A Change in My Mind to Improve My Art

I have no picture for this post. However, this will be my most significant post thus far. It will be simple and short in its approach, but beyond meaningful to me; for I have discovered a flaw in my character; and a flaw in my character, I believe, will manifest itself in my art.

I have spent the past several years attempting to increase my technical skill in art. I’ve had many people tell me that you can’t create a piece of art relying on technical skill alone, but instead must consider the ‘something else’ that makes it artistic.  I listened but was not sure what this ‘something else’ to which they were referring was exactly. So, I continued to focus on technical skill. I refused to resort to abstract non-representational art, for this type of art appeared to exist within the other extreme and would still not give the result for which I was looking. I have increased my skill through consistent observance and practice. However, though my technical skill has increased, there is still something missing in my work.

I was on facebook not too long ago, and I posted something regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden. I had a good friend repost that post word for word on their own status. I received a great deal of positive feedback on my post. My friend, however, received very little feedback, and the feedback that was received was negative. My friend playfully inquired as to why, and I responded that it, from my understanding, was because what I said came from my heart; it was an unadulterated statement that was my own sincere thought. I continued: when I post a quote from another individual, even if they be famous, I get little feedback as well.

After quite awhile of being distracted from creating works of art, I had a chance to draw the other night for about 30 minutes. However, while looking at the drawing, I was impressed with my technical skill but still found myself thinking it a sub-par drawing. I think my facebook experience has helped me understand why I am so disappointed with much of my work: though I attempt to technically perfect what is in front of me, it hardly ever comes from my heart. I’m not referring to ‘putting emotion’ into a piece: what good has emotion ever done anyone?

I am referring to the actual goodness that I naturally possess and want to possess. The same goodness I put into my words should also be in my art. At this point, my art lacks that ‘goodness.’ It is instead an attempt to reproduce a photograph in most cases (since most of my commissioned works are portraits); and my mind, throughout the process, is either on making it technically sound or is distracted by things that have nothing to do with art. How dare I call myself an artist! I would rather focus on how technically sound my work is in order to show off to whomever may see it instead of create a truly inspirational piece of artwork; I would rather allow myself to be distracted by pointless things than focus to create a truly inspirational piece of artwork: I’m ashamed of myself…

I feel like I can finally generally define what an artist is: an artist is a person who first requires their mind and person to be of an increasingly good nature; and with that good-natured mind, the artist creates a visual representation that encourages the same ‘good-naturedness’ in others 🙂

The time ahead will be dedicated to focusing my mind on the above.

Zhang Cuiying has encouraged my resolve:

So has this article by Shi Ran about Li Sixun: http://pureinsight.org/node/1785

Thank you for reading my limited understanding,


8 thoughts on “A Change in My Mind to Improve My Art

  1. Eric,

    I think you are correct. This is a significant post, and will be your most significant post, if you truly allow yourself to follow through with connecting. I have always said that singing is an extension of oneself and I feel fine art is probably the same way.

    Can I point out one place in your blog that made me pause?

    “I think my facebook experience has helped me understand why I am so disappointed with much of my work: though I attempt to technically perfect what is in front of me, it hardly ever comes from my heart. I’m not referring to ‘putting emotion’ into a piece: what good has emotion ever done anyone?”

    Emotion is not negative, in my opinion. I feel like you look at emotion as unreliable and unpredictable, but it doesn’t have to be that way; especially when you have technique to combine with it.

    While talking to others about singing- particularly those just starting to learn the actual art of performing a song well and with conviction, I often say that if you’re truly a singer, and it is within the depths of your soul, you and your audience will know it. You have, what I’ve described as “a teardrop in your voice”. That place where the voice isn’t standing alone, but is connecting with the singer, the lyrics, the notes, the individuals listening, and…the universe; the point where that voice is making each person feel the exact same thing at the exact same time – not only audibly and emotionally – but really feel that emotion wholly, physically; that place where someone is singing and you (the audience) forget to think.

    With that being said – I also am a bit old school and think only in EXTREMELY rare cases is it ever appropriate to allow yourself to literally tear up during a performance, no matter what you’re feeling. Think about how important it is- especially for a singer – to control an emotional moment. Where is the first point of tension when you start to cry? The bottom of your throat. No one can even speak evenly when crying, much less sing. You literally start to ‘choke up’.

    That is where technique comes in. You allow your emotions, led by your technique, to take you there – to that brink – and then BAM! – you can control it; you can stop at the climax before you lose control. You can control your emotions well enough to combine them with your techniques while never ever allowing your emotions to override your technique. I think this only adds to the art, so I disagree with you about emotion. Not every emotion is negative, even a sad one, and not every emotion is uncontrolled. I believe controlled emotion is nature’s way of allowing you to experience things your mind would limit you from-emotion is an experience our weak minds can’t process fully. But you can experience something without succumbing to it.

    The Great Madam Tetrazzini: “A singer’s mind must be able to control her feelings if it is going to be able to control her voice.”

    You can manipulate your feelings (emotions) to work for you and not against you. I think this can be the same for art.

