Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Misunderstood Art Of Artistry

The term “artist” gets thrown around quite a lot.  Nowadays, every creator seems to be a self-proclaimed artist, or is otherwise referred to as such by others.  Well, appearances to the contrary, everyone is not an artist.  Some are.  Many aren’t.  Moreover, a sizable portion of us don’t even seem to have an accurate conception of what artistry entails.

The dictionary would have you believe that an artist is one who creates or performs art, or is habitually engaged or skilled in a creative practice.  This is complete nonsense.  I don’t know any genuine artist that would agree with this definition.  While there is a logical simplicity to concluding that anyone who makes art is an artist, in actuality, the term “artist" is reserved for a specific type of individual that creates art.  They are not simply writers, musicians, painters, dancers, etc…they are something that goes beyond the underlying mechanics involved, and beyond mere entertainment.

One of my pet peeves is when a judge on a show like American Idol asks a contestant, "What kind of artist do you want to be?”  To ask this question, and to answer it, is to fundamentally misunderstand the term in question.  You cannot choose what kind of artist you want to be.  You simply are an artist, or you're not.  This is to say, to be an artist is to have a specific mindset and psychology.  The real question being asked here is “what kind of entertainer do you want to be?”  This is an intelligible question, and one that can be answered.

The misunderstanding of what an artist is, and the routine conflation between an artist and an entertainer, is now ubiquitous throughout the music industry and the general public.  From a listener’s perspective, the distinction may be inconsequential, and using the terms synonymously provides a convenience within casual conversation.  However, there is a danger in allowing the boundary between these classes to remain blurred, for in so doing we risk forgetting that they actually are two separate things, the substance of which matters.  This is more than just semantics - because the motivation for why someone creates art influences the resulting art.  As a creator, it is important to know who you are, and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

An artist creates that which they are compelled to create.  Their creation may or may not resonate with you.  You may or may not enjoy it.  It may or may not be what you would like to hear or see.  But such is of no creative consequence to the artist.  They are seeking to capture a vision; to express something that demands expression; to translate feelings or ideas in a way that is inherently self-satisfying.

An entertainer, on the other hand, creates that which they think you will like.  They are creatively concerned with the opinions of others, and seek to mold their creation in accordance with outside expectations and/or predicted reactions.  This type of individual is often popularly referred to as a "commercial artist”, though this is an inadequate characterization, as will become clear.

Artists are human beings of course, and few enjoy having their work (or themselves) criticized or ridiculed.  But while an artist may hope their work resonates with you, and be intensely disappointed if it doesn’t, ultimately outside praise or lack thereof has no impact on the merits of their efforts.  The opposite holds true with entertainers, as their legitimacy lives or dies based on outside opinion - if the audience is not engaged, their efforts have been in vain.

One might be tempted to conclude from these descriptions that I am insinuating artists are superior to entertainers.  This is not so!  The world needs both artists and entertainers, as they serve different but equally important functions.  

One might also confuse a discussion about creators with that of their resulting creations.  To be clear, we’re discussing the former, not the latter.  So we don’t need to debate whether the byproduct of a creator is or isn’t art, or if it’s good or bad, etc.  Those are subjective determinations that will vary from person to person.  But whether the creator is an artist is not subjective.  That is a fact.  It may be a fact we are not privy to, or one that we suspect but can’t be certain of, but there is no debating that every creator has a set of intentions and motivations, whatever they may be.  And I contend there is merit to unpacking these, both as consumers and creators - for it fosters clearer conceptions of what artistry entails, which ultimately serves to enhance both the creation of art and our appreciation for it.

With all of that said, there is some additional nuance and confusion to the artist / entertainer analysis, which I will now address.

Let’s start with money.  Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art.  However, money will not factor into the artistic process of the artist - if it is considered at all, it will be an afterthought, with no actual creative influence.  In contrast, the entertainer can be (and often is) motivated to create art specifically in order to make money, wherein creative decisions are designed to ensure and/or maximize appeal and profitability.  So the monetization of art in and of itself is not sufficiently revealing - it’s whether monetization plays a causal role within the art’s creation.  There is nothing wrong with creating art for the purpose of financial gain, but such a person is not an artist.

With respect to a “commercial artist”, this is an acceptable and coherent designation only if a genuine artist is making a living off of their art.  Culturally, it often involves a pejorative connotation, in which a commercial artist is not seen as a true artist, or one that has sold out, etc.  But this connotation is really a misplaced reaction to the common merging of artists and entertainers as being one and the same - once you parse out that confusion, there is a perfectly respectable place for a commercial artist to exist.  On the flip-side, it makes absolutely no sense to ever refer to an entertainer as a commercial artist - they are certainly commercial, but certainly not artists.

Next up, fans.  Artists and entertainers can both perform their music for fans, and take sincere pleasure, fulfillment, and inspiration from the impact their music has on other people.  However, if you’re making music for your fans, then you are not an artist…you’re an entertainer.  The same applies if you make creative decisions based on what your fans want to hear (or what you think they want to hear).  There is nothing wrong with catering one's art to meet with outside expectations…but such disqualifies you as being an artist.

Sometimes performers or musicians get referred to as artists (e.g. “he is a true artist with that violin”), but this is a different usage of the term.  While there certainly is an awe-inspiring mastery involved in compelling musicianship and performing, this is not the same thing as being an artist.  As breathtakingly skilled and uniquely expressive as they may be, performers and musicians are interpreting art; not creating it.  The world needs these people, without question - it’s simply inaccurate to label them artists.

Being an artist doesn’t mean you can’t be influenced by the art of others.  We live in an interconnected world, and nothing (including you) exists in pure isolation.  But an artist does not attempt to be or sound like anything other than who they are.  Artists take inspiration from others; entertainers imitate others.  While some say imitation is the greatest from of flattery, to an artist, such is a wasted opportunity for authentic self-expression.  Celebrate and revere your idols and influences…but if you’re trying to become them, you are not an artist.

Being an artist also doesn’t prevent you from taking the advice of others, or implementing outside suggestions…so long as you genuinely find such suggestions artistically compelling.  Of course, many an artist work in isolation, but plenty have sought input from others which they have taken into creative consideration.  Now, if you make changes based on the opinions of others, despite not artistically agreeing with them, well then you have quite obviously compromised your artistry.  This doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just the fact of the matter.

Furthermore, being an artist doesn’t prevent you from enlisting the assistance of others (e.g. utilizing skilled experts, such as musicians, mixing or mastering engineers, etc)…so long as you remain in creative control and tied to the process.  That being said, if you’re outsourcing all of the composing and songwriting, there’s obviously nothing left in which your artistry can subsist - in that case, you are a performer, or possibly even an entertainment brand.  You might be popularly referred to as a “recording artist”, but as with “commercial artist” discussed above, such a designation can only be applied to an actual artist that records their own music - if you’re recording the music of others, you’re clearly not an artist.

Is being a true artist mutually exclusive with collaboration?  The answer depends on what the motivation is for collaborating.  If you’re doing it to gain new fans via cross-promotion, maintain relevancy, etc, then you’re functioning as a promoter and entertainer.  If you share a creative vision with someone, or are compelled to explore where a collaboration will lead, then you are functioning as an artist (despite potentially having to compromise on various creative decisions / executions therein).

