Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers

After going through my posts on the writing process, blogger Kevin commented that I seem to “write with intent rather than for ‘mere’ expression.” A lot of his poetry arose from the fun of it and the wish to express himself in a particular way. He also asked if I always analyze what I read, if I ever read just for the pleasure of it.

Which leads me to ask you: what is art?

First, the question on reading. I don’t pick apart to death everything I read – in part for the small matter of time. As for intent, let’s visit some accomplished artists. I would almost kill to be able to ask Michelangelo, “Can art be a whim? An accident?” Did he ever “merely” express? Can art be spontaneous? My right-brain readers are nodding away. Can art be discovery? The Sam Francis exhibit that once ran at the Pasadena Museum of California Art showcases some extraordinary work by a most interesting painter. “Paintings are my thinking,” Francis said. “Not about anything…They perform the unique mathematics of my imagination.” Is there then such a thing as chance in the art of mathematics?

Could we consult the Ancients in their wisdom? To this end, I veer off a bit to share some relevant thoughts on my blogging and the homeschooling that converged two years ago. A few months into the blogging, I came to see that what I’d been drawn to exploring on this blog were truth and beauty. Not long later in a seminar on Classical homeschooling, the speaker elaborated on the model I had chosen for our family; it was in essence about truth, beauty, and goodness. I was floored. We went on to hear a podcast featuring Andrew Kearn of the CiRCE Institute on the goal of education, which brought to light the meaning of the liberal arts. I’ve scaled it down to highlight some parts that bear on this post. Which of these insights resonate with your work?

geo-roundel-flower-13Liberal spawns from the Latin liber [free]. Without these arts, we cannot know the fullest extent of human freedom. The Hebrews and a good many of the Greeks were the only ones in the ancient world who believed truth is knowable. Freedom is intimately related to perception of the truth. Education is learning to see deeply into the truth or essence of whatever is before you – be it spouse or garden. To see beyond the “accident of it,” the things that come and go. The lost tools of truth-seeking are the liberal arts: the art of grammar, dialectic, rhetoric (which make up the Trivium of communication); and arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy (the Quadrivium of calculation).


The Greeks looked at how people communicate. What leads the community to truth, to harmony? If a good man or woman speaks effectively, that is the glory of rhetoric. The mind wants harmony. Math is the ability to find this in the universe. If I tell you 2 + 7 = 5, you feel the disturbance in your mind. Astronomy is the study of shapes moving. Planet literally means wanderer. The Greeks discovered that when you examine the movement of the stars, you see patterns. Your mind can be disciplined and ordered to see things you cannot see any other way. Same thing for reading or learning another language. If you can’t do either, there is no way someone can get you there virtually. The way you know a scientific theory is by its beautiful harmony.

This approach to learning took my breath away. And it happened to dovetail this post I had been mulling over two months. What is art? To what extent is achieving harmony or articulating the essence of something the goal in your dance, your sport, your music? What is it about your painting that begs visual utterance? Do you find you’ve been in pursuit of ancient and timeless virtues? Beauty does not necessarily express happiness or cheerfulness. There can be great beauty in brokenness and sometimes, it is only among the ruins you find treasure. Years ago I looked regretfully upon some morose paintings by a gifted artist who had grown up in a nudist colony and believed she had a bipolar disorder. Her rich work was a window into a dark psyche. I felt they would reach her promise if her painful confusion were redeemed. I’ve said in The Writing Process, Part 1: Color that the darkness is an easy way in through the door of inspiration. But I now feel great art is more than bleeding all over the page.

Often honored as a process, art need not be defined by its product. But does a story not have a point? A reader quoted for me from My Life and My Life in the Nineties by Lyn Hejinian, “the anticipation of the pleasure of making sense.” In my writing, this expectancy is the wee hours of dark that prelude the stream of dawn, the knowing stillness almost as thrilling as the satisfaction of breaking light on the landscape of my intention. The objective, to get across exactly what I’m seeing. Though a poem may sing in metaphor, should it not sustain a coherence that draws assent from the reader? Is art random? Take the greatest masterpiece we can name, the human body. Illness is simply disharmony. And the life in the womb: there is articulation, a little body forging ahead in full purpose. Though to elaborate would be another post entirely – indeed I find order, truth, beauty, goodness in our wondrous frame.

I’m thinking aloud for the answers, surveying the fields of virtuosity. Instinct whispers the difference between war and the art of war. There’s straightforward violence. Or the boxer who flails struggling at the level of technique, trying to get the moves just right. But observe the fighter who executes with fluidity the right tactic among all the possibilities in that moment, and be enthralled by elegance. Through my brief time in mixed martial arts, I came to see the brilliance in the problem-solving we call fighting. I now understand the sense and logic of the art. It is geometry – angles, lines, space in motion. Just shift and turn to create the space your opponent wants to deny you and make your way out. Fighting is chess. I love the Greek appreciation of AgatasGuitardisciplining and enlarging your mind to possibilities. The thousand drills you hammer into muscle memory are the tools for conceiving your art. The unspeakable beauty of ballet is borne of training and toil, from endless run-throughs that demand reflex and mastery. I agree with Miles Davis that more than the sight-reader, the musician is the one who can improvise. But you need to know the grammar of the music to be able to create at levels above, though some who have gone without the training find it by instinct. What I’m getting at is that art comes by merit. The endowment suggests a certain caliber of performance, of craftsmanship.

Which then incites the question whether something can be art at the elementary or exploratory stage. How about your kids’ fun on construction paper? We don’t hold up the canvas of children’s imagination against the expression of Monet’s, but isn’t there, shouldn’t there be a standard of measure within a given range of age or capability? Here I circle back to my beloved. Standard.

As I set out in my writing and my son’s learning two years ago (as it turned out, upon the same road), I accepted the guidance of the virtues named in the Classical world. As marvelous our fascination with the Minotaur, so we cheer Theseus on and breathe again when he rids Crete of the senseless terror. The living nightmare makes for a great tale but we don’t really want to live in fear and endless night. We hunger for the true, beautiful, and good because for these we were made.

Photo credits in order of appearance

193 thoughts on “Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers

  1. An interesting subject. Does a spider spinning a web creating art? All I know is that “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” I did a post with the same subject – but with less analysis. I just showed a sculpture by Henry Moore and said Voila. Let me try to attach it.

  2. Art is that which begins as a work in some medium but then quickly becomes you contemplating an issue or issues it raised either in the work or in yourself and it could be wholly unrelated to that issue or issues.

    But, as Professor Gaye Chan once implied, it could be a work created in a visual language only the artist is privy to and must convey either in person or some other way all the definitions of the symbols employed. In contrast, I once argued with her that a definitive analysis of art, the application of the dictionary to whatever was called art could get at the meaning of the work. Certainly the story of the piece could be analyzed as successful or not given the statements of the viewer as to the words used to describe it. Art, therefore, might be a visual argument and as will be discussed later, the strength of it’s trapping you is the measure of its success.

    What this implies is that the viewer could be looking at something he/she doesn’t quite understand but senses it has an unexplainable depth.

    It could also be what Tolstoy calls the embodiment of the artist’s emotion. Essentially, art is the provocateur of a state of self-consciousness, which of course means I have left myself open to criticism that a sound, an object, or any other thing that provokes memory or pause could be construed as a work of art.

    Having said this, it might require that creative intent were employed, notwithstanding Duchamp’s toilet, where I see a designer, an engineer perhaps, articulating a form that served a purpose other than to rest on a pedestal in an art museum. Art is also about the truth of ideas, a synthesis of the present that a great work can sustain, such as Duchamp’s toilet, which remains pertinent to any discussion about art. It seems to exemplify the parameters.

    Still, I want to hold at the state of self-consciousness and wonder as a response to a work of art, rather than focus on the work of art itself. Like theories or paradigms in the sciences, we think they are the last and final declarations about what is. Art may morph into any number of mediums, where Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. What he meant is that new technological tools often change the way we do things and think about things. He said that art “Sets a trap to catch your attention.” (Taken from:

    • “Art, therefore, might be a visual argument and as will be discussed later, the strength of it’s trapping you is the measure of its success.” I like this. And no, the one on the receiving end does not always understand every aspect of the art, but senses the depth? Yes, deep calls to deep.

