Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Misunderstood Art Of Artistry

The term “artist” gets thrown around quite a lot.  Nowadays, every creator seems to be a self-proclaimed artist, or is otherwise referred to as such by others.  Well, appearances to the contrary, everyone is not an artist.  Some are.  Many aren’t.  Moreover, a sizable portion of us don’t even seem to have an accurate conception of what artistry entails.

The dictionary would have you believe that an artist is one who creates or performs art, or is habitually engaged or skilled in a creative practice.  This is complete nonsense.  I don’t know any genuine artist that would agree with this definition.  While there is a logical simplicity to concluding that anyone who makes art is an artist, in actuality, the term “artist" is reserved for a specific type of individual that creates art.  They are not simply writers, musicians, painters, dancers, etc…they are something that goes beyond the underlying mechanics involved, and beyond mere entertainment.

One of my pet peeves is when a judge on a show like American Idol asks a contestant, "What kind of artist do you want to be?”  To ask this question, and to answer it, is to fundamentally misunderstand the term in question.  You cannot choose what kind of artist you want to be.  You simply are an artist, or you're not.  This is to say, to be an artist is to have a specific mindset and psychology.  The real question being asked here is “what kind of entertainer do you want to be?”  This is an intelligible question, and one that can be answered.

The misunderstanding of what an artist is, and the routine conflation between an artist and an entertainer, is now ubiquitous throughout the music industry and the general public.  From a listener’s perspective, the distinction may be inconsequential, and using the terms synonymously provides a convenience within casual conversation.  However, there is a danger in allowing the boundary between these classes to remain blurred, for in so doing we risk forgetting that they actually are two separate things, the substance of which matters.  This is more than just semantics - because the motivation for why someone creates art influences the resulting art.  As a creator, it is important to know who you are, and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

An artist creates that which they are compelled to create.  Their creation may or may not resonate with you.  You may or may not enjoy it.  It may or may not be what you would like to hear or see.  But such is of no creative consequence to the artist.  They are seeking to capture a vision; to express something that demands expression; to translate feelings or ideas in a way that is inherently self-satisfying.

An entertainer, on the other hand, creates that which they think you will like.  They are creatively concerned with the opinions of others, and seek to mold their creation in accordance with outside expectations and/or predicted reactions.  This type of individual is often popularly referred to as a "commercial artist”, though this is an inadequate characterization, as will become clear.

Artists are human beings of course, and few enjoy having their work (or themselves) criticized or ridiculed.  But while an artist may hope their work resonates with you, and be intensely disappointed if it doesn’t, ultimately outside praise or lack thereof has no impact on the merits of their efforts.  The opposite holds true with entertainers, as their legitimacy lives or dies based on outside opinion - if the audience is not engaged, their efforts have been in vain.

One might be tempted to conclude from these descriptions that I am insinuating artists are superior to entertainers.  This is not so!  They serve different functions and the world benefits from both.  

One might also confuse a discussion about creators with that of their resulting creations.  To be clear, we’re discussing the former, not the latter.  So we don’t need to debate whether the byproduct of a creator is or isn’t art, or if it’s good or bad, etc.  Those are subjective determinations that will vary from person to person.  But whether the creator is an artist is not subjective.  That is a fact.  It may be a fact we are not privy to, or one that we suspect but can’t be certain of, but there is no debating that every creator has a set of intentions and motivations, whatever they may be.  And I contend there is merit to unpacking these, both as consumers and creators - for it fosters clearer conceptions of what artistry entails, which ultimately serves to enhance both the creation of art and our appreciation for it.

With all of that said, there is some additional nuance and confusion to the artist / entertainer analysis, which I will now address.

Let’s start with money.  Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art.  However, money will not factor into the artistic process of the artist - if it is considered at all, it will be an afterthought, with no actual creative influence.  In contrast, the entertainer can be (and often is) motivated to create art specifically in order to make money, wherein creative decisions are designed to ensure and/or maximize appeal and profitability.  So the monetization of art in and of itself is not sufficiently revealing - it’s whether monetization plays a causal role within the art’s creation.  There is nothing wrong with creating art for the purpose of financial gain, but such a person is not an artist.

With respect to a “commercial artist”, this is an acceptable and coherent designation only if a genuine artist is making a living off of their art.  Culturally, it often involves a pejorative connotation, in which a commercial artist is not seen as a true artist, or one that has "sold out", etc.  But this connotation is really a misplaced reaction to the common merging of artists and entertainers as being one and the same - once you parse out that confusion, there is a perfectly respectable place for a commercial artist to exist.  On the flip-side, it makes absolutely no sense to ever refer to an entertainer as a commercial artist - they are certainly commercial, but certainly not artists.

Next up, fans.  Artists and entertainers can both perform their music for fans, and take sincere pleasure, fulfillment, and inspiration from the impact their music has on other people.  However, if you’re making music for your fans, then you are not an artist…you’re an entertainer.  The same applies if you make creative decisions based on what your fans want to hear (or what you think they want to hear).  There is nothing wrong with catering one's art to meet with outside expectations…but such disqualifies you as being an artist.

Sometimes performers or musicians get referred to as artists (e.g. “he is a true artist with that violin”), but this is a different usage of the term.  While there certainly is an awe-inspiring mastery involved in compelling musicianship and performing, this is not the same thing as being an artist.  As breathtakingly skilled and uniquely expressive as they may be, performers and musicians are interpreting art; not creating it.  The world needs these people, without question - it’s simply inaccurate to label them artists.

Being an artist doesn’t mean you can’t be influenced by the art of others.  We live in an interconnected world, and nothing (including you) exists in pure isolation.  But an artist does not attempt to be or sound like anything other than who they are.  Artists take inspiration from others; entertainers imitate others.  While some say imitation is the greatest from of flattery, to an artist, such is a wasted opportunity for authentic self-expression.  Celebrate and revere your idols and influences…but if you’re trying to become them, you are not an artist.

Being an artist also doesn’t prevent you from taking the advice of others, or implementing outside suggestions…so long as you genuinely find such suggestions artistically compelling.  Of course, many an artist work in isolation, but plenty have sought input from others which they have taken into creative consideration.  Now, if you make changes based on the opinions of others, despite not artistically agreeing with them, well then you have quite obviously compromised your artistry.  This doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just the fact of the matter.

Furthermore, being an artist doesn’t prevent you from enlisting the assistance of others (e.g. utilizing skilled experts, such as musicians, mixing or mastering engineers, etc)…so long as you remain in creative control and tied to the process.  That being said, if you’re outsourcing all of the composing and songwriting, there’s obviously nothing left in which your artistry can subsist - in that case, you are a performer, or possibly even an entertainment brand.  You might be popularly referred to as a “recording artist”, but as with “commercial artist” discussed above, such a designation can only be applied to an actual artist that records their own music - if you’re recording the music of others, you’re clearly not an artist.

Is being a true artist mutually exclusive with collaboration?  The answer depends on what the motivation is for collaborating.  If you’re doing it to gain new fans via cross-promotion, maintain relevancy, etc, then you’re functioning as a promoter and entertainer.  If you share a creative vision with someone, or are compelled to explore where a collaboration will lead, then you are functioning as an artist (despite potentially having to compromise on various creative decisions / executions therein).

In addition, an artist can experiment with methods, styles, instrumentation, collaboration, etc that might not deeply appeal to them, for the purposes of learning and discovery; but an artist would never release anything that was not truly representative of them.  So exploration in and of itself is not a disqualification of artistry.  I might be curious about jazz music and begin experimenting with the genre.  It might prove interesting in various ways; I might learn a lot; I might be creative in how I navigate the tonal landscape; but if my efforts to make a jazz album are not based on an authentic connection to the music, then I am not being an artist.  Having said that, I might ultimately stumble upon something that keeps me glued to the process; some aspect of jazz that surprisingly won’t let go, and which compels me to go further - in that case, such will have become an artistic endeavor.  

Then there is the matter of work-for-hire composers and writers.  Are these individuals artists?  If you are creating, modifying, or tempering your work in order to satisfy someone else (e.g. director, producer, etc), or for the benefit of your resume, or to expand your network, or for the paycheck, etc, then obviously you are not an artist (you’re essentially a craftsman).  However, to the extent that a work-for-hire creator is genuinely collaborating with their employer(s), or is given free reign to do as they see fit, and the nature of the content truly resonates with them, then they are absolutely functioning as an artist.  Even though many work-for-hire endeavors are in response to someone else’s vision (e.g. a brief, film, screenplay, etc), such doesn’t automatically negate legitimate artistry, for it is really no different than responding to any other outside stimulus, event, or experience in one’s life, and it doesn’t matter where artistic inspiration originates.  That being said, if you’re working on something that you honestly don’t give a shit about, then regardless of how creative you may be, your efforts have nothing to do with artistry.

Lastly, there is the question of whether it’s possible to be both an artist and an entertainer.  With respect to the creation of art, the answer is NO!  Having said that, an artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes (e.g. touring / performing for fans and money, engaging in promotion, etc).  An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsman, in order to make ends meet financially.  Similarly, an entertainer might stumble upon a song that really speaks to them, and which they pursue artistically, in contrast to their normal affairs.  In other words, a person might travel back and forth between both domains, but at any given creative point, you can only exist in one or the other.  There is no artist-entertainer continuum, and there are no degrees of artistry - you’re all in, or all out.

In summary, one’s identity as an artist fundamentally turns on the nature of their creative process - what are they seeking to accomplish, and why?  If you are creating art as a means to an end, you are not an artist.  If you are creating art because you are compelled to do so, solely as an end unto itself, then you are.  This principle can be broadly applied to any activity or enterprise.  It is what separates a chef from a cook; a martial artist from a prizefighter; etc.  It’s also worth reiterating that every facet of the arts has its place.  Artists, entertainers, craftsman, musicians, performers - they all play a role in enriching the human experience.  Being an artist doesn’t make you more important - but the importance of artistry cannot be overstated.  So if you happen to be among those infused with artistic spirit, I implore you to stay true to that spirit.  You can’t choose to be an artist - artistry chooses you - but you can choose whether or not to honor it.  For those in the position to do so, I sincerely hope you will.


  1. Can you be a true artist in multiple passions; such as a sport, music, etc.? Or is true artistry attained when you have become solely entwined as one with a single passion?

    1. You can most certainly be an artist in multiple domains - it has nothing to do with a narrow scope, but rather, the nature of the relationship with one’s passion(s). But don’t confuse artistry with mastery. One could argue that true mastery requires a singleminded dedication to refining and improving a single skill at the expense of all others. This might be valid in the context of being the greatest of all time in a specific respect. But one could also argue that a multidisciplinary approach more broadly informs how to apply any given skill, or that refining a variety of skills ultimately interacts with and reinforces each other, to the benefit and enhancement of one’s overall mastery. Regardless, being a true artist in no way guarantees mastery…but some degree of mastery is certainly entailed in compelling artistry.