In addition, an artist can experiment with methods, styles, instrumentation, collaboration, etc that might not deeply appeal to them, for the purposes of learning and discovery; but an artist would never release anything that was not truly representative of them.  So exploration in and of itself is not a disqualification of artistry.  I might be curious about jazz music and begin experimenting with the genre.  It might prove interesting in various ways; I might learn a lot; I might be creative in how I navigate the tonal landscape; but if my efforts to make a jazz album are not based on an authentic connection to the music, then I am not being an artist.  Having said that, I might ultimately stumble upon something that keeps me glued to the process; some aspect of jazz that surprisingly won’t let go, and which compels me to go further - in that case, such will have become an artistic endeavor.  

Then there is the matter of work-for-hire composers and writers.  Are these individuals artists?  If you are creating, modifying, or tempering your work in order to satisfy someone else (e.g. director, producer, etc), or for the benefit of your resume, or to expand your network, or for the paycheck, etc, then obviously you are not an artist (you’re essentially a craftsman).  However, to the extent that a work-for-hire creator is genuinely collaborating with their employer(s), or is given free reign to do as they see fit, and the nature of the content truly resonates with them, then they are absolutely functioning as an artist.  Even though many work-for-hire endeavors are in response to someone else’s vision (e.g. a brief, film, screenplay, etc), such doesn’t automatically negate legitimate artistry, for it is really no different than responding to any other outside stimulus, event, or experience in one’s life, and it doesn’t matter where artistic inspiration originates.  That being said, if you’re working on something that you honestly don’t give a shit about, then regardless of how creative you may be, your efforts have nothing to do with artistry.

Lastly, there is the question of whether it’s possible to be both an artist and an entertainer.  With respect to the creation of art, the answer is NO!  Having said that, an artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes (e.g. touring / performing for fans and money, engaging in promotion, etc).  An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsman, in order to make ends meet financially.  Similarly, an entertainer might stumble upon a song that really speaks to them, and which they pursue artistically, in contrast to their normal affairs.  In other words, a person might travel back and forth between both domains, but at any given creative point, you can only exist in one or the other.  There is no artist-entertainer continuum, and there are no degrees of artistry - you’re all in, or all out.

In summary, one’s identity as an artist fundamentally turns on the nature of their creative process - what are they seeking to accomplish, and why?  If you are creating art as a means to an end, you are not an artist.  If you are creating art because you are compelled to do so, solely as an end unto itself, then you are.  This principle can be broadly applied to any activity or enterprise.  It is what separates a chef from a cook; a martial artist from a prizefighter; etc.  It’s also worth reiterating that every facet of the arts has its place.  Artists, entertainers, craftsman, musicians, performers - they all play a role in enriching the human experience.  Being an artist doesn’t make you more important - but the importance of artistry cannot be overstated.  So if you happen to be among those infused with artistic spirit, I implore you to stay true to that spirit.  You can’t choose to be an artist - artistry chooses you - but you can choose whether or not to honor it.  For those in the position to do so, I sincerely hope you will.


  1. Can you be a true artist in multiple passions; such as a sport, music, etc.? Or is true artistry attained when you have become solely entwined as one with a single passion?

    1. You can most certainly be an artist in multiple domains - it has nothing to do with a narrow scope, but rather, the nature of the relationship with one’s passion(s). But don’t confuse artistry with mastery. One could argue that true mastery requires a singleminded dedication to refining and improving a single skill at the expense of all others. This might be valid in the context of being the greatest of all time in a specific respect. But one could also argue that a multidisciplinary approach more broadly informs how to apply any given skill, or that refining a variety of skills ultimately interacts with and reinforces each other, to the benefit and enhancement of one’s overall mastery. Regardless, being a true artist in no way guarantees mastery…but some degree of mastery is certainly entailed in compelling artistry.

  2. Artistry to me means submerging oneself into his interests , originate the thoughts no one has ever thought , more like his way of life... Da Vinci was an artist

    1. I think what you’re describing can be a natural consequence of artistry (as opposed to its defining principle)

    2. Hmmm...(realising) it's subjective .... There is no definition for art or artist ,so it's all in the way one perceives.or maybe to what extent one is influenced .you are an artist since I'm moved by your music and the lyrics makes me think. You don't have to accept or deny it cause it's my opinion .if someone argues that Zack hemsey is not an artist , you can't disapprove it either as he is not able to relate to your can anyone change how one feels.

    3. This misses the point. It doesn’t matter whether or not I can prove or disprove someone who claims that they or someone else is an artist. What matters is that I know what it means to be an artist in the first place. This is not subjective. I would grant you that many might claim a definition of artistry is subjective, but I would respectfully disagree - art and artistry are two separate things, and while the former may be subjective, the latter is most certainly not.

      To be clear, asserting that someone other than yourself is or isn't an artist is subjective, but the definition of artistry itself is not subjective. So once I understand what artistry is, along with the differences between an artist, entertainer, craftsman, etc, then I am in a position to reflect on where it is within those realms that I personally live, and such clarity allows me to be more effective in my creative pursuits (whichever realm they happen to fall into). And even if you submit an alternate definition of artistry, it would not change the fact that each of these different classes of creators exist, whatever you want to call them, and the nature of those differences matter.

    4. Thank you..even though you have not defined artistry you have led us to negative definition of who isn't an artist.

    5. Paragraph 5 and the last paragraph are direct definitions (devoid of negatives). Or are you implying that artistry entails something other than what it means to be an artist?

    6. I didn't intend to imply anything... But since you ask yes ,as pointed out by you ,artistry is larger than artist .There should be some room for doubt so that people can decide for themselves what an art is.

    7. Ah, ok. It seems we’re on different pages. I don’t know what it means for artistry to be larger than the artist - as far as I can tell, artistry is precisely what it means to be an artist. So I’m failing to see what could constitute artistry in the absence of the artist.

  3. This is an incredible read, and I am glad to have found it. Life-changing. Thank you for your insightful comments on this topic that needs to be discussed more often.

  4. Basically what you are trying to do is to separate an artist from an entertainer.

    Sure, that is possible. Like this, in text and in theory.
    In practice? Not sure.

    As hooker wants to be labeled as "escort" or "starlet", chubby person wants to be big boned, so an entertainer wants to be called "an artist".

    And the problem this works so well (compared to other cases) is because fans want to be "fans of an artist" and not "fans of an entertainer".
    It is codependent relationship that might be hard to break forcefully. I think we might just need to wait for it to collapse on itself.

    1. I’m not trying to separate artists and entertainers - they already are separate - they’re intrinsically different things. I’m simply communicating the essence of what they are.

      What someone wants to be perceived as is irrelevant. How others actually perceive them is also irrelevant. That we know the real meaning of the terms in question is what is essential, regardless of how someone chooses to apply them (or wishes for them to applied).

    2. "That we know the real meaning of the terms in question is what is essential"

      Who is "WE"?

      Because, in my opinion, people who dipped only one toe into the creative stream inside them don't require this explanation.

      To others, unaware of that source, sure they can understand it logically and distinguish artist from an entertainer based on that knowledge. But it requires a level of openness.

      So, what remains is maybe importance of all of us to use those terms properly.
      I will be the first one to admit that I don't do that. That even when I know that in fact someone is an "entertainer" in conversation I use the label "artist". I rationalize that to myself by belief that people who know the difference the term used won't be important. And to others won't matter.
      Maybe that makes me a conspirator in these times.

      So what I'm asking is: what is the point of this text?
      Not to say that it does not have a point or that it should have. But that I don't understand your goal behind it. Was it just "thoughts & ramblings" (the former not the latter; as you like to put it :) or was it meant to promote the usage of those labels (and to whom?) or maybe something else or nothing entirely.

