Pronounce the word artist, to conjure up the image of a solitary genius. A sacred aura still attaches to the word, a sense of one in contact with the numinous. “He’s an artist,” we’ll say in tones of reverence about an actor or musician or director. “A true artist,” we’ll solemnly proclaim our favorite singer or photographer, meaning someone who appears to dwell upon a higher plane. Vision, inspiration, mysterious gifts as from above: such are some of the associations that continue to adorn the word.
Yet the notion of the artist as a solitary genius—so potent a cultural force, so determinative, still, of the way we think of creativity in general—is decades out of date. So out of date, in fact, that the model that replaced it is itself already out of date. A new paradigm is emerging, and has been since about the turn of the millennium, one that’s in the process of reshaping what artists are: how they work, train, trade, collaborate, think of themselves and are thought of—even what art is—just as the solitary-genius model did two centuries ago. The new paradigm may finally destroy the very notion of “art” as such—that sacred spiritual substance—which the older one created.
This is vital reading for every artist. From being artisans crafting to solitary geniuses to boring professionals, the notion of what an artist is has always evolved.
But technology – specifically the internet – has changed things for the better. Now an artist has complete control over their learning and being able to directly relate to their audience. It’s the latter that’s most relevant as in previous times artists were waylaid by gatekeepers in the form of patrons or critics.
Now we artists can succeed on both our own merits and our own terms. We are creative entrepreneurs in control of our own destiny.