  2. Artistry to me means submerging oneself into his interests , originate the thoughts no one has ever thought , more like his way of life... Da Vinci was an artist

    1. I think what you’re describing can be a natural consequence of artistry (as opposed to its defining principle)

    2. Hmmm...(realising) it's subjective .... There is no definition for art or artist ,so it's all in the way one perceives.or maybe to what extent one is influenced .you are an artist since I'm moved by your music and the lyrics makes me think. You don't have to accept or deny it cause it's my opinion .if someone argues that Zack hemsey is not an artist , you can't disapprove it either as he is not able to relate to your can anyone change how one feels.

    3. This misses the point. It doesn’t matter whether or not I can prove or disprove someone who claims that they or someone else is an artist. What matters is that I know what it means to be an artist in the first place. This is not subjective. I would grant you that many might claim a definition of artistry is subjective, but I would respectfully disagree - art and artistry are two separate things, and while the former may be subjective, the latter is most certainly not.

      To be clear, asserting that someone other than yourself is or isn't an artist is subjective, but the definition of artistry itself is not subjective. So once I understand what artistry is, along with the differences between an artist, entertainer, craftsman, etc, then I am in a position to reflect on where it is within those realms that I personally live, and such clarity allows me to be more effective in my creative pursuits (whichever realm they happen to fall into). And even if you submit an alternate definition of artistry, it would not change the fact that each of these different classes of creators exist, whatever you want to call them, and the nature of those differences matter.

    4. Thank you..even though you have not defined artistry you have led us to negative definition of who isn't an artist.

    5. Paragraph 5 and the last paragraph are direct definitions (devoid of negatives). Or are you implying that artistry entails something other than what it means to be an artist?

    6. I didn't intend to imply anything... But since you ask yes ,as pointed out by you ,artistry is larger than artist .There should be some room for doubt so that people can decide for themselves what an art is.

    7. Ah, ok. It seems we’re on different pages. I don’t know what it means for artistry to be larger than the artist - as far as I can tell, artistry is precisely what it means to be an artist. So I’m failing to see what could constitute artistry in the absence of the artist.

  3. This is an incredible read, and I am glad to have found it. Life-changing. Thank you for your insightful comments on this topic that needs to be discussed more often.

  4. Basically what you are trying to do is to separate an artist from an entertainer.

    Sure, that is possible. Like this, in text and in theory.
    In practice? Not sure.

    As hooker wants to be labeled as "escort" or "starlet", chubby person wants to be big boned, so an entertainer wants to be called "an artist".

    And the problem this works so well (compared to other cases) is because fans want to be "fans of an artist" and not "fans of an entertainer".
    It is codependent relationship that might be hard to break forcefully. I think we might just need to wait for it to collapse on itself.

    1. I’m not trying to separate artists and entertainers - they already are separate - they’re intrinsically different things. I’m simply communicating the essence of what they are.

      What someone wants to be perceived as is irrelevant. How others actually perceive them is also irrelevant. That we know the real meaning of the terms in question is what is essential, regardless of how someone chooses to apply them (or wishes for them to applied).

    2. "That we know the real meaning of the terms in question is what is essential"

      Who is "WE"?

      Because, in my opinion, people who dipped only one toe into the creative stream inside them don't require this explanation.

      To others, unaware of that source, sure they can understand it logically and distinguish artist from an entertainer based on that knowledge. But it requires a level of openness.

      So, what remains is maybe importance of all of us to use those terms properly.
      I will be the first one to admit that I don't do that. That even when I know that in fact someone is an "entertainer" in conversation I use the label "artist". I rationalize that to myself by belief that people who know the difference the term used won't be important. And to others won't matter.
      Maybe that makes me a conspirator in these times.

      So what I'm asking is: what is the point of this text?
      Not to say that it does not have a point or that it should have. But that I don't understand your goal behind it. Was it just "thoughts & ramblings" (the former not the latter; as you like to put it :) or was it meant to promote the usage of those labels (and to whom?) or maybe something else or nothing entirely.

    3. “We” refers to those engaged and/or interested in creative efforts.

      I can’t speak to what people require or don’t require. All I can say is many exhibit an ignorance of what artistry is.

      As to the point of the text, what’s the point of anything? What’s the point of your comment? :)

      Of course, many people don’t care about any of this. That’s totally fine. But for those that care about art, the contents of this article are relevant to understanding the elements that underpin its creation.

    4. Allow me to write that I realize my comments might have no ground since I have very limited knowledge, but still this is Internet and it allows me to write whatever I want :)
      And now I will try to explain "the point" of my comment.

      While reading your text I could not shake the feeling that behind it is your need to differentiate everything non-artist from yourself.
      Maybe secondary thing is that separation of terms and labels, but the primary goal seems like clearing your label from whatever is wrongly put under it.

      That which compels the artist to create may also influence his "thoughts & ramblings", and in that way artist's work and his blog are strongly interconnected.
      Not sure interconnectedness on that level exists between an entertainer and his blog.
      And the peek into an artist's thoughts, in form of a blog, might give a new level
      of understanding his art.

      And lastly, why I find it curious. Because you are already separate. Your work separates you more than any label or dictionary definition can ever achieve.
      Because true art goes further from "art" as a term. Like any great things usually do.
      Yes, we can talk about the importance of labels, how it's our basic human instinct, and how that helped us, but now maybe instead of strengthening those terms, we might want to promote seeing things as they are, behind the term assigned to it (by us, by creator or by anyone else). And in that "you are separate but still trying to separate" I find the curious part.

      And definitely lastly, because rarely any point goes beside myself or my experience, I would be white-lying to say that is the whole point.
      I find myself to be an artist, my primary profession is programming. And if anything, I struggled with the terms.
      Because if you ask "the many" programming is probably the furthest from art. And in some stages of my development, I too accepted that unquestioned understanding.

      But eventually it got questioned, and I realized that I will not be an "artist" or "programmer" or "software engineer" as my LinkedIn profile says. I will just be.
      And when I communicate with that compelling force and create something, I will not say it is art. It is what it is. (Reading this again sounds too vague, but not sure how else to describe it)

      So since our stances are different to a large degree, I found myself wondering if I have gone too far. If I just ran from the definitions too soon. And even if I find true what I wrote above, maybe that is my rationalization to give up on .... something.

      Because, maybe if I write (talk, promote) a post about the creativity, art & programming, someone who was in a similar position as I was, might question if his profession really does not allow artistry to be expressed thru it. And it helps someone in that way.

      So basically just comparing my (possibly apathetic) stance, to a stance of another whose work I value (and trying to be objective in the process). And that is the point as far as I can see it.
      (this got long fast)

    5. By all means, speak your mind :)

      You are projecting motivations for writing the article that are not my own - this was not an attempt by me to clear my name, or anything along those lines. It certainly is the case that at times my creative efforts are misperceived to be something other than what they actually are, but that is both out of my control and ultimately not important.

      Having said that, it is valid to say that my creative mindset holds sway in both my music and my writing on this blog, and therein, it is valid to conclude that this issue is important to me. But it’s not important with respect to the labels themselves, or with respect to separating myself out of incorrect labels and into correct ones in the eyes of others. It’s important to me with respect to cultivating an understanding of what artistry is, in and of itself, even if you don’t think it applies to me specifically.

      I wholeheartedly agree that compelling art transcends the terms placed upon it, and in this way, it is completely irrelevant what we call those who create such art (or the art itself). However, that is not the same thing as saying there is no benefit to understanding the forces that shape its creation. In other words, in the case of music, a listener doesn’t need a proper understanding of artistry to be moved by a song, and knowing whether the creator of that song is truly an artist or an entertainer will in no way undermine the influence of, or connection with, the song in question…but again, that does not mean that such knowledge is of no value to the listener.

      Thus, the purpose of sorting out the confusion and arriving at a true understanding of artistry, entertainment, craftsmanship, performing isn't so that you can reevaluate the music you love or hate, and then potentially feel differently about it - rather, it’s to gain clarity about the creative process in the abstract sense, which in my opinion, deepens our capacity to create and appreciate art.

      As far as programming is concerned, I see no reason why the principles contained within this article cannot be applied to that field.

    6. Fair enough, that is one good answer :)

      And yes, I didn't mean that principles contained within this article could not be applied to programming. On the contrary, article is very well written, in such way that can be applied to probably all forms of art and artists.
      English is not my mother tongue, so maybe something got lost in the translation.

      Looking forward to your future articles, and when I get a chance I will go over previous ones.

    7. Sounds good. We have reached a consensus!

  5. It seems to me, you've left out an important part of the discussion. Craft. An "artist" with no knowledge of craft will not produce "art." Sometimes artists learn craft quite naturally by using their five senses, but most "artists" spend years learning their craft. The great painters would not have produced great "art" without learning to mix paints, shading techniques, and study of their objects to be painted. "Art" requires skill, and skill comes from learning the craft.

    1. On the contrary. Craft / skill / mastery of technique / etc is not a condition of artistry - it’s a condition of compelling artistry. Big difference.

      Learning craft is a natural consequence of artistry. It is hard to imagine an artist who wouldn't automatically by default be spending time refining their skills.

      Regardless, analyzing whether a painter with poor craft produces art is misguided. The conditions of artistry have nothing to do with the byproduct of artistry. This is why art (even compelling art) can be created by non-artists (e.g. designers, entertainers, etc). But whether the byproduct of artists and non-artists is compelling to others is certainly contingent on the level of skill / craft possessed by the creator.

      So the greats may have become great after having devoted decades to their craft...but if they were artists, they were artists the entire time, right from the beginning.

  6. Hi Zack, I enjoy your writings and congratulate you for the clear and well-thought way you can express yourself. Considering your music style, it's striking me all the more as something I was not expecting (although without legitimate reason, I know) and I find that those two aspects (your music and your writing) of your personality not only mutually reinforce each other but also increase even more my interest for your work. ;-)

    That being said (I'm not planning to come by often to read your blog so I thought now what the opportunity to slip a tiny compliment all the same), here's another approach on that debate I thought I could share:

    It first appeared to me that, when you said: "Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art." (§11) and then "an artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes (e.g. touring / performing for fans and money, engaging in promotion, etc). An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsman, in order to make ends meet financially." (§21), you contradicted yourself, in a way.

    In effect, on the one hand you acknowledge that both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art; but on the other, you say that an artist can BEHAVE LIKE (not BE) an entertainer specifically when seeking to make money from their art.

    This distinction is important as you later say: "a person might travel back and forth between both domains, but at any given creative point, you can only exist in one or the other."

    This is confusing as what you first say implies that, when you are an artist (because you know why you do what you do and it is purely for the purpose of the/your art and nothing else), you will remain an artist after your art is finished and will only ACT LIKE an entertainer if you try to make money out of it; thus impling that being an artist is a philosophy of life that remains as long as one is true to oneself and that doesn't totally disappear when the more practical aspects of the business take place. And then, what you say second implies that you can only be one or the other at the same time. To me, this is a contradiction.

    But then, I realised that those two different utterances may actually translate a more important question than that: wouldn't it be that the true question is in fact whether it makes sense or not to use the very term "artist" for describing a person?

    As far as I've understood what your point is (and being a non-native English speaker, that could very well be the case - so please forgive me if I got you wrong), the "artistry" true nature only occur during the creative process, as the reason this process is undertaken defines whether it belongs to artistry or not.

    This then raises the following question: can someone really be an artist or does artistry only apply to the creative process, and not to the person who undertake this process?

