Whether you make art, or whether you’re part of the audience, here are a few reasons why art is less pretentious than you might think.
1) Art is like music: Yes, music can be pretentious. But, music is usually just an ordinary background thing.
It’s something that you put on in the background because it’s more interesting than silence or because you’re a fan of a band or because you like the mood of a particular piece of music. It’s just a thing that makes life a bit more interesting.
Art is exactly the same. You’ve probably seen more pieces of art today than you might think. Yes, they might be hidden on book covers or in adverts. Yes, they might take the form of the webcomic or newspaper cartoon you read every day. Yes, they might be your computer and/or phone background images. Yes, they might be part of the computer game that you’re playing. But, they’re still art. They were all still made by artists.
Although there are certainly pretentious artists and silly pretentious types of art out there, art in general isn’t a pretentious thing. It’s often an ordinary, everyday background thing that you might not even notice if you aren’t looking for it. But, trust me, everyday life in a world without art would look very different.
2) Artist-related myths: When I started doing daily art practice in 2012, I was extremely reluctant to call myself an “artist”. After all, I didn’t have a studio, lots of oil paints or anything like that. I was nothing like the popular idea of what an “artist” is supposed to be.
But, then again, neither are most artists. All that the word “artist” means is someone who makes art. If you make art, then you are an artist. The important part is the “makes art” part. If you want to become an artist because of the romanticised idea of what an ‘artist’ should be, then you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Making art is an awesome thing to do but, if you do it often enough, then it just becomes an ordinary part of your daily routine. It often isn’t some magical, eccentric thing. It can be fun sometimes, but it can also be a chore sometimes.
Likewise, no artist is inspired 100% of the time, no artist is “naturally talented” and no artist produces great art 100% of the time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
A dedicated and enthusiastic artist can still produce art when they are feeling uninspired – and there are literally loads of ways to do this (and, contrary to popular myths, none of these involve drugs).
If an artist appears to be “naturally talented”, then this just means that they’ve practiced a lot and/or for a very long time. Likewise, if an artist appears to only produce “great” art, then they’re almost certainly hiding a much larger pile of failed artwork somewhere.
3) Galleries, art history etc…: Believe it or not, at the time of writing, I’ve never actually been to a “proper” art gallery. I’ve never taken an A-level or a degree in Art History. Yet, due to becoming interested in old art in 2014 (since copying out-of-copyright historical paintings is one of many ways to make art when you’re uninspired), I now know a bit about the history of art.
Where did I learn this from? Wikipedia and Youtube, mostly. If you’re interested in the history of art, you don’t need to visit galleries or read lots of books. Yes, these things will probably give you a greater understanding of the artists you’re interested in. But, unless you’re reading a printout of this article, you have one of the world’s largest art galleries quite literally right in front of you.
And, the best thing about learning about art history online is that you don’t have to worry about looking like an idiot in front of people who have actually studied art history when you’re learning about it.
4) Critics: I can’t remember where I heard this but, whilst Britain’s most famous/revered “modern” artist might be Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst, one of Britain’s bestselling current artists is apparently Jack Vettriano. Rather than pickling sharks or leaving his bed unmade, he actually paints pictures.
Leaving aside the fact that Banksy seems to be beloved by both ordinary people and critics, the lesson in all of this is that art critics should be ignored. The type of art that impresses critics often isn’t the type of art that impresses ordinary people, and vice versa. There are a lot more ordinary people than there are art critics. So, don’t let the critics shape your idea of what art “should” be like.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