There are a few standard ways in which the word ‘artist’ is used. Some people use it to refer to a profession. So if someone is a doctor by profession and at the same time is an amateur but passionate painter he cant be called an artist! Some people refer to a person with a talent in any of the arts field as an artist. For example anyone who sings or paints or dances automatically is called as an artist. So is being an artist is about being in a particular profession or having a particular talent? My answer is neither. For me being an artist is an attitude that seeks to judge less and understand more, thus expanding the seekers mind.
Depending on the place and time we belong to, we develop our own value system and sense of reasoning, which is necessary for our survival. And like all systems our reasoning system is also based on some assumptions, which help in faster decision making. For example when we are shopping for apples we tend to pick the ones that are very red in color. Here the assumption is that if the redder the apple, the sweeter it is. Though it works some times, the other times the greener apples turn out to be sweeter. As the pace of our lives increases exponentially, speed of decision making also has to cope up with it and hence more assumptions have to be made, which in other words makes us quiet judgemental to meet our ever increasing survival needs.
An artist is someone who tries to break out his set of assumptions. He tries to overcome this natural disposition of using his assumptions and instead seeks to understand. He tries to overcome his own boundaries of logic seeks to be emotional.
Lets take an example. In a class when people are asked to draw something (an eye for illustration) most people immediately draw an almond shape, with a few concentric circles inside the almond shape. A few look up at their neighbour’s eyes and try to draw the shape that they see. The people who have drawn the almond shapes are drawing what they already know, which is nothing but their assumption about the shape of the eye. But the others who looked at their neighbour’s or even the teacher’s eyes are the ones who are trying to understand. It is this attitude of observing keenly to understand makes the artist more aware and emphatic of his surroundings and himself. This is the artist’s gaze that helps one to expand one’s mind and be joyful.
Because artists try to observe and understand they have the ability to see more beauty and meaning than what meets the eye. And the desire to communicate this makes the artist create. It is said that the best way to paint is to paint is with the heart of a child and with the skills of an adult. Skills are external while the attitude is internal. External development can be achieved through hard work, practice and discipline. But the internal purity, which enables one to paint without judgments, with innocence and awareness at the same time and with an imagination that is not bounded by the limit of logic makes a painter an artist.
Unfortunately whatever I said could easily be bounded by the expanse of my own mind. One really has to find one’s own meaning through honest effort.