    If so, then every creator can only be an entertainer (or craftsman - to tell the truth, I didn't quite catch the difference between the two as you use them in your text) having created their artistic product with or without artistry.

    Now, don't get me wrong. My point was neither to pinpoint some lacking in your thoughts, nor to demonstrate that you are wrong or anything. Besides, I'd like to add that I'm not a fanatic and neither want to impose nor are ready myself to adapt the language in this way. But that was just an additional thought on the subject I thought you might find somewhat interesting.

    Sorry for the length of this message and for any clumsy sentence I might have written without noticing (or being aware of) its awkwardness. Let me know if you needed me to clarify something; I'll do my very best if so.

    Best regards and keep writing notes (in every sense of the word)!

    Greetings from Belgium,

    1. I appreciate the compliment, and the input. Allow me to clarify the confusion:

      “Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art” - the difference is whether money plays a causal role in the creative process (for the artist it doesn’t).

      “An artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes” - this is saying that an artist can behave like an entertainer after the fact (e.g. create an album of music, as an artist, and then sell or perform it for fans).

      “An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsmen, in order to make ends meet financially” - this is referring to an artist who knowingly abandons their artistry - a creator who is an artist by nature but chooses to put their artistry aside in order to pay the bills (e.g. create a song according to popular trends, rather than what truly resonates with them; or taking a gig they don’t actually care about, which could be something like writing music for a commercial). This is not behaving like an entertainer / craftsman; it’s actually being one - it’s creating art as a means to an end - so in this example, the artist is no longer an artist.

      It is the case that artistry turns on the nature of the creative process (not the art itself, nor what happens after the art is created). And it is the case that one can travel between both domains, but can only exist in one at any given creative point. There is no contradiction here. It simply means that for any creative work (song, album, etc), the creator either meets the criteria for artistry or does not (i.e. they either created the work because they were compelled to as an end unto itself, or it was a means to an end). So a creator may meet the criteria for these 2 works, and then not meet the criteria for those 2 works. I think it’s probably fair to say that creators with artistic inclinations will stay true to those inclinations to the best of their ability. Some creators are artists through the entirety of their life’s work. But artists have to eat, and for some, that can necessitate taking off their artist hat (either temporarily or permanently). An artist might also abandon or ignore their innate artistry out of fear, pressure, insecurity, etc.

      As for the difference between an entertainer and a craftsman, the entertainer creates what they think you want to hear, whereas the craftsman creates what they are hired to create. There is a similarity between the two insofar as both lack artistry (not to be confused with lacking creativity). But entertainers function as independent creators, while craftsman provide custom creation for clients.

      And as for whether it makes sense to describe people using the term “artist"…artistry refers to a specific type of creative process - those that embody that process are artists. Makes sense to me. :) In your example, there would be entertainers with artistry and entertainers without artistry. Seems a lot less confusing to simply call entertainers with artistry “artists”, and those without “entertainers”!

    2. Hello Zack!

      Thank you very much for your reply. It's rare enough that an artist (I think we can both agree that you consider yourself as one ^^) takes so much time writing posts and even more replying to comments posted by fans or passing-by netizens; so thank you for that.

      I appreciate, too, how you always reply with a clear mind and a very structured discourse. Such an academic written behaviour makes me think that you went to College or University (and if you didn't, please take this as a true compliment).

      But let's cut the digression (a bad habit I tend to have).

      All your clarifications did their job in my better understanding of your point of view; and I thank you again for that. However, on the last paragraph, where you address your understanding of what I said, something let me sense I didn't quite make myself clear enough.

      When I questioned whether it made sense or not to describe people as "artist" or not, what I actually meant was this:
      maybe we could consider that one can only be an artist during the creative process, and then, when such process is over, seizes to be an artist and becomes a "creator" (i.e. entertainer, craftsman or whatever).

      This way, the term "artist" would lose its meaning of someone who remains true to themselves at any time (including outside the creative process) which causes, imho, two problems: 1° such meaning makes the concept of artist way too elitist, which itself can harm the perception people can have of artists (which is sad and can be depressing for artists); 2° such meaning can make artists believe they don't have the right to seek to make money from their creations because they would then lose their status as "artists" (although you said yourself quite rightly that it is not the case, the very fact you thought necessary to say it means that it's something that is not clear to anyone, including to the artists themselves).

      I honestly think it would not be such a bad idea.

    3. Yet, as an afterthought, another problem would then remain. How could me make the distinction between someone who was an artist at the time of creation and someone who was not, once creation is over and the artistic products are finished? I agree that there should be something in the language to differentiate them.

      So, maybe we could consider that, as long as the creative process for a particular piece of work implied artistry, its creator not only was an artist at the time of creation but can remain an artist afterwards, but only for that particular product.

      For example, let's say a composer creates a song for themselves and posts it on the Web. An advertising company hears the song and decides to contact the composer to include it in their new advert. We could then consider that the composer was an artist at the time of creation; but remains so even though their product is being used for a commercial purpose, and will remain so even if they then decide to take part in the marketing process of spreading the word about that ad which uses their artistic product.

      However, thinking out loud, we could add to our example that, at the exact same time, this same composer composed as well a jingle specifically designed for another ad because they took the order from another advertising company. I think you will agree that this composer was neither an artist during the creative process nor were they after the product was delivered.

      This shows in fact that one can well be both artist and not artist at the same given time. Simply because, actually, it seems that the notion of "artist" has to go hand in hand with a specific product and can only apply to one product at a time.

      In conclusion, I'd say that:
      - one is an artist during the creative process if their means is purely artistic;
      - one remains an artist as long as the creative process is not over (on the condition that the means remains, too, purely artistic);
      - one will remain an artist for that particular product they created during this process, whatever happens to either the creator or the product;
      - one cannot be an artist for a product on the only basis that they were artist for another product.

      Or, in only two sentences:
      1) One can only be an artist if the sole means during the creative process for that production was purely artistic.
      2) One is an artist only for one particular artistic production at a time but, once they are, they will remain so for ever for that particular production.

      Now, as far as I am concerned, this conclusion serves the only purpose of giving input to the semantic debate. Seeing how you think, write and reply, I thought it would be great to have an educated chat about a difficult topic as this one, just for the sake of the dialectics (and thought you would not be opposed to the idea yourself - sorry if I was wrong).

      As for the more human aspect of it, I tend to agree with you and consider that being an artist is more a state of mind a person has in their life and that it can only make sense from oneself to oneself. In other words, being an artist is something only oneself can do, not others.

      Thank you for having been such a delightful interlocutor. ;-)

    4. It’s not just artistry that is determined by the nature of the creative process. All of the identities are. An entertainer is an entertainer in virtue of the nature of their creative process, just like the artist. Same for the craftsman. They each have different reasons / intentions for creating art, which directly affects the creative choices they make. As such, there is no clarity or benefit (only confusion) to be had by attempting to cross terms (as you had suggested someone being an artist during the creative process, then becoming an entertainer).

      Furthermore, you are getting caught up on whether or not you can accurately determine if someone else is an artist. That is a red herring, and doesn’t really matter. The point is to know what artistry is, in and of itself, regardless of who it may or may not apply to. And it's important for a creator to understand who they are (and to that end, there’s nothing getting in the way of assessing one’s self).

      Regarding your composer example, you have correctly pointed out how they would have functioned as an artist in one case and a craftsman in the other. However, nothing about this suggests that the composer was both simultaneously. They might have been generally working on both projects concurrently, but unless they are a mystical creature, they can only be actively working on one thing at any specific point. So even if the composer repeatedly bounced back and forth between the two projects, they would be jumping between artist / craftsman every time they switched from one project to the other.

      Lastly, as I say in the article, this is more than semantics, because the motivation for why someone creates art influences the resulting art.

    5. Damn, I wish there was a quoting feature on Blogger, that would make things easier. Yet, I've just noticed the good old HTML tags and do work so, I'll got with that.

      It’s not just artistry that is determined by the nature of the creative process.
      Of course it isn't, and I've never meant it was. What I said was probably a too shortened way of saying that the determination of whether one is an artist, entertainer or crafstman occurs during the creative process on the basis of what goals such process is trying to achieve or what urged one to undertake it. We do agree on that point.

      As such, there is no clarity or benefit (only confusion) to be had by attempting to cross terms
      No clarity, I definitely agree. As I said in my last two paragraphs, all my argumentation in favour of such term-crossing served no other purpose than the one of discussing the semantic aspect of the topic, in a dialectical way.

      Still, I tend to disagree with you on the "no benefit" part of your assertion. I'm still convinced that my proposition would solve some problems (on which I won't come back as it would be pointless). The thing is, though, that the amount of problems it could solve would probably not be higher than the one of other problems it would raise. So, again, we both agree on the final result here, just not on how to express it.

      you are getting caught up on whether or not you can accurately determine if someone else is an artist.
      Again, I agree that doing so doesn't make much sense. And I did actually say it on my last paragraph: "In other words, being an artist is something only oneself can do, not others."
      So, once again, we do agree on that. There's not point in calling someone else an artist as a creator can only know on their inner self whether or not they satisfy to the conditions for being an artist, at a particular given time.

    6. However, nothing about this suggests that the composer was both simultaneously.
      There, I think the key point to understand what you mean (and I agree that I failed to take it into account on my previous post) is that there is no point in calling someone else an artist.

      Because if there were a point in that, I perfectly see why a creator could be an artist and an entertainer at the exact same time. Simply because it would depend on who's calling that creator an artist.

      Yet, since it is impossible to call someone else an artist (as it doesn't make any sense), the creator themselves know whether they are an artist or not 1) at a particular time and 2) on a particular project.

      Now that I've understood that, again, I do agree with you.
      Which leads to the conclusion that, in fact, I might well not have been too far from your point when I initially said "wouldn't it be that the true question is in fact whether it makes sense or not to use the very term "artist" for describing a person?"

      In effect, I said "describing a person" as in someone calling someone else an artist. Although, my current understanding of what was my understanding at that time is a bit confused (because that understanding was a bit confused itself then), so I won't expand on that.

      Lastly, as I say in the article, this is more than semantics
      Lastly (btw, thank you for teaching me that this word could also mean "finally" while I until now thought it could only mean "recently"), I kinda foresaw that you would bring back the fact that you said that in your article.

      I was well aware of this and, don't worry, I understand why you said it.

      This topic is obviously very important for you (and, though in a lesser way, to me as well as I feel more than often myself as well as an artist) and I'm sorry if I made you lose a bit of your time trying to clarify things with me.

      The truth is that, when I was reading your article, I sensed we agreed on most of the points but there was still a little something that I wasn't quite sure of catching, either on your reasoning or on my own reasoning.

      Putting mine on the paper and confronting it with yours helped me to identify that missing piece and, once again, I thank you for your help and your time.

      You've just added (to my eyes, at least) teaching to your numerous other skills. ;-)

      I'll let you be for now and, if you'd be interested in visiting my amateur photoblog (mostly in French, though), please be my guest. :-)

      PS: Sorry for having twice forgot to click on "Reply", hence my two deleted comments. Silly me...

