have been interested in art, and practiced it in some form most of my life, from when I was very, very little. I was considered a prodigy on the clarinet, interpreting and playing Classical Music like Mozart, Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber. I later on exchanged my clarinet for an acoustic guitar and one thing led to another and I soon started writing poetry and at the same time my own music.
Impressionistic Painting by Claude Monet
[Click on picture for enlargement]
Of course, you don't have to be a prodigy or an artist to appreciate art; most people do anyway. They feel they get emotionally affected by it, but don't always know what it is that affects them. Therefore, I would like to give a little lesson in art that can be pretty interesting for those who have asked themselves why they get so emotionally affected by certain art and music.
I want to take Bob Dylan as an example.
In my opinion, Bob Dylan is perhaps the greatest poet and songwriter we've seen in the last hundred years. For you who are very familiar with him know what I'm talking about, and you who are not could perhaps learn something from this article.
The following quote is from his song: "Changing of the Guards" from the album "Street Legal" from 1978. I just chose this song randomly to prove my point:
The cold-blooded moon.
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication.
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid.
They shaved her head.
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo.
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale.
I seen her on the stairs and I couldn't help but follow,
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil.
I stumbled to my feet.
I rode past destruction in the ditches
With the stitches still mending 'neath a heart-shaped tattoo.
Renegade priests and treacherous young witches
Were handing out the flowers that I'd given to you."
So what does this all mean?
Let's pretend we pick a person who's never heard this song before, but we know he likes this kind of music, so we have him sit down and listen to the song from beginning to end. Afterwards we ask him what he thinks.
"I think it's great!" he says.
"What's so great about it?" we ask.
"Oh, it has a catchy melody...and the lyrics are fantastic!"
"So you like the lyrics? What is it you like about the lyrics?"
He hesitates: "Er...I really don't know - they are just great."
"And what are they about?"
He hesitates again: "I don't know..."
"You like them but you don't know what they mean?"
This is pretty typical for most people. They feel the impact, but don't know exactly why.
OK, then we have this hardcore Dylan fanatic, who spends a month trying to analyze this song. Then, all of a sudden he jumps up and down and yells: "I got it! I got it! I know what Dylan meant with this song!!!"
So let's pretend that this enthusiastic guy for some reason meets with his hero one day and has the opportunity to sit face to face with Bob Dylan. He can't help but mentioning his revelation to the artist.
"Mr. Dylan, I know what the song 'Changing of the Guards' means!"
(I can see Bob Dylan's face in front of me here, bored and with an arrogant expression. He replies): "Oh, really?"
"Yes!" the Dylan fan raves on. "It's about this guy ...blah-blah...". He gives a very precise and concrete interpretation to each line of the song.
If Dylan is in a bad mood, he probably just says:
"No, that's not it." It doesn't matter what conclusion the guy came to.
The guy looks disappointed: "No? So what is it about then?"
"Nothing, really!" is probably what Dylan would say if he didn't feel like explaining himself too much. The guy would most likely feel hurt and irritated, thinking Dylan is just being mean and lying to him, or 'seeing him as ignorant and stupid', but in fact he is probably telling the truth. The words aren't about anything - and that's the beauty, that's the Great Art! Let me explain:
If Dylan had been a little more talkative, he might have elaborated on this. He could have said:
"These lyrics aren't about anything. Don't try to analyze the lyrics to understand what they mean, because the concept of the words don't mean nothing. The important thing is not what the words mean. The question is: what do you see?"
"What do I see? What do you mean by that?" the guy would potentially ask.
"What mental images do you get when you listen to the song? What is the painting behind the words? That's what the song is about!"
Yes, Bob Dylan is a painter; he is painting with words. The words themselves, in context and in relation to each other, don't always mean something concrete. His poetry is like an abstract painting. The words are brush strokes which create an image.
A potential continuation of the conversation between Dylan and his fan might have sounded something like this:
"So what kind of pictures am I supposed to get when I listen to your song?"
Dylan replies: "What pictures are you supposed to get from an abstract painting..?"
The guy is quiet. Dylan continues:
"Let's say we grab ten people from the street and invite them into an art gallery. These people don't know each other and don't know much about abstract art either. So we put them all before a huge abstract painting in the gallery and have them study the painting for 15 minutes. Then we take them aside, one by one, and ask them what they saw in the painting. If you ask all the ten of them, you will probably get ten different answers. That's the beauty with great art - it can be interpreted by each listener or viewer, separately. There is no exact answer as to what the artwork means. It's all in the eyes/ears of the beholder. It's the same with my music. It's not important what I had in mind when I wrote the song; the important thing is what you get out from it. It may, or may not coincide with what I had in mind when I wrote the song, but that's beside the point."
Personally, I have never been able to paint on canvas or create a decent drawing. I always wanted to, but I do not have that talent. Instead I have created music and written articles and stories most of my life. Just like Dylan, I work with pictures. My songs even have different colors, so does my articles.
People sometimes get frustrated with me, because I am normally a slow reader. When an average person has read let's say two pages of something, I am still in the middle of page one. It's not because I have difficulties reading, but I want to get the mental image pictures of what is written on the paper. I want to experience that whenever I can. Therefore, sometimes when I read a paragraph that really stimulates my inner world of images, I may even go back and read the same paragraph again a second time to relive or expand on the experience.
To be honest, this has a downside to it as well, but when I compare pros and cons I still want to continue reading this way and it's probably the only way for me to read, because it's my personality. You see, the funny thing is that even if I read a boring paper that's not supposed to give you anything but a straight message, I still automatically read it slowly to find images there. This is not always ideal, because the person who gave me the paper to read expects me to read it quickly and gets antsy when he/she notices it sometimes takes longer than anticipated.
And this is art to me. If you think of art this way, you can experience it everywhere on a daily basis, wherever you are. Art is in the creation of things and you can learn to see art where other people don't. It can make a very rich and interesting life, particularly on a spiritual level.
In the extension, we should be able to see life itself as art, as an enormous canvas that is under continuous construction; a complex, incomplete painting where we all, as pure spirit, are the artists. The question is, what kind of artwork are we creating? If there would ever be a complete painting of "Life on Earth", would it be a beautiful painting or a terrifying one? It's up to the artists within us all; it's all our responsibility.