    I think an artist is someone who becomes one with their art. That includes your technique, your goodness, and your emotions (in my opinion) – you just have to balance your ‘oneness’ effectively. 😉

    Sometimes, it’s good to lesson control and then bring it back. If you have to hold onto something for dear life, you don’t really have control over it. Real control is being able to let go of something and grab it back sharply and at will; not dragging it back to you… not never letting it go… but exercising your hold on it.

    I believe that sometimes, although you are very open-minded and considerate, that you are sort of ‘set in your ways’ about certain things you’ve thought about and decided upon… but I challenge you to truly consider my theory because I believe it with all my heart. I also truly believe that you have the potential to be one of the most amazing artists of our day.

    Best of the Muses to you,


    I wrote this quickly, so excuse any mistakes or jumping around, please. 🙂

    • Thank you for the response, Jessi.

      Respectfully: It may be true that I am “sort of ‘set in my ways.'” However, so must be you if you believe something with “all of your heart.”

      I have deeply considered your theory which is a theory I have heard a million times before, especially being an aspiring artist. I have considered it before, and I consider it again now that you post it. However, my current understanding of things can only be based on the limitations of my experiences, and my experiences tell me that rarely is emotion good. Emotion is an effect of a cause; an individual’s mindset toward something causes an emotional response; whenever a person feels ’emotion’ as a result of a mindset toward a certain something, it is always because the person wanted or didn’t want that something, and therefore the actual mindset that causes the emotion (before the emotion even occurs) is still one in which the something controls the person. If truly considered: the person lacks control in such a situation; the person can’t truly ‘let go’ of the mindset that ‘wants or doesn’t want’; and therefore, instead of thinking broadly in a universal way, limits themselves with the singularity of that something. There is no oneness with the universe here; there is desire to be one with the something. The person who allows emotion to control the act allows the act to control themselves. There is no freedom here; there is the attachment to pleasure. There is no universality here; there is singularity. There is no control here; but irrationality: the controlled believing to control.

      It is my sincere belief that if I set my emotions to the side, not just my emotions but the limiting mindsets that cause them, if I stop caring about feeling the pleasure of the emotion or avoiding the pain of the emotion (which is still a degree of selfishness on both ends), if I stop worrying about affecting my audience with something ephemeral like emotion and start focusing on something lasting like goodness, that goodness will naturally appear in my artwork and my art will naturally improve. Compassion arises when emotion is set to the side.

      I am little concerned with exploring emotion; I have already felt all there is to feel; if I continue to act for the experience of some limited emotion then nothing will change: I will continue to feel the happiness, sadness, depression, melancholy, joy, excitement, love, hate, lust, etc. that I’ve felt in the past, and I will allow myself to be controlled by them for I will believe that something is only worthwhile if emotion is involved; the only thing that will change will be the experiences that cause these emotions. The many people before me have all felt what there is to feel: poets, artists, musicians have all placed them in their creations… we have done this already for a really really long time. We are addicted to our emotions; something is only ‘good’ if it makes us feel this way or if it makes us feel that way as if feelings have anything to do with what is good. I would rather explore something new (or old since it’s a very ancient idea). There is nothing satisfying in the chasing, adopting, or popularizing of emotion to me, and I would rather explore uncharted territory instead of experiencing the same emotions over and over again… that’s far from living life to the fullest to me.

      I try not to quote famous people often because I find many of them limited in their ideas, but since you quoted one, I will give an example as well:

      Gandhi talked a lot about how he experimented with his life. He tried this and he tried that until he figured something out for himself. I’ve been an emotional creature for most of my life: there’s nothing there but the two ephemeral extremes of pleasure and pain; I would rather focus on something loftier is all, and I will use my remaining time on Earth experimenting with and exploring what emotion is not.

      I hope you truly consider my limited understanding because it is what I believe with all my heart.



  2. This will have to be short for now bc I’m falling asleep lol but I understand what you’re saying, and I’ve struggled with this idea of it bc I do see its advantages, but I also think we probably disagree about 50% on this topic, not wholly. I can’t explain (verbally) well the emotion that I’m speaking of with music. Even when a song has no words if it is beautiful I feel how I would describe as ’emotional’ – yet this feeling is very very close to the feeling of compassion for me, physically they feel similarly to me. So… I think we’re not completely meshing on this definition, but, when do we? Hahaa I’ll have to think about it tomorrow when I’m awake. Thanks for your response.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Jessi Ann. Also, thank you for your support: you are the first person to comment and subscribe to my blog. I really appreciate it. I think only my grandmother supports me more. 😉

  4. You’re welcome, Eric Anthony. lol You’re the only person that ever calls me Jessi Ann, besides my grandmother… haha 😉

    Gotta support art/the arts. Especially someone who’s a great asset to it’s future.

  5. Well said.
    Although —-Artists translate emotion in everything regardless – If your work is too technical it is the emotion of apathy. If you need to do commission pieces then work passionately and for the love of art alone and your work will have the feeling it needs.

  6. Well said.
    Artists translate emotion in everything, every movement, every stroke, every thought – If you must do commission art pieces than work passionately for the sake of art alone and your work will have the feeling it needs.
    Technical = apathy.
    Artistic expression is always better than technical skill.
    Give yourself permission to emote in your art. Have fun with it.
    I look forward to seeing your new works once you have mastered this.. 😉

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