  7. Firstly, thanks for your very interesting thoughts on that matter. I thought a lot about that too, because it hurts to see how no one gives a shit about A Monster Calls while Marvel is controversy #1. While, at the same time, a lot of the very same people complain about lack of originality and inspiration. Ugh. :b

    What I have to add (doesn't necessarily contradicts with your words):
    Per definition of the words, I agree with you; I sure do. There's one thing which separates a Charlie Kaufman from a Joe Russo: reason. When Kaufman is writing, directing a new flick, he certainly doesn't do it to get praise, fame, money. His last movie even had more costs than box office. Interestingly enough, he still got someone to produce it. Yay.

    Still. STILL, the Russos or Joss Whedon or whoever have their own style. Or, even better, Christopher Nolan. He has a very interesting position in Hollywood because his movies aren't exactly what you'd call "made for mainstream". Inception for example.

    He makes compromises. Inception is a blockbuster, and as that, he has to comply with certain requirements. Thus, the last third of the movie is more action and even more action, the end is most definitely made to become a controversy.

    Now is he an artist, because he does his thing, or an entertainer, because he fulfills certain requirements?

    Compromises. He established himself in Hollywood. He did. That's why his compromises aren't THAT big because his art is compelling. But there are some. Think of Martin Scorsese. He does his thing. He DOES. The Wolf of Wall Street, Shutter Island. The mainstream loves it, hence, the industry does too. Now he made Silence, a movie which never, NEVER was expected to get that much money. Scorsese knew that. It was his big heart project. Still, I feel like the studio didn't. Because they won't produce his new movie. He didn't make ONE compromise for Silence. I'm sure the studios love originality and art, but they surely love money more. The studios, not necessarily the individuals who run it, to get that straight. That's sad, but, well, that's how it is.

    It's the same with Snyder's Batman v Superman. They don't want him anymore, and he had to make a lot more compromises for Justice League. Marvel left that world a long time ago.

    If you make a Marvel flick, you have to do a LOT of compromises. Happy end, of course. No one dies, the characters shouldn't change that much (except the death is planned in another movie by the producers(!)). That's why James Gunn wants his Guardians to be independent. So that he has only few compromises.

    So I'm talking circles now. My point is, I'd call Nolan or Snyder (fun fact; I always accidently write Hemsey instead of Snyder, ugh!) artists. I do. As much as I'd call Charlie Kaufman or Tomm Moore artists. Because they want to express themselves, but they made some ... sacrifices for it. To get the "needed" money for their vision. THEIR vision.

    If you don't do compromises, you're like Charlie Kaufman. You have fans, a lot of them, but a lot of difficulty in finding a studio for producing your next idea. Doesn't necessarily mean they aren't artists.

    Sorry for the long, confusing text. I'm not exactly what you'd call a native English speaker.

    1. A director’s level of success, wealth, fame, recognition, etc, has no bearing on whether or not they are an artist. It’s a question of whether those things have a causal influence on their creative process. If they do, they’re not artists.

      If an artist is compromising their art, for whatever purpose, they are no longer functioning as an artist. Artistry entails doing what you are compelled to do. Compromise entails doing something other than what you are compelled to do. The two are mutually exclusive.

      Now, you are basically positing that in order for a director to be successful, creative compromise is required. I don’t know that this is 100% true, but to the extent that it is, you would essentially be saying that in the film industry, success and artistry are mutually exclusive. If we assume a hypothetical director is an artist, and that director wants to make a film according to their creative vision, but they are told by a studio that their vision has to be modified in order for the project to proceed, and the nature of those modifications strike the director as fundamentally appalling, then assuming the director is unable to present an alternative solution that the studio approves and which they themselves find equally compelling to their original vision, that director has a choice to make - they can walk away, or they can take off their artist hat and put on their entertainer / craftsman hat…there is no right or wrong choice here.

      On some level, I think you are already cognizant of this, which is why you are making an appeal to Hollywood directors whose work is original and/or compelling in your estimation, despite what you see as having been compromised, as surely this must count for something, artistically. To this I would point out that there is nothing “less-than” about a work of entertainment - it’s just a different type of art, but still capable of being original, inspiring, and/or compelling. Artistry doesn’t turn on how good the art is - it turns on the mindset and motivation of the creator. And the mindset and motivation alter the end result. So if you could observe two parallel worlds, one in which a director makes a film 100% according to their artistic vision, and one in which they compromise their vision for the sake of funding / approval / etc, each resulting film may be compelling, regardless of box office, but they would most certainly be different in ways that matter - ways that likely influence your feelings about them and/or their impact on you.

  8. I wrote a very very long answer about taking steps away from your vision to actually fulfill your vision and whatnot, but I think I can make it short. Firstly, I want to point out that this discussion is solely about the terms!

    You always have to arrange yourself, be it because there's a man watching over your shoulder to make sure you don't make something TOO "weird for 'mainstream'", or because you renounce the money so that you can do everything how YOU feel about it - but only with very limited resources which doesn't allow you for example to get the actor you had in mind for the role.

    Art is all about your heart and soul. It's intimate. That's why it's so beautiful, and sometimes cruel too. It's all about what your heart feels. If you can say the version with the compromises is YOU, if your heart says yes, this is absolutely me, you're an artist in that matter. Ultimately, if you choose to be an entertainer for so and so long on that and that matter to get to the point where you are able to completely express what your soul feels should be expressed, you are, per definition, an entertainer in that things you produce (overall, that is), but still, at heart, an artist. As long as ... you know.

    I guess I wasn't clear enough ...... to MYSELF. I agree with you, after all. Thanks for getting that straight in my head, ha! I'm quite expierenced at running in circles, I guess. :')

    While I'm at it, one more thing though. What's your opinion on novel writers? Stephen King, for example. I often read that people don't consider authors as artists because they don't "produce 'tangible' things", however, the very same people call poetry art. As far as I'm concerned - what differs a novel, a story from poetry? It's still painting with words, it's still, here we are again, true, honest expression of your heart, soul (Of course, I'm only referring to authors who fulfill the "requirements")? Which is in my opinion the one thing that matters. It doesn't matter *how*. Still, "authors aren't artists", I read it quite frequently. It'd be quite delightful to hear your thoughts on that matter.

    1. You can’t compromise your vision and still claim to have fulfilled it. You can make compromises on aspects that aren’t important and which don’t fundamentally affect your vision (e.g. whether the main character’s name is Tommy or Tony)….but this would not constitute a genuine compromise - merely trivial details. A genuine compromise would involve fundamental conceptual components, and if you change those despite not artistically approving of them, then you have abandoned your artistry. There is no way around this.

      Could someone find themselves in a position where they conclude it’s worth compromising their vision in order to get their project funded so it can see the light of day? Sure, but nothing about this alters the reality of the above.

      You also seem to be proposing an alternative definition of artistry, in which an artist is anyone who expresses their heart and soul. While I think it’s true to say that artists definitely do this, I don’t think it constitutes a sufficient definition. For one, people express themselves all the time via regular communication - when I tell my neighbor, “hey asshole, stop letting your dog piss all over my flowers”, I’m thoroughly expressing my heart and soul on that matter, but that doesn’t turn me into an artist. Secondly, all types of creators, musicians, performers, etc express themselves - yet they’re not all artists.

      With respect to novel writers, whatever you’re reading that claims writers can’t be artists and/or that art / artistry is confined to tangible things is nonsense. The principles outlined in this article are entirely applicable to writers. Again, it has nothing to do with whether the writer is expressing themselves, but rather, what it is they are seeking to accomplish and why. If they are writing as a means to acquire money, fame, etc they are not artists. If they are writing because they are compelled to tell the stories they tell, as an end in itself, then they are.

  9. What do you think of actors and actresses? Do you think they are artists? Personally, I don't think they are for they obey to the script and even if they come up with an interpretation that might be personal, I don't think they really create anything. I get your point of pointing the difference between entertainers and artists. For some time, I have been reluctant to call myself an artist especially because I get the feeling that everyone gets to call themselves an artist and the meaning is lost, so I rather prefer to define myself as something else in my own terms. But with your explanation I understand better, and my question is about actors and actresses who present themselves as artists. I think, they really refer to their state of mind, some kind of "free mindset", and many people I think use the word "artist" for this spirit of freedom. How would you qualify then this state of mind? many really think of themselves as artists because they feel they are free , and don't see complying to a script or to expectations as less freedom. My point is that the misuse of the word "artist" is related for many to this notion of freedom, they (entertainers and people calling themselves artists) do it out of passion, not to pay their bills, so they think they're artists. I'd like to hear your point of view on this aspect of the use of the word "artist". All that said, I very much love your music and sometimes it inspires me paintings :-)

    1. Being free spirited and being an artist are two different things. It makes no sense to me to attempt to use the 1st to define the 2nd. It may be the case that a variety of artists are free spirited to some degree, but there certainly are a variety of artists that are not free spirited, so there is no causal or explanatory relationship there. Same for being passionate - passion is certainly present within artistry, but certainly not what defines it (since artists and non-artists alike can be equally passionate about their respective pursuits).

      With respect to actors, I view them in the same light as musicians / performers. They are interpreting art, not creating it. Actors (like musicians) can be incredibly expressive and creative in applying their skill, but this is not synonymous with being an artist. And nothing about this should be construed as critical or demeaning of actors or musicians - they serve an absolutely necessary and vital function in the arts - it’s just inaccurate to label them artists (in the way that I have defined that term).

      One possible exception though might be in the case of improvisation - in that context, it is possible for musicians and actors to go beyond interpretation and into creation, at which point, their mindset / motives would determine whether or not it would be appropriate to call them artists, entertainers, or craftsman.

    2. And what would you say of someone like Steve Jobs? Or someone who produces something, not in the art field, but that is their own vision and independent from the outside expectations. Would you say that technologists making something of their own vision could be artists? Could engineers be artists? They are compelled to create something that works though, not just something completely unconstrained. There are some profiles like that, they own their technology and go on creating in their own terms. It could be something in the industry, in design, etc. I have the impression that your definition could apply to any field where the mindset to create is extremely determined and discards the outside context, and not necessarily only in the art field. So you could have cooks that are artists, gardeners that are artists, developers that are artists, any person who owns their technique and realizes their vision with it. Is is a correct interpretation of your definition? Is your definition of "artist" cross fields?

      However, there is a dimension in artists I find that goes beyond just determination, and that I don't find in your definition. It seems to me that artists have the capacity also to appeal to something universal that everyone understands, or that is beyond us all that can't be expressed with language. For example, a dictator is not an artist even if he realizes his vision, to make it very caricatural. What importance do you give to the meaning of what an artist does in your definition? Do you think that counts? Many people create stuff not realizing that they express themselves for sure, but they just express their own conditioning, so they end up creating stuff that was already seen, models that we already know and perpetuate many known problems. They might not obey consciously to external input, but subconsciously they do, yet they seem to achieve their vision unconstrained, but I don't think they are "artists" because the meaning dimension is missing. Others create without constraints to provoke and be "disruptive" and by doing so they also are not "artists", they rather create for other people's reaction and profit from scandal (yet they are the ones called "artists" in this world). Others create to change the world, in doing so they have an end goal that is not just their own expression, but they create with purpose, and create stuff with some kind of universal meaning, and even though what they create depend on the outside world, I think you could call them "artists" because of the meaning dimension.

