The Art and Aesthetics of Work
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back.
— Steve Jobs
Art is that subtle reality of nature to infuse the world, its bosom, with symmetry and asymmetry, chaos and order, in the same manifestation of the subject. And to assimilate art is to exercise keenness in our observation of the existence.
The veneer of aesthetics
Aesthetics is the science of art.
It is the joint result of an intellectual and a sensitive life: requiring an exquisite delicacy in the organisation of the nervous system, to convey to the mind the slightest impressions from the external world, with intellectual power to appreciate them.
To enjoy these more refined delights of sense, which a perfect and harmonious form, or richness and delicacy of colour, or the harmonies and melodies of sound, supply to the cultivated eye or ear, is the privilege of many.
But to give these “void nothings a local existence and a name”; to fix in marble an ideal form, or to render permanent on canvas the gentle light of morning, or the bright yellow afternoon sun with heavenly alchemy; or with words alone to represent the luxurious existence itself, is the prerogative of a genius artist.
Beauty in observation
It takes patience to observe admittedly that the canvas of the painting has been artful, well before the painter made his first stroke. But it lacked beauty; a superior possibility to offer the self-satisfaction of a pleasant experience to the beholder.
Whatever the subject, a true artist always transfers to the canvas, and renders permanent to all visible eyes — a moral beauty: not mere animal beauty, not even the mere virtue of the form, but a higher kind, a spiritual beauty.
There are times when the calm of external nature sink deepest into our hearts. The golden glow in which the evening sun steeps the earth seems more precious; the early morning light casts more exquisitely delicate shadows; the grass and the trees above them are of a fresher, brighter green against a bluer sky; the evening clouds are more vibrant in their gorgeous glories, and the artist feels more earnestly that these all are the outward visible emblems of mother nature impregnating his mind with enigmatic imaginations.
The poet’s range is even higher, from the faculties of his instruments. His words are his wealth and go at once to the collective human heart. His embodiments of the artistry and the ideal are carried in the memories of humanity, long after he takes the eternal nap.
Truth of imagination
Imagination is the inherent power of an artist, who clothes profound truths in his work, through words in poetry, by sound in music, by colours and forms in painting, by form alone in architecture. The eye to see in the visible forms the “invisible law”, combined with the hand to give to the visible the invisible power, constitutes genius; the union of reason and imagination.
If imagination is the power of embodying invisible truths in our minds, its use in our work would consist in conveying, in the best manner, the highest truths. As the painter does this in colour, the sculptor in marble, the architect in stone, the musician in sound, the poet in verse, so can make the rest of the humanity in their work; and the manner in which the artist conveys his truths can make so significant a difference in their reception, that the imagination becomes a faculty of high importance.
Therefore, as two of the principle faculties of our nature — a refined intellectual power, and an exquisite material instrument, are thus brought into active and harmonious union, their possessors become the favourites of humanity.
The first criteria for being an artist is to have taste.
It is a hopeful sign when any artist becomes intellectually self-reliant — a sure sign of developing character and taste: when he accepts an inspiration because, in his recognisance, he believes it to be intrinsically good. Self-trust is inseparable from his being, and to inspire anyone to a higher degree of self-trust with his work is above all, to help him to help himself.
His work possesses grace and poise. He can impersonate the highest beauty in his work, the beauty of his being, and the union of goodness, gracefulness, dignity, humility, tenderness, repose, joy and love.
He is an artist who is able to look at those truths which, transient and rare though it may be, others make still rarer by overlooking.
Be an artist.
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