A Means To Art: A Personal Essay

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Art changes lives.

Or so they say. Does it really? The evidence is anecdotal, and that’s perfect. Art is subjective and its effect on an individual is psychological, therefore, the evidence must be in testimony. A scientific study would strip art of its liberating effect, reducing it to numbers and theorem. Art is a defiance of logic, but an accentuation of reasoning. It is the adversary to societal norm while it, in turn, encourages order in the minds of those who struggle with the status-quo.

Art is well-known for its therapeutic effect in those who suffer from mental illnesses. It can be the homing beacon for those who need to find their purpose in the universe. It is the iteration of expression in those who struggle with speech and emotion. Art is a refuge, a power, and a guide. It is through art that I was able to endure and succeed.

It showed me that success is measured by an ever-changing criterion; dictated by our preconceptions of the life around us and limited by our own standards. The beauty of art is in its freedom to just be. To be, instead of not to be, is the answer it preaches; an answer to the question millions of adolescents and adults alike find themselves pondering. Who am I? Why am I? What is my purpose?

I am.

I’m a mother, a wife, an author, a researcher, a friend, a woman, a human, and I am an artist. I express through visual art, literature, music, and conversation. Art helped me talk to people. I have always been an introvert; asocial and withdrawn (mind the pun). I didn’t know how to relate to people. I couldn’t understand them. Then I met artists. I met Eugene who showed me, through his paintings in high school, how to reveal myself to the world: be vibrant, have thousands of hues, and embrace it. Art taught me how to accept who and what I am, and how to utilise it in life.

I discovered the writings of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke who showed me, through literature, how to see the world. Art taught me how to be critical and find perspective. It gave me the means with which I am able to help fight depression. I meet artists everywhere, most of whom don’t identify as one; most likely due to a social stigma that surrounds a form as old as history.

Art is a creative inspiration. That perfect throw of a rugby ball? That’s art. That solid scientific model? Art. How can it be art when it’s about equations and philosophy? Art is the passion that drives toward the achieving of that flawless throw or model. My quest for (near) perfection began with imperfect carbon enclosed in a wooden tube: the humble pencil. When the carbon touched paper, it engraved my sorrow; it etched my fears and anxiety. It was the medium through which my anguish and turmoil escaped. It brought me clarity, relief, and contentment.

Did art make me successful? It didn’t, at least not by any expected standard of affluence. I became successful in introspection, self- and social awareness, and in learning how to be content. As far as career is concerned, it is a long journey, but everyone must take it. Mine happens to be something I enjoy pursuing. I learned how to draw. My drawing led me to design. Designing led to graphics and concept art. I applied for freelance art jobs and created a portfolio which further improved my art skills. I now do graphic design work; at home, on my own time. I write and publish science fiction. I create digital paintings as book covers.

If I never found art I would not have acquired my deep appreciation for science, nor have the tools to fight my depression and anxiety. Frankly, I might not have been here anymore. It’s cliché, but art did save my quality of life. It opened the doors to reaching my full potential in knowledge and understanding.

Art helped make me smarter. It guided my mind to the learning of physics (look at false-colour photos of a nebula and stellar nurseries, it’s art!) and biology (ever noticed her eyes? There’s an entire palette in those irises). Art led to the discovery of what I love. It revealed my fascination with learning. Drawing what I learned about helped me understand the world (immune cells at work make Salvador Dali look like a noob).

If it wasn’t for art, I wouldn’t have known how to research (or understand most of what I know today) and, as a result, I would not have written and published my first novel. I would probably be working a 9-to-5 job that I have no satisfaction in doing. A waste of precious time in our short lifespans. Art has given me the freedom to enjoy life; to enjoy hobbies, explore new interests, and sleep in late (toddler-permitting). It freed me from the misconception of happiness through monetary strife. It isn’t easy. Nothing is. But the hardship is worth more than the alternatives.

Art isn’t easy. Nothing is. But the hardship is worth more than the alternatives. It is time to be alive.  Tweet: Art isn’t easy. Nothing is. But the hardship is worth more than the alternatives. It is time to be alive. https://anikekirsten.com/2017/07/13/a-means-to-art-a-personal-essay/ @AnikeKirsten

How can art help you? Why not try it and see for yourself? You don’t have to be born with the gift of drawing straight or curly lines to be an artist (Jackson Pollock), the true requisite is the willingness to explore the world as you have never seen it before. Discover new worlds in the old, ignite the furnace of curiosity.

Success is what you define it to be. Whether it’s personal progress, self-discovery, social awareness, or a change of perspective, it’s all qualitative. What you need to succeed in life are the right tools, and art can guide you to them in ways you would not expect.

It is not enough to survive or live.

It is time to be alive.

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