      My point is, determination in the creative process is not the only part that defines an "artist" in my opinion, but there is also a part where the meaning of what the "artist" does has something universal, of beauty, sometimes innovative in terms of ideas and concept, and perpetual through time. And in the effect it produces in people, it's curative and provokes some kind of contemplation or reflexion, but that's my own criteria that help me appreciate art. I think that besides just determination, there is also meaning and beauty that count in the definition of an "artist". And these are not just qualities of the produced art, these might be part of the artist's process too to seek for beauty and meaning, and therefore defines them as "artists". What do you think?

    3. My definition has nothing to do with determination - it has to do with motivation. If you are creating art as an end in itself, you are an artist. If you are creating art as a means to an end (whatever that end may be), you’re not an artist. As I said in the article, this can be applied across disciplines. I suppose the only limiting factor is that being an artist entails creating something (tangible or intangible) - so to the extent someone is immersed in the creation of something, artistry has the potential to thrive, even if the nature of those creations are traditionally not considered to be art.

      In order for an artist to function, they certainly need to have the creative freedom to do whatever they feel is required…but an artist doesn’t need to be free of constraints in total - after all, the fact that they have a specific vision or idea they are trying to articulate is itself a constraint on their creativity. And they may be further restrained by their physical capacities, access to materials, opportunities, etc. So in the case of an engineer that needs to create something that actually works, there is nothing about this in principle that undermines their potential artistry - working things are simply more compelling (presumably) - their artistry or lack thereof is going to turn on why they are creating what they're creating.

      Many artists do have the capacity to seemingly capture transcendent meaning, but this is not what defines their artistry. And while many an artist have found themselves on a quest for meaning / truth / purpose / etc, what they uncover to that end is not necessarily in common with one's own valuations. Meaningfulness is inherently subjective and dependent upon the perspective of the person exposed to the art. Thus, attempting to utilize meaning as a condition of artistry is misguided - you will never achieve a consensus on which art is meaningful, nor which creations do or don’t constitute art in the first place. However, an artist’s creation is certainly meaningful to him or her…otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it! So in that sense, meaningfulness matters, but this is really no different than saying an artist is compelled to do what they do, as an end in itself.

      An artist may wish for their art to positively influence others and/or the world, but if the desire for that outcome has any influence on their creative process, then they are no longer functioning as an artist. Someone creating art for the purpose of changing the world is using art as a means to an end - this makes them something like a creative activist, not an artist. To be clear, creating art as a weapon for change is totally fine and potentially praiseworthy, but it doesn’t fall within artistry.

      Your closing criteria apply to the art that you personally find most compelling, and by extension, the artists that make such art. But you cannot escape the subjectivity of those qualities (e.g. beauty, curative effect, meaning, etc), which is why the criteria are insufficient for determining artistry in and of itself. An artist cannot be construed in terms of how other people view them or their work…they can only be construed in terms of their mindset and intention.

    4. Interesting. That's why I don't define myself as an artist and really prefer the word hacker, preferably image hacker (in its original definition of making something the way you want).

      The difference I make between your definition of an artist and how I do, is that I question a lot why I create something before I create it. I can trace why I did something, it’s not just a sudden inspiration that I have to create. What it is, what it means, what it represents, it’s really important. From what I understand, according to your definition, an artist creates for the sake of creating, without any filters except their own and regardless of external pressure. This makes them good witnesses of their time for they express themselves as independent creatives and illustrate how we envision the world at that given time. But this also means they don’t necessarily question their surroundings, they just express something they are compelled to express.

      I think I just want to say that it’s possible to create with a critical mind without giving up the instinctive part of creation, I’m just trying to declare myself as such creator. There are artists, entertainers, and then… the other ones like me? Hackers? I’m not a creative activist in that I’m not doing propaganda (yet), but I just like answering my own questions like “when will it change? why is it always represented that way?” and then I shape everything I do to try to disrupt how my influenced self (who would just express herself without filters) would have done vs. how my critical awaken self would do it.

      That’s all, I wanted to include another type, your definition of artistry can then be contrasted also with a form of purposeful (rational?) creation in addition to entertainment. Anyway, thanks a lot for taking the time to give me a detailed answer, it was very interesting to know your point of view, it has clarified some things for me. I find great that we can discuss with you!

    5. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re making a distinction between creating in an intuitive stream of consciousness, compared to creating with a critical mind and specific set of intentions. Neither approach disqualifies artistry (and neither guarantees it).

      There is nothing in my definition of artistry that excludes internal-questioning, reflection, being able to pinpoint one’s creative reasoning, etc. I’m not suggesting that an artist only reacts to sudden or random whims of inspiration, with no thought as to how / what / why they are doing what they’re doing…rather, I’m saying that their entire creative process is geared toward the art alone (as opposed to what the art will yield, beyond their own personal feelings about it). In other words, they are not making creative decisions based on anything other than what leads to the most compelling art (from their perspective)…the art, and only the art, is what is driving them, and it is the realization of their creation that is fulfilling in and of itself.

      In your specific case, it sounds like you’re concerned with actively pushing your own limits. Not sure about there being an influenced self vs a disrupted self - if you’re influenced, you can’t un-influence yourself, and any effort to disrupt is itself an influence, and even if you distinguish between internal and external influence, there’s no way to confirm your internal influences are not themselves externally influenced (!) - but I suppose your efforts essentially amount to creative experimentation and perhaps challenging yourself to dig deeper than you are inclined to by default. All of this is totally fine, and none of it inherently disqualifies artistry. The only relevant question is whether your creative decision making is influenced by considerations apart from what will result in the most compelling art. Is it? :)

    6. It is me again..! I have been really thinking about what you advanced. The thing is I am a beginner in "art" and I don't have a big audience yet. So I guess that for now I do things the way I want to without any external motivation influencing my creative process. Do you think that your definition could be approached to that of "sincerity"? I am very technical so I don't understand what you mean by "their entire creative process is geared toward the art alone", what does "art alone" mean? I thought it meant "sincerity", but I'm not sure.

      I think that I refrain from calling myself an artist because I find artists are not responsible for their art. I have the impression that they create something almost independently from their own will, because they are "compelled" to, and end up creating stuff that are terrible, breed evil and then say "I do it in the name of art", and nobody can say anything and let it happen, it's like a free pass to perpetuate terrible ideas. I know the morale might be one of the "external" source that should not interfere with the creative process (?), but my position is that I want to be responsible for my art, and therefore I create it with a very critical mind. Even if I don't want to be a "goodie goodie" I think you can't separate from those external ideas of what good and what's bad... no? So that's why I think I can't define myself really as an artist but I might be something else.

    7. It sounds like you have some extreme preconceived notions about what an artist is, based on which, I understand your aversion to the term. But obviously, I think those notions are misguided. Artists are not robots, enslaved to a process in which they have no thought or control - they have solid creative desires and intuitions that they consciously work with and explore. And while many people call themselves artists, or are referred to as such, unless they satisfy the criteria I’ve outlined in this article, I would not consider them artists. Moreover, being an artist doesn’t guarantee your work will be good in the eyes of others…it just guarantees that the artist finds it captivating.

      So when I say “their creative process is geared toward the art alone” it just means that they're only concerned with making the art as good as it can possibly be, without any concern for what other people will think about it, or whether they will be able to profit from it.

    8. I don't have an aversion for the term (art is marvellous!), I just find it might not be a fit for what I am doing because of a certain aspect of it, so rather, I'm not comfortable with the term. As for "my extreme preconceived notions" about what an artist is, I don't think it is extreme and preconceived because it really comes from my experience as a viewer, it's what I see and witness, it's not something I imagine to be. My preconceived notion was on the contrary that artists only seek the beauty and the greatness, and if I were to give my own definition of "artist" this is what I would naively say.

      I didn't mean in my last comment that it applies to all artists though, I was just pointing out this aspect where it's possible for an artist (I witness and also in the definition of this article) to do something "in the name of art" and it's ok because of the compelling drive artists have. I was questioning about "good" and "bad" in the creative process, but indeed, it might not be relevant since interpretation differs for every person, so my understanding is that it doesn't really matter, so long as the creator creates what s/he envisioned.

      Anyway, thanks for the replies, I understand your definition.

    9. Sorry if I mischaracterized your response…your statement that the term artist “is like a free pass to perpetuate terrible ideas” seemed extreme to me, but more relevantly, reflected a misunderstanding in my view of what it means to be an artist (which has nothing to do with having good or bad ideas, or making good or bad art). Again, I think the only valid definition of an artist is someone whose creative motivation is based solely in what will lead to the best art (in their opinion).

  10. Dear Zack,

    This post was truly inspiring, intellectually and creatively. I've discovered your blog just a few days ago; after listening to your music for years, it is incredible to have that much access to the background of your music. For a long time I have been wanting to actually communicate and exchange with you. I was wondering, and hence, asking, is there any address to which we can send you mail? Like a label or a fan mail address (even though this letter would attempt to do more than simply express my love for your music) to which we can write to?? I have been searching everywhere but coudln't find anything!

    Thank you very much!

    1. I appreciate the interest and the kind words. There is an email address listed on my website ( I try to respond to emails whenever I can, but it’s not always feasible, and sometimes downright impossible, depending on the volume I receive and what I have on my plate at any given time.

  11. So, I heard NOMAD. Horrible. 0 out of 10. You're super lazy; super repetitive. How could the man who made Mind Heist: Evolution make this? Honestly man, as a FORMER fan, I couldn't believe my ears as I was listening to the album. You have been an immense inspiration to me since the moment I heard MHE. I studied Mind Heist, was inspired by the nuances and attention to detail. But my brother, NOMAD is a piece of shit. Your vocals are inaudible. It's mixed horribly. I can't hear you and your voice is super monotone. Your rapping is banal. You have no idea how much respect I have lost for you, my dear friend. Please follow the template of Mind Heist, Greeting the Menace, and Silver Crimson Black for all future productions. I can't believe it. AND BY THE FUCKING WAY, you can still hear the vocals in the instrumental version of NOMAD. Release the album you're capable of releasing and stop being a lazy fucking hack. It's a disaster; I am ABSOLUTELY APPALLED. Make Mind Heist 2 like I said to you before. Love you, have always loved your creativity. But not anymore. I expect to hear improvement in all future releases. Put the same effort you put into writing this shitty ass blog into your MUSIC

    Btw, I am very thankful for all the inspiration that some of your songs have given me. I'm genuinely hoping to be inspired by your future creations

    1. Thanks for such an entertaining and colorful note. Of course, having read the above article (its shittiness notwithstanding), you surely realize that to cater to your demands by creating what you want to hear, rather than that which authentically resonates with me, would certainly invalidate my artistry. Not to mention, that having your respect, approval, and/or adoration is the least of my concerns. And of course, to grant a request of the high standards you have outlined, as well as to satisfy one endowed with such tremendous self-importance and entitlement as you most evidently are, is without question beyond the capacity of the super lazy whose company I now find myself in. While I can’t say I’m sorry to have disappointed you, I can say I’m happy to have appalled you so profoundly, my dear friend.

