Often when explaining to people what I do I will say that I head a company that trains the next generation of artists. Today somebody asked me to define what an artist is to me. That certainly gave me pause to reflect on my words. I have a concept of what I think makes an artist, and by the way that isn’t a word I throw around loosely. I realize that if I am embracing the phrase then I have to be able to convey my definition of the word.
An artist is many things to many people and Webster gives us many definitions. The person I was speaking with today is a visual artist. In fact, a scenic designer. To him an artist is and will always be someone who is extraordinary as a painter or sculptor, someone who has an idea or image in her head and can use her hands to convey that image in a visual medium so that others can share it. My friend’s definition notwithstanding is not the only definition of an artist. Every synonym in Roget’s Thesaurus has to do with being a performer: actor, singer, dancer, musician, and so on. I would add to that list filmmaker, writer, and other media talent.
An artist to me though is more than a category. In fact my friend’s use of the word “extraordinary” is one that I think of in connection with a true artist. I would say that an artist is an extraordinary craftsman. I also think of an artist as being fearless. They break new ground. They challenge themselves to do more, learn more, and to constantly express their insatiable passion.
Some artists, past and present, that come quickly to my mind are Robert Duval, John Lithgow, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Myrl Streep, Ella Fitzgerald, Maria Callas, YoYo Ma…and the list goes on. Each of the artists that come to mind come to my thought because of their fearless ability to step out of their comfort zone and break new ground as artists and discover new passion.
So, for our next generation of artists, I say embrace your passion, learn your craft, develop a hunger for new frontiers, and thus honor your profession with becoming an artist.