“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
Vincent Van Gogh
The Artistic Breakthrough
The Artistic Breakthrough is a sudden, often shocking, event where you see the world with new eyes. To put a finer point on it, you might hear music with new ears or taste food with a new tongue.
To see your work and the world around you with new eyes is exciting and a moment that is embraced. One has labored hard for a long time and a Breakthrough is a rare thing. It will add depth and understanding to your work and insight into other’s work.
It is a cousin to what the spiritual practitioners call Enlightenment or Sudden Illumination. Artists and the followers of spiritual matters will tell you that to have done it once is not the end; one must continue to work to another and another and another. It is a life journey.
Central to achieving an Artistic Breakthrough is paying attention to what you are doing. The artist is using their technique to craft a work and will keep applying technique to work after work after work. This is what the artist lives for in life.
There can be small Breakthroughs of sudden understanding how things look or work. There can be big ones. The noticed thing is that the artist is also, while making work, hoping for a big one. This requires a relentless honesty about the work itself which will make artists very honest people.
If you meet a liar who says that he is an artist, he is not. He is a poser and, probably, trying to leverage a lucrative career as a con job. He is disgusting.
There is no scale or measuring tape. Personally, I have had three major Breakthroughs in thirty years of work. Moments that I can pin down when all of the prior work that I had done suddenly fell into place like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces dumped on a table and magically fitting all together. Moments when my eyes are following lines along edges with a clarity. I felt like I could break on through to the other side.
You can’t fool yourself. One can not be at Joe’s Bar waiting for a Breakthrough to be hit upside the head.
Sometimes I think that the artist has only two goals. The first is to transcend technique and the other is the Artistic Breakthrough. This would explain all of the Untitled, ver. 3s and the Blue Periods, more and more work. Maybe one piece might be called a work of Art.
The sudden or shocking element is a piece of the description. Everyone has heard stories of near-death experiences when the person afterwards is completely changed. I don’t recommend that! There is the terrific story of the Initiate who visits his Guru master and asks for the meaning of life; and the Guru punches him in the nose! Clearly, the Guru was trying to shock his follower into enlightenment more than the desire to hurt him. Some cults have a process of shocking their initiates (the Freemasons, as I recall) trying to create the shock and fear of death and even hazing in Fraternities have their roots in trying to induce a shock to achieve sudden understanding. Let us agree that it is better to keep working on the work and let the moments come.
Unlike technique, the Artistic Breakthrough gives a broader understanding. One now can have an “opinion” on works in other fields outside of their own. The visual artist might have interest and insight into music, searching for the same elements of the new understanding; first and foremost is honesty in the work. This is why so many art forms have some common language outside of technique; “being grounded” is one example.
Look for the rare moments of Breakthroughs in your life. The big ones will change the way you see the world and life around you. Each step through a portal will give a clarity and insight that encourages the next step along your journey. Work on your life and live for your work until you can stand still and Love.