      Art IS the embodiment of the artist’s emotion but that is why I raise the question. It is the wAy it is embodied. As the others have said here in response – along with many throughout the ages – yes, art is expression. But it isn’t shouting FIRE in a crowd. certainly often is also a synthesis of the past as well as the future (dreams).

      I’ll take a look at the link when time allows. Thanks.

    • “What he meant is that new technological tools often change the way we do things and think about things.” Saw the clip. I agree with this assertion.

      I didn’t get why he said the bionic couple represented a form of violence, even to use “violence” broadly. Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death just rocks in his incisive commentary on the effects of TV upon literacy.

      • Practically want to kill myself: The dialog box or comment box would close each time I touched another part of the page and I lost two responses to this question about the bionic couple and violence. Finally, I wrote the response in a document file, copied it, and pasted it here:

        What he meant by the bionic couple as violence is that it was tied to expressions of self. Bionic man is a vicarious form of violence. In Superman flying about and protecting others, he is expressing himself as a crime fighter by banging into other people.

        The very act of being is intrusive. It sequesters others to hear and to respond or even in not responding, it has violent affect, where nothing was there before it.

        Combing through your posts requires that the mind pay attention, thinking about something as either true or false, but most likely true, but also perhaps it is said in a way that we might not have said it. We are different people. My having to answer your question, which you could have answered yourself, is violent. I had to watch the damn movie again to find the statement in context. Violence is projecting oneself on to a crime fighter and engaging in the principles they espouse and practice, from passive to violent.

      • Mario, this is the reply to your follow-up on violence. And first off, aye, so sorry about the trouble you had. Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, with the treatises you tend to post. Probably a good idea to copy and paste hereon.

        I did get and even appreciated his claim that those who do violence are acting out an identity struggle. But I still don’t buy the broad way he uses the word violence, though. Sounds interesting and almost compelling, but it’s just too strong a word to fit the bill for the banging that yes, people do in engaging one another through various media. The closest to his claim I would come is with the word “joust.” We, artists, even people in the ordinary, joust one another.

  3. I love that you added this quote; “the genuine worth of an art piece is contingent upon the cerebral satisfaction it provides,” before closing your post. This is the exact thing I needed to be able to express, in any form, an answer to your question.

    I’ve only ever been able to think of art as something that draws emotion from the person who is experiencing it. Does it have to be the emotion the creator intended? That’s hard to say. What once may have been written with the intent to please someone, might offend another. What might have been drawn simply to satisfy a curiosity, could enthrall anyone who looks upon it.

    Is art based solely on merit alone?

    To answer that question, let me pose a small analysis of what merit is. The most common definition of merit reads as thus;

    the quality of being particularly good or worthy, esp. so as to deserve praise or reward.
    “composers of outstanding merit”
    synonyms: excellence, quality, caliber, worth, worthiness, credit, value, distinction, eminence

    Not that it needed to be drawn out so bluntly, but it’s worth actually ‘looking’ at for the purpose of my response.

    I don’t believe art should be based on merit, alone, for a couple reasons.

    1) The artist is not always going to be worthy of praise for their work. People tend to remember the artist for only that which stands out the most of their accomplishments. Do I dare say that if a person possesses true merit, all of which they create will become art? The fact that you brought up martial arts in your post reminds me of something I had once learned about a person reputed to have been the best martial artist in the world; Bruce Lee. In a film that chronicled his last years, the audience is given the chance to see another side of him as the philosopher, rather than the warrior. It’s something in particular that resonates with me, something he admitted to occasionally doing and his philosophy on it that I wanted to impart.

    “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”

    He admitted that what he did wasn’t without error. It didn’t come naturally, and through much of his training he often made mistakes. What we know him for is what he was able to reveal once overcoming said mistakes.

    2) This plays hand-in-hand with the first answer, which is; not everything can be perceived as art by the person who’s said to have the merit to create it. Maybe they made a mistake during a key moment of dance (or combat). Perhaps they wrote or painted something for themselves that the audience just didn’t ‘get’. Maybe a director put out a film that only made perfect sense to everyone involved? I’m sure that most people reading this can come up with a few examples. 🙂

    In all cases, it’s that one moment when the audience views the work, scrunches up their collective face and says; “Huh?” While the hardcore fan overlooks the mistake because they love the many other pieces created by the artist, the real question is; “Should they?”

    I believe that merit IS a key factor, but it’s not something that holds up a piece on its own. I also believe that there is something else that makes a piece into art; the artist’s expression. (I’ve also heard the term ‘voice’ used in place of ‘expression’.)

    As artists, we are creating with a purpose. Perhaps we have something beautiful inside of us that we simply want to share. Maybe it’s a form of escapism? For some, such as myself, it’s about the act itself. In any case, we have a need to do what we do. It’s our way of expressing ourselves, and by doing so, our work becomes an extension of what we are feeling at that moment.

    What is art? I believe that through our merit, it’s the perfect expression of what we are meant to be. Whether in writing, art, combat, film…parenting, teaching or any other act which we can get ‘down to an art’, art is something which I’ve always viewed as the exceptional expression of the creator. It draws forth the emotions of the audience. It provokes our imaginations. We look upon it in awe and we are able to simply enjoy it, no matter how foreign it may seem. It changes us in some way and it is something we will always remember.

    • Richard, you just might get the award for best blueprinted comment on WPress. I never believed the artist has to elicit the emotion or reaction intended in the one experiencing the art. The thought doesn’t even merit, to use this special word, any more talk in my book because it makes no sense and I have never aimed at any reaction in anyone with my writing. By intent, I simply meant a clear purpose I keep in view in my work, be it a thesis, theme, picture that is opposite randomness or aimlessness.

      I really like your points 1) and 2). Now, don’t most people remember Bruce not by his vulnerability but his achievements? By merit, I did not mean perfection. There is no such thing this side of heaven. Please see my comment to Savioni just above yours on expression.

      “the exceptional expression of the creator. It draws forth the emotions of the audience. It provokes our imaginations. We look upon it in awe and we are able to simply enjoy it, no matter how foreign it may seem. It changes us in some way and it is something we will always remember.”

      I appreciate the elaboration on “exceptional expression.” Yes, what I was getting at in alluding to a standard is that there IS a level of exceptionality to great art. Else it wouldn’t be great — or art.

  4. Art in and of itself has two requires,
    twin pillars that grant it being.

    Art is an expression,
    an external manifestation of internal existence.
    It is the birth of thought and consciousness
    conceived hidden within the artist,
    or from an intuitive resonance with all that is.

    art is a unique expression of thought,
    an inseparable signature of the artist,
    and the collaborator –
    Whether through design,
    or through wonderful happenstance,
    art is colored by,
    founded in,
    and shaped through the artist.
    Their separation is impossible,

    Art is the voice of being,
    wrought into objective physicality.

    • DTDeedge, I really like the way you put it in some places. But please see my response to Savioni above, on expression.

      “art is a unique expression of thought,
      an inseparable signature of the artist”

      I agree.

      “Whether through design,
      or through wonderful happenstance”

      This was my question. Can it be bona fide, when it comes of happenstance? I think when it’s wonderful, yes. But it can’t be pure accident. There is some skill, some knowing even in the happenstance.

      • very well,
        art is not an expression then,
        but rather a conversation
        between artist,
        and recipient.
        The degree of skill alters both the conversation
        and the audience that is attracted.
        I have let flow horrid torrents of loosely connected words,
        angry free association onto the blank page,
        and had response from all quarters
        of the power of my words.
        I have crafted,
        and birthed a beast of which I hold
        absolute pride,
        only to be met with uncomprehending silence.
        Under the right resosnance,
        with the right conversational topic,
        and the correct audience,
        shouting fire in a theater
        is the absolute pinnacle of art,
        as verily as the fine craftmanship evident in Alastor
        vibrates with artistic energy in my own mind.