    3. “We” refers to those engaged and/or interested in creative efforts.

      I can’t speak to what people require or don’t require. All I can say is many exhibit an ignorance of what artistry is.

      As to the point of the text, what’s the point of anything? What’s the point of your comment? :)

      Of course, many people don’t care about any of this. That’s totally fine. But for those that care about art, the contents of this article are relevant to understanding the elements that underpin its creation.

    4. Allow me to write that I realize my comments might have no ground since I have very limited knowledge, but still this is Internet and it allows me to write whatever I want :)
      And now I will try to explain "the point" of my comment.

      While reading your text I could not shake the feeling that behind it is your need to differentiate everything non-artist from yourself.
      Maybe secondary thing is that separation of terms and labels, but the primary goal seems like clearing your label from whatever is wrongly put under it.

      That which compels the artist to create may also influence his "thoughts & ramblings", and in that way artist's work and his blog are strongly interconnected.
      Not sure interconnectedness on that level exists between an entertainer and his blog.
      And the peek into an artist's thoughts, in form of a blog, might give a new level
      of understanding his art.

      And lastly, why I find it curious. Because you are already separate. Your work separates you more than any label or dictionary definition can ever achieve.
      Because true art goes further from "art" as a term. Like any great things usually do.
      Yes, we can talk about the importance of labels, how it's our basic human instinct, and how that helped us, but now maybe instead of strengthening those terms, we might want to promote seeing things as they are, behind the term assigned to it (by us, by creator or by anyone else). And in that "you are separate but still trying to separate" I find the curious part.

      And definitely lastly, because rarely any point goes beside myself or my experience, I would be white-lying to say that is the whole point.
      I find myself to be an artist, my primary profession is programming. And if anything, I struggled with the terms.
      Because if you ask "the many" programming is probably the furthest from art. And in some stages of my development, I too accepted that unquestioned understanding.

      But eventually it got questioned, and I realized that I will not be an "artist" or "programmer" or "software engineer" as my LinkedIn profile says. I will just be.
      And when I communicate with that compelling force and create something, I will not say it is art. It is what it is. (Reading this again sounds too vague, but not sure how else to describe it)

      So since our stances are different to a large degree, I found myself wondering if I have gone too far. If I just ran from the definitions too soon. And even if I find true what I wrote above, maybe that is my rationalization to give up on .... something.

      Because, maybe if I write (talk, promote) a post about the creativity, art & programming, someone who was in a similar position as I was, might question if his profession really does not allow artistry to be expressed thru it. And it helps someone in that way.

      So basically just comparing my (possibly apathetic) stance, to a stance of another whose work I value (and trying to be objective in the process). And that is the point as far as I can see it.
      (this got long fast)

    5. By all means, speak your mind :)

      You are projecting motivations for writing the article that are not my own - this was not an attempt by me to clear my name, or anything along those lines. It certainly is the case that at times my creative efforts are misperceived to be something other than what they actually are, but that is both out of my control and ultimately not important.

      Having said that, it is valid to say that my creative mindset holds sway in both my music and my writing on this blog, and therein, it is valid to conclude that this issue is important to me. But it’s not important with respect to the labels themselves, or with respect to separating myself out of incorrect labels and into correct ones in the eyes of others. It’s important to me with respect to cultivating an understanding of what artistry is, in and of itself, even if you don’t think it applies to me specifically.

      I wholeheartedly agree that compelling art transcends the terms placed upon it, and in this way, it is completely irrelevant what we call those who create such art (or the art itself). However, that is not the same thing as saying there is no benefit to understanding the forces that shape its creation. In other words, in the case of music, a listener doesn’t need a proper understanding of artistry to be moved by a song, and knowing whether the creator of that song is truly an artist or an entertainer will in no way undermine the influence of, or connection with, the song in question…but again, that does not mean that such knowledge is of no value to the listener.

      Thus, the purpose of sorting out the confusion and arriving at a true understanding of artistry, entertainment, craftsmanship, performing isn't so that you can reevaluate the music you love or hate, and then potentially feel differently about it - rather, it’s to gain clarity about the creative process in the abstract sense, which in my opinion, deepens our capacity to create and appreciate art.

      As far as programming is concerned, I see no reason why the principles contained within this article cannot be applied to that field.

    6. Fair enough, that is one good answer :)

      And yes, I didn't mean that principles contained within this article could not be applied to programming. On the contrary, article is very well written, in such way that can be applied to probably all forms of art and artists.
      English is not my mother tongue, so maybe something got lost in the translation.

      Looking forward to your future articles, and when I get a chance I will go over previous ones.

    7. Sounds good. We have reached a consensus!

  5. It seems to me, you've left out an important part of the discussion. Craft. An "artist" with no knowledge of craft will not produce "art." Sometimes artists learn craft quite naturally by using their five senses, but most "artists" spend years learning their craft. The great painters would not have produced great "art" without learning to mix paints, shading techniques, and study of their objects to be painted. "Art" requires skill, and skill comes from learning the craft.

    1. On the contrary. Craft / skill / mastery of technique / etc is not a condition of artistry - it’s a condition of compelling artistry. Big difference.

      Learning craft is a natural consequence of artistry. It is hard to imagine an artist who wouldn't automatically by default be spending time refining their skills.

      Regardless, analyzing whether a painter with poor craft produces art is misguided. The conditions of artistry have nothing to do with the byproduct of artistry. This is why art (even compelling art) can be created by non-artists (e.g. designers, entertainers, etc). But whether the byproduct of artists and non-artists is compelling to others is certainly contingent on the level of skill / craft possessed by the creator.

      So the greats may have become great after having devoted decades to their craft...but if they were artists, they were artists the entire time, right from the beginning.

  6. Hi Zack, I enjoy your writings and congratulate you for the clear and well-thought way you can express yourself. Considering your music style, it's striking me all the more as something I was not expecting (although without legitimate reason, I know) and I find that those two aspects (your music and your writing) of your personality not only mutually reinforce each other but also increase even more my interest for your work. ;-)

    That being said (I'm not planning to come by often to read your blog so I thought now what the opportunity to slip a tiny compliment all the same), here's another approach on that debate I thought I could share:

    It first appeared to me that, when you said: "Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art." (§11) and then "an artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes (e.g. touring / performing for fans and money, engaging in promotion, etc). An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsman, in order to make ends meet financially." (§21), you contradicted yourself, in a way.

    In effect, on the one hand you acknowledge that both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art; but on the other, you say that an artist can BEHAVE LIKE (not BE) an entertainer specifically when seeking to make money from their art.

    This distinction is important as you later say: "a person might travel back and forth between both domains, but at any given creative point, you can only exist in one or the other."

    This is confusing as what you first say implies that, when you are an artist (because you know why you do what you do and it is purely for the purpose of the/your art and nothing else), you will remain an artist after your art is finished and will only ACT LIKE an entertainer if you try to make money out of it; thus impling that being an artist is a philosophy of life that remains as long as one is true to oneself and that doesn't totally disappear when the more practical aspects of the business take place. And then, what you say second implies that you can only be one or the other at the same time. To me, this is a contradiction.

    But then, I realised that those two different utterances may actually translate a more important question than that: wouldn't it be that the true question is in fact whether it makes sense or not to use the very term "artist" for describing a person?

