The Raw Edges

Art is created by people on the raw edges of human experience. But that does not mean suffering. A heightened state of awareness can just as easily be a state of joy.

I was intrigued by this quote from Ryan Frawley (I couldn’t find the reference):

Art is born at the raw edges of human experience, and joy or love or awe will get you to those edges as surely as unhappiness will. An artist is one who responds to the unknowable mystery of existence with fascination, not despair. 

We all know the stereotype that the miserable, doubt plagued, suffering artists are the truly creative ones. That is not my experience so far in my journey as an artist. I certainly hope it is not correct. That’s not the kind of life I want to live. Who would?

The really good artists I have met are passionate and joyful. There are a lot of passionate people in the world and some joyful ones. Most of them are not artists. So passion by itself is not the key.

I believe one of the key differences is self awareness. It seems to me that most people drift through their lives in a fog of busyness and activity, trying to anesthetize themselves with entertainment, which our world uses as a proxy for happiness. This puts our focus inside our head. Entertainment may lead to brief happiness, but it is not joy. Real joy is an internal decision. It may be closer to contentment, where you are at peace with yourself regardless of your current state of happiness.

As Ryan said in the quote above, this joy or love or awe leads to a response in the artist. One of the aspects of this is a heightened awareness of the wonders and possibilities all around. To opening yourself to more of the experience. To seeing with fresh eyes or a new viewpoint. This makes an artist an explorer. Each stimulus can reveal a new path or lead to a new insight. Looking.

Where we look and what we see can make all the difference. If we choose to look mostly inside ourselves we tend to be isolated, cut off from what is happening around us, unaware. If we maintain a state of joy and awe we can see a bigger and more wonderful world. The heightened awareness makes us see more, feel more, perceive more. That is where a lot of art comes from. Everybody has a chance to see roughly the same things, but what do we each perceive? Fascination is a wonderful guide to lead us to perception.

Try it! Try to feel joy and awe. It is not an easy transition. It’s unfair of me to say to “just start feeling awe”. But you can start with small steps. Practice it. One of the keys to these attitudes is that they are internal values and perceptions. They are not dependent on what is happening to you. They are a choice. Look around with more open eyes figuratively. Look outward. Be more aware of your surroundings. That boring scene you go by every day may look fascinating one day, maybe when the light is just right. You might come to a whole new appreciation of it. Then tomorrow notice something else.

You do not have to wait for the world around you to “get right”. You just change your own attitudes, your perception, and that changes everything. The artists I know seem to have the talent for engaging this heightened self awareness. Maybe that is more important than talent.

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