Before a poet begins his trade, he
must gather tools and refurbish
blades. Technique and struc
ture must be learned, For
a perfect poetry to be
us, in spirit, are
Poetry's Sages these
masters of craft will mentor
our pages. But before we begin
with the tools of the trade, A visit to a
guild in the Renaissance must be made.
The fledgling artist should not experiment with his own style until he has studied his masters and the tools of their trade. - (from the Artist Guild Manual)
Before I introduce a very important tool of our trade, I would like us to go back in time to the Main Room of a Renaissance art guild ...(as we transcend classical concertos of perfection) - Johann Sebastian Bach http://youtu.be/DJh6i-t_I1Q is playing for us on the wings of the wind, as we travel back through time.
Here is where apprentices and masters meet to perfect, practice, develop and expand their trade. What we see before us, are artists copying the very works of their masters: line for line, tool for tool. Some among us may feel uncomfortable watching this type of exercise. Being from the 20th and 21st century, we have been conditioned to think that originality in art is a prerequisite of worth and that anything copied is derivative and petty. But here, and throughout the ages, copying and imitating was how one perfected his craft.
How does one acquire a style, you may ask - only by imitation. In fact, that is how all artists learned and perfected their skills, amazingly, until quite recently this is how it was always done. This does not mean that they did not learn by other means. They learned from observing everyday life, taking inspiration from wherever it could be found and by performing tasks that would condition their hand, mind and eye.
But fundamental technique, design, structure, form, line and stroke were all gained, first and foremost, learning off of others' works of art. They would copy from pieces in churches, frescoes on walls of the city, statues in squares, illustrations in books, where ever they could they would set themselves down and copy.
This custom not only kept them up with new techniques being developed and practiced in other guilds, it taught them fundamentals, basic techniques and the mastership of their trade.
To the post moderns of today, this practice to perfect is a heresy to their artistic spirit. They claim that true art is originality of form and idea, creative flow and immediate release. Here is where their misconception of art begins.
Without skill and technique an artist cannot create a work of art. Without a consensus of what those skills and techniques are there is no language between artist and observer. Without language there is no understanding of expression and without understanding of expression there is no art.
Education by imitation is a natural stage of development for us humans - when we begin to talk, begin to walk, develop behavior patterns and personalities. Yet, we are all different. The same goes for art. Once an artist matures and has perfected his skill he has the tools and knowledge to shape and form, and develops his own unique style.
His/her expertise has given him/her wings to soar in whatever direction and toward whatever heights he/she aims for. In so doing, he/she will create the next stage of development for his/her craft - and the cycle for newcomers to the trade will begin with the added techniques and skills that he/she has contributed.
Change in art, for the most part is slow, as it should be. Like any language the youngest and the oldest of a generation must be able to communicate - hence the boundaries of change. Whole generations of artist are seen working within similar styles, forms and structures, yet, with each new artist there is a new approach and an experimenting of ways. In each age you will find exceptions - those who break protocol. Some succeed in harrowing new roads, but these are rare, most forfeit everything and forever remain unknown.
Let's observe the artisans in the Main Room. Look how they take pride in their artistic tradition. They sit at their workbenches before a painting of one of the masters of the guild. They are all copying onto their canvas, an imitation of their master's work of art; yet, each copy is an original in its own right. Naturally each has his own perspective, flexibility of hand and mind that is being brought to the creation of this "imitation". Aaaahhh! Here is where their personal style is beginning to take shape - in the practice.
Walk around. Look at their faces; they are proud of their training. Yes, they themselves get up, walk around, and comment on their peers' practice - commenting, critiquing and praising as they pass. They are uninhibited by their peers, they welcome very word. They know that before they can wear the title artist, they must perfect their trade and it is here, in the Main Room with their peers that they will succeed in doing so.
Look again, you can see that these apprentices are not automatons duplicating a master work, they are exploring through their lines different degrees of pressure, they are inventing different approaches to color and canvas, and they are experimenting with shadow and light. Their conditioning has brought them to this moment of creative thought and innovation. The tools, structure and form they have acquired and the respect and admiration for the art of their ancestors and their contemporaries has brought them to this very moment. Here is where we will leave our hosts and return to our own Main Room, the Writing Room.
What we have just witnessed is of remarkable importance. There was no separation of art and craft; rather, art was achieved only through craft.
In today's post-modern world, art is considered a creation of personal expression, a calling, an individual endeavor fashioned by a talent that one is born with. In so being, craftsmanship and quality have been set aside, in the name of "freedom" of expression. It is true, that every human being possesses the potential to be an artist, we all conjure individual and creative thought, manipulate the imagination, experience emotion and a need to express ourselves, but this need is not art. We lack the tools and techniques to give them shape and form.
Whereas, the brief visit to the Main Room in the guild has shown our post modern minds that whoever, no matter what their background, birth right or potential, chooses to learn and perfect his/her craft, he/she will be awarded the title of artist.
And with that said, to be an artist is one thing, to be good or great is another. Here is where your "inner you" comes into play. Extraordinary artists are driven. They have an inner force to perfect themselves and their craft beyond perfection. They are inspired by inspiration itself. They dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their art and to their craft.
In this post modern poem posting pandemonium, our art and our craft are being pixelled to shame. The new age "quick fix post a pic" mentality must be shackled and spurned. So that a new generation of true poets can claim - a renaissance of reason and rhyme will give poetry back its good name.