    As far as I've understood what your point is (and being a non-native English speaker, that could very well be the case - so please forgive me if I got you wrong), the "artistry" true nature only occur during the creative process, as the reason this process is undertaken defines whether it belongs to artistry or not.

    This then raises the following question: can someone really be an artist or does artistry only apply to the creative process, and not to the person who undertake this process?

    If so, then every creator can only be an entertainer (or craftsman - to tell the truth, I didn't quite catch the difference between the two as you use them in your text) having created their artistic product with or without artistry.

    Now, don't get me wrong. My point was neither to pinpoint some lacking in your thoughts, nor to demonstrate that you are wrong or anything. Besides, I'd like to add that I'm not a fanatic and neither want to impose nor are ready myself to adapt the language in this way. But that was just an additional thought on the subject I thought you might find somewhat interesting.

    Sorry for the length of this message and for any clumsy sentence I might have written without noticing (or being aware of) its awkwardness. Let me know if you needed me to clarify something; I'll do my very best if so.

    Best regards and keep writing notes (in every sense of the word)!

    Greetings from Belgium,

    1. I appreciate the compliment, and the input. Allow me to clarify the confusion:

      “Both artists and entertainers can seek to make money from their art” - the difference is whether money plays a causal role in the creative process (for the artist it doesn’t).

      “An artist can certainly parallel the behavior of an entertainer after the creative process concludes” - this is saying that an artist can behave like an entertainer after the fact (e.g. create an album of music, as an artist, and then sell or perform it for fans).

      “An artist might also consciously step into the role of an entertainer or craftsmen, in order to make ends meet financially” - this is referring to an artist who knowingly abandons their artistry - a creator who is an artist by nature but chooses to put their artistry aside in order to pay the bills (e.g. create a song according to popular trends, rather than what truly resonates with them; or taking a gig they don’t actually care about, which could be something like writing music for a commercial). This is not behaving like an entertainer / craftsman; it’s actually being one - it’s creating art as a means to an end - so in this example, the artist is no longer an artist.

      It is the case that artistry turns on the nature of the creative process (not the art itself, nor what happens after the art is created). And it is the case that one can travel between both domains, but can only exist in one at any given creative point. There is no contradiction here. It simply means that for any creative work (song, album, etc), the creator either meets the criteria for artistry or does not (i.e. they either created the work because they were compelled to as an end unto itself, or it was a means to an end). So a creator may meet the criteria for these 2 works, and then not meet the criteria for those 2 works. I think it’s probably fair to say that creators with artistic inclinations will stay true to those inclinations to the best of their ability. Some creators are artists through the entirety of their life’s work. But artists have to eat, and for some, that can necessitate taking off their artist hat (either temporarily or permanently). An artist might also abandon or ignore their innate artistry out of fear, pressure, insecurity, etc.

      As for the difference between an entertainer and a craftsman, the entertainer creates what they think you want to hear, whereas the craftsman creates what they are hired to create. There is a similarity between the two insofar as both lack artistry (not to be confused with lacking creativity). But entertainers function as independent creators, while craftsman provide custom creation for clients.

      And as for whether it makes sense to describe people using the term “artist"…artistry refers to a specific type of creative process - those that embody that process are artists. Makes sense to me. :) In your example, there would be entertainers with artistry and entertainers without artistry. Seems a lot less confusing to simply call entertainers with artistry “artists”, and those without “entertainers”!

    2. Hello Zack!

      Thank you very much for your reply. It's rare enough that an artist (I think we can both agree that you consider yourself as one ^^) takes so much time writing posts and even more replying to comments posted by fans or passing-by netizens; so thank you for that.

      I appreciate, too, how you always reply with a clear mind and a very structured discourse. Such an academic written behaviour makes me think that you went to College or University (and if you didn't, please take this as a true compliment).

      But let's cut the digression (a bad habit I tend to have).

      All your clarifications did their job in my better understanding of your point of view; and I thank you again for that. However, on the last paragraph, where you address your understanding of what I said, something let me sense I didn't quite make myself clear enough.

      When I questioned whether it made sense or not to describe people as "artist" or not, what I actually meant was this:
      maybe we could consider that one can only be an artist during the creative process, and then, when such process is over, seizes to be an artist and becomes a "creator" (i.e. entertainer, craftsman or whatever).

      This way, the term "artist" would lose its meaning of someone who remains true to themselves at any time (including outside the creative process) which causes, imho, two problems: 1° such meaning makes the concept of artist way too elitist, which itself can harm the perception people can have of artists (which is sad and can be depressing for artists); 2° such meaning can make artists believe they don't have the right to seek to make money from their creations because they would then lose their status as "artists" (although you said yourself quite rightly that it is not the case, the very fact you thought necessary to say it means that it's something that is not clear to anyone, including to the artists themselves).

      I honestly think it would not be such a bad idea.

    3. Yet, as an afterthought, another problem would then remain. How could me make the distinction between someone who was an artist at the time of creation and someone who was not, once creation is over and the artistic products are finished? I agree that there should be something in the language to differentiate them.

      So, maybe we could consider that, as long as the creative process for a particular piece of work implied artistry, its creator not only was an artist at the time of creation but can remain an artist afterwards, but only for that particular product.

      For example, let's say a composer creates a song for themselves and posts it on the Web. An advertising company hears the song and decides to contact the composer to include it in their new advert. We could then consider that the composer was an artist at the time of creation; but remains so even though their product is being used for a commercial purpose, and will remain so even if they then decide to take part in the marketing process of spreading the word about that ad which uses their artistic product.

      However, thinking out loud, we could add to our example that, at the exact same time, this same composer composed as well a jingle specifically designed for another ad because they took the order from another advertising company. I think you will agree that this composer was neither an artist during the creative process nor were they after the product was delivered.

      This shows in fact that one can well be both artist and not artist at the same given time. Simply because, actually, it seems that the notion of "artist" has to go hand in hand with a specific product and can only apply to one product at a time.

      In conclusion, I'd say that:
      - one is an artist during the creative process if their means is purely artistic;
      - one remains an artist as long as the creative process is not over (on the condition that the means remains, too, purely artistic);
      - one will remain an artist for that particular product they created during this process, whatever happens to either the creator or the product;
      - one cannot be an artist for a product on the only basis that they were artist for another product.

      Or, in only two sentences:
      1) One can only be an artist if the sole means during the creative process for that production was purely artistic.
      2) One is an artist only for one particular artistic production at a time but, once they are, they will remain so for ever for that particular production.

      Now, as far as I am concerned, this conclusion serves the only purpose of giving input to the semantic debate. Seeing how you think, write and reply, I thought it would be great to have an educated chat about a difficult topic as this one, just for the sake of the dialectics (and thought you would not be opposed to the idea yourself - sorry if I was wrong).

      As for the more human aspect of it, I tend to agree with you and consider that being an artist is more a state of mind a person has in their life and that it can only make sense from oneself to oneself. In other words, being an artist is something only oneself can do, not others.

      Thank you for having been such a delightful interlocutor. ;-)

    4. It’s not just artistry that is determined by the nature of the creative process. All of the identities are. An entertainer is an entertainer in virtue of the nature of their creative process, just like the artist. Same for the craftsman. They each have different reasons / intentions for creating art, which directly affects the creative choices they make. As such, there is no clarity or benefit (only confusion) to be had by attempting to cross terms (as you had suggested someone being an artist during the creative process, then becoming an entertainer).

