we all exhibit mastery in some way or another?
We’ve all seen some terrible on stage presentations, and we’ve also all seen some wonderful ones – you know the presentations that give you chills and make you really think long and hard. The words stick with you long after that person leaves the stage.
Think about the best presenter you’ve ever seen on stage. Think about how they talked and moved across the floor. Think about how they pronounced their words and the emphasis they put on certain ideas. Did they have a skill? No doubt. And, chances are, if you’re still able to recall the details of that presentation today, they had mastered that skill.
What do you do better than anyone else in the world? Think long and hard because there has to be something. You’re unique and different in many ways, but there is likely a handful of things that separate you from everyone else.
We’re all artists in some capacity or another. The trick is redefining your idea of an artists. When I was young, I spent weeks and months chasing the typical idea of an artist – the one that could turn a white canvas into a work of art. Little did I know, I was approaching the entire thing backwards.
What makes you special or unique? Maybe you can tell a story better than anyone else. Maybe you can woo a whole party. Perhaps you’re exceptional at teaching others a particular skill whether it’s Algebra or Physics.
That’s your art, your gift.
The key is not trying to conform to the modern day definition of an artist, but rather, honing your skills to become an artist of your craft.
Photo credit: Picasso painting at MoMA from Nathan Laurell on Flickr