Window Shopping: Artists, Audience, and Aspirations

You walk along the pavement, glancing at nearby store windows as you go. It’s dull and eventless. Sometimes something catches your eye, though, and you take a moment to look at it and see what the store has to offer. The window has nothing special, but it reminds you of another piece of clothing you saw the other day. You walk past and end the fleeting moment of attention you gave it. That’s all you’re doing. Browsing.

The process of consuming something doesn’t take much effort. It’s not like you’re actively pursuing something that pops out to you. And neither does the store have to showcase their entire catalog. They just have to show what stands out to people, what might draw their attention and invite them in to look deeper. But the store has to take extra effort to show the right items, to make sure people are interested. There’s a disconnect between the store and the buyer. The consumer won’t know how much work has been put into organizing everything, picking the right items, making sure everything looks nice.

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Like items in a store window, there’s a lot behind writing, drawing, any sort of art form that’s meant for consumption. In terms of writing, it takes a certain mastery to pick apart the imaginary reader’s mind and feed them just the right bits to draw them in. You don’t need to describe the main character’s every response to every situation, because the imagination does that. It’s a strange mix of tidbits and vague details that makes fiction writing, and the process of reading it, so interesting.

But people still act as if these things (writing, drawing, music, etc.) are as easy as putting words and colors together. The creator has to play to the audience’s whims, touch a nerve, pull their heartstrings where it really counts. The artist has to know what they’re trying to accomplish, what touches of whimsy they could put in their art.

That’s not to say art is too difficult for people to try, though. Art is complicated, diverse, meaningful; but that should encourage people instead. It’ll take a while, but it’ll be immensely worth it when you feel satisfied with yourself and your work for the first time. It’s a challenge, it’ll take a lot of time to get used to and feel comfortable doing, but by no means is it impossible. It’s the motivation that people get stuck at.

James Rhodes explores these themes in his comic, “Is that not worth exploring?” It’s about regrets. Dreams. Lost time. Potential. There’s a lot more to look at in the comic, but what I really like about it is that it’s encouraging of people who may not be confident about themselves or don’t think they have much talent. The author himself was in a very similar situation, where his life was at an all-time low. He invested himself into piano and taught himself how to play, and it’s saved his life.  Was he happy? Mentally healthy? Stable? Talented? Of course not. But none of that hindered him from doing any of what he was able to do.

I think that people are cheating themselves when they say they don’t have talent. When they comment “You’re so good at this, I wish I could be like you!”, they’re knocking themselves down. When they give up after trying something and it doesn’t go right the first time, they’re assuming a person better than them was able to do it perfectly.

But talent is a learned thing. It’s something gained through a lot of time, but you can do wonderful things once you get a grip on it. And it’s a shame that people seem to shut themselves off from their potential because they don’t think they can do it. It’s far from unattainable. Instead of looking through the window and admiring things it feels like you can’t have, go inside and see what’s possible!

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