The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, January 26, 2006
Some Good Advice for Artists

Conceive art as work and undergo its training like a trade.

No one thing has ruined art so much in Western civilization as the cumulative nonsense about the artist as supra-rational genius, the pious talk about "creativity," and the Romanticist creed that an undisciplined bohemian life affords the milieu most conducive for having artistic "inspiration" strike. Such adulatory isolation may prime artistic egos, but it inevitably undermines the ministry of christian art. Art is a task like building bridges and fixing meals; it takes intelligence, sensitivity to needs, and specialized knowledge.

--Calvin Seerveld

. . . no great work of art comes by itself as a product of chance. There is no instant art. Apart from coffee nothing is instant in this world! I remember the words of a great pianist: “If I do not do my exercises one day, I will hear it the next day. If I do not do them for two days, my wife hears it. If not for three days, my best friends will notice. After four days, the public will notice.”

Then there is that charming story of Hokusai, the great Japanese painter and maker of woodcuts around 1800. Once somebody asked him for a painting of a rooster. He said, “All right, come back in a week.” When the man came, Hokusai asked for postponement: two weeks more. Then again, two months; then half a year. After three years the man was so angry that he refused to wait any longer. Then Hokusai said that he would have it there and then. He took his brush and his paper and drew a beautiful rooster in a short time. The man was furious. “Why do you keep me waiting for years if you can do it in such a short time?” “You don’t understand,” said Hokusai. “Come with me.” And he took the man to his studio and showed him the walls that were covered with drawings of roosters he had been doing over the last three years. Out of that came the mastery.

This story of course does not mean that we can keep people waiting and that we should not fulfill our promises. The lesson is that even improvisation and socalled spontaneous achievements can only be the result of hard work. No artist can ever reach the top if he does not start his day with rehearsing, a painter drawing for a few hours, a musician practicing, anybody studying. Genius is not enough.

--Hans Rookmaaker