      Furthermore, you are getting caught up on whether or not you can accurately determine if someone else is an artist. That is a red herring, and doesn’t really matter. The point is to know what artistry is, in and of itself, regardless of who it may or may not apply to. And it's important for a creator to understand who they are (and to that end, there’s nothing getting in the way of assessing one’s self).

      Regarding your composer example, you have correctly pointed out how they would have functioned as an artist in one case and a craftsman in the other. However, nothing about this suggests that the composer was both simultaneously. They might have been generally working on both projects concurrently, but unless they are a mystical creature, they can only be actively working on one thing at any specific point. So even if the composer repeatedly bounced back and forth between the two projects, they would be jumping between artist / craftsman every time they switched from one project to the other.

      Lastly, as I say in the article, this is more than semantics, because the motivation for why someone creates art influences the resulting art.

    5. Damn, I wish there was a quoting feature on Blogger, that would make things easier. Yet, I've just noticed the good old HTML tags and do work so, I'll got with that.

      It’s not just artistry that is determined by the nature of the creative process.
      Of course it isn't, and I've never meant it was. What I said was probably a too shortened way of saying that the determination of whether one is an artist, entertainer or crafstman occurs during the creative process on the basis of what goals such process is trying to achieve or what urged one to undertake it. We do agree on that point.

      As such, there is no clarity or benefit (only confusion) to be had by attempting to cross terms
      No clarity, I definitely agree. As I said in my last two paragraphs, all my argumentation in favour of such term-crossing served no other purpose than the one of discussing the semantic aspect of the topic, in a dialectical way.

      Still, I tend to disagree with you on the "no benefit" part of your assertion. I'm still convinced that my proposition would solve some problems (on which I won't come back as it would be pointless). The thing is, though, that the amount of problems it could solve would probably not be higher than the one of other problems it would raise. So, again, we both agree on the final result here, just not on how to express it.

      you are getting caught up on whether or not you can accurately determine if someone else is an artist.
      Again, I agree that doing so doesn't make much sense. And I did actually say it on my last paragraph: "In other words, being an artist is something only oneself can do, not others."
      So, once again, we do agree on that. There's not point in calling someone else an artist as a creator can only know on their inner self whether or not they satisfy to the conditions for being an artist, at a particular given time.

    6. However, nothing about this suggests that the composer was both simultaneously.
      There, I think the key point to understand what you mean (and I agree that I failed to take it into account on my previous post) is that there is no point in calling someone else an artist.

      Because if there were a point in that, I perfectly see why a creator could be an artist and an entertainer at the exact same time. Simply because it would depend on who's calling that creator an artist.

      Yet, since it is impossible to call someone else an artist (as it doesn't make any sense), the creator themselves know whether they are an artist or not 1) at a particular time and 2) on a particular project.

      Now that I've understood that, again, I do agree with you.
      Which leads to the conclusion that, in fact, I might well not have been too far from your point when I initially said "wouldn't it be that the true question is in fact whether it makes sense or not to use the very term "artist" for describing a person?"

      In effect, I said "describing a person" as in someone calling someone else an artist. Although, my current understanding of what was my understanding at that time is a bit confused (because that understanding was a bit confused itself then), so I won't expand on that.

      Lastly, as I say in the article, this is more than semantics
      Lastly (btw, thank you for teaching me that this word could also mean "finally" while I until now thought it could only mean "recently"), I kinda foresaw that you would bring back the fact that you said that in your article.

      I was well aware of this and, don't worry, I understand why you said it.

      This topic is obviously very important for you (and, though in a lesser way, to me as well as I feel more than often myself as well as an artist) and I'm sorry if I made you lose a bit of your time trying to clarify things with me.

      The truth is that, when I was reading your article, I sensed we agreed on most of the points but there was still a little something that I wasn't quite sure of catching, either on your reasoning or on my own reasoning.

      Putting mine on the paper and confronting it with yours helped me to identify that missing piece and, once again, I thank you for your help and your time.

      You've just added (to my eyes, at least) teaching to your numerous other skills. ;-)

      I'll let you be for now and, if you'd be interested in visiting my amateur photoblog (mostly in French, though), please be my guest. :-)

      PS: Sorry for having twice forgot to click on "Reply", hence my two deleted comments. Silly me...

  7. Firstly, thanks for your very interesting thoughts on that matter. I thought a lot about that too, because it hurts to see how no one gives a shit about A Monster Calls while Marvel is controversy #1. While, at the same time, a lot of the very same people complain about lack of originality and inspiration. Ugh. :b

    What I have to add (doesn't necessarily contradicts with your words):
    Per definition of the words, I agree with you; I sure do. There's one thing which separates a Charlie Kaufman from a Joe Russo: reason. When Kaufman is writing, directing a new flick, he certainly doesn't do it to get praise, fame, money. His last movie even had more costs than box office. Interestingly enough, he still got someone to produce it. Yay.

    Still. STILL, the Russos or Joss Whedon or whoever have their own style. Or, even better, Christopher Nolan. He has a very interesting position in Hollywood because his movies aren't exactly what you'd call "made for mainstream". Inception for example.

    He makes compromises. Inception is a blockbuster, and as that, he has to comply with certain requirements. Thus, the last third of the movie is more action and even more action, the end is most definitely made to become a controversy.

    Now is he an artist, because he does his thing, or an entertainer, because he fulfills certain requirements?

    Compromises. He established himself in Hollywood. He did. That's why his compromises aren't THAT big because his art is compelling. But there are some. Think of Martin Scorsese. He does his thing. He DOES. The Wolf of Wall Street, Shutter Island. The mainstream loves it, hence, the industry does too. Now he made Silence, a movie which never, NEVER was expected to get that much money. Scorsese knew that. It was his big heart project. Still, I feel like the studio didn't. Because they won't produce his new movie. He didn't make ONE compromise for Silence. I'm sure the studios love originality and art, but they surely love money more. The studios, not necessarily the individuals who run it, to get that straight. That's sad, but, well, that's how it is.

    It's the same with Snyder's Batman v Superman. They don't want him anymore, and he had to make a lot more compromises for Justice League. Marvel left that world a long time ago.

    If you make a Marvel flick, you have to do a LOT of compromises. Happy end, of course. No one dies, the characters shouldn't change that much (except the death is planned in another movie by the producers(!)). That's why James Gunn wants his Guardians to be independent. So that he has only few compromises.

    So I'm talking circles now. My point is, I'd call Nolan or Snyder (fun fact; I always accidently write Hemsey instead of Snyder, ugh!) artists. I do. As much as I'd call Charlie Kaufman or Tomm Moore artists. Because they want to express themselves, but they made some ... sacrifices for it. To get the "needed" money for their vision. THEIR vision.

    If you don't do compromises, you're like Charlie Kaufman. You have fans, a lot of them, but a lot of difficulty in finding a studio for producing your next idea. Doesn't necessarily mean they aren't artists.

    Sorry for the long, confusing text. I'm not exactly what you'd call a native English speaker.

    1. A director’s level of success, wealth, fame, recognition, etc, has no bearing on whether or not they are an artist. It’s a question of whether those things have a causal influence on their creative process. If they do, they’re not artists.

      If an artist is compromising their art, for whatever purpose, they are no longer functioning as an artist. Artistry entails doing what you are compelled to do. Compromise entails doing something other than what you are compelled to do. The two are mutually exclusive.

