There are some days when you read or hear something that makes you question things you are doing. Recently two things have made an impression on me.
The first was a debate with Andrew Keen a critic of the Internet and champion of the professional creative artist (in the widest sense of the word) who he feels has suffered because of plagiarism and stealing on the Web.
His criticism is also to do with the acres of rubbish than slosh about in it, and his concern is that there is “less and less authoritative or beautiful ” content and that it has descended into “a cacophony of unregulated, personalized, often anonymous and generally worthless opinion in which everyone is talking simultaneously but nobody is listening to anyone else. Rather than a democratic utopia of creative amateurs, this self-broadcasting Internet revolution is actually leading to mass ignorance and to a pervasive culture of digital narcissism.
I have to say that I do agree with much of this and it was a very interesting debate. I find it increasingly difficult to find really good accurate information on the Web and am profoundly depressed by the amount of copying that goes on especially in art. It gets harder to protect your work and I thought quite seriously about all this when I decided to start the blog. But what can you do ? Very little really. Many artists just shrug their shoulders because even if you could prove someone had used your work, you ideas, or your words, the chances of bringing a successful legal case are very slight and could you afford it? I was reading a poem one day on the Internet and came across a heartfelt plea from the poet. “If you like my work and would like to give a poem to a friend, please buy the small book, don’t just download it…this is my living.” I am constantly amazed by artists who copy someone else’s photograph then put it up for sale as their own work. Don’t they realise they have used someone else’s eye for form, composition and colour and it is unethical and illegal. Be influenced of course, copy to learn, but be sure that what you hold up as your own is truly your very own.
But if I am disheartened by the rubbish and the copyists on the Internet I am delighted by the serendipity of discovering some wonderful things and people purely by accident, and that is its joy.
The second thing that made me think, was about beauty and striving to create beauty. I was reading about Arthur Wesley Dow who was so important to Georgia O Keefe’s ideas and development. She wrote that he had one dominating idea: “to fill a space in a beautiful way”, whatever that space may be.
That is something I should be considering more. It is a very good maxim for an artist and one that many disregard. Beauty is a difficult word and I know that the beauty I see, is very different from many other people’s ideas of beauty, for instance I find the cotton bol more beautiful than the flower.. but its a hard choice.
So my thought for the day is to try to make the whole space more beautiful and to try not to contribute too much to the morass of rubbish out there on the Internet and even if it is rubbish be sure it is my own rubbish!
But back to the indisputably lovely Pima Cotton. I have one flower which I have to draw quickly as the petals are delicate but I am torn between the sculptural shape of the bud which is called a “square” and the colour of the bracts and the yellow flowers. I have only got as far as sketches and the one watercolour “square” today, but I will be painting the flower tomorrow I hope. … but now I am worried about the beauty of the space. Sometimes a sheet of white paper seems far more beautiful to me than anything I have ever put on it!