FOLLOW YOUR (HE)ART!… If you were to ask me, from my experience, what is the single most important advice I would give today to any aspiring musician, songwriter, poet, writer, dancer, photographer, filmmaker, painter, sculptor or artist of any kind, it would be this: “Follow your art!” You’ll notice that there is only a slight phonetic variation between that phrase and “Follow your heart”. One could even say that the two phrases are synonymous; for if you follow your heart, you will naturally follow your art.
By “follow your art” I mean *putting the integrity and purity of your art above all other considerations*. I mean making it your goal to hone your art to the highest level of creativity and inspiration. It’s the art which is first and foremost to be followed and not what we think we can get out of it for ourselves. So many aspiring young artists dream above all else of achieving fame and fortune. They see this as the fulfilment of their artistry. I see this way of thinking regularly — especially on social media, where such aspirations are reinforced by the artist’s “friends”. “You go girl!” “Yeah, man, you’re gonna make it!” etc. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with fame and fortune per se, if used wisely (though many have found out the hard way that all that glitters is not gold). *But if the chasing of fame and fortune becomes the primary goal of the artist, then that artist has already betrayed his or her art and has, in fact, ceased to be an artist*.
An artist is not the same as an entertainer. An entertainer is defined as “a person who tries to please or amuse”. To entertain is “to hold the attention of people with something amusing or diverting”. An artist is never first and foremost an entertainer. The primary role of the artist is not to amuse or divert people or set out to please them — although those things may happen during the course of performing his or her art; but they are incidental rather than intentional goals. Some people may happen to find an artist’s work “entertaining” but that does not make the artist into an entertainer. *Once you have a relationship with the public whereby they expect you to be entertaining, amusing, diverting or pleasing, you will kowtow to those expectations and cease to be a true artist flowering in the crucible of independent creativity*. The public will own you and you will merely be a tool to titillate their senses. The true artist does not shy away even from the possibility of displeasing people if he or she believes that to be beneficial to the fulfilment of the art. A true artist does not seek what is best for the artist but what is best for the souls of those with whom the art is connecting. Sometimes people have to be made uncomfortable or challenged in order to grow; and growth is the real business of the artist — both for the artist and for those who are touched by the art.
Success for an artist can never be measured by recognition, celebrity, fame and fortune — though, sadly, in our materialistic, consumerist, egocentric, ‘celeb’-obsessed culture that does seem to have become the principal litmus test of achievement. So what should be the main indicator of success in the life of the artist? *The success of an artist can be measured primarily by the impact that s/he has on the lives, minds and hearts of those who connect with the art.* If your art is coming from your heart, people will be touched by it. If your art is coming from your heart, people will be changed by it. If your art is coming from your heart, people will be challenged by it. If your art is coming from your heart, people will be inspired by it. If your art is coming from your heart, people will be catalysed by it. If your art is coming from your heart, people will be empowered by it. They may not be the people you want to impress; and the way in which your art touches people may not happen as you might wish it to. That is not the artist’s concern. It might also be that the fruits of your art do not come until after your death. Maybe you will even have to starve for the sake of fulfilling your art. SO BE IT! Qu’il en soit ainsi! Propheta: Amen! Que así sea! Tebūnie! Ας είναι! Così sia! Așa să fie! Så må det være! Neka bude tako! Lai tā būtu! נִיחָא! Het zij zo! Så var det! Пусть будет так! 就这样吧！
Why do you think that the first thing which dictators do is “disappear” or assassinate true artists? Because they know very well that they represent competition! True art can influence the way that people think and will always, by its very nature, inevitably engender ideas of freedom, love, insight and an unwillingness to be shackled or deceived. This is a nightmare for governments and is why they will always feel threatened by true art and those who create it. Thus, we can see that art is a major civilising and ameliorating influence on this planet. It is one of the forces which will carry this world from its present aeon of subterfuge, betrayal, deception, conflict, mendacity and false authority to the new aeon of openness, honour, truth, integrity, peace and wisdom. This is why it is so important to create true art and to understand its dissident purpose and subversive power in the world today.
Many artists think that the road to success is by entering competitions or so-called “reality shows” where contestants are pitted against each other as a form of entertainment. This is an illusion. Not only are such shows and contests usually a set-up or rigged in advance — and in which even the winners will soon become unheard-of nonentities — but they are demeaning to the very idea of art. True art is not a competitive sport or commodity to be prostituted to the momentary whims of some conformist judges (who are generally making their choices based solely on commercial potential and how much they can profit from the naïve wannabes). True art is a precious expression of soulful creativity. There are no winners and losers in art. There are only faithful servants of the Muse, who are even willing to suffer the loss of everything for the sake of artistic integrity.
Art — like truth — has a way of finding its own level, in its own way and in its own time. The Muse knows best how our art will be used, so all we can do is cast our artistic seed to the wind and leave it to land where it will be blown by the spirit of the Muse. To be a true artist is to have faith in (and be faithful to) the Muse. As the last verse says on the title track of my latest CD, “The End of the Song”:
“So let that be a warning to all aspiring bards:
Unfaithfulness the Muse will not endure.
The moment that we sell ourselves for flattery or greed
our song will end in shadows, that’s for sure.”
A true artist will understand all this in his or her heart. For the artist, these words will have a feeling of rightness. If you follow your heart, you will naturally follow your art. And if you follow your art you will fulfil your role as an artist — whatever aspect of art that may involve. For our art is a gift, on two levels. It is, firstly, a gift to us from beyond the realms of this world and it is, secondly, a gift to the world through us. Therefore we have to think beyond what we can personally gain from our art, or beyond any public accolades, if we wish to further that gift or develop it. If we use our art as a way of enhancing our egos, seeking recognition for ourselves, becoming “celebrities”, gaining popularity or accruing wealth, then we have already ceased to be artists and made ourselves into entertainers of the lowest order. This is why, in order to be a true artist, one must be self-aware and eliminate anything within oneself which could damage, hinder or compromise one’s art. There can be no place for vanity in the world of art. It is the gift itself which must prosper, not the bearer of it. It may be that we will come to prosper from it personally, purely as a bi-product of our efforts in our art. Maybe the Muse will gift us that way. Maybe. But that should not be our primary concern. *The gift of art is too precious to be squandered on the attainment of vanity and personal prestige*.
It’s all a question of perspective. If we were to look down on this world from a long way up in space, we would see that the life of each artist is just one small part of a vast creative force in the universe. That alone should tear down any hubris or illusions we may have about ourselves. Make no mistake about it — we are all here for a purpose; and artists are here for a particular purpose: To open the hearts of the people of the world, to break open the golden box of love within, in order that it will bear fruit in humanity through personal and social change. If we think of art as anything less than that, then we have done art a huge disservice. When we humbly see ourselves in the context of an infinite, eternal, cosmic dance of creativity and love, we will have no choice but to follow our hearts and thereby follow our art — whatever may be involved and whatever the outcome. Then we can get on with being the artists we are truly meant to be.
© Alan Morrison, 2015