How to Become an Unknown Artist
On a recent trip to Atlanta's High Museum of Art, I noticed something interesting. Scattered throughout the museum were pieces of oil painting and furniture credited to a common name. Once upon a time these masterpieces had been imagined and painstakingly created by someone who would eventually be crowned Unknown Artist.
But it’s different these days.
If social media platforms were virtual art museums, they would be filled with seemingly identical aesthetics, 140-character prose, and many, many names. Instead of being known by their work, they would be known by how many virtual visitors had managed to cram themselves into their gallery. Every trivial act comes at a cost -- an opportunity cost of doing something more enduring with that mental energy.
I’m not saying the internet isn’t great for documenting creativity and experiences. But in the global transition from analog to digital, the chances of creating timeless impressions lessen as we move closer to platforms that can be permanently deleted with a click of a mouse. (Even this article is meaningless if it doesn’t stimulate something in at least one reader.)
Throughout history, great work hasn’t always been immediately celebrated, appreciated, or even monetized. From Thoreau to Van Gogh, many creative minds died understated and penniless. Moreover, the creations of those who lived in obscurity were recognized in spite of their creators' names, looks, or income bracket. But their work survived and thrived because they acted on inspired ingenuity, committed to hard work, and expressed it in a tangible form.
So go out and create something worth appreciating.
Get offline and build, paint differently, write a story or two. Bring an original idea to life. And whether it is this year or fifty years from now, someone may come across it and be touched by something once painstakingly created by an otherwise unknown artist.
"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."
-Thomas A. Edison