      Now, you are basically positing that in order for a director to be successful, creative compromise is required. I don’t know that this is 100% true, but to the extent that it is, you would essentially be saying that in the film industry, success and artistry are mutually exclusive. If we assume a hypothetical director is an artist, and that director wants to make a film according to their creative vision, but they are told by a studio that their vision has to be modified in order for the project to proceed, and the nature of those modifications strike the director as fundamentally appalling, then assuming the director is unable to present an alternative solution that the studio approves and which they themselves find equally compelling to their original vision, that director has a choice to make - they can walk away, or they can take off their artist hat and put on their entertainer / craftsman hat…there is no right or wrong choice here.

      On some level, I think you are already cognizant of this, which is why you are making an appeal to Hollywood directors whose work is original and/or compelling in your estimation, despite what you see as having been compromised, as surely this must count for something, artistically. To this I would point out that there is nothing “less-than” about a work of entertainment - it’s just a different type of art, but still capable of being original, inspiring, and/or compelling. Artistry doesn’t turn on how good the art is - it turns on the mindset and motivation of the creator. And the mindset and motivation alter the end result. So if you could observe two parallel worlds, one in which a director makes a film 100% according to their artistic vision, and one in which they compromise their vision for the sake of funding / approval / etc, each resulting film may be compelling, regardless of box office, but they would most certainly be different in ways that matter - ways that likely influence your feelings about them and/or their impact on you.

  8. I wrote a very very long answer about taking steps away from your vision to actually fulfill your vision and whatnot, but I think I can make it short. Firstly, I want to point out that this discussion is solely about the terms!

    You always have to arrange yourself, be it because there's a man watching over your shoulder to make sure you don't make something TOO "weird for 'mainstream'", or because you renounce the money so that you can do everything how YOU feel about it - but only with very limited resources which doesn't allow you for example to get the actor you had in mind for the role.

    Art is all about your heart and soul. It's intimate. That's why it's so beautiful, and sometimes cruel too. It's all about what your heart feels. If you can say the version with the compromises is YOU, if your heart says yes, this is absolutely me, you're an artist in that matter. Ultimately, if you choose to be an entertainer for so and so long on that and that matter to get to the point where you are able to completely express what your soul feels should be expressed, you are, per definition, an entertainer in that things you produce (overall, that is), but still, at heart, an artist. As long as ... you know.

    I guess I wasn't clear enough ...... to MYSELF. I agree with you, after all. Thanks for getting that straight in my head, ha! I'm quite expierenced at running in circles, I guess. :')

    While I'm at it, one more thing though. What's your opinion on novel writers? Stephen King, for example. I often read that people don't consider authors as artists because they don't "produce 'tangible' things", however, the very same people call poetry art. As far as I'm concerned - what differs a novel, a story from poetry? It's still painting with words, it's still, here we are again, true, honest expression of your heart, soul (Of course, I'm only referring to authors who fulfill the "requirements")? Which is in my opinion the one thing that matters. It doesn't matter *how*. Still, "authors aren't artists", I read it quite frequently. It'd be quite delightful to hear your thoughts on that matter.

    1. You can’t compromise your vision and still claim to have fulfilled it. You can make compromises on aspects that aren’t important and which don’t fundamentally affect your vision (e.g. whether the main character’s name is Tommy or Tony)….but this would not constitute a genuine compromise - merely trivial details. A genuine compromise would involve fundamental conceptual components, and if you change those despite not artistically approving of them, then you have abandoned your artistry. There is no way around this.

      Could someone find themselves in a position where they conclude it’s worth compromising their vision in order to get their project funded so it can see the light of day? Sure, but nothing about this alters the reality of the above.

      You also seem to be proposing an alternative definition of artistry, in which an artist is anyone who expresses their heart and soul. While I think it’s true to say that artists definitely do this, I don’t think it constitutes a sufficient definition. For one, people express themselves all the time via regular communication - when I tell my neighbor, “hey asshole, stop letting your dog piss all over my flowers”, I’m thoroughly expressing my heart and soul on that matter, but that doesn’t turn me into an artist. Secondly, all types of creators, musicians, performers, etc express themselves - yet they’re not all artists.

      With respect to novel writers, whatever you’re reading that claims writers can’t be artists and/or that art / artistry is confined to tangible things is nonsense. The principles outlined in this article are entirely applicable to writers. Again, it has nothing to do with whether the writer is expressing themselves, but rather, what it is they are seeking to accomplish and why. If they are writing as a means to acquire money, fame, etc they are not artists. If they are writing because they are compelled to tell the stories they tell, as an end in itself, then they are.

  9. What do you think of actors and actresses? Do you think they are artists? Personally, I don't think they are for they obey to the script and even if they come up with an interpretation that might be personal, I don't think they really create anything. I get your point of pointing the difference between entertainers and artists. For some time, I have been reluctant to call myself an artist especially because I get the feeling that everyone gets to call themselves an artist and the meaning is lost, so I rather prefer to define myself as something else in my own terms. But with your explanation I understand better, and my question is about actors and actresses who present themselves as artists. I think, they really refer to their state of mind, some kind of "free mindset", and many people I think use the word "artist" for this spirit of freedom. How would you qualify then this state of mind? many really think of themselves as artists because they feel they are free , and don't see complying to a script or to expectations as less freedom. My point is that the misuse of the word "artist" is related for many to this notion of freedom, they (entertainers and people calling themselves artists) do it out of passion, not to pay their bills, so they think they're artists. I'd like to hear your point of view on this aspect of the use of the word "artist". All that said, I very much love your music and sometimes it inspires me paintings :-)

    1. Being free spirited and being an artist are two different things. It makes no sense to me to attempt to use the 1st to define the 2nd. It may be the case that a variety of artists are free spirited to some degree, but there certainly are a variety of artists that are not free spirited, so there is no causal or explanatory relationship there. Same for being passionate - passion is certainly present within artistry, but certainly not what defines it (since artists and non-artists alike can be equally passionate about their respective pursuits).

      With respect to actors, I view them in the same light as musicians / performers. They are interpreting art, not creating it. Actors (like musicians) can be incredibly expressive and creative in applying their skill, but this is not synonymous with being an artist. And nothing about this should be construed as critical or demeaning of actors or musicians - they serve an absolutely necessary and vital function in the arts - it’s just inaccurate to label them artists (in the way that I have defined that term).

      One possible exception though might be in the case of improvisation - in that context, it is possible for musicians and actors to go beyond interpretation and into creation, at which point, their mindset / motives would determine whether or not it would be appropriate to call them artists, entertainers, or craftsman.

    2. And what would you say of someone like Steve Jobs? Or someone who produces something, not in the art field, but that is their own vision and independent from the outside expectations. Would you say that technologists making something of their own vision could be artists? Could engineers be artists? They are compelled to create something that works though, not just something completely unconstrained. There are some profiles like that, they own their technology and go on creating in their own terms. It could be something in the industry, in design, etc. I have the impression that your definition could apply to any field where the mindset to create is extremely determined and discards the outside context, and not necessarily only in the art field. So you could have cooks that are artists, gardeners that are artists, developers that are artists, any person who owns their technique and realizes their vision with it. Is is a correct interpretation of your definition? Is your definition of "artist" cross fields?

