Art as a consumable product. When we experience a piece of art, it is tempting to think that there could only ever be one version in the world. The song you’re listening to could surely only have sounded like this, could only ever have this tempo, could only be sung in this key. The picture you are looking at must have arrived fully formed – divine intervention flowed through the painter’s brush to the canvas in a single instant of inspiration. There was no practice involved and no research.
Art as a process. Of course the opposite is most often true – artists above all are experts at curiosity and playing with ideas. The curiosity and the playing results in countless versions of an idea until one day a version feels right (or is chosen by a company executive) to represent the artist’s vision.
Examples are everywhere – look at Bob Dylan’s countless versions of his most famous songs. Director’s cuts often differ wildly from the original film release. Look at Picasso’s obsessive research into the minotaur leading up to Guernica.
Curiosity and playfulness are where the real magic is. I think that this is important to remember, both as customers and as artists. These processes are not instantly gratifying, and can often be frustrating. But they are processes that we have to go through and we have to acknowledge to get the most from any piece of art.
Otherwise, there is a danger of art becoming a pre-packaged commodity. No back story. Nothing more to see.
What is the best song ever written? The best movie? The best wine? There isn’t one of course. Art is subjective, and yet we always want to package it, rank it, market it. Put it into a little box so that we all know where we stand.
If your wine scores highly in a snooty ranking system (link) does is mean anything? It’s comforting but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, sales will rise and brand value may go up. But there is a problem with forcing a ranking on a product so varied and subjective as wine.
You may want wine for fish or for pizza or for a camping trip. You may want cooking wine or sweet wine or boxed wine for a million different reasons.
With wine, as with all art, it’s not a linear race. The very concept of a single winner is forced.
Some thoughts on contrast:
In the world of fashion, I’m told it is a good rule to follow to wear one piece of clothing as the focus for your outfit. Make the focus piece obvious (colourful and/or patterned) and make all your other clothes darker and more plain in comparison. For example a brightly coloured, patterned shirt as the focus, and plain dark pants, jacket, and shoes to support. It is the contrast which makes it work. If it was all bright patterns, it would clash and likely not be pleasing to the eye. The same if it was all black. No contrast. Boring. Slightly morbid too!
The same thing happens in food. Eating a chocolate, washing it down with a sweet soda and an ice cream with syrup on top. It’s too much of a good thing. No contrast. Food manufacturers have figured out the perfect balance of salt, sugar, and fat to tease our senses. There needs to be a contrast in tastes, and in food types to satisfy truly.
The same with music and audio. A piece of music needs to have light and shade to work. A whole song of thrashing guitar solo after guitar solo is just too much and becomes very boring. Too much bass in the mix gives you a headache. Use light and shade to build up to a crescendo however, and it will raise the hairs on your neck.
Contrast is the way forward!
For most of his life women would watch him pass by. A little smile guaranteed a positive response. He would practice his gestures to attract their glance. Moving his mouth, stretching his back and arms and turning his head just so. He could give watching women some hope.
One day he found this no longer worked. It seemed to happen in an instant. Celestial youth moved away from him. What was once a thick brown mop had thinned out and turned grey. His hairline was now a replica of his father’s. Teeth which were once white and shining were now stained and chipped. A ragged smile.
This forced in him nothing less than a reckoning with the universe.
It’s an old Aerosmith song – I’m pretty sure Steven Tyler is referring to wearing down a woman’s rebuttals, but I am using the phrase to refer to creativity and making something good.
There is no such thing as a fully formed masterpiece. It has to be worked on day in and day out over time. Some examples:
You can’t reap the true benefits from a healthy diet by merely throwing up after eating a Macdonalds. Or even by cutting down on the bad stuff for a week. It needs to be a sustained, long term effort to have any impact.
The Beatles honed their craft in Berlin for years before releasing a hit record.
Apple iterates on its software more times than I care to imagine.
Cross-legged on the office floor,
Focus, the aim – Can I live like a monk, like a hero, like a God?
Sore, mechanical body bulldozes the spiritual moment. Brain a butterfly flitting to and fro.
A strange automaton wheezing out air and sucking it in again
Filled with inner peace? I fear filling the room with pungent breath.
There is a fine line between asking for consideration, for attention as part of a smart marketing campaign, and becoming annoying with pestering. I have been asked by an ex-colleague I trust and like to vote for his work in a survey for his piece on diesel emissions. This is fine by me because I know him and he had my attention anyways. But self-promotion is often not so clearcut.
I am of the belief that given a choice it is always preferable to let the work speak for itself. That way if you are good enough, others will take the time to knock on your door to find out what you do. You won’t have to bother anyone out of the blue.
Of course this is not the only method for selling something to someone, but it is probably the pinnacle I am trying to aim for.