Making Art

My writer friend April lately wrote a blog post about hobbies.

She stated that many of her friends have hobbies and other things they love to do outside of their day jobs. For example, her husband (congratulations to her on her recent nuptials, by the way!) is a woodworker who makes boxes, articles of furniture, wine stoppers, even candlesticks. He takes the wood and finds the beauty in the wood, the “colors and shades and swirls and designs” that is present in the bark of the tree, and coaxes it out, making it into something that is both beautiful and serviceable.

Then she wrote about something that struck her as someone who wants to become published:

Everyone acknowledges the work it takes to grow a successful garden or knit a winter scarf or restore an old rocking chair. But people who aren’t writers assume it’s easy. They assume it’s a non-issue. We just pound out words in the form of a story. Anyone could do that.

I agreed. I feel as if people don’t realize just how hard it is. Just sit down and pound out some words — how easy is that?

But then I realized…

The hard part is not getting the words down, but making it art.

It’s never going to be an issue for me to write down words. Most people can string words together to make sentences, and string sentences together to make paragraphs. Whether those sentences or paragraphs make sense together or even alone is a different matter. It’s easy to understand the concept of writing down an idea or statement.

I could always write down words on a piece of paper. But to make those words something people can feel, identify with, and enjoy — to make those words simply understandable — is something that takes a great deal of skill. A great deal of skill that may take years and years to learn. A skill which even now I am learning, and will continue to learn for the rest of my life.

It’s similar with music. People think it’s so easy to just sit down and play a tune at a piano. Anyone can look at notes and plink them out on the keys — how hard is that? I have friends who believe that being a classical musician, or learning to be one, is easy because all you have to do is read music and play the notes right. To them, it doesn’t seem to be a hard area of study because all one has to do is look at the sheet music and simply follow the composer’s instructions.

Not hard, is it?

You’d be surprised.

But it’s not at all about that. There’s expression, articulation, the way a cadence has to be ended just right, the push and lift of the pedal in between chords, so many things. So many things that go into making a piece of a music more than mere sounds, but something that can touch the soul and lift the spirit and to put it in the words of an old cliche, make the world into a better place.

It’s not just reading forte or piano and thinking to yourself that you have to play it loud there, and soft elsewhere, though dynamics are important. It’s not just looking at the tempo and playing it at that tempo, though that is good as well. It’s going deeper than what is written and feeling what the music is really about: gratitude and humility and emotion and a reply.

Things which can be so easily forgotten.

The hard part is not getting the words down or the notes right, but making it art.

Pictures taken by me. Not to be used without permission.

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26 thoughts on “Making Art

  1. I think that might be true of everything — it always takes that extra little touch to transform an action into an art. Everyone can try to grow a garden, but not everyone will do it well. Two people can follow a recipe exactly, but for one it will be a success and for the other it may not be. There are times though I don’t care to be praised for my hobbies — I don’t even care if other people see them. Sometimes I just need to do things entirely for me, whether they end up art or not.

  2. Abby, I loved your description of the woodwork. It so adequately describes how I feel about my own life–that I am a piece of wood, being gently (carefully!) crafted into something…well, into something, anyway. You are a tool in the hands of a loving carpenter. Keep at it, my friend.

  3. This is lovely, and something that people don’t always think about. That’s the problem with being in the arts — people who aren’t don’t always quite understand how all-consuming it is and can become. Like you said, it isn’t in the physical action, its in making it ART.

  4. This is so good! Well I think we are constantly growing as artists, but you are a very talented writer and you have lots of people here that can relate and feel what you are writing about. That is talent!

  5. That’s was separates from the amateurs, if I may call them. As in piano, anyone can pound out the notes and add a few dynamics here and there. Yet it takes talent to allow the audience to feel what you feel, the ups and downs of the music, the phrasing of sadness, happiness, or melancholy.

  6. I can’t imagine how someone could say it’s easy to play an instrument. I’ve always admired people with a gift like that, not only they give up their childhood on music lessons, but they do this so the rest of can enjoy music. Artists, musicians, writers are not selfish. They could keep their art to themselves, they don’t need to prove anything but they share and give us beautiful moments.

  7. It’s always the undertones, that inexplicable knife that carves some initials on our subconscious. Getting lost, falling off a cliff, losing yourself in the act all help insure–I believe–that the reader experiences that trip with the writer or the listener with the musician. I think we know, shortly after being lost that we were lost, but allowing ourselves to take that dip… That’s a whole other story.

  8. I write a lot for school. Most of the time I strive for perfection, and I find myself starring into a blank sheet of white paper for hours. I suppose this is very similar to finding/making art in one’s work. I have all these good ideas in my head, but have a difficult time putting/transforming the thoughts into words.

  9. Wow, this’s incredible. Your blog, I mean. No. Mainly your thoughts and your heart. Take care & wish you all the best for your school and everything! 🙂

  10. Were you somehow telepathically eavesdropping inside my head today? Haha.
    I had these exact same thoughts running through my head as I was coming home from Creative Writing 202.

    Art can be so beautiful, but I don’t necessarily think that it is talent or skill that makes an artist great. It’s the place the person comes from – their experiences, their view on the world, their passion, and indeed their longing to ‘make the world a better place’ – that makes a person an artist. Not only that, but their willingness and ability to put himself / herself into those notes, those words, those plants and flowers, that wood and pottery. True art comes from a place that is relatable, yet unique. A place that is easily understood, yet makes people wonder. A place of both incredible fear and beauty.

    I completely agree that creating art isn’t easy, but I feel it’s so much more. Being an artist isn’t a job that you can show up to from nine to five every day, and then forget about as easily as the coat you remove when you come back home. It’s a commitment, a life-decision. And it’s a decision not many people will ever be able to make. Because being an artist doesn’t mean giving away a product or a service. Being an artist means giving yourself away. Everything that you are. Being an artist means bearing the one burden today’s world tells us to leave to the next person: the choice to risk. The choice to be terrified. The choice to scare the pants off yourself for the sake of humanity.

    I don’t think there will ever be a harder job in the world than being an artist. Or one more worthwhile.

    Oh my. I feel I’ve said too much.
    Sorry, Abby!

    Take care and be well, and keep being your amazing self.

  11. Wonderful post, Abby! So true too! I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of being a musician as being an artist, but I am! : ) Sometimes I know I get discouraged because I know what I want to feel when I play something, and I know how I want my audience to feel, but getting that feeling across is so hard!

  12. totally agree! a kurt vonnegut quote summed it up: “one day i will find the right words, and they will be simple”. anyone can string a sentence together, it takes a special writer to put words in such a simple way that it can bowl you over.
    x x x

  13. In my opinion, you have definitely mastered the art of writing!

    I think people see most artistic endeavours this way. “It’s so easy to take photos, you just push the button.” “I don’t see what’s so difficult about painting” You don’t really see until you try, and you can’t really appreciate until you’ve done.

  14. Most things in life worth a bean are much more difficult to do than it appears. My husband is a graphic artist and people tell him…”Oh just throw together a brochure for me…it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes…I just want something simple”. But for it to be artistic, look good, get the point across etc., it takes hours and many people just aren’t willing to accept that good things take time. Most artists of any form; written word, visual art, music, etc. realize that art takes time, effort and talent. Your writing is beautiful! 🙂

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