30 December, 2013

Ask Al: 'Hydrogen'

So often, I get asked a similar version of basically what I consider to be the same artistic question.

Variants include:

  • How does one make boundaries between bringing one's own life experiences in to their work?
  • Who do you trust? 
  • What is enough homework?
  • When are you "done?" 
  • Where is the "line?"
  • What is "good" versus "bad" acting/singing/art?
Wanna know what? I don't know.

A couple of months ago a student pleaded for me to give her a concrete answer about emotional memory. She loves black and white answers--and she is not alone! A lot of people do.

     "Where do you draw the line?" she asked.

I sighed.
Because creation is never about the concrete answers, the knowns, or the black and white.

I looked at her and smiled before I said.
     "I don't know. Where do YOU?"

This is Art.
The Answer is NOT 'Hydrogen.'

Artists must (and generally speaking, human beings probably should) be willing to live in the "grey zone." To not only live there, but set up camp there! To revel in the unknowns. To bask in the reality that artistic creation, just like life, is not a science, it is an art.

Not everything can be weighted and measured, observed objectively and empirically, nor should it have to be. The truth is: there is no formula for creating the perfect work of art.
Would a "paint-by-number" be considered a work of creative art for a visual artist?
Probably not.
It doesn't work that way.
There is no ideal portrayal.
No quintessential composition or peerless poem.
And why? Because art, by its very nature, is subjective.
The lines are blurry. The areas grey.
Because the answer is not hydrogen

Thus, when endeavoring to be a better artist, once must accept that there is no perfection to attain. There is no "A" to get.
There is no race being run.
There is no chemical recipe you can whip up to "complete the assignment."
If you think there is, I would wager (and wager a lot) that you are the one creating those restrictions, and that reality around yourself.

If one accepts those truths, there will be freedom.
Where previously there was effort, there will be energy.
Where once there was stridency, there will be allowance.
Not only will your work be better, but YOU will be better.

It's not that Art isn't about hard work--because it is.
But Art is about the right kind of work. 

The answer in ART is NEVER 'Hydrogen.'
The answer in LIFE is hardly ever 'Hydrogen...'

... Except, ya know... when it is.

Such as here:
What is the only element with three naturally occurring isotopes?
And here:
What is the lightest gas?
And here:
What is the element which derives its name from the phrase "water forming"?

And on the Match Game.
...except the answer is actually "peroxide..."
The Answer is Not Hydrogen there either.
This clip is merely amusing.


  1. I always tell people the answer is 42.

  2. YES. YES. YES. YES.

  3. this is brilliant !

  4. Brilliant! I love the thought of you setting up camp in the grey area of not knowing as you sing "I know what everything's for!" xx



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