On being an artist

via my flickr

via my flickr

The other day in my biology class we were all sitting around relaxing and talking, now that the AP exam is over. One senior girl was discussing how much work goes into the science research program, which is a three-year course at our school that offers students a chance to work with a mentor from an outside institution and delve deeper into a scientific topic of their choice. Making a case for the time she’s put into the class, she said, “I’ve been working my ass off for three years! I’m not one of those people that just took a bunch of art electives and skated by.”

Immediately, the class erupted in indignation, and I’m glad it did. Because art is a lot of work. I have invariably had to put more time into all my art and music classes than I have for any other class I’ve taken in high school, because art demands that time. You can’t bullshit art the night before it’s due. You can copy someone else’s history notes, but you can’t copy creativity. You can’t copy rolls of film. You can’t copy the ability to play an instrument. You can’t throw a sketchbook together twenty minutes before it’s collected. Art is something you simply can’t fake, because it is so personal. You put your soul into it.

Why be an artist, anyway? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. Without a lot of luck and good publicity, it’s difficult to make a living off of it. It sucks up huge amounts of time. There are a lot of ways in which being an artist isn’t ideal, but I wouldn’t change for the world. Being an artist is about seeing the beauty in small moments. Sometimes, for one beautiful second, a ray of golden sunlight will catch a fluffy white dandelion at just the right angle, and it’ll make my whole day. Being an artist is about taking those moments and freezing them in time. Capturing a smile, a mood, an idea, and making it so that everyone can feel what you felt.

I think art is so important, and I’ve neglected it for too long. I was under the silly impression that my art isn’t as important as my grades. But it is. A lot of people will probably think that’s foolish, but I’m not going to major in test taking. In life, a number on a piece of paper won’t inspire you; it won’t make your mind gears turn or your soul sour. Art will. Art speaks the way nothing else does.