Art & Mind

Artists Becoming Artists ... Again

The Work of a Workaholic by Mounzer Awad

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how one's appreciation of art can change over time. Specifically, how you can go from loathing a particular artist or art form to not only admiring them years later, but even singing their or its praises to everyone you meet.

For example, in my 20s, I never fully understood the appeal of punk music. I knew it was supposed to be iconoclastic and fearless in its commentary on all of society's ills. But nothing I heard at the time sounded like anything but noise from people who couldn't carry a tune.

Fast forward to my late 30s, and I "discovered" the songs of bands like X and The Coup. The next thing you know, I'm watching documentaries on The Runaways and Bad Brains, blasting the latest from Samurai Shotgun, and hanging out at the Pink Stage at AfroPunk.

My point is as you age, your perspective on art changes with you. But this got me to thinking about another way in which your perspective on art changes. Not as a consumer, but as a creator yourself. Allow me to explain.

One of the things I adore most is when artists allow themselves to explore a new passion or flex a creative muscle that they have long let fall by the wayside. Call me cheesy, but I loved that famed historian and author Nell Painter wrote a book about going to art school for the first time at the age of 60 or how accomplished actor and screenwriter Peter Capaldi just released a debut solo album at the age of 63, showcasing his guitar and singing skills.

Others may think that creative "attention hog" is greedy for wanting to transfer their energy and focus from one prolific endeavor to another, expecting fans to follow them as they explore another avenue of their artistic talent, no matter how good they may or may not be.

But I have a different take. I think artists -- true artists -- have to keep exploring, keep creating, keep growing, regardless of whether or not that growth is in the field of their first love.

Artist in Underground Bazaar by Adli Wahid

Some artists are keen to "stay in their lane," and keep churning out works of unapologetic ingenuity for years on end (e.g., Tom Waits has a music career spanning 5 decades). Some take their talent to different platforms, while still staying ultimately in their wheelhouse (e.g., Mel Brooks started out in television, then moved into movies, and later brought his comedic genius to the Broadway stage). And then, there are some like Jim Carrey, whom after years of success as an actor, has grown into quite the visual artist and painter.

Regardless of whether you think Carrey's skills are on par with Kara Walker's or Yayoi Kusama's, you have to admire the artist within seeking to express itself in a way that your previous talents may not have satisfied.

When my mother tells me that she'd like to learn how to play guitar, not for any particular purpose, just because she's always wanted to learn, I can't help but smile and encourage her to go for it. I want her to go on that journey of discovering what it is she wants to express with that new skill.

Perhaps I do this because I too have found myself feeling the urge to express myself with a different skillset than what people traditionally know me for. I have no intention of turning it into a career or to even share what I create with the world. But I must admit that whenever I pursue this new project, it makes me feel more connected to my authentic self, more aware of my place within the creative community, and more fulfilled in my need to express myself, much like Waits, unapologetically.

As I said before, true artists have to keep exploring, creating and growing. I don't know if I'm a true artist, but I do know that when it comes to art, my mind immediately goes to George Eliot's famous quote: "It's never too late to be what you might have been."

With that in mind, sure, you may never get to show Broadway audiences how your fan kicks are better than Donna McKechnie's or hear one of your original songs stream on Spotify, but you can let that little voice inside you be heard at a local open mic night or create dance choreography to your own Smokin' Out The Window music video in the comfort and non-judgmental safety of your home.

You can take your exploration of your newfound passion and share it with the world or keep it all to yourself. Either way, the spark is there for you to bring it to life. I say let it ignite your imagination and joy.

It's never too late for artists to become artists ... again.

Top Image: The Work of a Workaholic by Mounzer Awad | Bottom Image: Artist in Underground Bazaar by Adli Wahid

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