When we train people to use the ArtThread Online Gallery, we often hear that phrase. There seems to be a wide-spread belief that before we can make art we must possess some magical talent. You can see the nervousness in people when we tell them to "just go for it!"
Besides the fear of making a mistake, we also sense a question: why? Why should we make art? It seems many of us have been deprived of the permission and the opportunity to be creative, yielding a collective memory loss of the "aha" moment that so wonderfully arrives during creative expression.
The latest issue of Greater Good magazine (soon to be web-only) is devoted to the theme "Why Make Art." In "The Birth of the Arts" author Ellen Dissanayake says "the arts transmit value systems and stories that serve to unite individuals in social groups." Probably true, but not much use when we stare at the blank canvas and wonder how to begin.
How about this: "...artistic rituals and ceremonies help persuade people to devote themselves to ideals that transcend narrow self-interest: loyalty, generosity, hard work, unselfishness, patriotism, and even the sacrifice of one's life." Now we're getting somewhere, but still rather high-fallutin'.
In another article in the same issue (Why We Make Art), dancer Gina Gibney says "In life we experience so much fragmentation of thought and feeling. ...creating art brings things back together." Pete Docter, director of the recent Pixar film "Up," says "It's fun making things." That's the one - we are hard-wired to get enjoyment out of the act of creating something.
Though we may innately know that "making things" is important, who has time? Our ultra-connected lives can ultimately lead us to be ultra-disconnected from the well of creativity waiting inside us. How do we start sipping from that well?
Not to worry - creativity easily leaks into every facet of our lives. Observe yourself making breakfast - you are an artist! Carlin Flora knows it. In her article "Everyday Creativity" in the latest issue of Psychology Today, she says we can tap into our creativity by doing things (there it is again!) "that don't sound intimidatingly ingenious." Maybe the word 'creativity' is too high-fallutin':
"When we think of creativity, we think of Mozart, Picasso, Einstein—people with a seemingly fated convergence of talent and opportunity. It's too narrow a set of references, because the truth is that all sorts of people, possessing various levels of intelligence and natural ability, are capable of engaging in fulfilling creative processes. Just because you'll never be Brando or Balanchine doesn't mean that you can't harness your idea-generating powers and make your life your own masterpiece."
That one is worth repeating - make your life your own masterpiece. That's why we tell everyone to go for it.
"I am an artist!"