        I pose that recipient,
        is a required piece of the puzzle,
        and as she is shaped by the art,
        so shapes she the conversation,
        all to the refinement of existence.

      • Dtdeedge, I’m on board, bc you put it well:

        Under the right resosnance,
        with the right conversational topic,
        and the correct audience,
        shouting fire in a theater
        is the absolute pinnacle of art

        Except I wouldn’t go so far as to say absolute pinnacle.

        Setsu and I commented on your response to Andersays.

  5. Another erudite post!

    I do not know what “art” is. Sometimes I feel it is the creator’s (the artist) need to express. Sometimes I feel it is the recipient’s (the receptor) need to confirm our existence. This implies art can “exist” without the second party: “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” The answer is: “only God can make a tree”.

    Non sequitur? Can there be art if there is no one there to appreciate it? Did God create Yosemite for the minutes when Ansel Adams would come along and take his stills? Both?

    I do not believe there is any inherent truth in beauty nor beauty in truth. They exist discretely, if not separately, when they exist at all. It is we, the receptor, seeking greater understanding (predictability) who try to establish confluence where none exists merely because we want it to. We want one to be both because when we find one, we want to be able to expect the other.

    My comment of “intent” was merely observational. If I set out (intend) to write a haiku, it must have so many lines and so many syllables (“on”). On the other hand, I may wish to express a contrast / juxtaposition (intend) and therefore choose the form of haiku. Alternatively, I may simply have something to express, and start writing, and it happens to come out as a haiku form.

    I enjoy reading your deconstruction of poems because your insight brings me new ways to think about poetry and its creation. I don’t normally think, male / female voice, eight syllables per line, etc. Your insight helps me understand better why I may happen to like something more than another.

    I just can’t see myself writing that way much… (Although, I do try to check my spelling and punctuation.) Having said this, I note some of my poems rhyme and some don’t; some follow rhythmic (syllables and alternating lines) patterns and some don’t; some are visual (most are not), so I guess I am trying to use forms more than I realize.

    Now, as to a liberal arts education… This is (to me) the only way for humanity to advance. Yes, we need trained engineers, doctors and other scientists, but it is far more important to have a populace of thinkers (perhaps “learners” is a better word) who have an understanding of ethics.

    Yes, we must make things and we must feed ourselves, but if that is all there is to life, humanity has wasted a lot of effort on art (in all its various formats).

    I am happy to note from the other comments, that I am not the only one who finds your posts so fascinating! Again, a superb post!

    (And thanks for the mention! 🙂 )

    • Kmabarrett, please see my response to Savioni above on the need to express. The recipient’s need to confirm existence? Hmmm. Interesting. Can you provide an example?

      God, truth, beauty: I’m spiraling into something that depends on worldview here. Those with a different view (of God and life origin) will naturally differ with me here. God is self-sufficient. Even if no one would ever capture an effigy of the Grand Canyon, He made it and leaves it from the delight He takes in it.

      But coming back down to the interaction among human beings, please see my response to colemining just below. At the same time, I believe it is possible for a great work to remain great apart from an audience for the way it was birthed. This “way” is what I am exploring. I like how you spell out how a haiku might be born. By “intent” (dang it, look what you’ve started with that one word in that old dialogue of ours!), I mean even more than the form – the message, theme, picture, story.

      “Your insight helps me understand better why I may happen to like something more than another.” This is what I meant in the opening of the post. That understanding the technique heightens consciousness of the aesthetics. If you’re going to respond again, you might check out the other comments that have come in which might lend insight.

      Thanks for the kudos and ongoing support.

  6. Lovely post! To me, art is the attempt to perfect communication. Even if the attempt falls short (and it must- since perfection, like art, is subjective) art creates dialogue and questions, emotional connection or aversion. It connects us as humans- whether because it resonates with something in us (collectively or as individuals) or because we admit to an inability to understand what its creator was getting at.

    The need to create- and to explore our creations through analysis and discussion- lies at the heart of what it is to be human- and is, likewise, the basis for an education in the Humanities/liberal arts.

    I truly believe that without an understanding of the arts that came before us, we have no context into which we can place our own creations- our own attempts to sort out just what this being human thing is all about.

    • “…art is the attempt to perfect communication.” Love it. Savioni (first comment above) said it might be a visual argument. I like your elaboration.

      Of course art is resonance. I discuss the art of literature here along this line:

      An excerpt of one of my earliest posts on what it means to be human, reflecting off the existence of solitary confinement:

      “We don’t draw meaning in isolation but against a communal tapestry where we locate our own thread that contributes to the greater design.

      We certainly can talk to ourself, but communication is at its most meaningful when it happens in a social context, with someone who gives us audience. The fact that we can speak is its own witness that we are born into a world where we can expect others to tune into us. Now, while animals have a language, our innate need to express takes us more deeply and richly into articulation of complex structure and substance and medium. Not only speech, but also art, allow us to mark our personal identity and broad humanness. I express myself through the writing and my music. Others paint, dance. God is known as the Living Word by which He spoke all things into life. We bear this divine image in the ways we speak our verbal, visual, physical art. In the artistic procreation, we do more than transmit energy, breathe, even learn. We birth something of beauty.”

      Your second paragraph is a clear, rich synopsis of my post and the great truths of life. Thank you.

    • Yes, I want to agree with HW, attempting to communicate perfectly is lovable. But, I feel as I support the praise, I am then drawn to the act of trying to communicate perfectly. I am not sure that is an art in and of itself. It is more a means to a self-expressive end, knowing that it may still never be perfect. And as I venture into this discussion of the expression of self, I am becoming more and more interested in McLuhan’s assertion of expressing one’s self as being violent. We do “bang” against each other, as Colemining says, in this attempt at perfect communication.

  7. IN a post – ” Art and Soul – do they matter?”, I quoted actress Stella Adler, who said ‘LIfe beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one..’ I think this is true when the art lifts the spirit which is what Taoism suggests is the purpose of art…but I do n’t think that what is sometimes called art – like the prize-winning unmade bed with half smoked fags encased in a glass cage – is uplifting, so perhaps there has to be some definition of art – beauty being indefineable..

    I find the gaps between mastery and ability constantly make me think… I have a book of Michelangelo’s .sonnets, and they show that his mastery only extended to his painting and sculpture, but somehow his humanity is revealed in his poetry which is not masterly!

    Art, in whatever form we explore it, seems to me to be the logbook of the human race, and and the striving for perfection is one of the glories of the human spirit.
    I once watched a video of a man flying five kites at once in an astonishing display of skill in riding different currents of wind so that he could control the kites in perfect patterns and symmetry for over twenty minutes, I was left awed by the magic of mastery…

    I don’t think any of this contributes to your discussion, but they are the thoughts that came to me on reading your lovely post.
    I so agree that great art is more than bleeding all over the page
    Your last line sings, and moved me so that I felt my heart jump with joy. Wonderful writing…

    • Valerie, I couldn’t find Adler’s quote or that post of yours in the digging, but I really like what she said. I enjoyed the different thoughts you shared here as well as the humor that’s icing on your blog. Some rich thoughts there. Thanks so much for the warm feedback.

  8. Wow, HW. This is quite the impressive treatise! Congratulations on such a thoughtful, well-researched, honest piece. I am going to need to ruminate more, as well as reread this post at least a couple more times before I can respond. I’ve written about this in a few posts, while thinking/struggling constantly about what constitutes art. A slippery fish of a query. In the meantime, yay for you for stimulating reflection and discussion! Cheers…p.s. Thank you so much for including my photo and link. I am honored.

