Today, boys and girls, I'm going to spout off on "what is art?" Everywhere you look, everywhere you read one sees references to art. My own interpretation is rather narrow by most societies' standards. Art for me, is that which people are internally driven to do. I, personally, have two major stimulii. The first is the external world - I'll see something and I'll want to draw it. "It" is usually a landscape, sometimes a drawing by a cartoonist, occasionally a building and once in a while, a person. The second is very simple - a blank piece of paper. You put me in front of a piece of paper with pencil or whatever in hand and I'll draw something.

The internal drive can be very subtle or the equivalent of a junkie needing a heroin fix - very, very insistent. I, personally, ignore the proddings at my peril. Through all of my teen and adult life I have been prone to mood swings and one way to go into a spiral is to not draw and paint for a long period of time so I make sure that I follow the urgings of the muse on a regular basis. Daily is good.

A lot of societies make the distinction of craftmanship as art. If something is done skillfully, it is art. If something is done poorly, it's not. Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescos are hailed as one of the greatest works of art in all of history. I regard the paintings as one of the greatest works of commercial illustration. Michaelangelo didn't like painting as a form of expression - he was a sculptor and that is all he wanted to do. The Church ordered Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel under threat of excommunication from the church for being homosexual. Michaelangelo had no choice - if he had been excommunicated he very likely would not have been able to sculpt again and he had to sculpt. That was his art.

February 19, 2007 - Well, well, some of my interpretation of why Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel woiuld appear to be a crock. A person questioned me for substantiation regarding the threat of excommunication and in looking for that, I could not find any mention of such bullying by the Church. Michaelangelo wanted the commission quite a bit as it promised to pay well. He had to devise the plaster used in the frescoe (current plaster didn't pass muster), build a unique scaffolding that allowed church services and constantly worry whether he would get paid but nowhere did I find mention of the Church threatening him. Oops, now I'll burn in Hell for historical inaccuracy. :)

The world is full of vastly talented, skillful, and creative people in all manner of disciplines. They may take pride in what they do or they may not care a whit. To them, it's a means to make a living. There is no little monkey on their back prodding them to create or practice their discipline. That little monkey prodding is what art is to me. If the monkey isn't there it's just craftmanship, talent, skill, whatever. That is not to denigrate what people do that are not being prodded by a muse. It is every bit as valid and important as a society wishes to make of it... but art it aint, at least, not for me.

Theo Nelson
July 27 / 2001

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