Technical skill is important, but if you wish to be an artist there are other important elements to consider. Here are just three of them.

Virtuosity

The artist has to have mastery of the techniques and skills with which he/she creates art. Like all great artists and indeed sportsmen, musicians and actors as well, true virtuosity makes the mastery of technical skills look deceptively easy. It is usually based on lots of hard work. Other elements here might include:

  • There has to be an intention to produce something – art is not produced by accident, chimps, elephants or cows don’t produce it. The ability to produce more than an accidental one-off is crucial.
  • There has to be a desire to illustrate in its widest sense – to have the ability to produce in two dimensions what we ‘see’ in three, or in the case of a sculptor; three in three.
  • The ability to exhibit a skill – for example, drawing to a level we would see as being above the ordinary
  • Art is self rewarding activity – the artist should enjoy what he is doing even though it can at times, be very frustrating.
Leonardo da Vinci drawing
Vincent van Gogh - Starry Night
Pablo Picasso - Bull's Head

Innovation

Since the Renaissance Western Society has encouraged, praised and valued innovation. To be the first in any endeavour almost certainly ensures a place in history. This is one reason why famous artists likes Picasso are seen as giants of art. They innovate whereas others merely develop or extend the innovation of others. Innovation by definition challenges accepted rules, conventions and ideas. To be a true innovator requires great courage and determination. Ways in which innovation could be achieved might include the following:

  • An ability to unite dissimilar things – e.g. Picasso’s sculpture of a Bull’s head made from the saddle and handle bars of a bicycle
  • A fascination with change and variety – artists constantly try to offer new insights on the world, or change and challenge accepted ways of doing, seeing or accessing things
  • An ability to create illusions – M S Escher manipulated space in his graphic drawings to make us believe that water could indeed flow upwards as well as down.
  • Challenging the familiar with elements of surprise – Rene Magritte was a master of surprise. His painting The Call of the Summit 1942 is a good example.
  • Imposing order on disorder – the classical landscape gardener Capability Brown brought order on the chaos of nature
  • The ability to manipulate our perception of reality – the paintings by Salvador Dali or art works by Damien Hirst can influence the way we perceive the world.

Artistic Vision

Artists who have total belief in and complete commitment to, the works they are producing, have the potential to produce great works of art. Their total belief in their idea is one of the elements that give credence to their work. Artistic vision is also to do with the ability to see, exploit or give meaning to the chaos and absurdity thrown up by nature and humanity. Other ways in which artistic vision might manifest itself are:

  • A attempt to make sense of life – the artistic interpretation of life’s great or insignificant moments, e.g., Edvard Munch’s painting, Death in the Sickroom. A painting that deals with grief – the death of his sister.
  • The creation of fantasy – Richard Dadd created a mystical world based on Shakespeare’s play, A Mid Summer Nights Dream in his painting, The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke
  • The glorification of self or others – e.g. Jacques Louis David’s painting of The Crowning of Napoleon’ . This captures the moment Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.
  • A wish to shock or surprise – Damien Hirst uses shock tactics to make us consider our attitudes towards the use of animals for food. His work explores the idea that if we can use an animal for food, why can’t we use it for art?

Hopefully, this gives some insights into what it is to be an artist and why they create what they do.