  9. I’ve been privileged to spend a lot of time with art, this past year… from petroglyphs and totem poles of North America, to the art of ancient Greece and Rome, to the art of Renaissance Florence and Rome, and to the early work of Picasso in the Picasso Museum of Barcelona. I have just returned from Burning Man in the northern Nevada desert where some of the most exciting art of the modern world is being created. To me, art serves three purposes: one is it’s inherent beauty, two is the insight it provides, and three is historical perspective. Great blog, thanks. –Curt

  10. Math is indeed an art form. in some ways the most abstract of all languages, It is the only purely written language. When you speak of “one” what do you speak of? when you write it, what is one? the algebra of everyday language is lost on many, as so often people forget that languages came after, to express the consciousness to other consciousnesses. math is vague, ANYTHING can be a “one” 1 rock, 1 tree, 1 being. What you call 1 table is only a piece to the 1 dining ensemble. everytime you give something a name, and try to separate it from other things to give it a name, or a unique characteristic, you are doing math, you are trying to create a singular thing, ut are being less elegant by giving it a name the describes and traps it into the words. One is elegant, and free, it is free to be anything, and free to be everything. The only thing One cannot be, is not. I can be a whole me, but my hand alone is not me, it is only the one hand, and i have multiples of those, so i have 2, a name we give to multiple ones… Mathematics is definitely an art form, it is a purely written language whose philosophical underpinnings form the basis for all human thought. That which we call One (1) and that which is not one (-1) and the difference between them (0) all else is derived from that. To separate a tree from the earth, or water, or sun is silly, yet we do it everyday of our lives, and often strive in art to make something that has those meanings that intertwine. Most things we call one are made up of pieces anyway. I love this post of yours, very thought provoking and beautiful 🙂

    • Glad you got to sing of the art you so love – a veritable sonnet!

      “To separate a tree from the earth, or water, or sun is silly, yet we do it everyday of our lives, and often strive in art to make something that has those meanings that intertwine. ”

      Can you explain why/how we try to make them intertwine? Make meaning, yes, but…intertwine…?

      • it is the heart of any art or science. while i acknowledge not all may do this, to capture some “essence of a thing is the aim of any art or science. Representation is the basis for any language. Does a rock know its own name? Do you think it calls itself “rock”? Language is just a long running human experiment to try to encapsulate the experience of living, of interacting with the world. Math is a language, painting is a language, poetry is playing with language, music is a language… they are all attempts to capture some essence of living and redistribute it to the world in a timeless way, a sort of immortality if you will. and the best of those intertwine meanings. For me, it is a thing of beauty, and a mathematical analogue would be Fractals, or fractional dimensions. Something like the Mandelbrot Set which is amazing when you understand what it is, and just beautiful to look at even if you don’t. But crossing boundARIES TO SHOW COMMONALITIES WOULD BE ONE TYPE OF INTERTWINING I REFER TO 🙂

      • Andersays, this is a reply to your second comment.

        “they are all attempts to capture some essence of living and redistribute it to the world in a timeless way, a sort of immortality if you will.”

        You know, the comments to this post are each a breathtaking work of art! If you guys kept writing like this on your blog, you’d be unstoppable. ^^ And the line I just quoted stands as the quintessence of my assertion. =) I love it. Ecclesiastes says we have eternity in our hearts. It’s an inherent longing.

      • Andersays- rock most certainly does call himself rock — it is that consciousness that makes the rock into rock, and not into human. Rock has named himself rock, and tree has named herself tree, and existence has agreed to this naming. Rock and tree are indeed inseparable one form the other — they are waves on the ocean of existence, (or fractally, waves upon the waves upon the waves of the ocean). The electrons dance only very slightly differently for the infinitesimal moment that they share a common fraction of space. Their language is simply one that we cannot yet comprehend fully — although science has discovered how to translate their songs somewhat. But physical poems are beyond our grasp yet, we grunt only rough syllables of their tongue, even as our electrons and atoms and structures have named themselves ‘man’, and nature has agreed.

        Our art is simply our childish attempt to write our poems in the language of rock and tree – to direct the formation of the foam upon the waves of the waves in the way that we splash the ocean. We shall fall and create the foam regardless of intent — but those few who can listen, listen intently to the ocean, and who practice carefully and tirelessly the manipulation of their own name can manage to decorate their tiny portion of the wave. That mote of skill, knowledge, participation and fortunate happenstance will allow a select few to scribe ‘I was here’ on the ephemeral waves upon the waves upon the waves.

        That foam will not be here tomorrow, and the ocean eventually forgets even the most skilled manipulation of the waves. The ocean is.

  11. A thought provoking post.

    For me, Art is anything that caresses and pulls at my heart. Art allows us to visualise and through such visualisation connect to other folks through their heart.

    As as you think back to the questions you have posed and the comments received, what thoughts come to you now?


    • The connection to others you speak of is the attempt to perfect communication Colemining alludes to in the comment above. Thanks for asking about the development of my thoughts. They are visible in the response to the comments that have come in. =)

      • thank you
        for your introspective piece of writing
        I’ve really enjoyed interacting
        with you on this topic
        geo sans

        + + + + + + + + + + + + +

        who has the right
        to quantify
        or measure
        forms of expression
        are viable forms
        of art ?
        regarding art
        I have
        the right to chose
        what I like
        I have
        the right to define
        which art
        resonates with me
        I have the right
        to communicate why a piece
        connects with me
        when experiencing
        I do NOT have the right
        to dictate or force my perceptions
        onto others
        art is loaded
        with bias
        from various backgrounds
        culture, class, experience, etc
        I cannot force agreement / consensus
        on my views of art
        I feel NO ONE has this right
        who do we feel
        has the right
        to value / de-value / judge
        art + individuals
        based on their
        appreciation and perception
        of art
        in the past
        the nazi’s and other’s cultural authorities
        felt they were entitled to this specific right
        (1 reason abstraction born in reaction to WW2)
        of course
        everyone has every right
        to disagree with these views
        I encourage and respect everyone
        that does
        this freedom in dialogue
        is one of the main reasons
        I create, experience, interact
        and enjoy art

      • an old

        unpublished poem of mine …

        + + +

        It is like

        the “art” question


        what if an artist

        only conceptualized

        in their mind

        for their own enjoyment only

        without creating

        any physical pieces


        would they still

        be a true artist ?


        do we really need

        does a flower really need

        the value

        of others

        to be a legitimate


    • Geo S, it’s interesting how your response poems were clearer than some prose out there. I appreciate the elaboration, esp on consensus. Anyone has the right to believe his work is art. But neither that right nor conviction will necessarily translate into art in the perception of others — or the majority. A number of you brought up a great point that it needs to resonate through the communication that happens between the artist and the beholder. But the true artist will not care, you would say. We can attribute much of the beauty in art to the bias it bears. And though you’ve kindly disagreed, the pleasure has been ALL mine. I appreciate your lovely contributions. It was so nice hearing from you.

  12. What is it if it has no meaning to you? I’ve heard Monet brought up before, and I’ve used Monet as an example an artist I did not like and, thus, not a standard for what art is. I think the problem with the question is this: who chooses the standard? We can cite any number of classical artists by whom we choose to set the standard, but then, how many of us will disagree with that standard? How many of us will be inclined to choose Leonardo as the standard and decide that Michelangelo does not meet that standard (I don’t believe Michelangelo meets the standard at all)?

    Why can’t mere expression be intent in and of itself? While some art is technical mastery, I think art can be accidental. The happy accident occurs often. Some art is mere serendipity – right place, right time, right mood, right inspiration, right pen, right pad, so on and so forth. Using myself as an example, I find that I tend not to be able to write as well as I’d like when I “intend” to write. That is, when I am doing more than merely expressing myself on the whim of a purely random inspiration, it doesn’t come out “me” at all. I am “forcing” myself… That is not to say that it is impossible for me to do so… I can. Maybe it’s a sign of my lack of true skill. It just takes much, much more work, more thought on my part. This also affects how often I work. It’s the same when I draw, sketch, paint, or engage in photography. I operate almost entirely on whim as opposed to intent. I do not intend to do anything, in particular, most occasions. When I do, I think way too much about what I’m doing, about my intention, and I struggle, because I assume the goal, and try to force what I’m doing, to no avail, and I fail at that and, half the time, get nothing accomplished.

    I understand there must be some technical standard, perhaps, but I’ve always been of a mind that the technical standard should be fairly loose, basic. Regarding writing, basic grammar, spelling, and the basic rules of whichever movement a poet chooses to engage in, so on and so forth. Regarding art (drawing, painting, photography, etc), your basic composition (rule of thirds, golden mean, etc), rendering/shading, and the basics of the variant styles and movements. It seems that, with as many peoples, cultures, and ideas this world boasts, the question of what art is should not go beyond anything fundamental.

