As I have tried over the past year to develop my art, to inspire the interest of others, to sell my work, and to use this website as a tool for these ends, I feel that I have stayed in some ways from the site's original spirit. In the frenzy to complete new work I have lost something of the substance that should be at the heart of all great artwork. This is the first (I hope) of many efforts to renew that spirit.
To become a Master, an artist must first be a student and servant of beauty and goodness. Recently I was discussing my work with a friend, expressing my frustration at having to draw from copyrighted material to create beautiful Christian art. Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Raphael all had models. His natural response was "well, when you begin to do work from your own mind that won't be a problem." It sounds easy enough, but any truly good artist, like any good writer, must build a vocabulary before he can work. This vocabulary of form, proportion, line, and composition he must find in the goodness of Creation itself, without which the mind cannot comprehend or imitate beauty. While the ideas of the artist inform his representation, he must in some way always serve and imitate the beauty of the supreme Artist's work, which in some way captivates us all.
Today artists scramble to walk before they have even learned to crawl. Picasso is recognized for his abstract works that any adult could imitate, but at 14 years old he could paint like Rembrandt. As a student of art history, I do not question the genius of Picasso. I do however question those who brush aside true artistic competency to embrace a lazy quest to sell gimmicks rather than art. The idea that the artist can decide for himself what is beautiful regardless of former traditions and standards has run its course. This thinking has caused the self destruction of art at the highest levels. Although they are constantly told otherwise by art's "elite," lay people can discern from the world around them (using only their eyes, ears, nose, and common sense) what is beautiful and what is not. For art to be truly great it has to convey something greater than itself (gasp!) to its viewers, and the vehicle of this greater thing is beauty.
As William Shakespeare once sat at a desk with his fellow children, slowly learning how to write a "T" over and over again, so the artist must spend years at the feet of beauty as her servant and student. "He among you who would be great must be [a] servant." (Matthew 20:26) I pray that I will always be a student of beauty. To the layperson who says "I don't know what art is, but I know what I like," be assured: You know something that many artists have lost... the apprehension of beauty.
"A work of art only lives through the one who views it." -Pablo Picasso