Summer rerun2: Everyone is NOT an artist

This post was originally published on March 25, 2012, after a children’s play called For Art’s Sake riled me, a little. It seems appropriate to revisit it right now, as I’m immersed myself in the art and life of Calgary artist Amy Dryer (FragmentsOfSoul), struggling to reduce her immense talent into a too-much, too-shallow profile for a magazine client. 

Why the rerun: Nothing By The Book is taking a page from old school un-social media and doing a re-run summer, while I spend the hot days getting a tan, running through sprinkles, selling one book, writing another, reading two dozen more, neglecting my garden, falling in love, jumping off cliffs—you know. Everything but blogging. But, you get reruns of my favourite stuff, so everyone wins. Likely keeping up with Instagram—NothingByTheBook—connect there, if you like? Or Twitter—  or/and .”

NBTB-Not An Artist

There is a lovely quote attributed to Pablo Picasso along the lines that, “ “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” In Quest Theatre’s production of For Art’s Sake, the lovely children’s play that played last weekend at Y-Stage in Calgary, the playwright and authors draw attention a couple of times to another Picasso soundbyte on art: that the great master spend most of his adult life trying to paint (think?) like a child. The message of the play, delivered repeatedly by one of the characters and proudly parroted back at the actors at the end of the play by my own Flora? “Everyone is an artist.”

Except they’re not.

A caveat before I go any further: I enjoyed the play—the actors were terrific, the setting and its use of multi-media inspired, and the little people loved it. I love Quest Theatre. I support Y-Stage unreservedly and will be back for their offering next month (here’s a link to details about the show at FamilyFunCalgary).

But I disagree with its fundamental tenant. Everyone is not an artist… and I’m not sure why these days, artists are so darn determined to convince the rest of us that a) they’re not that special and b) if only we opened our minds / cleaned our chakras / freed our inner elves, we could do what they do.

I am a writer. I don’t think everyone is a writer. Nor that everyone should exert themselves to be a writer, to express themselves, fulfill themselves—earn a livelihood for themselves—in this particular way. If everyone is an artist, is everyone an engineer? A plumber? A mathematician?

My artist child is shining under the influence of the play. She’s an artist. And she loves the message that everyone is an artist. It’s reassuring to her fledgling confidence.

Her older brother? He laughed in all the funny spots. Clearly enjoyed himself. As we leave the theatre, however, he’s unforgiving. “It was kind of crappy,” he says. “Art this art that. I don’t like art. I don’t like drawing or painting very much. Or even looking at pictures. That’s just not my thing.”

He’s not an artist. Nor a thwarted artist—not an artist denied. Surrounded by paints, crayons, markers, pencils, chalks, in a house in which walls were prepped for painting and drawing on, he abandoned all that as soon as he grew into consciousness of choice. That is not how he expresses himself, fulfills himself, processes information, relaxes.

But it is what his sister turns to do all that. She draws when she’s overflowing with happiness. And when she’s sad. When she’s at a loss. It’s what she does when she listens to books on tape. Her handwriting practice sheets are works of art—an interplay of colour, patterns, creation. Will this love stay her lifelong passion, lead her to her livelihood, or remain a steadfast companion/form of release and expression throughout her life?

Maybe. And will she try to convince her brother that he’s an artist too? That everyone is an artist?

Frankly, I hope not. It’s a gift, a talent, a passion that not everyone shares or aspires to. And claiming that they do denigrates its meaning. Its value.

Everyone’s not an artist.

What do you think?



PS Looking for me? Awesome. Click here.

6 thoughts on “Summer rerun2: Everyone is NOT an artist

  1. I would say that, if not all, /most/ people have the /potential/ to be artistic in some form or another. But not everyone with potential will have the talent, and not everyone with the talent will have the passion to use it, and not everyone with the passion will be able to become skilled, despite their best efforts. Certainly, anyone can /call/ themselves an artist; I just hope they’re actually making art to back up that claim. X)

  2. I like to think that everyone has the potential to be artistic, but I have a broader definition of artistic. For some, their medium is numbers, finding within charts of numbers and mathematics equations the same beauty I find in the written word. For others it’s expressed through sports, or cooking, or keeping a clean-house. And some may never figure out what their medium is.
    Even with the potential, being an artist takes drive, and skill — and then to be successful as an artist in your chosen field takes hard work, talent, and perseverance.
    I don’t feel that encouraging others to find their artistic side doesn’t denigrate its meaning or value, because I know that not everyone will embrace the title of “artist,” or of their specific craft. And I know that not everyone will embrace the idea that they have artistic abilities or potential — but honestly I would rather encourage everyone to search for theirs than have one person, who somewhere along the line was discouraged from following their dreams, not be reminded that they DO have the potential within them.

    • “I like to think that everyone has the potential to be artistic, but I have a broader definition of artistic” (y) like it !

  3. Love this. Totally guilty of 1. using that picasso quote (in this post: ) and 2. often enthusiastically trying to get people (often patients, I am a psych nurse) to test the waters of painting, drawing, creative pursuits, etc. Visual art activities can be therapeutic to artists and “un-artists” alike. I think the key is knowing what you do and don’t like (that goes for arts, sports, whatever) which your son nailed. Identifying that you don’t enjoy art is way more significant and insightful than saying “I’m no good at art.” So is everyone an artist? I think that the artists of the world view other people’s talents (whether that be math, engineering, cooking, whatever) as artistic expression and therefore see them/everyone as artists.

  4. Oh darling but they ARE! Like everyone has an inner domestic goddess and everyone was born to run and everyone can instinctively conjugate a verb…we just have to channel our inner chakra’s oh ye of little faith…

  5. Pingback: A passion for learning and for life: unschooling and worldschooling in practice (a NOT-BACK-TO-SCHOOL present) | Nothing By The Book

Made you think? Made you laugh? Made you scream? Tell me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.