Friday, August 13, 2010

Artist or Artisan: Thoughts on Creativity

I once had a conversation with my uncle where he asked me to name some artists.  I answered Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael (What do you want?  I was like 8 and big into the Ninja Turtles).  He asked if I knew any that weren't turtles.  I knew a couple, but he suggested that anyone who creates is an artist, no matter what the medium.  I thought this was a pretty neat idea, and I've carried it around with me for quite a while... but is it true?  Well, I suppose part of that depends on how you define creating something.

Does painting a miniature that someone else sculpted count?

Building a megadungeon using someone elses rules?

What about writing up a variant monster for D&D?  What if it's based on a picture someone else posts?

Much of the time I feel very much that I am more of an artisan than an artist.   Someone who is at least marginally skilled, but not original.  I'm creating works, but they aren't original, and that lack of originality pushes them out of the realm of "real" art.  I'm often inspired by the things I see, and I like tweaking them, putting my own spin on them, but the original idea, the soul of it isn't mine.  On the worst of days that makes me feel less of an artisan and more of a charlatan.   

Taken to an extreme this becomes a very silly idea.  The guy who sculpts a historical mini is an artist.  The guy who sculpts a squad/company/regiments worth of historical minis is an artisan.

So what am I: Artist? Artisan? Charlatan?   I'm leaning toward the middle one.  How about you?  How do you see it?


  1. I wouldn't get too hung up on what to call it - creativity is taking what IS and making something that hasn't ever been before. Everything creative starts somewhere. The turtles you mention above almost certainly began copying the masters before them before they began to create something new...but is it really "new"? I mean paint on a wall is paint on a wall, right? But they take that and make something that has never been before - is it art? Dunno. But it IS creative.

  2. Hey, you get people who pile feces into shapes and call it art. You have dead bodies on display, and its called art. What is art?

    Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It can be a matter of aesthetidcs. You see soem dungeons mapped out, and you "tweak" them abit to your liking. Your adapting, changing it from what it once was. Altering it in a way to provoke a new emotional response. To make it "look right" to you.

    That's art.

    A charletan would just take something and call it his and have others believe he created it.


  3. I think the word you may be looking for is craftsman. I view myself as a craftsman. I'm not trying to discuss the human condition, I'm trying write something fun and useful.

    To me, art implies a deliberate attempt to *say* something. I'm not trying to say anything - I'm *doing* something.

  4. @jgbrowning - Craftsman... I like it. Thanks!

  5. I like the word a lot for what we do with creating role-playing games and material for those games. Sometimes a craftsman may produce a work of art, but that's not really the intent. The intent is a functional product, not a meditative one.


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