Defining an Artist

07 Jul

A friend once asked me if I thought photographers were artists. I answered with a resounding yes. She didn’t agree. “After all,” she said, “photographers just aim the camera and click.”

You can say something similar about most of the arts. Almost anyone can slap some paint on a canvas, write a few sentences down on paper, or draw a rosined bow screeching across a few strings, just as anyone can aim a camera and click.

An artist is something more, though. Artists make us see, feel, or hear the world a little differently, if only for that moment. Artists create things that cause us to stop and take notice, consider what is being presented. Art entices us. Love it or hate it, art elicits a response. An artist can be a painter, musician, writer, photographer, cartoonist, dancer, actor, glassblower, cinematographer, weaver, sculptor, or potter, just to name a few.

Nature is the ultimate artist, as you can see by this photo of Idaho’s Balanced Rock.

I might even argue that the comedian that painted these street lines is an artist. It’s original, and it elicited a response from me. (Do you suppose it was his last day on the job?)

An artist is also the woodworker who creates a piece of furniture, cutting the wood so that a certain grain is highlighted, turning a table leg to create a unique design, staining the wood to intensify its natural beauty. Suddenly it’s no longer just a piece of furniture.

A gardener may be an artist. Those who design a back yard in such a way that it makes you want to be a part of it, to sit down and enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors, the sound of a waterfall, and the scent of jasmine.

As a writer, you are an artist. You put words on paper that are rhythmic and enticing. You decide which scenes to include and which to edit so that you weave a tale that lures the reader into the world you’ve created, seduces the reader into committing hours to the story you have to tell.

One of my favorite quotes is by Friedrich Nietzsche. He said:

“We have art in order not to die of the truth.”

I love that. Try to imagine a world with no art — no music, no stained glass, no stories, no textile designs. Talk about bland. Conversely, art IS the truth. It records our history. It celebrates what’s important to each era by the buildings we erect, the music that dominates, the paintings we create. As a writer, you are a part of this history. Celebrate that. Celebrate the artist in you.

I’m always fascinated by the types of art people make. Please, hit the comment button, and tell us what types of art you create.


Posted by on July 7, 2011 in art, artist, Idaho, photography, readers, writers, writing


Tags: , , , , , ,

24 responses to “Defining an Artist

  1. Katy

    July 7, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    Amen to that!

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      Thank you, and thanks for stopping by the blog.

  2. Janis

    July 7, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Great quote! It’s not all about the concrete in life. It’s about the oxygen.

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      So true.

  3. Liz Fredericks

    July 7, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    You’ve very thoughtful observations on the role of art for each of us. I have to admit that I’m torn between the weaving road picture and your Friedrich quote for my favorite part. Nice job

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      Thank you Liz.

  4. Meredith Conner

    July 7, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    I love the quote! A good book with wonderful characters and a story that takes me away from it all can be one of the best gifts – art and a mini vacation!

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      You are so right. I have a vacation coming up, and I see several books and lots of writing in my future.

  5. ValRoberts

    July 7, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    When I was a kid, the wavy double-yellow center line had a specific meaning for mountain or sparsely traveled country roads. However, when the feds standardized road marking in the 1970s (Would you believe the section on paint is 86 pages long? Yes, alas, I *had* to look it up.), that particular symbolism wasn’t included.

    And I can’t quite remember what it meant.

    Slow vehicles might enter road? Pass at your own risk? May be used as a one- or two-lane road? Argh! At any rate, those wavy double lines might be approaching forty years old, practically pre-Columbian in terms of road markings.

    On art — among ancient Celts, the bard was regarded almost as highly as the king, because he or she could create a whole world through words and maybe a little music. As novelists, every time we sit down to write a story, we’re not just creating art, we’re also working great sorcery. Geez, no wonder it’s hard.

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:29 PM

      Sorcery – that’s good.

  6. Megan Hutchins

    July 7, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    I love the road picture. I don’t know anything about photo composition, but I do know that it draw my eyes up to the horizon and makes me wonder what’s over it.

    I think that’s part of the beauty of art. Sure, music theory or painting techniques might give me a deeper appreciation, but I don’t need either to love listening to Louis Armstrong or be struck with a Monet.

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM

      The photos I posted were just me aiming a camera and clicking – photography is not one of my artistic talents. I’d love to be able to create photographs like Mark Lisk. His work is just stunning. But I do love those crazy road lines too. They were such a surprise. Thanks for checking out the blog.

  7. Mary Vine

    July 7, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I was a cake decorator for a time….Thanks, Carly.

    • Carley Ash

      July 7, 2011 at 5:34 PM

      There are cakes that are certainly works of art.

  8. melissa goodwin

    July 7, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    I’m a writer, my husband is a painter. I used to do more in photography, I didn’t really know much about cameras – how they worked, how to adjust the settings. I like the spontaneity of seeing a scene and capturing it – there, in that moment. Despite my ignorance, my photographs sold constantly and I won prizes in shows. Photography is definitely art. Two people can shoot the same scene, but only one may have a photograph that has soul.

  9. Carley Ash

    July 7, 2011 at 9:23 PM

    Thanks Melissa. I totally agree. A great photographer has the eye to find and capture a place and moment that the rest of us don’t even notice. Fellow blogger, Johanna Harness, is a talented photographer/artist too.

  10. Lynn Mapp

    July 8, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Art…it’s all around us. The problem is people sometimes don’t realize the beauty surrounding them, because it’s there.

    • Carley Ash

      July 8, 2011 at 6:02 PM

      You are so right Lynn. That’s one of the things that makes artists so important – they help people notice.

  11. Peggy Staggs

    July 8, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    There would be no life without art. Just look at a snowflake.

  12. Carley Ash

    July 8, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    So true. Nature is the most fabulous artist.

  13. BugaPest

    July 8, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    Such wonderful points, Carley. I wonder sometimes if it takes an artist to recognize art? You are certainly an artist.

    • Carley Ash

      July 8, 2011 at 8:57 PM

      Thank you so much. What a lovely compliment.

  14. Clarissa Southwick

    July 9, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    I think your post today was art. What beautiful words and pictures. I can only hope to do as well with my words on the page.

    • Carley Ash

      July 9, 2011 at 10:04 PM

      You’re so kind. Thank you.


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