    • Sahm, I think you’re the first to pull me (begrudgingly *chuckle*) toward the acceptance of the happy accident. For your clear description of your own process in art.

      “It just takes much, much more work, more thought on my part.”
      Very interesting. I now see this is what I was getting at: the thinking. The brainwork that I feel ought to undergird or drive the work as much as the passion and muse. My basic premise is that the thinking (which in writing often translates into choosing the right word, for one thing) helps shape the art, order it to a higher level. The underside of this premise is the aversion I’m realizing I have to the hey-this-is-what-I feel-like-so-accept-it-as-grand-art-anything-goes license.

      • You know, even people like me, that are really, really off the cuff, have something of an aversion to that from time to time. I was a professional photographer for a while and actually dealt with the hey-this-is-what-I-feel-like-so-accept-it-as-grand-art-anything-goes-license issue. Mostly because people who aren’t familiar with the technical aspects of any given art form have absolutely no care for it from what I’ve seen, just as long as the colors look right, the words are in a proper sentence, and what they’re seeing or reading makes some sort of sense on some level between see Jane run and the General Theory of Relativity. *Note to Self – See Jane Run and the General Theory of Relativity sounds like a great poem title!

        Thanks for the opportunity (and the reminder – I’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding blogs lately…which is a bad thing). You wrote something here that should be in a literary journal or something. Now, I need to go and relearn how to write articles.


      • Oh, Sahm, thanks so much for the kudos. High praise – from you. You wouldn’t believe how many hours I put into this post. Really wouldn’t. Actually, days. That’s how much I love my words and my readers. And it was one of the most difficult to write, really hard to think through. Had so much to say, but articulating was a challenge.

        Okay, so we meet somewhere halfway, as you concede to my aversion. On the spectrum of THIS SUCKS, is haphazard, no loving effort or inspiration went into this all the way to THIS steals the heart of virtually every onlooker

        you get art.

        SO AT WHAT POINT? Geo Sans says it’s never consensus, and in talking to you I see I disagree with the categorical verdict. I guess he and others – and you, at least earlier – would say if one person finds the THIS SUCKS piece to be art, it’s art to him. Well, my worldview of an objective, standing Truth in the world runs at odds with this subjectivity. Those who insist on the minority of one’s right to feel it is art can insist ’til the cows come home and I say keep on in your relativism but it doesn’t work. By logic, those who hold that perspective to the grave must say anything does go, then. Anyone can claim anything as art? There is no RIGHT? No Wrong? Then I can come slap their mother and I would not be criminal.

        There HAS to be a measure. And it starts somewhere on the spectrum.

        Did not occur to me that I should seek a wider audience for this piece. A talented poet among us had the same encouragement for me on my recent struggling artist poems. I am so blessed with such amazing readers. Sigh. I have no time to pursue any literary journal. But you put me out there for me.

        Avoiding blogs? One of the engineers of the drinking poets platform?

      • All valid points. For my part, I go with the absolute minimum in most things. If I slapped someone’s mother, I would expect revenge to be dealt. With art, there is definitely a standard, though, like I say, I go with the minimum. It’s the difference between someone with a point and shoot camera taking a photo and Ansel Adams.

        On the avoiding blogs thing, nah… I took a “vacation” from blogging a couple of weeks back. I haven’t regained my rhythm yet and, though I’ve picked up posting again, the reading hasn’t come back so easily. I might be self-absorbed. That could be my real problem.

      • You bring up something important, Sahm, in speaking of Monet. I am not crazy about his work because I don’t take to impressionist paintings. But though I don’t like him professionally, I don’t say what he does isn’t art. In fact, I believe it is great art. Though you may have been ready to chk out, you might want to peek at Geo Sans’ elaboration here on how art is never consensus. You’re welcome to export any thoughts over to the drinking poets board. We’re smOkin’ here.

  13. Art is the intersection of good craftsmanship (knowing tools/techniques in order to express what you mean to express) and the satisfaction of an inner hunger, need or curiosity. When what you’ve made thrums some string inside you, that’s art. It’s born of resonance and creates resonance — whether it’s a sculpture, a cupcake, or a line of music.

    • I love your take on this, esp your definition of craftsmanship. Very well put. I guess for me the knowing of the tools to express your purpose is important because satisfying the hec out of yourself alOne doesn’t cut it for me. Seems to me that the greater one’s confidence in the skill, the greater potential for resonance.
      Thank you so much for the follow. I look fwd to walking and talking together.

  14. Pingback: The Process II, Finale: Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers | Jay's Space

  15. Re: Pingback from Jay’s Space, his response post

    Jay, how lovely! I can feel the pleasure you took in writing it. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. You seem to shine your essence.

    “seek within to find the door that unlocks the macrocosm within the microcosm. Whenever the soul is expressed it is art. All beauty is a reflection of what lies within the soul, and there lies the art of living.”

    I really like the search for the macro in the micro. See my response to Savioni (first comment above). I don’t necessarily feel any and all expression of the soul is art but you seem to qualify your assertion by flipping it, saying whatever we consider beautiful we can trace back to the soul.

    “If we only approach life and look at art through the mind and senses, we only have an empirical analysis of what we think is truth based on our perceptions, our senses, our observations. Art reflects beyond what the mind understands; real art expresses the essence and qualities of the Divine. The Divine is limitless, how can our senses which are finite measure the infinite. The mind conjures up images and thoughts and we put them into writing, painting and verse, but that is all limited by the mind’s finite ability. If the mind gets still the qualities, the reflections of the Absolute can filter down into our ordinary wakeful conscientiousness [I like this] and we experience revelation and then express that through art.”

    Yes, see my response to colemining.

    “Stillness is the trigger that allows us to grasp the expression of the True Artist…It is in stillness that the self discovers and expresses itself. Art is born in stillness.”

    Thank you for your time.

  16. Pingback: Question of the Week #002: Setting the Standard | We Drink Because We're Poets

  17. Whoaaa … My head is spinning! Incredible post. “I’m thinking aloud for the answers, surveying the fields of virtuosity. Instinct whispers … a difference between war and the art of war … Or the boxer who flails while struggling at the level of technique, trying to get the moves just right. But observe the fighter who executes with fluidity the right tactic among the possibilities in the moment, and be enthralled by elegance.” So, when I grow up, will I be able to blog like that?
    Keep on writing, keep on living.

    • Geo S, the must-read-for-writers Sin and Syntax I just picked up mentions the wild experiment with language, which I love the sound of. And of course I’m not a robot – there is a whole lot of experimenting in my own work. But the stunning treatise also affirms the need for mastery in the basics to be able to violate them willfully in the name of art.

      • Play
        in visual arts
        we often condition
        the artist out of the child
        I find
        a child’s drawings
        more interesting
        than many “artists” and “art”
        I see

        + + +

        every child is an artist
        the problem
        is how to remain an artist
        once we grow up

        + + +

        it took me four years
        to paint like raphael
        but a lifetime
        to paint like a child

  18. Such a difficult question to answer, Diana. All I can say (in my own case) is that the knowing is in the doing. Quite often I don’t know where my own work is headed and I simply feel like I am channeling/discovering its meaning as I go along. You might argue that is simply the Minotaur, in me, speaking, though. Ha! Very interesting post, and I expect I will keep trying to come up with an answer in the following days.

    • The process of discovering is allowed in the least. And I would not apply the Minotaur to such a dynamic of art as yours. Just before I saw James’ comment – below yours – I was ruminating on some of our talks: I realized that though there is a greater visible emotional attachment to my poetry (me with my work) than you seem to have with yours, I have been insisting that art be more than what comes from heart and spirit. That the willful mind must help birth it. Was just interesting to think about.

    • L, dumb question from one who remains deathly afraid of anything tech or Fbook. Do Facebookers who view your blog and go on to follow just sign up by email or is there another way for them to subscribe if we have an upgraded site that allows Facebookers per se to like us (not like by tapping the WP like icon)?