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    3. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re highlighting the value and/or necessity of an artist being in touch with why they like what they like, and possibly purposefully engaging whatever those underlying reasons or mechanisms are. If my understanding is incorrect, then disregard what follows :)

      For the purposes of creating new material, understanding how your subjective preferences historically came to be what they are is not necessary…you simply have to be able to recognize what they are now, and go from there. Of course, in the present, it is extremely helpful to be in touch with why you’re reacting in a certain way (e.g. I’m not liking X because Y), as that understanding positions you to adjust / revise your creation accordingly…although I suppose this is not always necessary, as one may not be able to pinpoint the roots of their dislike or like, while still being able to progress (but the more an artist creates, the less likely this possibility becomes, as translating one's emotions and then tracing / mapping them onto the counterparts that give rise to them is a skill that improves, as far as I can tell).

      A historical and/or existential understanding of why you like what you like might be relevant to the extent that one was concerned with evolving and/or escaping their preferences or patterns. But again, I don’t see it as being necessary, as one can simply make a point a expose themselves to things outside their bubble.

      Regardless, it strikes me as quite impossible to come to anything other than a superficial existential understanding, as there are so many variables that interconnect to create the impressions we receive. Do you love this particular music because of the composition, the performance, the attitude, the instrumentation…do you love it because it was on the radio when you had that first kiss…or because your parents loved it…or because you simply heard it repeatedly growing up? Or do you hate this particular music because of all those same reasons? What mood were you in when you first heard song A (and why were you in that mood)? What music had you heard prior to listening to song A, and how did that entrain and/or impact your experience of song A? Etc, etc, etc. I would argue the answers to all of these questions are really quite irrelevant (from the standpoint of an artist’s endeavors). Maybe there are concrete answers, or maybe you just like what you like having nothing to do with anything…you’re never going to truly know, as any such knowledge would be unverifiable. If you could go back in time, and change this to that, and alter your experience over there, would your resulting value system and preferences be different today? Possibly. So what? We are where we are. It’s where you’re going from here (artistically) that matters.

      That being said, I have found that an artist's creative preferences are prone to evolve as a consequence of what they’ve done before. Speaking for myself, once I’ve thoroughly explored a given territory (musically, lyrically, or conceptually), that territory simply no longer entices me, and I go on in search of new territory. That is not to imply I don’t like what I did before - just that I’m not driven to continue exploring it. And this doesn’t mean I used to like rock music, and now I don’t, or vice versa. All of what you like outside of your own creations may still hold, but the elements you find compelling within your own creative efforts can change over time, in response to those very efforts. In genuine artistry, there is a constant feedback loop between the artist and the art, each influencing and shaping the other.

      As for valuing what the masters push as significant, it depends on what you mean by value. The artist can value the opinions / analysis / insights of others (master, expert, or otherwise), whether or not they share them. But if by value you mean, “does the artist hold sacred and profound that which the masters push as significant”, I would say only to the degree to which it genuinely resonates with them.

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    1. If you believe artists are superior to entertainers, so be it. But if your intention is to persuade me that this is the case, you haven’t presented any argument to that end.

      I am pointing out the disconnect between the way the dictionary defines the term artist, what that term typically conjures to people or is meant to conjure (as far as I can tell), and how its use in practice is plagued with confusion. So my intention is to detangle the above by precisely delineating what the term entails. If in your view, that equates to me intending to become the dictionary, ok.

      Not sure why I would need to excommunicate you from being defined as an artist, especially since one can’t objectively know if you or anyone else is an artist - I can only infer based on your statements and actions - but you certainly know and can proceed accordingly :)

      I fail to see the blunder in asserting that artists are not superior to entertainers (and you have failed to articulate it, if indeed there is one). My assertion is not based on notions of equality or “everybody’s a winner” type of rationality - it’s based in the fact that the characteristics of artists and entertainers are different, that those characteristics lead to different outcomes, that each of those outcomes has the potential to be positively or negatively received, and that such is entirely subjective. Thus, there is no objective basis from which to assert superiority. If you are claiming otherwise, you must clarify on the basis of what metric artists are superior.

      I would grant you that notions and/or examples of entertainers that often come to one's mind are nauseating (from the perspective of the thinker), however I would caution against blinding one’s self to the outcomes in which entertainers (or craftsman) make truly compelling art. In the reverse, I would caution against blinding one’s self to the outcomes in which artists make terrible art - they may be artists, but that doesn’t guarantee what they have to express is automatically compelling. While there is an objective difference in the mindset of an artist vs entertainer, one’s evaluations of their resulting art is subjective.

      With this in mind, I feel the need to reiterate that the importance of artistry and understanding the different functions artists, entertainers, and craftsman serve, is that they all have different potentials, which can be realized or not realized. Thus, the world benefits from a balanced creative ecosystem. Of course, it is genuine artistry that currently appears to be the endangered species, but I would resist the temptation to conclude that if the roles were reversed (with entertainers being endangered) there would be no downside…maybe, maybe not.

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    1. It's unimportant and this isn't the right place to discuss it so I've deleted it.

    2. Thanks for that clarification. Now I’m seeing the disconnect between what each of us are saying.

      My statement “One might be tempted to conclude…that I am insinuating artist are superior to entertainers. This is not so!” was not intended to be received as an objective assertion that artists are not superior; rather, it was intended to clarify that I am not making the claim that they are superior.

      That being said, it is my opinion that artists aren’t superior, for the reasons stated in my previous response…but that is a purely subjective assessment, irrelevant to the article’s main points.

      Some of this confusion also seems to be stemming from the conversational nature of the article / commentary, which can perhaps be at odds from a strictly technical or academic standpoint. For example, my use of the word “need” in “the world needs both artists and entertainers” is not meant in any strong sense - as you pointed out, the world in actuality doesn’t need these things at all (certainly not from a survival standpoint, nor many other standpoints); however I’m really using the word in a looser sense to mean “benefits from”. This of course remains a subjective assertion, but the basic notion I was (perhaps poorly) attempting to articulate is that, to the extent one desires a world (i.e. society and/or the collective of human consciousness) that is optimally fulfilling and/or rich and/or rewarding in its entailed experiences, then it needs / requires a diverse and balanced creative ecosystem (which is not to say that having such is itself sufficient to achieve that end).

      Of course, arriving at a consensus of what "the world” is, what it “needs” (if it even needs anything in the first place), etc is probably as doomed as arriving at a consensus of what constitutes good or bad art (or art itself perhaps). I don’t think it’s realistic to be able to inoculate every text from being deconstructed into debatable technical minutia, and if it is possible would probably lead to an array of longwinded texts full of constant qualifications and clarifications that render it a misguided exercise. Discussion in general would become unbearable, as no one would end up being able to say anything, or at best it would take so long to say it no one would still be paying attention by the time you got done saying it, haha. But I do get where you’re coming from, and it nevertheless might be worth me revising the text to better communicate the above.

    3. So, feeling close to the same page, I can try to drive my point home.

      While conversational indeed, this is a response more directly for you, rather than intended to be shared and discussed like a reddit thread. I hereby ask that you not take too conclusively / seriously what follows.
      But first, this: no, don't revise the main text, as it is not aimed at the audience who already comprehends it; nothing further can be done to clarify your point and intent (it is yours, but I believe your message is clear; changes won't alter who does or doesn't "hear" what you're saying).

      Your message is born out of some "hope" (drive, urge, desire etc.) of yours that MAY be comprehendible but not "really" communicable in the sense we've discussed. You indicate you realize this. Is such realization necessary to avoid compromising artistry? No, probably not (idk - may be beneficial). But it is also a mistake to conclude what you propose would come of pursuing this realization. Instead, it can be a certain way of seeing, which is ingrained in my nature. The former way of going about it (what is "the world" etc.) can be fascinating - but for what I'm after, this is a sort of red herring. It isn't the only way. I will refer to a different comment (shortened below obv) you made in order to explicate:

      "Do you love this particular music because of the composition, the performance, the attitude, the instrumentation...or because’re never going to truly any such knowledge would be unverifiable."

      A conclusion at odds with itself. My mind shouts "rethink it!" You say all that, along with what you admit in your final paragraph of your last comment, and still cast it aside as "misguided", "irrelevant"? What are you afraid of? That it appears futile, unbearable, to pursue? Yet you see it. If it is true, then it is true. If you understand, then you understand. Stop running from it. I say to you, that from this "well" of apparent existential absurdity I draw greater strength. From this, some philosophers and writers may draw their ENTIRE strength, their whole purpose in the world! I am an artist, and I declare that I do understand myself / artistry and do not shy away from the dual bolstering/perilous effects of grappling with this "absurdity". And imagine how many artists might agree. I daresay you'd declare the same. In fact, you said it yourself in a previous comment:
      "So once I understand what artistry is...such clarity allows me to be more effective in my creative pursuits."

      You may have been saying it inwardly for years without realizing what it was. You see this unknown. I say rethink its value. It has likely been implemented by you already to great effect. Hesitate before casting it aside. It does NOT prevent understanding.

      I ask that you try not to draw absolute conclusions about my attitude or thoughts. I admit I am uncertain - and who I might be without the role this uncertainty has played across my life, or without it at all, disturbs me...were its power, positive or negative or whatever it is, removed from this world, what would we [artists] be? Would we?Perhaps all that sparked my first comment, that hypothetical regarding artists and entertainers - and some crucial element I felt was missing - lies herein: something, I believe, ties the artist and their nature as kin to writers and philosophers, more so than to entertainers - from whom they are cut off at some pivotal point, not to say philosophers/writers aren't often artists, but that the artists among all classifications may share something ingrained in their nature that is inaccessible to all non-artists. That is why I heavily support the "nature of the artist" portions of your text as most significant - though your entire message is necessary. My qualms were never about your overall message.

      I thank you for your well-written text, your art, and your thoughtful nature: it is invaluable.

    4. (apologies, comment got placed in wrong spot, here is second attempt)
      Whatever, it might be necessary to briefly throw in a couple of examples to illuminate what the heck I was talking about in the middle there. So take as point of departure a famous quote from Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim:

      “It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun."

      It's critical to keep in mind the..somewhat flawed depending on how you see the narrator..layers involved in writing such a thing (including that narrator, plus the author, and the reader, and their interplay). He is not longwinded: he simply states the above, with some cues to help us comprehend what he's aiming at; and in admitting one incomprehensible thing he is elucidating the point, rather than heading the direction of endless "debatable technical minutia." This power IS art/artistry.

      Further, just expand to the work of, say, Kafka...or Albert Camus (The Stranger). Or back up to today's Paul Auster and his utterly unexplainable but in some special way understandable plots or characters and what they touch upon - points made with parcity of words, in direct OPPOSITION to the path of "endless" "longwinded" "debatable technical..." etc, but only via the utilization/grappling with of that same path:

      "No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling. To say that so and so was born here and went there, that he did this and did that, that he married this woman and had these children, that he lived, that he died, that he left behind these books or this battle or that bridge – none of that tells us very much.”
      from The New York Trilogy

      And is it any surprise, then, that he reevokes in his own words the same notion from my first quote (Conrad's) of this comment:
      “All men contain several men inside them, and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are.”
      (notable is the obvious shift of focus onto our own selves)

      Expand to music if you like. Maybe think about Scriabin or Shostakovich and what points and influences they made and had up to the present day. In the opposite direction, go back merely to Liszt, whether or not you believe he compromised his artistry, and recall the humorous occurrence of listing his occupation as "musician-philosopher" when checking in at a hotel.

