Artist (n): someone who creates things with great skill and imagination.
Why did you start performing? What's your reason for continuing?
Was it the rush of adrenaline that swept through every part of your being after being on stage, leaving you with an addicting high? So much so that like a drug, you had to keep going back for more for fear of getting withdrawals?
Is it the desire to feel wanted? Does it give you something that your life outside of performing can't give you? Does the glorification of your creativity and seeing people appreciate you and your art fuel your ego?
Is it a cathartic way to heal your wounds? Is it a way for you to escape the real world, your troubles, your anxieties and inhabit another's world?
Or, was it the fulfillment of unleashing your thoughts, emotions, imagination or life story through your art? The unwavering, persistent need to create and curate art, all for the sake of creative fulfillment?
Or all or part of the above?
Personally, it's a way for me to process my wounds, escape as well as a medium for me to unleash my thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc through my art. The unrelenting need to create. Theatre is, in part, therapy for me. It has been since the I was young. I may write a blog on that at some point. I have discussed it briefly in a few media interviews. But, when I feel it's the right time, I'll divulge a little more as to why theatre and creating art is therapudic for me.
The reason I decided to write this blog is because of a conversation I had with a fellow artist while I was filming earlier this week. For those who haven't been following my Instagram or Facebook stories, I was on set last week for a TV show (I can't divulge what yet but I will later in the year) and I was chatting with one of the performers back stage as we were getting into make-up/costume. This particular performer works full time as a performer (which is pretty rare in NZ) and we chatted about his background and skimmed over the milestones that allowed him to get to the place he is at now. He corrected me when I referred to him as an actor, he said "no, I am an artist".
I stopped to think about this for a second. It resonated with me. I apologized and rectified my statement. We then got talking about why we are artists and not just actors or performers.
Basically, what we discussed was the following. An artist has an undying need to create. Let's look at it this way: An artist, despite their profession, whether they're an actor/actress, dancer, singer, comedian, etc will find ways outside the conventional or given circumstances to make art. They may take on roles handed to them and have the ability to be creative in the way they flesh them out, but they also make a priority of creating their own projects, collaborating with other artists (often from other creative professions) to further extend their creative abilities and do not limit themselves to what is handed to them. They want to make art, for whatever personal or impersonal reasons that may be. The need is great and overwhelming and once one project is done, another must take it's place or the artist will feel unfulfilled.
Artists are the ones who don't wait for a circumstance that art can be projected into to present itself. They're ambitious, they've got a go-getter attitude and will unwaveringly follow their desire and need to bring fourth their thoughts, feelings, manifestations into a real, tangible thing.
The other important thing about artists is this. Artists are true to themselves. Yes, we've all had to sell our soul to the man every once in a while, creating acts or doing something which doesn't spark our creative soul for the sake of money, for example. BUT, the majority of the time (especially for personal projects) the artist will create something for themselves and a manner that is true to their style, taste, etc.
Yes, yes... it is important to consider your audience, as dependent on whether a piece is a film piece, or a performance piece, you need to keep in mind the demographic, whether it aligns with your brand, etc. BUT... your art should represent you and come from your heart. You can always tell a superficial act from one lead from the inner musings of the creative mind.
When people come to watch an act, they want two things: to be entertained and to be moved. Aligning with the principles of Stanislavsky (see my previous blog post on this here) if the artist feels the emotion and thinks the thoughts truthfully, the audience will feel it. If the artist feels joy, truly feels it, so will their audience. An example - we all know that one person who is like a dead weight when they walk into the room, a "Negative Nancy", per say. The negativity of the person will flow through the room like smoke, circling and winding it's way through the room from the ground up until all are consumed by it. We're emotive beings, and we have this incredible ability to feel. We can flip this on it's head and like the "Negative Nancy" we all have that friend who is full of energy and radiates happiness. It's like their very presence ignites a spark of positivity and lightness to anyone within a 6m radius. These types of people are consumed by their emotions, whether positive or negative, and we can feel it. The same goes for when you're on stage. Bottom line, if you're emotionally connected to what your performing, whether it be pure joy of loving being in the moment, or whether it's emotion attached to a political statement, message, etc you're trying to get across, so long as it's conveyed in a way the audience can process and understand it, they'll feel it and get it.
The other very important defining factor in being an artist is this. The artist is in a state of constant change. They evolve, develop and grow. They allow themselves to be fluid and non conforming. They do not put a full stop at the end of their creativity. Yes, they may close the book on a project, but they'll be in relentless pursuit of the next one. An example is Lady Gaga. From when Gaga first debuted on the scene (note: she was performing LONG before we all knew of her in the mainstream) to now, she's gone through significant changes, which we can see with every album released. The "Born this Way" era, the current "Joanne" era, etc. Be sure to watch her documentary about creating her album "Joanne" called 'Five Foot Two" (see the trailer here). Bowie is another excellent example - who, like Gaga, transformed it seemed thoughout the progession of his musical journey, The "Mod" stage, the "Ziggy Stardust" era, the "Aladdin Sane" era, the "Diamond Dogs" era, etc. Another person is Christina Aguilera (see this video about her upcoming album here - it's truthful and pulls at the heart strings because you can hear it's sincerity). Another artist who I have huge admiration for his Marina Abramović. The true definition of performance artist. Her most incredible piece of art I have studied is her public performance of her work 'Rhythm 0' in 1974, which you can see pictured above. If you do not know her, please go and Google her now.
Now, another note. No artists are the same. Some go through rapid changes and some may only evolve once. You cannot compare your journey as an artist to anyone else. It's like life - if we went around comparing ourselves to everyone, we'd get a bit depressed, wouldn't we? Your journey, your path is your own. So long as you are being true to what you feel you need to express and your vision, that's what matters.
Are you an artist?