  19. For something to be ‘art’, I think, requires something specific to happen. There has to be an act of communication between artist and audience. Without that, what you get is mere self-expression. Not to imply this is a bad thing, but it doesn’t cross the threshold into art.

    And there is an infinite number of ways to get there, to achieve this communication. This communication can be based on right brain or left brain function, but I think that the ‘best’ process is some combination of the two. Nietzsche described this as the balance between Apollo (rationalism) and Dionysios (the non-rational or emotional, or however you wish to categorize the opposite of ‘rational’). Something too rational is sterile and dead, it doesn’t breathe; think about a still life that, while it looks like fruit, has no emotional impact. OTOH, something too non-rational is just incomprehensible. Think about so much of modern ( or post-modern) art. Looks like a child’s scribble. It’s expressive, but of what?

    Communication requires some form of common expression, Language is a rational form of this, which is why people speaking the same language can communicate, but mere words are often shallow. Shared emotional experience is a much deeper bond, but with a much more limited audience. This is where family bonds are so powerful, but so meaningless to someone outside This is why the ‘best’ art, or at least the art with the widest audience has some of each element in it.

    So, what is art? It’s the communication that occurs. Art can challenge the way you look at the world, which is why new art is often controversial, Beethoven’s last string quartets were considered ‘bizarre’ by contemporaries, but that’s because he challenged the established conceptions of music. The Beatles had the same experience. So did Impressionist painters, but 150 years later, Monet is as mainstream as Michaelangelo, the Beatles, or Beethoven.

    • Goodness, what an articulate summation of some of the comments (though that was not your intention). You were also able to extract the issues that were grating at me and synthesize them so clearly and beautifully. YES, I have felt art is more than expression, while obviously a medium of it. Just an hour ago on the road, I was ruminating on the comments here, on the duality of the cognitive and emotional that engenders the greatest of art. The postmodern carte blanche over expression has rubbed me the wrong way. Love the way you explain the forms of language. And the perspectival challenge you speak of sounds like the visual argument Mario mentioned. Thanks so much for joining the Great Conversation.

  20. Congratulations again on stimulating and hosting this lively discussion, only some of which I have been able to read and digest. To answer your question of me about how I dance and make dance, I am most inspired to explore and create through movement what I consider to be beautiful, which is obviously highly idiosyncratic, and includes but is not limited to the ugly, humorous, joyful, broken, and exquisite. The act of dancing itself is meaningful and beautiful to me, as well, so I often learn others’ movement even if I personally do not appreciate the specific movement choices. I appreciate the dialogue and being open to others’ vision. So you may not be surprised to learn that I believe art is what people create/make to express what is meaningful or beautiful to them. Whether they are effective or skilled or articulate is another question. Thanks again for including my photo! Off to rehearsal! peace….

    • I hope you didn’t feel strapped down, forced to answer, SirenaT. =) It’s just that I really did want to hear from you on your dancing. Yes, this rich discussion has only reinforced my conviction that the beauty you speak of has a definition. There is a threshold of skill one reaches, which upon spilling over, one moves with beauty.

      But of course this question does not resolve readily. Thanks for coming back with the promised thoughts.

  21. A very interesting post. I wish that I had more to offer to the discourse, but the mind is about tapped as I’ve been online working on my art criticism class. That said, I shall share something a fellow student posted that offers interesting insight into the role of art vs criticism:
    “Art is often an uncivilized, antisocial expression of the human psyche while writing art criticism is an attempt to civilize and socialize that art by reacting to it, making sense of it, and comparing it to other similar acts of creation.” (from papers of Psychologist Timothy Chouinard)

    This does not really answer the question, what is art – or why art, but it does help one to understand a certain process of art. My only counter to this ideology is, is art always an anti-social act?

    Personally, neither my writing nor my art work is social. I wish it were more engaging for the reader/viewer, but currently its role is more catharsis or an outlet of creative expression. In the future, I’d love to focus more on how it can create a conversation.

    • Hi Angela, I enjoy your input, esp for the parts I disagree with. Quite interesting, but I feel art at its higher levels itself is the attempt to make sense of things. What leans toward chaos (to put it strongly) would ring less like art than a more thoughtful offering which certainly may remain a question the viewer finishes (meaning there is no pressure upon the artist to resolve anything.) Much of what you share jives with Mario’s contribution (the first one that flew in) on the artistic exchange that he says can be violent. But I agree with you on that point: why must art always be an antisocial enterprise?

      Your closing thoughts strike me. I appreciate your desire to communicate better with others through your medium.

      So glad you came. Thank you for the follow. =) We’ll keep talking.


  22. Thanks for your interest in “Tails from Paris”. We’re now following your blog.

    If you want to sharpen your international sense of humor, we do also have a French version called “Sous nos Couettes” :

    Thanks for sharing if you enjoy it too …

    Best from Paris, France

    Alix, Roxane & their bald, bold & funny (at least he pretends to …) Dad

  23. “What is art?”

    Well, since I asked Myself: I am Art. I am Everything I make Myself into and Anything I can conceive that I can make Myself into.

    To wit, I claim I am not the sculpture I sculpt, but I am. I claim that I am not the painting that I paint, but I am. I claim that I am not the drawing that I draw, but I am. And so on.

    Knowing this permits to understand that I am the Artist and Art in One. That there is Only One Artist: Me. Where the Me that Erik uses and the Me that anyone uses now, has ever used, or will ever use is the same Me.

    So, then, every single piece of art that has ever existed, exists now, or will ever exist is, in fact Me and Mine at the same time. When I came to terms with this unbelievable truth, I stood in naked witness, in awe, to My Creation and infinite creativity.

    Peace, Ik

    • Well, I have strained my neck trying to see it from your eyes, Erik, and I can’t fully agree because I don’t believe that the Me is the Only Artist, which seems to be your starting point. I am my art in that it is a most personal expression of me. But the Great Conversation would certainly be but a Great Yawn if we all saw the same thing. I appreciate your contribution. =)

      • This *is* the Great Conversation. I am Holistic Wayfarer and Erik at the same time, so I am talking to Myself. I have assumed, I should say, “we” have assumed, to this point in “our” evolution that “we” are distinct and separate, wholly different forever. However, the Truth is that I am One *and* Many, so being the One Artist, I express Myself in Many forms. Hope this clarifies. Peace, Ik

      • Since I am Erik and Erik is me, I’m reminded of a philosophy that came out of the TV show Babylon 5: We are all parts of the same universe trying to understand itself.

  24. You wrote: “I now feel great art is more than bleeding all over the page.” I agree with that. Self-expression is a way into the art process, or one element of it. But I think it’s incorrect, or rather incomplete to say that art “is contingent upon the cerebral satisfaction it provides.” For me, the beauty of art is that it engages the intellect as well as the emotions. And while it does this it’s a great conversation (as Gombrich said) – it’s a response to, or an outgrowth of history as well as the contemporary world. And when art is produced and placed in the world, it incites discourse in others, continuing the conversation. There is no answer to the question “What is art?” because an ongoing conversation, like a river, is never at rest.

    • Hi Mark, in speaking of the cerebral satisfaction, I was spotlighting what seemed to go overlooked in the ready definition that art is expression – a declaration that admittedly was wearing on me. Because, as I’ve said in the comments that came before, there has to be a standard for that expression, though it need not be a Scriptural law. Blogger James put it so well here, on the dual necessity of heart and mind that engenders the Great Conversation. My chat with Curt who dropped in a comment, also echoes your thoughts on the Dialogue and history. I appreciate your closing thoughts in particular. Like a river, never at rest. Thanks so much for joining what has been among the richest discussion from some of the brightest minds, on this blog.

  25. I found myself caught up in the beauty with which you write and the lyrical quality of your sentences. To me, THAT is an example of art. While the definition varies from person to person, there is a creativity and a set ‘voice’ to the painting, written work or other item. When I write poetry or other projects, I have a set mission in my mind of what is my goal and what message to share with the piece. The focus helps me as I spread my wings around the core elements.

