I have been sitting here all weekend – reading, taking notes, even starting the draft of the draft of a draft of a paper. (Need to read a lot more before I even get to the draft of a draft stage ;-). I really am somewhat obsessed with the question which I keep asking, you see. The one about my students. I am, after all, attempting to do a PhD, the subject of which is art education… How can I even write a dissertation without taking all this into account? Or so I was thinking until a minute ago… Anyway, I was just sitting here, smoking a cigarette, continuing my ruminations and then I started to think about someone who I do believe has the genuine “bug”. Is an artist, in other words. And I began to wonder whether this would have been something that his instructors could have possibly sensed about him while he was still in art school. And more to the point – would he have known it himself? And even more to the point (and this, I believe, is the true clincher!) – was he, in fact, already an artist at the tender age of 20 something? Or did that actually evolve?
The seeds of it may well have been there from way back when, his childhood, I suppose. Now, I happen to have the privilege of being somewhat familiar with this persons work starting from his early twenties. And admittedly, the essence of what he is all about today is present even in his very early output. However, only an inkling of it, vaguely sensed here and there, poking its head through (almost timidly), buried amongst quite a bit of extraneous material. And then he seems to have moved closer and closer to it as he grew older. Seems to have spent a very long time in finding and then developing his own visual language. (Sine qua non in these matters, I would say). The full-on impact, the blast of “the big question” however – that, as far as I can tell, appears to have happened only quite recently, over the past 2 or 3 years. At a point when he was already in his 40s.
And then, to illustrate an entirely different case: Did I have artistic pretensions when I was 20 years old? Sure I did. It took long decades for me to reach an awareness that I am not an artist, that I do not have these burning issues. I just really like to make stuff. Give myself little assignments. Not at all the same thing!
I cannot project myself into the mindset of Bruegel. Did he know that he was an artist whilst he was still training as an apprentice? Or did that come about later? And would it even have mattered to him? Was the definition of being an artist back then the same as it is today? The operant conditions of his lifetime were entirely different from the ones surrounding my colleague of whom I was talking about above. Really, it is almost like comparing apples and oranges.
So, to get back to today: I cannot possibly know who amongst my students may have a true artistic calling. In all likelihood, they will not be able to know this themselves. Those that are will eventually know, and those around them may do so also – after quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge. Nothing for me to get all worked up about then now, is there?