As artists, it is our charge to approach every expressive endeavor from a place where artistic integrity equally intersects creative excellence and communicative humility. But what do those things mean?
Integrity is found in the artist who seeks to create works in the most honest way possible.
Excellence is found in the artist who seeks to create works in the most professional way possible.
Humility is found in the artist who seeks to create works in the most clearly-interpreted way possible.
Seldom do any of us create a body of work that fully encapsulates all three parts of this sacred formula. For many, our tendency to be transparent overcomes our desire to uphold a sense of honesty, and we find ourselves making pieces of “condo art”—the realist, carbon copy depictions of whatever bowl of fruit the local orthodontist offices happen to be buying up.
You paint it to fill a space.
For some, we value the truth behind our efforts more-so than the quality at which the work is made, and we end up covering Buffett tunes at beach bars with no foreseeable reason for making them better.
For the rest of us, the ability to create works of art that are both integritous and excellent is not what’s at stake; instead, it’s the fear of appearing unprofound that results in the blatant omission of a much-needed humble stroke.
The natural progression of an artist will most likely lead him in the direction of either bettering himself at his craft or becoming more honest with why he does it (hopefully both). What often gets left behind is the humility. It speaks nothing of progression in our finite minds, thus we equate humility with weakness, and clarity with stupidity. Humility is the only element of artistic growth that requires a kind of a regression, so we choose to praise complexities and reward obscurity.
So I’m supposed to do what now? Spoon-feed my art to the consumer?
I wouldn’t go that far, but it does raise another important question: how far into the audience are we supposed to reach? Well…about half way. Communicative Humility requires that we meet the viewer, the listener, the reader at a place where we’ve given up our right to be snooty intellectualists, and where they’ve given up theirs to simply spectate and sip our art from a plastic straw.
Engagement is characteristic of all great art, and it doesn’t happen without mutual interest. Don’t mistake it for compromise. If anything, see it as an artistic challenge to make your art so captivatingly simple, that the most average of audience members cannot help but be entranced by your work. Do this, and humility just might make itself a higher priority in your next artistic endeavor.
*Disclaimer – I dare say (in my own attempt at humility) that there is nothing wrong with painting bowls of fruit or covering Buffett songs so long as you do it with integrity, humility and excellence 🙂