      Or to philosophy, and, skipping over vast swaths just to get a glimpse of one of many results of the paths philosophers took, one of many earth-shattering aphorisms of Emil Cioran:

      "Thought is as much a lie as love or faith."
      (pointedly enigmatic, and pointedly to the point)

      Finally, (skipping over the enormity of countless other examples), as it so happens, we return to Lord Jim, for some final words to clarify what I was aiming at.

      “My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see.”

      At the same time, regarding the absurdity, the uncertainty, the folly...he UNDERSTANDS:
      “It is my belief no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.”

      Whether it is rich irony, or the narrator's or creator's own flawed expression, whatever you get out of that, whatever you get out of all of (above) are artists embracing the double-edged sword. Do they hesitate or stumble? No. It is that double-edged sword of absurdity/uncertainty that leant them, or that they snatched up disregarding the knowing peril, the power to create the art they did, be the artists they were.

      I felt it worthwhile to provide this attempt at clarification.

    5. Regarding your response to the comment you quoted from me, I don’t think it’s unbearable to pursue, nor do I fear the fruits of what such lines of inquiry have the potential to bear…but I maintain that such is irrelevant to the artist’s endeavors (i.e. expressing that which they are compelled to express). It may be rewarding nonetheless, or even influential moving forward, however if one is motivated by the desire to uncover the truth about why they are who they are (or why they are the way they are) so as to gain some kind of control over their artistic nature / preferences or reprogram their nature (which is what the other commenter to whom I was responding initially appeared to be alluding to), then I would say such efforts are misguided. But all lines of inquiry have the potential to be worthwhile.

      I see nothing at odds with concluding that any historical / existential knowledge one believes they’ve obtained with respect to why they like what they like is unverifiable…it’s not possible for it to be anything more than theoretical, since there is no objective way to test / prove the validity of the purported knowledge. Again, this doesn’t mean it has no value - just that it wouldn't constitute factual knowledge (perhaps you could consider it subjective knowledge though). I also understand that I will never understand everything that can possibly be understood, due to the limitations in our capacity (e.g. learning time while having a finite lifespan, memory retention, etc, among other considerations)…there is nothing contradictory or at odds about this.

      There are different types of understanding. So when you state - “I am an artist, and I declare that I do understand myself / artistry” - the nature of the understanding to which you refer is ambiguous. Do you mean you know who and what you are? Or do you mean you know why you are who and what you are? Do you mean you understand what your preferences, desires, inclinations, etc are? Or do you mean you know how your preferences, desires, inclinations, etc came to be formed? One of these types of knowledge is within reach, while the other much less so (if at all). Additionally, one of these types of knowledge is instrumental in orienting one’s actions (at least for maximum impact and/or fulfillment), while the other much less so (if at all). So I certainly would make the same declaration as you, but only with respect to one of these types of understanding.

    6. I believe you may have misunderstood what I was intending to communicate with respect to deconstructing everything into “technical minutia”. I’m not claiming deconstruction should never occur, nor that it invariably yields no benefit. Rather, I’m saying that in the context of conversational discourse, it's impractical and unhelpful to attempt to inoculate every statement against such deconstruction.

      For example, suppose someone states “I have a special love for all things blue”. One could respond, “What do you mean by “love"? What constitutes “special”? Is it the things that you love, or their blueness, or both? Given that color is merely a subjective perception of reflected light, can you even make the claim that those things are in fact blue? And what are you really referring to when you say “I”? Where do you draw the line in the sea of continuous atoms between you and the things in question?”

      All of those responses are totally valid. But if every sentence is deconstructed in this way, or if in anticipation of such every utterance or writing sufficiently defines and qualifies their communications accordingly, then much of basic and effective communication breaks down. So one must make some degree of allowances in the context of casual discourse. And this is not to say that I object to the deconstruction that you performed - I'm simply making an observation as to why the statements / words you were deconstructing were prone to such.

      I do share your sentiment regarding artist’s kinship. I would point out that not all writers are artists, but granting that you intend to refer to those that are, artistry (in whatever category it happens to manifest) inherently entails a certain awareness / recognition of self and/or the world that is not necessarily present in the non artist, but certainly is present in the philosopher…there is a shared confrontation with the abstract and the unknown, and a shared pull to explore for its own sake.

    7. "...there is no objective way to test / prove the validity of the purported knowledge."

      "…there is nothing contradictory or at odds about this."

      Hmmm....(or in other words, you just restated the contradiction)

      And yet, in a different way, that was my paradoxical point (where, then, do we disagree? I touch on this at the end) :)

      "Where do you draw the line in the sea of continuous atoms between you and the things in question?” That's the question, isn't it. There's a sort of power in it. Nearly all the questions preceding it that you have presented across your comments are encompassed by this one (imo), but just your mere invocation of "a special love for all things blue" has richness to me, something to be fond of, something in which is contained my elusive "overall point" that I don't know how long it would take to show that you probably agree with. And let us hope that the "well" of such questions - what I referred to as double-edged - never dries up.

      I see the fun [of this conversation] is coming to an end, and I believe we probably agree on it all, in the to make a long story short, as I said, my contention was never with your extremely important overall message with which I agree wholeheartedly and also wish to express to others. I, I FELT it, who can say why I did it?, but I decided to pursue this thread of thought regarding the nature of the artist. I wanted to convey to you that I urge you to perhaps hesitate before being so quick to go the route of slice-things-into-pieces-logically-as-x-or-z - but for the paradox that this gives you permission to decide for yourself about x or z (which was the nature of our initial discussion regarding who is the true "arbiter of persuasion," proven terminology vs. conversational approach): but also my push for greater regard of the subjective, the individual, which comprises so much of the value of the artist vs. the x y or z. (Oh, I know full well I may be speaking in contradictions hahah)
      When I said "if it is true, then it is true....if you understand, then you understand" I was saying, questions like "'what constitutes 'special'?'" can often be a red herring, the wrong question to ask to get any bit closer whatsoever to understanding something that SIMPLY IS special, if it is special. That is my way to "agree" that there is nothing contradictory about the "conclusion that is at odds with itself"

      ...because it is all one thing, the endless questions, the abstract/unknown, this paradox of the enigmatic and elusive nature of "knowing that we don't know the nature of" whatever all of this is.
      Everything the authors of those quotes were grappling with, involved this endless questioning you presented. It is only fitting that it's such a struggle to convey my points to you, points that, once absorbed, would call into question why I might comment in the first place if we already agree on everything.
      To this I say, I reject the notion that conversation is ONLY for conveying something to another person! who says it must be so?? (not saying you disagree with me) and by commenting at all, even my own words have expanded/benefited my own thoughts, as have your words, so, without explicating any more, it was worth it, it is worth it, and it was fun - and true to the nature of the artist, I say this without a care in the world how you [meta]viewed this little exchange, me, you were hitting the ball back, so thanks.

      But it is coming to an end. So I'll just reuse the best quote that immediately comes to mind for attempting one last time (in vain?) to demonstrate that the divide between these "two types of knowledge" is not what I was discussing:

      "Thought is as much a lie as love or faith."

      If anything, just think about it.

    8. oops...

      "if every sentence is deconstructed in this way...then much of basic and effective communication breaks down"

      don't know how you see it, but we've communicated just fine IMO, as did the authors whose quotes I left ("it is you who are mistaken"..just kidding, point is I wasn't aiming at deconstruction, maybe even at its opposite or something (?) - and maybe that helps with some of the disconnect between what we thought the other was saying)

  15. OKAY, I'll "be good" after this, but give me one last shot, because this all suddenly became clearer to me:

    first an encapsulation of this exchange:
    1. Your main message is extremely important etc.
    2. We agree on the nature of the artist, their individuality, the abstract, their kinship with so and so etc. etc.
    3. I fail to explicate the utility of point 2 in conveying point 1, and we get bogged down in unrelated territory almost to the point that it is you who are arguing for deconstruction though not quite and you mean not to. This is my fault.

    Toss out "past", "influences", "path to here", "endless questioning",
    "unsubstantiatable categorizations"... - why is X or Z beautiful? (DISCLAIMER: hereon you will likely disagree with stuff, which is fine) It doesn't matter how far you explore or how many questions you ask. To any extent whatsoever you think about what's behind the answer, absolutely nothing lies behind the fact that right now you CANNOT HELP but have your conviction, whatever it is. If you're convinced that X, you cannot unconvince yourself except to become/find yourself somehow unconvinced, which is to be helplessly convinced all the same. You play no part in this. This is not where the artist's power lies. If it did, you would simply wind up back in a state of endless concern over the fact that you are always compromising your artistry: because you have to face it - all sorts of influences at countless levels from who knows where in your past really might be behind what you think is your own true artistry. What I did wrong was fail to make clear in our exchange that I invoke this whole notion in order to directly oppose, not support, it -
    regarding what matters to art/artist/artistry.

    Basically I took too long to notice that my final contention actually lies in your view of what compromises one's artistry vs. my view. And it's fine if we disagree. We agreed on essential aspects, and for whatever it's worth a certain piece of your music has been running through my head while typing this. The end.

    1. I agree conversation entails more than communicating to another - it's also communing with one’s self - it polishes the mirror, allowing a clearer view of one's own perspective and understanding. This entire comments section has been of tremendous value to that end for me…even after having written the article, I became more deeply in touch with its essence upon engaging in the variety of exchanges that followed, not just from what was presented to me but largely from the consequence of struggling to get a better understanding of why I was reacting to what was being presented to me in whatever manner I was.

      Our particular exchange is amusing, in that neither of us are certain if we agree or disagree, nor if the other even understands what we’ve been saying. But it has been a rewarding and educational exchange nonetheless!

      I think to a large degree, you’ve been trying to articulate something that eludes articulation in response to commentary from me, and I’ve been pushing back against your interpretation of my commentary rather than to that which you were attempting to articulate in the first place. So let me try to do the latter now.

      With your last clarifications in mind, I would agree that one cannot help but have the convictions that they do, but I don’t think it follows from this that one’s artistry is intrinsically compromised as a consequence (or is at risk of being so). And while I hear that you are asserting the truth of this in order to oppose it, I don’t think the truth you’re opposing is necessarily true. As I see it, one is or isn’t an artist by nature (or has or doesn’t have the capacity for artistry) through no control of their own, but how they respond to that nature and/or what they do with it is a product of their agency. Thus, it is always a choice whether one “honors” their artistry or compromises it.

      Two clarifications: 1) Granting that one simply has artistry (or the capacity for such) through no volition of their own, supposing that one day that quality simply vanishes through no volition of their own, this would not equate to a compromising of their previous artistry, as you can only compromise it if you possess it in the first place. 2) If one is of the belief that agency / free will is an illusion, then it would necessarily follow that artistry is compromised (or at risk of such) through no control of the person (but I don’t hold this view of free will).

