From French artist Edgar Degas comes this summary of art’s essence, regardless of medium:
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
You can take this seemingly simple phrase in many ways. I take it to mean that art opens our eyes to something a fellow human being saw in the subject that they thought beautiful, amazing, or otherwise worthy of expression.
For artists who consider themselves realists, whether plein air painters, watercolorists, portraitists etc., the question becomes one of motivation and passion. This means cultivating a passion for art of course, both creating it and learning about it. Taking it a step further, it implies that a major motivation as an artist can be wanting others to see what moves you, what excites you in a subject. What is it you see in the subject that you want others to see? What do you think is amazing, beautiful, worthy, meaningful?
It’s an important question! It’s something that artists ask their whole lives (for lots of reasons but also because it can and does change over time). I’m not talking about being able to put this in language – that’s what prose and poetry are for. But in Horse Race at Longchamp, Manet didn’t just paint some horses. Obviously he felt there’s was “something” worth “saying” (in paint) about the chaos and the driving force, the earthy bulk and unbalanced grace, of horses pounding straight toward one as the rest of the world sweeps away in a blur.
Another way to approach this is to ask yourself, What’s in it for the viewer? What can you give to those willing to spend time viewing your work? Though along the way, you will end up and finding out what your work has to teach you about who you are and what’s really important to you.
Making art is a joy and it’s also hard work! How will you stay motivated to develop the skills to share your passions? As in any joyous work, an artist motivated to share something amazing, perhaps even before he or she fully develops the form and technique to do so “masterfully,” is more likely to make something amazing for others to see. He or she is also more likely to keep going in the face of setbacks, obstacles, and the inevitable dry spells.
Motivation isn’t something that happens from outside, by the way – its source is within. The good news is that it’s like momentum – once you set something in motion, a feedback loop forms and it becomes its own engine.
What do you want to make people see?
Digital ‘NFT’ Art Market Tanks Hard
The high-flying market for digital art in the form of nonfungible tokens has taken a nose dive along with the recent plummet in the value of crypto currencies such as Bitcoin (which is worth less than half of what it was a few months ago).
According to a story in Bloomberg, the crypto niche is on course to record its first month with under $1 billion in sales since June 2021. In February, a 10-second video clip known as “Crossroads” by the digital artist Beeple sold at auction for $6.6 million. An animated image of a flying cat leaving a rainbow trail went for almost $600,000 that same month. A video of a LeBron James dunk sold for a mere $200,000.
Whether the boom stays busted or is just taking a breather before soaring again is anybody’s guess. What’s certain is only that this first wave of NFT “madness” has had much more to do with folks making investment bets that this or that image will increase in value – than it’s had anything at all to do with art.
In the Paint,