Friday, June 01, 2007


[Blog written for Cartoons, Dammit! 4.18.07]

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.
- Henry Beecher

Creativity and the human soul are heavily intertwined: poetry, art, drama and music all wax lyrical about the connection between our creativity and our inner spirit.

Yet, the soul itself remains an elusive, lonely beast, only able visibly surface through the art it can create. Doctors can slice and dice a human body until they can take the contents home in a doggy bag, and they'll still have nothing quantifiable as the human spirit.

Through creativity, we have a better chance of glimpsing the essence of man than through any flesh cutting tool.

Nothing but creativity can bring us closer to understanding what drives and motivate us. Even sex is a poor second to the arts when it comes to self-expression. Yes, creativity has more 'soul' than the bonding of two bodies could ever accomplish. No matter what Hollywood tells us differently, gyrating bodies do not create some voyeuristic glimpse into what makes us who we are - it just offers insight into what makes us animal, not human.

But like a sexual union, creativity doesn't have to be singularly exclusive; it can be shared. Self-expression doesn't have to end up being about one person, it can be part of a greater whole, and there lies the beauty of artistic collaboration: the chance for creativity to become more than an expression of what makes us individuals; collaboration can become the outlet for what makes our souls different and yet at the same time, compatible.

My concern is that we don't see much collaboration for fun; collaborative amateur projects are fairly rare. This is a real pity, for when it comes to professional creativity, you'd be hard pushed to find a project which relies on one singular soul for it's production.

You'll find a hundred amateur artists trying to sell their own creative work for $150 a pop down the local flea-market, but how many of these works are shared outlets of talents? How many people actually go out to work collaboratively when money is NOT involved? Very few - especially in the visual arts.

Why is that? Well partially because of ego: the soul actually likes being the sole voice and doesn't relish being part of a choir. Secondly, souls are unique by definition and as such do not simply slot into the same vision as other creative souls that easily.

However, if we can bring ourselves to work with one another, the rewards are two-fold: Firstly, we learn from each other's talents and experiences; together there is a chance we can build past our personal shortcomings and become something greater. Secondly, we may find something more unique that what we can on our own: the voice of one soul is, by definition, a single layer, the voice of two souls - or three souls - creates a multi-layered outcome. Isn't that great?

Yes, there is adversity to collaboration - there is risk of a dilution of ideas, conflict of vision and ultimately, failure to live up to the conceptual task - but this is the beauty of collaboration: it's not just the end result, it's the battle to succeed; the battle between different, unique souls trying to come together as one direct conduit of creative power.

In collaboration, the trip is as vital as the destination.

In this sense, creativity no longer becomes about self-expression or ego, it becomes something far less selfish. If art is self-expression to or for a community, is it not a purer form of artistic expression to allow the art itself to become communal in turn?

Should not the community selflessly give to the community?

We live in a world that basks in the "artist"; singular visionaries which exist to feed the ego of their souls. Surely the next step for our societies is to recognize that the dynamics, difficulties and successes of a collaboration of artists is really a far more impressive feat? Could it be that the next step in art is taking art away from the selfish ego; to allow the art to reflect the altruism in the human soul rather than the need to validate the individual?

Should not art be seen as more credible when it becomes about giving more than taking?

So come on. Collaborative art is frequently the province of the professionals, and even then it's normally through necessity than preference. With a little thought, a little co-operation and a little motivation, the soul - for once - doesn't have to be the lonely voice.

Make friends, work together, experience the highs and lows in a battle of vision! Lets have more art that is a genuine struggle of souls to succeed rather than the singular expression of the one ego. Come on, let our souls sing in unison! Collaborate!

And where better to do start? Try the Cartoons Dammit! Drawing Board! and see if there are some collaboration projects being held by the board! If not, try the Artists Wanted! forum and see if there are any other artists or writers looking to collaborate!

Well, what are you waiting for?!