      I also think nested in your commentary is something along the lines of: there is "factual knowledge" on one hand (the knowledge of science and logic), and there is "intuitive knowledge" (or “felt knowledge”) on the other. One may perhaps come into contact with a knowing of sorts, for which there is no external or objective justification or grounds, but in spite of which is sensed deeply enough that it cannot be discounted or cast aside. It may not be defensible, it may not even be sufficiently expressible, but it has a presence - it can be felt - and it holds regardless of whether we acknowledge it or acquiesce to it.

      I suppose further that you suspect artists (and some writers and/or philosophers) may be in touch at some level, or to some degree, with an intuitive knowledge. And that perhaps it is their understanding to that end, or their attempts at understanding to that end, which drive / plague / inspire / burden them in the efforts they undertake, which makes their efforts of unique importance, and/or which elevates their efforts above those of the non artist.

      Not sure if the above accurately reflects your perspective or not, but I am sympathetic to these notions. And while I was not previously familiar with the quotes from those authors, they all resonate with me as well.

    2. I am enlightenment. I know things that I ALSO know I cannot prove to you. It is 100% true that there is no free will. This is proven scientifically. Further, each time I comment, I can completely contradict my own former comments as I see fit, because I am skeptical of the concept of personality, not the same person as before I went to bed las...

      Kidding, kidding. I took in your entire message - thank you. This blog isn't about my beliefs and it HARDLY matters whether I try to state them or not, but alas, you did "suppose" some things that were a little off (all conversational, I know, a la hitting the ball back)...

      of the divide between "factual" and "intuitive" knowledge: I reject, as before

      of free will: ohh short, the "thing" eludes me - as do people who try to define it without realizing it but while believing it (or vice versa or any of this in any order)

      of elevating the artist: if so, it would remain held within me, never for pride, but I doubt striving to do so aligns with my personal nature or goals anyway

      of compromising artistry: I'm on board with your ideas

      of what in the world your last comment is about: clever twist / metaplay(?), uh-oh is the "dubious of personality" part of my intro...ACTUALLY TRUE? Who am I speaking with?? Hahaha. No, I think I understand.

      Amusing indeed.
      So there, now you have a small guide to know further where we agree and disagree. Thanks!

    3. Nath--I think I disagree with what you are perceiving as "artist vs. entertainer" and whatnot and would refer you to the article's depiction below:
      'As breathtakingly skilled and uniquely expressive as they may be, performers and musicians are interpreting art; not creating it.'

      I happen to be an enormous classical music fan, so I know the _tremendous value_ of performers from my experience in the audience at venues both large and small as orchestras and string quartets go on tour. What you missed in the quote I presented from the article is the _first_ half. It's a thrilling experience to (for me and some, at least) witness a Performance.

      Take for instance _Hamilton_ the musical for ease of demonstrating that (go along with this--even if you probably disagree based on what I can glean of you) an artist is behind its creation. Are you beginning to notice this multifacetedness? What would a composer or an artist be without those who interpret and carry on their creations in some way? Would you admit that you've sort of missed the point? I could go on--but I've been quite clear.

      Now, although I think it evident you missed the mark in that regard, most of your contribution to the discussion, I'd say, does incorporate salient points about the Philosopher, though via methods that seem to me quite mercurial, even ephemeral. I haven't gotten "the point" but I appreciate the dialogue. I just don't think it much applicable to Zach Hemsey's helpful infrastructure. I do relate to a lot of what you say and grant that you reacted the way you did because the title of the article may be somewhat misleading. And the quote I used shows that the terms really need to be fleshed out since it uses "musician" in a way that sounds as though musicians aren't artists. But I think the author fleshes it out pretty well. It's just not the article you wre hoping for.

      However, there really is a lot to cover. I'll further grant that maybe I missed it but the line between "entertainer" and performer--though I picture them separately in my head--appears missing to some extent? That could be me misreading or misunderstanding the article. But for your (Nath's) purposes, perhaps an "On the Nature of the Artist" article is what you were looking for and trying to turn this one into--and maybe it is needed, who knows, but that is where your points would soar.

      Terrific and fun read! I wonder who else is out there with something to add to (and continue to pester) Zach Hemsey--but that's what you deserve, Zach Hemsey, if you write so competently like this article!

    4., no..hold on a sec

      Listen - while I'm generally happy to discuss this is absolutely CONFOUNDING to think someone could end up with such a one-dimensional response like yours after claiming to have read this exchange! Zach Hemsey and I may end up with some minute disagreements - but we TRIED to absorb what we could and gained from it all in a variety of valuable ways.

      And regardless, how can I discuss this further? I mean, notice the conversation's obvious linear procession over time, fashioned organically. And if you reread it you'll find that yes, there IS a lot to it; we didn't get to everything or even try to, as that simply wasn't what unfolded.

      "What would a composer or an artist be without those who interpret and carry on their creations in some way?"

      Are you kidding me!? They would still be a composer or an artist...And you didn't get THAT all-important point out of reading the main text?!? What is YOUR point???? Enough.

  16. I get it, In truth, I believe what you are saying, at least, what I am getting from this, is that a artist is honest in their work and honest to themselves in who they are.They may look to others for advice, but as long as they don't compromise their artistic spirit, they remain a artist. In fact, they take advice from others that they agree with to further their art, and better express themselves in what they do. They don't change who they are, but they may change what they do if it means to better express themselves or show what they are trying to.

    We get so caught up in all of life's stresses, money and other things, we tend to sacrifice what we want in a attempt to deal with these Issues. And no, it isn't wrong to make money off of your work, but if its at the expense of being true to yourself, you are not being a true artist. As you said, a artist creates not for anyone or any money, but merely for themselves and to express what they wish.

    We have to ask "Was this what I wanted to show? Was this my goal? Is this me, and how I wanted to express myself or this subject?"

    and the truth is, if you make what is true to yourself, rather than what others want(unless of course that is truly the route you wanted to take) or what others say you should, those who truly like your art or what you express will eventually find you.If some people help you to improve something you have done and you agree with the improvements, and also was thinking the same thing, so be it. But don't forget who you are, and what your artist spirit is, and what it is supposed to be expressing. you will be happier, and so will others.

    Thanks for writing this out. Honestly Even I forget to ask myself these questions, and remembering the true definition of a artist has surely helped me remember.

  17. This was a very interesting read. But one of the many questions I've had in regard to art, is can anything created with a vision solely for the purpose of creation be considered an artistic creation? Can art invade any form of creation such as cars or interior design, etc. Can someone who simply creates something they feel compelled to create out of the vision in their heart be considered an artist, no matter the medium? I have always thought the answer to that is yes.

  18. Mike whipple/ Mario DelmoralJuly 31, 2022 at 6:38 PM

    Good afternoon, I'm to the fullest extent of the meaning in my words that your music has moved me, whole heartedly, courageously, and with my respects to you. Thank you, your music helped me awaken me in my life. It would have been dull, broken, lost, and basically a lesser person without your amazing transcendent ability to match your words as with many others, to my soul.. bless you and your artistic abilities. God bless brother, God bless

  19. Interesting read, thank you for writing this blog post! It made me question myself a little bit (which is good!).

    Would you say that anybody has the capabilities to be an artist if they understand the definition and then make a conscious effort to be one?

    And what exactly would be the advantage of knowing the true definition if one wants to be an artist? Let‘s say I create music and consider myself an artist but without realising it I‘m making artistic compromises to please a broder audience. I‘m therefore not a real artist (yet). If I accept that and I still want to be one I can try to catch myself whenever I‘m trying to please/displease someone else with my music. But where does this questioning yourself end?

    I feel like nobody is able to know everything that’s going on in their subconscious mind and therefore you can never be entirely sure that what you are creating is fully detached from what other people think about it.

    I often encounter this problem whenever there is a black/white definition because it never holds true to human nature which is not black and white but rather on a spectrum imo. So I accept your definition but at the same time I think that this idea of a real artist is only an idea you can strive for (and some people can come closer to it than others) but it is humanly impossible to fully reach it.

    You would have to be fully aware/god to reach it. Also an interesting thought if you think about god as the only true artist, that 100% doesn‘t care about what anybody including us thinks about his creation.

    I would be very interested in what you have to say about this! Take care and again thank you very much for this thought out post. The distinction is also very important to me! :)

    Best regards

    1. You posed the question: could anyone be an artist if they made a conscious effort to be one? I would answer with my own question: why would someone who’s not an artist want to make a conscious effort to be one? There’s nothing wrong with being an entertainer, for example. So if someone realizes they're not an artist by my definition, so what? It just means they’re a different type of creator, which says nothing about the quality of their creation or their overall merit. However, if someone realizes that they're an artist by my definition, but have been comprising they’re artistry for whatever reason (bad advice, insecurity, etc), then they can certainly make a conscious effort to stop doing that.

      Ultimately, I see artistry as being an intrinsic quality, not a choice. By analogy, you can’t help who you fall in love with. You can choose to act or choose not to act on that love, but the love itself is not a choice…it’s just there. So it is with artistry. People either have it or don’t have it. I’m open to the possibility that artistry can suddenly arise in a person (or vanish I suppose), but its presence is not going to be a consequence of pretending or miming the actions of an artist - it’s either going to be there or not be there, and if it’s not there, there’s no need to mourn the matter. There are different types of creators, and they’re each capable of making amazing art. They simply create from different places.

      The advantage of knowing what type of creator you are is that it clarifies the creative process, and clears the path of various mental clutter that should be of no relevance to your process, allowing you to better navigate and make choices.

      As to your scenario about considering one’s self an artist, compromising that artistry without realizing it, and never truly being in a position to know if you really are an artist because human nature is such that you can’t actually know anything…I reject the entire framework.

      First, you wouldn't consider yourself an artist - rather, you would recognize that you are or aren’t one. To me, this should be fairly obvious once one properly introspects on the matter.

      Second, if you’re are an artist and making artistic compromises, you’re either knowingly doing that or unknowingly doing that. Both are possible. You may have reason to compromise your artistry (for example, you take a job as a craftsman in order to earn some money), in which case, you’re doing what you need to do to get by and make a living…but as soon as your circumstances change such that the compromise is no longer required, you would stop compromising your artistry. On the other hand, if you never realized you were an artist who’s been compromising your artistry, once this gets revealed, you would immediately stop doing that, because no artist chooses to do that unless they’re in a position where they feel forced to…that is, it doesn’t feel good for an artist to compromise their art (as contrasted with a craftsman who may ultimately care less about the finished product as long as the client is happy and they get paid).

      Third, you don’t need to be god to identify if you’re an artist. It’s a felt sense. If you put your hand into a flame, the resulting pain is not in question. Nor is there an intellectual uncertainty about whether that pain is real pain, or imagined pain, or where you fall on a pain spectrum. No. If you put your hand in a flame, you’re going to say “AHHHHHHH, that fucking hurts!” It’s not going to be a mystery. The artist is a different type of sense, but there's a sensation nonetheless - it’s an emotional sensation - the feeling of importance in what you’re creating, the connection to it, having a vested interest in making sure it manifests properly and that it comes out “right” - you will feel this, just as you feel love and pain.

    2. Thank you for your reply! I appreciate that you took time to answer all my questions. I understand your answers but I'm still lacking some life experience (I'm about 15yrs younger than you) to fully grasp everything you're saying on a deeper level.

      I will come back every few months to reread this post. If there are still questions left after that I will post them.

      Greetings from Germany! :)