      However, there is a dimension in artists I find that goes beyond just determination, and that I don't find in your definition. It seems to me that artists have the capacity also to appeal to something universal that everyone understands, or that is beyond us all that can't be expressed with language. For example, a dictator is not an artist even if he realizes his vision, to make it very caricatural. What importance do you give to the meaning of what an artist does in your definition? Do you think that counts? Many people create stuff not realizing that they express themselves for sure, but they just express their own conditioning, so they end up creating stuff that was already seen, models that we already know and perpetuate many known problems. They might not obey consciously to external input, but subconsciously they do, yet they seem to achieve their vision unconstrained, but I don't think they are "artists" because the meaning dimension is missing. Others create without constraints to provoke and be "disruptive" and by doing so they also are not "artists", they rather create for other people's reaction and profit from scandal (yet they are the ones called "artists" in this world). Others create to change the world, in doing so they have an end goal that is not just their own expression, but they create with purpose, and create stuff with some kind of universal meaning, and even though what they create depend on the outside world, I think you could call them "artists" because of the meaning dimension.

      My point is, determination in the creative process is not the only part that defines an "artist" in my opinion, but there is also a part where the meaning of what the "artist" does has something universal, of beauty, sometimes innovative in terms of ideas and concept, and perpetual through time. And in the effect it produces in people, it's curative and provokes some kind of contemplation or reflexion, but that's my own criteria that help me appreciate art. I think that besides just determination, there is also meaning and beauty that count in the definition of an "artist". And these are not just qualities of the produced art, these might be part of the artist's process too to seek for beauty and meaning, and therefore defines them as "artists". What do you think?

    3. My definition has nothing to do with determination - it has to do with motivation. If you are creating art as an end in itself, you are an artist. If you are creating art as a means to an end (whatever that end may be), you’re not an artist. As I said in the article, this can be applied across disciplines. I suppose the only limiting factor is that being an artist entails creating something (tangible or intangible) - so to the extent someone is immersed in the creation of something, artistry has the potential to thrive, even if the nature of those creations are traditionally not considered to be art.

      In order for an artist to function, they certainly need to have the creative freedom to do whatever they feel is required…but an artist doesn’t need to be free of constraints in total - after all, the fact that they have a specific vision or idea they are trying to articulate is itself a constraint on their creativity. And they may be further restrained by their physical capacities, access to materials, opportunities, etc. So in the case of an engineer that needs to create something that actually works, there is nothing about this in principle that undermines their potential artistry - working things are simply more compelling (presumably) - their artistry or lack thereof is going to turn on why they are creating what they're creating.

      Many artists do have the capacity to seemingly capture transcendent meaning, but this is not what defines their artistry. And while many an artist have found themselves on a quest for meaning / truth / purpose / etc, what they uncover to that end is not necessarily in common with one's own valuations. Meaningfulness is inherently subjective and dependent upon the perspective of the person exposed to the art. Thus, attempting to utilize meaning as a condition of artistry is misguided - you will never achieve a consensus on which art is meaningful, nor which creations do or don’t constitute art in the first place. However, an artist’s creation is certainly meaningful to him or her…otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it! So in that sense, meaningfulness matters, but this is really no different than saying an artist is compelled to do what they do, as an end in itself.

      An artist may wish for their art to positively influence others and/or the world, but if the desire for that outcome has any influence on their creative process, then they are no longer functioning as an artist. Someone creating art for the purpose of changing the world is using art as a means to an end - this makes them something like a creative activist, not an artist. To be clear, creating art as a weapon for change is totally fine and potentially praiseworthy, but it doesn’t fall within artistry.

      Your closing criteria apply to the art that you personally find most compelling, and by extension, the artists that make such art. But you cannot escape the subjectivity of those qualities (e.g. beauty, curative effect, meaning, etc), which is why the criteria are insufficient for determining artistry in and of itself. An artist cannot be construed in terms of how other people view them or their work…they can only be construed in terms of their mindset and intention.

    4. Interesting. That's why I don't define myself as an artist and really prefer the word hacker, preferably image hacker (in its original definition of making something the way you want).

      The difference I make between your definition of an artist and how I do, is that I question a lot why I create something before I create it. I can trace why I did something, it’s not just a sudden inspiration that I have to create. What it is, what it means, what it represents, it’s really important. From what I understand, according to your definition, an artist creates for the sake of creating, without any filters except their own and regardless of external pressure. This makes them good witnesses of their time for they express themselves as independent creatives and illustrate how we envision the world at that given time. But this also means they don’t necessarily question their surroundings, they just express something they are compelled to express.

      I think I just want to say that it’s possible to create with a critical mind without giving up the instinctive part of creation, I’m just trying to declare myself as such creator. There are artists, entertainers, and then… the other ones like me? Hackers? I’m not a creative activist in that I’m not doing propaganda (yet), but I just like answering my own questions like “when will it change? why is it always represented that way?” and then I shape everything I do to try to disrupt how my influenced self (who would just express herself without filters) would have done vs. how my critical awaken self would do it.

      That’s all, I wanted to include another type, your definition of artistry can then be contrasted also with a form of purposeful (rational?) creation in addition to entertainment. Anyway, thanks a lot for taking the time to give me a detailed answer, it was very interesting to know your point of view, it has clarified some things for me. I find great that we can discuss with you!

    5. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re making a distinction between creating in an intuitive stream of consciousness, compared to creating with a critical mind and specific set of intentions. Neither approach disqualifies artistry (and neither guarantees it).

      There is nothing in my definition of artistry that excludes internal-questioning, reflection, being able to pinpoint one’s creative reasoning, etc. I’m not suggesting that an artist only reacts to sudden or random whims of inspiration, with no thought as to how / what / why they are doing what they’re doing…rather, I’m saying that their entire creative process is geared toward the art alone (as opposed to what the art will yield, beyond their own personal feelings about it). In other words, they are not making creative decisions based on anything other than what leads to the most compelling art (from their perspective)…the art, and only the art, is what is driving them, and it is the realization of their creation that is fulfilling in and of itself.

      In your specific case, it sounds like you’re concerned with actively pushing your own limits. Not sure about there being an influenced self vs a disrupted self - if you’re influenced, you can’t un-influence yourself, and any effort to disrupt is itself an influence, and even if you distinguish between internal and external influence, there’s no way to confirm your internal influences are not themselves externally influenced (!) - but I suppose your efforts essentially amount to creative experimentation and perhaps challenging yourself to dig deeper than you are inclined to by default. All of this is totally fine, and none of it inherently disqualifies artistry. The only relevant question is whether your creative decision making is influenced by considerations apart from what will result in the most compelling art. Is it? :)

    6. It is me again..! I have been really thinking about what you advanced. The thing is I am a beginner in "art" and I don't have a big audience yet. So I guess that for now I do things the way I want to without any external motivation influencing my creative process. Do you think that your definition could be approached to that of "sincerity"? I am very technical so I don't understand what you mean by "their entire creative process is geared toward the art alone", what does "art alone" mean? I thought it meant "sincerity", but I'm not sure.

      I think that I refrain from calling myself an artist because I find artists are not responsible for their art. I have the impression that they create something almost independently from their own will, because they are "compelled" to, and end up creating stuff that are terrible, breed evil and then say "I do it in the name of art", and nobody can say anything and let it happen, it's like a free pass to perpetuate terrible ideas. I know the morale might be one of the "external" source that should not interfere with the creative process (?), but my position is that I want to be responsible for my art, and therefore I create it with a very critical mind. Even if I don't want to be a "goodie goodie" I think you can't separate from those external ideas of what good and what's bad... no? So that's why I think I can't define myself really as an artist but I might be something else.