  26. I love this topic! Thank you for encouraging me to ponder it again. I think art comes when the emotions stir the soul to express a point of view. We all have the capability to make art, but its subjective nature determines who is considered an artist. Hence arrives the critic which may be someone from the outside, or the artist herself.

  27. What a wonderful post and discussion! To me, art has to be defined subjectively. If the artist considers a creation to be art, it is art to him; to others it may or may not be. The art critics have their own standards, but an person with an untrained eye or ear may love something and consider it art simply because they find it meaningful to them in some way. To me, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is art, and that includes the eye of the creator.

  28. We write, We intuit the words and send them out to the World. We see them as our children, those that read them might see them as intruders or distractions. I just wait until the story comes around on the machine.

    • My writing is very much my child.

      Sin and Syntax (writer’s must-read):
      In many ways writing is the act of saying I (italicized), of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind…an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

      I read this a few days ago – reminded me of Mario’s comment on this post about violence.
      But even if we don’t put it so strongly, I think we are looking for inspiration and provocation and for someone to move us to tears. We wAnt to be persuaded — by beauty, skillfulness, finesse. Truth.

    • My writing is very much my child.

      Sin and Syntax (writer’s must-read): In many ways writing is the act of saying I (italicized), of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind…an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

      I read this a few days ago – reminded me of Mario’s comment on this post about violence.

  29. Thank you. I will delay this a week until I have internet and cut short here as being able to access and read this on my phone is art that inspires me in itself though restricts my ability to express in a manner worthy of your question.
    Until then I wish you a longer time spent in the moment between and the space which no force can claim.

  30. “What is art?” even to ask that question requires a depth of acceptance of ones self coupled to a courageous humility regarding ones “art” such that just posing it puts on display the depth of the beauty from whence this inquiry came…the answer however seems more elusive. I have often thought that the word itself is art because of it’s duality, sometimes it is naming, sometimes it is describing. I think art is in anything (mathematics as art), in everything (the art of medicine), it is the artist who is gifted with insight to see the potential and the skill to bring it out…you are not an artist because you create art, you are an artist, that is why your art exists. You write like the screen is your canvas and your words are your colours, beautiful. Respect REDdog

    • REDdog, I really like this: “it is the artist who is gifted with insight to see the potential and the skill to bring it out” And I agree with this thought also in that our hands bear the image of the Great Artist: “You are not an artist because you create art, you are an artist, that is why your art exists.” Thank you so much for joining us at the round table – it’s been quite a discussion. And for the golden praise and follow. You can’t know how blessed I feel for generous readers like you. My heart to yours. Wayfarer.

  31. I don’t think I’ve ever written or read for just the pleasure of it. I do believe that it has always been for both pleasure and analysis. At times, more of one than the other but certainly some measure of both at the same time. I don’t mind it at all.

  32. One thing I’ve discovered in my writing — particularly in humor — is that there is a melody and rhythm involved that is much like composing a musical score. But instead of notes, I uses dashes, ellipses, semicolons and other techniques to create the timing I want for that drumbeat or crescendo. One of the things I love most about writing is the combination of inspiration and calculation involved in relating an idea to its full potential. It’s an instantaneous collaboration between right-brain and left-brain that lets you know when you’ve got it right. It’s as close to what I imagine a zen-like state would be; something I’ll never have while there are still children at home 😉

    • Hi Ned, as a musician, I absolutely love what you’ve shared of your experience.

      “the combination of inspiration and calculation involved in relating an idea to its full potential.”

      and yes, nothing like the thrill of knowing you nailed it. Thanks so much for taking the time in the reading and (lovely) writing here, and I look fwd to my revisit. =)

  33. yoo hoo it’s me Mark with the falling rain blog, I see we both have new sophisticated avatars, I have spent the last couple of hours in your blog just going through to see what you’ve been saying while I’ve been away… I’ve really really enjoyed reading some posts, I’ve missed this. Might I also say that you are constantly developing as a writer in lots of excellent methods and ideas, the most impressive aspect and by far most important is the mind. I can’t express enough how impressed I am with the recent martial arts posts and the shift from thinking one thing towards a willingness to want to understand and then a true appreciation. I think the ability to change one’s opinion is a rare and precious ability.

    “The man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” – William Blake

    By the way, where did all these people come from? It’s very busy in here and you’re still managing to answer everyone. Although with this thread you did ask a very brave question, “What is art?” it’s an anagram of “rat” and “tar”, and that is the only ultimate answer that no-one can disagree with, although they would most likely show their disapproval that I wasn’t taking such an important subject seriously. I won’t try and answer it. It’s the kind of question that I would quite happily throw into a room of intellectuals and then close the door and run away, whilst trying not to laugh.

    I don’t think anyone mentioned “Art for arts sake” which surprised me, but it’s a movement based on art being detached from any “claptrap”, and says that art should be “divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function” therefore not political statements or ideologies.

    One day whilst in a second hand book shop I opened a book at a random page with conviction as I have been doing for many years because an angel eventually managed to persuade my sceptical 19 year old self that coincidence didn’t exist, everything happened for a reason. So I always try and give the universe opportunities to blow my mind.

    “From harmony, from heavenly harmony
    This universal frame began.
    When nature, underneath a heap
    Of jarring atoms lay,
    And could not heave her head.
    The tuneful Voice, was heard from high,
    Arise! Arise!”

    That’s what I read astounded that day, it’s from Dryden’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day”, St Cecilia being the patron saint of music. The main theme of the text is the Pythagorean theory of harmonia mundi, that music was a central force in the Earth’s creation.
    Harmony I think is very important in art, it exists in everything that is natural in the whole universe, because the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe we know that it must occur everywhere where it is needed. So it seems a shame that not one other person mentioned it on the whole of this page, especially as it was one of the questions you asked. But to be fair you did also ask “What is art?” in the same sentence… “red rag to a bull”

    For me I understand it better when I apply it to music and then it makes sense. When I first got into music I quickly realised that it was maths and notes could be seen as fractions and repetitions of numbers, but also because I love being creative I tried to distance myself from the maths aspect because I believed that it was to technical or scientific an approach to use in a natural art.

    “Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death.” William Blake

    I think “science” to Blake was progress and industrialisation and not the same science that you and I see as being beautiful, because it works and built everything and is natural. So the maths in music which I thought was too structured could not be anything other than natural. The music scale makes sense, there’s a thing called Harmonics which naturally occur as multiples of a base note, and they occur at regular intervals. For example, on a guitar string if the fundamental frequency (first harmonic) is 25 Hz, the frequencies of the next harmonics are: 50 Hz (2nd harmonic), 75 Hz (3rd harmonic), 100 Hz (4th harmonic) etc until you’ve got an Octave and then they start repeating, so there are 12 musical notes and they are natural, which to me is mind blowing. Also mind blowing is that a note played in one part of a room will interact with anything in the room that is on the same frequency, I’ve tried it. Which is relevant to what you mentioned about communication. It seems a strange concept that the Greeks studied communication and community to understand harmony, it just doesn’t sound right until music explains it with ease. Notes that share the same frequency interact and vibrate with each other, or same as saying “2 objects(people) tuned into each other (on the same wavelength) will interact (communicate) with each other. Even as I’ve wrote this, I’ve just realised even more how mind blowing it is…. so much so that I’ll stop… I had no intention of writing what I’ve just written but that always happens and because it’s I don’t need to apologise because you know me….
    Most blogs lock their doors when they see me or if I do get in I end up apologising for getting carried away.

    In a nutshell for me, art is at it’s best the more it resembles nature, but not copying. There’s a flow that is natural in nature that never looks out of place or awkward, the way water flows or air, it’s never awkward or uncomfortable. So in art paintings, the curves and strokes that look natural are the ones that turn on all the natural switches in our brains, it sounds easy to draw a natural curve but I’m sure it’s not.
    People always try to convince me that certain guitarists are better than my hero Jimi Hendrix, and the only way I can explain is by saying that technically they are better than Jimi because they’ve put more hours in, but as regards the feeling of the music, Jimi is like water and these other guitarist are full of straight lines and blocks, they sound impressive but never natural.

