One of my favorite artists is the Swedish painter Carl Larsson, and I was lucky enough to receive a book of his paintings for Christmas this year. One of the points that the book stressed was that Carl Larsson and his wife decorated their house themselves and, in fact, made most of the decorations themselves.
Of course, this shouldn’t have surprised me. Why wouldn’t an artist make the art in his own house? But, I have to admit, I was surprised. I am used to having my art pre-made. I buy cds, books, and paintings for the walls. When I feel the need for something new, I go to iTunes or Amazon. When I grow tired of the paintings on the walls, I browse sites like Allposters and art.com.
And there’s no doubt that it’s a good thing to have art readily available. My life is richer for having music, books, and pictures in it. At the same time, however, the massive availability of other people’s art means that I rarely think of making my own. Writing and drawing are fairly new activities for me, and I’m enjoying them so much that I wonder why it took me so long to discover them.
Michelle recently posted an article about the lack of solitude in modern life, and this article was helpful to me in thinking about my own creativity. I especially liked the part about visibility as the defining feature of postmodern life. It seems that, to a certain extent, we assign value to art based on its visibility. Most of us scramble to read Oprah’s recommended books; we buy art prints by famous artists; we choose to watch movies that have been pre-reviewed for us by critics. We gravitate towards art based on its visibility, and personal art is rendered unimportant because of its invisibility. The irony is, of course, that the creation of art is always personal, and its visibility is only incidental. When we make visibility the goal, we become less likely to create because, “Well, who’s going to see it anyway?” We lose the joy of creation because creation becomes not an end in itself, but a means of achieving fame.
As I said before, writing is new for me, and I don’t think that anything I write in the near future will become visible to anyone outside of my immediate circle of family and friends. I’m just not that skilled. But that’s okay. My goal right now is to keep writing and to keep finding ways of creating that are personal and that bring joy. And if that means that no one ever hears my stories or sees my drawings besides my family, well, I think I’m okay with that.