    7. It sounds like you have some extreme preconceived notions about what an artist is, based on which, I understand your aversion to the term. But obviously, I think those notions are misguided. Artists are not robots, enslaved to a process in which they have no thought or control - they have solid creative desires and intuitions that they consciously work with and explore. And while many people call themselves artists, or are referred to as such, unless they satisfy the criteria I’ve outlined in this article, I would not consider them artists. Moreover, being an artist doesn’t guarantee your work will be good in the eyes of others…it just guarantees that the artist finds it captivating.

      So when I say “their creative process is geared toward the art alone” it just means that they're only concerned with making the art as good as it can possibly be, without any concern for what other people will think about it, or whether they will be able to profit from it.

    8. I don't have an aversion for the term (art is marvellous!), I just find it might not be a fit for what I am doing because of a certain aspect of it, so rather, I'm not comfortable with the term. As for "my extreme preconceived notions" about what an artist is, I don't think it is extreme and preconceived because it really comes from my experience as a viewer, it's what I see and witness, it's not something I imagine to be. My preconceived notion was on the contrary that artists only seek the beauty and the greatness, and if I were to give my own definition of "artist" this is what I would naively say.

      I didn't mean in my last comment that it applies to all artists though, I was just pointing out this aspect where it's possible for an artist (I witness and also in the definition of this article) to do something "in the name of art" and it's ok because of the compelling drive artists have. I was questioning about "good" and "bad" in the creative process, but indeed, it might not be relevant since interpretation differs for every person, so my understanding is that it doesn't really matter, so long as the creator creates what s/he envisioned.

      Anyway, thanks for the replies, I understand your definition.

    9. Sorry if I mischaracterized your response…your statement that the term artist “is like a free pass to perpetuate terrible ideas” seemed extreme to me, but more relevantly, reflected a misunderstanding in my view of what it means to be an artist (which has nothing to do with having good or bad ideas, or making good or bad art). Again, I think the only valid definition of an artist is someone whose creative motivation is based solely in what will lead to the best art (in their opinion).

  10. Dear Zack,

    This post was truly inspiring, intellectually and creatively. I've discovered your blog just a few days ago; after listening to your music for years, it is incredible to have that much access to the background of your music. For a long time I have been wanting to actually communicate and exchange with you. I was wondering, and hence, asking, is there any address to which we can send you mail? Like a label or a fan mail address (even though this letter would attempt to do more than simply express my love for your music) to which we can write to?? I have been searching everywhere but coudln't find anything!

    Thank you very much!

    1. I appreciate the interest and the kind words. There is an email address listed on my website ( I try to respond to emails whenever I can, but it’s not always feasible, and sometimes downright impossible, depending on the volume I receive and what I have on my plate at any given time.

  11. So, I heard NOMAD. Horrible. 0 out of 10. You're super lazy; super repetitive. How could the man who made Mind Heist: Evolution make this? Honestly man, as a FORMER fan, I couldn't believe my ears as I was listening to the album. You have been an immense inspiration to me since the moment I heard MHE. I studied Mind Heist, was inspired by the nuances and attention to detail. But my brother, NOMAD is a piece of shit. Your vocals are inaudible. It's mixed horribly. I can't hear you and your voice is super monotone. Your rapping is banal. You have no idea how much respect I have lost for you, my dear friend. Please follow the template of Mind Heist, Greeting the Menace, and Silver Crimson Black for all future productions. I can't believe it. AND BY THE FUCKING WAY, you can still hear the vocals in the instrumental version of NOMAD. Release the album you're capable of releasing and stop being a lazy fucking hack. It's a disaster; I am ABSOLUTELY APPALLED. Make Mind Heist 2 like I said to you before. Love you, have always loved your creativity. But not anymore. I expect to hear improvement in all future releases. Put the same effort you put into writing this shitty ass blog into your MUSIC

    Btw, I am very thankful for all the inspiration that some of your songs have given me. I'm genuinely hoping to be inspired by your future creations

    1. Thanks for such an entertaining and colorful note. Of course, having read the above article (its shittiness notwithstanding), you surely realize that to cater to your demands by creating what you want to hear, rather than that which authentically resonates with me, would certainly invalidate my artistry. Not to mention, that having your respect, approval, and/or adoration is the least of my concerns. And of course, to grant a request of the high standards you have outlined, as well as to satisfy one endowed with such tremendous self-importance and entitlement as you most evidently are, is without question beyond the capacity of the super lazy whose company I now find myself in. While I can’t say I’m sorry to have disappointed you, I can say I’m happy to have appalled you so profoundly, my dear friend.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re highlighting the value and/or necessity of an artist being in touch with why they like what they like, and possibly purposefully engaging whatever those underlying reasons or mechanisms are. If my understanding is incorrect, then disregard what follows :)

      For the purposes of creating new material, understanding how your subjective preferences historically came to be what they are is not necessary…you simply have to be able to recognize what they are now, and go from there. Of course, in the present, it is extremely helpful to be in touch with why you’re reacting in a certain way (e.g. I’m not liking X because Y), as that understanding positions you to adjust / revise your creation accordingly…although I suppose this is not always necessary, as one may not be able to pinpoint the roots of their dislike or like, while still being able to progress (but the more an artist creates, the less likely this possibility becomes, as translating one's emotions and then tracing / mapping them onto the counterparts that give rise to them is a skill that improves, as far as I can tell).

      A historical and/or existential understanding of why you like what you like might be relevant to the extent that one was concerned with evolving and/or escaping their preferences or patterns. But again, I don’t see it as being necessary, as one can simply make a point a expose themselves to things outside their bubble.

      Regardless, it strikes me as quite impossible to come to anything other than a superficial existential understanding, as there are so many variables that interconnect to create the impressions we receive. Do you love this particular music because of the composition, the performance, the attitude, the instrumentation…do you love it because it was on the radio when you had that first kiss…or because your parents loved it…or because you simply heard it repeatedly growing up? Or do you hate this particular music because of all those same reasons? What mood were you in when you first heard song A (and why were you in that mood)? What music had you heard prior to listening to song A, and how did that entrain and/or impact your experience of song A? Etc, etc, etc. I would argue the answers to all of these questions are really quite irrelevant (from the standpoint of an artist’s endeavors). Maybe there are concrete answers, or maybe you just like what you like having nothing to do with anything…you’re never going to truly know, as any such knowledge would be unverifiable. If you could go back in time, and change this to that, and alter your experience over there, would your resulting value system and preferences be different today? Possibly. So what? We are where we are. It’s where you’re going from here (artistically) that matters.

      That being said, I have found that an artist's creative preferences are prone to evolve as a consequence of what they’ve done before. Speaking for myself, once I’ve thoroughly explored a given territory (musically, lyrically, or conceptually), that territory simply no longer entices me, and I go on in search of new territory. That is not to imply I don’t like what I did before - just that I’m not driven to continue exploring it. And this doesn’t mean I used to like rock music, and now I don’t, or vice versa. All of what you like outside of your own creations may still hold, but the elements you find compelling within your own creative efforts can change over time, in response to those very efforts. In genuine artistry, there is a constant feedback loop between the artist and the art, each influencing and shaping the other.

      As for valuing what the masters push as significant, it depends on what you mean by value. The artist can value the opinions / analysis / insights of others (master, expert, or otherwise), whether or not they share them. But if by value you mean, “does the artist hold sacred and profound that which the masters push as significant”, I would say only to the degree to which it genuinely resonates with them.