    But let me ask you …..

    “What is art?”………. quick run ……..

    …… ha ha ha

    ……………………………………………………..ha ha ha hee hee

    ……… oooopps

    …………ha ha ha ………………….bye, I really enjoyed writing that…. I hope it makes some sense.

    • Talk about mind-blowing, Mark. And there was no need to remind me who you are. Yes, over 800 followers, and I know it’s you.

      I have said of a number of bloggers that their comments over at my place are some of the best posts they have put out. (Feel free to have parts of your incredible thoughts work double-duty on your board.) Your blog of course is so cool. But if you kept writing like this, you’d be unstoppable. Thx for the golden praise – I love Blake’s quote on opinion. You leave me some of the best quotes. LOL I’m glad you didn’t run back out and shut the door from the question I threw out. The art for art’s sake position is the very one I was going up against. There must be a measure (bc yEs, there is such a thing in MUSIC)! You didn’t know I taught music theory. =)

      I have toyed with a post on the (literal) frequency in the universe. VERy interesting. A Japanese scientist/photographer once did on the effect of words upon water. He placed a variety of written words like LOVE, HATE just above bowls of water and photographed their crystals a few days later. He presented literal proof that even water reacts – and strongly. Water that “took in” the energy of beautiful words were exquisite. The opposite held for water exposed to ugly words. The guy writes that the whole cosmos emits frequency. All matter transmits energy. So it hit me that it is in the literal sense that we sometimes get on the same wavelength with someone. I buy it. That I connect with another bc our frequencies are compatible. Musicis sound waves, and how it stirs the soul. Or even when we hear something and get chills – there is something about waves and energy behind that.

      Sounds like we’re on the same wave length!

      I have no idea how I’m going to get back to readers who stopped in and sat down last night — I ended up with Carpal Tunnel from the last post. I labored days over it, the final segment six hours from the wee of night bc I no longer have time to write as often for the homeschooling.

      I’m so pleased you enjoyed writing here and I just love your take on how art is at its truest the better it mimics reality. It’s how I closed the TREES post.

      “The most striking and meticulous piece of art verbal, visual, or musical will never outperform nature or its song. The work of human hands remains but a likeness of divine glory it cannot fully capture. The most unassuming sunset will outshine the artists canvas.”

      So glad you came bearing treasure of thoughts ornamented with humor. Diana

      • Hi Diana, me again… But I promise I’ll be quick this time, when you mentioned about the words on paper in the water it reminded me of “Chladni Plates” which you may of heard about, they put sand on a metal plate and then play different notes through the plate and what the sand does is amazing, here is a link to a vid of it
        Also I have since found a couple more quotes which I had to share…

        “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” – Walter Pater

        “God is only really another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things” – Pablo Picasso

        and more for a laugh, “Abstract art is a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered” – Al Capp

        told you I would be quick… if you ever need some rain here is a link to the page that I mentioned a while ago that I was thinking of making
        it’s been open 2 days but you’re the first person I’ve told… it’s called “Precious Precipitation : Random Raindrops And Drip-Drop Drizzle Drumbeats (Sporadic Showers For The Soul)” have fun, take care and be happy.
        Thanks Mark

  34. What is art? In his book What Art Is philosopher Arthur Danto concluded it is embodied meaning, plus interpretation by the viewer. (The physical artwork is the embodiment of some meaning.) It’s a definition that can apply to any genre and it gives art more significance than decoration. While I do think an engaging piece of art can make you think, I’m not really convinced how useful Danto’s definition is. Can’t an artist create without having a meaning in mind? Can’t a viewer enjoy a piece of art without analyzing what it might mean?

    In his book The Value of Art, Michael Findlay says the intrinsic value of art is about “the private enjoyment of contemplating the work itself.” He plays down the significance of art critics because “it is very difficult to use language to describe the intensity of a visceral experience looking at a work of art… Painting, sculpture, drawing, and other visual media on the highest level represents the creation of a language that is not read or spoken. It is comprehended with the eyes, the mind, and what we might call the heart, our internal capacity to be deeply moved.” I think Findlay gets it.

    In a comment above, Bumba asked, “Does a spider spinning a web creating art?” This reminds me of a quote from Rodin: “There is no recipe for improving nature. The only thing is to see.”

    My art book reviews can be found here:

  35. Andrew, I couldn’t respond sooner. My latest post explains.

    The embodied meaning strikes a chord with me. But Findlay sure makes his case. Your closing thoughts on improving nature reminds me of my own in an old post where I analyzed the famous poem TREES:

    The most striking and meticulous piece of art – verbal, visual, or musical will never outperform nature or its song. The work of human hands remains but a likeness of divine glory it cannot fully capture. The most unassuming sunset will outshine the artist’s canvas. To me, Kilmer’s unsophisticated language serves to project the ordinariness of the masterpieces around us that we take for granted.

    Thanks for your time.

  36. Pingback: Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers, Part 2: The Luxury of Art | A Holistic Journey

  37. Everyone has deep thoughts concerning this subject which encompasses as a whole a vital part of creative intelligence. It is simple because it’s not complicated, but difficult because it’s not easy. I don’t know, Diana, I believe I love to express myself intentionally, except I prefer to piece together different components so that the final product can be a journey that the recipient is taken into. Not merely a presentation of my imagination, but more a fascination of their interpretation. I do love the abstract side of art. You know very well how my mind goes in different directions. Thanks for this, Diana. Thanks for this.

  38. Beautiful post Diana. I am not a philosopher but for me is very simple ART represents three simple words that are connected to our life.
    Attractive -symbolize the Beauty of everything in life
    Rhetoric- stands for the way of expression about life
    Time – correspond to the period of life.
    All the best Adrian B.

  39. A few years ago, I was sitting on the bank of a stream, trying to write a description of what I was looking at and being frustrated at my inability to communicate with words an interpretation of God’s handiwork. I started wondering if art–painting, sculpture, writing–was the result of a human condition where we are drawn to feebly attempt to re-create, or interpret God’s work to others who maybe can’t, or won’t see it for themselves. Just a thought. Try to write a description of a cutthroat trout from the fleeting glimpse you got of it before you released it. Good luck with that. I called it a Tequila Sunrise. 🙂

    • “we are drawn to feebly attempt to re-create, or interpret God’s work to others who maybe can’t, or won’t see it for themselves.” YES. You nailed the Christian understanding of art, actually. He is the source, the first and greatest Artist, and our CREATivity is one way we bear His image. No one can create as He did – something from absolutely Nothing. He’s done it all. We, actually, recreate. It is a joy that He’s given us so much to work with, though. I LUV Tequila Sunrise. =)

  40. Well, to simplify things, which is often the boring, lazy, or time saving method of doing so, “art” is subjective. On another note, how refreshing to find such good writers on here with much depth, who can express themselves properly. I’ve noticed, as I continue to figure out WordPress, that some people do not like to or want to take the time to read something over 175 – 300 characters. Reminds me of that movie, “Idiocracy”, unfair as that statement may be (not including those with reading challenges such as dislexia.)

  41. I will also state that those who appreciate and are contibutors of the arts, be it written, dance, musical, or in the form of a physical image, how thankful for expressive beauty and a different perspectivd I am, regardless of the venue it is presented. How clever and brave many have been through history to also make hidden political statements in an attempt to share their sense of injustice, awareness, or share the majority of anger a nation is feeling in such a seemingly inconspicuous, low key way.

    • Good point on the leveraging of art. The flip side would be something like what N Korea did in using art as propaganda to inculcate the idea that diligent, conformist labor was the ideal of beauty.

      • Aaah, yes. Important point: even totalitarian dictatorships and sell-outs offer their contributions…….Anyone remember how the “Juan Mann/Free Hugs (Sick Puppies wrote the background music for it)” video went worldwide to promote a simple positive message? So many people around the world made their own “Free Hugs” video. They were uplifting and beautiful. A guy tried to make one in China about 7 years ago —- and got arrested for it.

My Two Gold Cents in the Holistic Treasury

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