Thursday, March 21, 2013

TED Talk: Young-ha Kim

In this video, celebrated Korean author Young-ha Kim talks about how we all start out as artists, but eventually, most of us stop.

"It's not the hundreds of reasons why one can't be an artist, but rather, the one reason one must be that makes artists."

The main points of his speech reminded me of that essay, Draw Like a Six Year Old by Phil McAndrews, that I posted about a while back. It's one of my favorite things that I've ever read about art and drawing.  Sometimes it's easy to forget that drawing is supposed to be fun and it becomes more like work. But it is supposed to be fun. Your six year old self did NOT question his or her desire to draw something they thought was awesome. I remember once I drew an entire comic about the letters of my name becoming conscious, animated beings and exploring my house. Yes, the letters G, I, N, A and F, L, O, R, I, O were each separate, freethinking individuals hopping around. At one point the letters of the first name got separated from the letters of the last name and they were trying to find each other again. Six year old me thought this was the greatest idea I'd ever had. Of COURSE I should commit it to paper! And so I did. I bet my mom still has it.

Borrowing this from Phil McAndrews since it's great. One day I'll be able to illustrate my blog posts with my own work.

Something else he said also struck me - the part about how the artists inside us don't vanish, they get bottled up and come out as anger and jealousy. I feel like this is something I've been noticing more and more lately, ever since I read that Cracked article, 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. It says, "Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being. [...] It's incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don't create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created. It's so much easier to just sit back and criticize other people's creations. This movie is stupid. That couple's kids are brats. That other couple's relationship is a mess. This Internet writer is an asshole. I'd better leave a mean comment demanding that the website fire him. [...] Whatever you try to build or create -- be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship -- you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they'll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career. Just remember, they're only expressing their own fear, since trashing other people's work is another excuse to do nothing."

I've started to witness this in real life - you're either a person who creates, or you're a person who sits around judging things other people have made. That's not to say it's THAT black and white, or that artists don't judge. But I've found that the established artists I've met at classes and workshops are always very careful with their words. They give constructive criticism but are careful to not discourage new artists (like myself). And I've found myself thinking this way too. Bad singer on American Idol? At least they're up there, putting themselves out there, actually TRYING. That's more than you can say for most people in the world. Certainly more than you can say for the person on the couch trying to make themselves feel better by trashing them.

The very last anecdote he shares about Martha Graham is just perfect. And it echoes this Noah Bradley post that I wrote about some time ago. All those nagging questions and doubts you have when you're starting out on this are the work of the "artistic devil." It's not that hard. Get out of your own way. Just do it.

© Gina Florio 2013

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