A friend I admire for his quick wit and way of thinking – not to mention his prowess with a camera – recently posted the following words, reminding me that while, yes, art is about talent, it must also be tempered with passion, emotion, understanding and authenticity to meet needs we, the audience, didn’t realize we had. Thank you, Jason Abdilla, for sharing your art! Here’s what he had to say:

Raymond Carver wrote something that I use when thinking through my own art and when I’m challenged to give a brand or business a point of view for their work: 

Some writers have a bunch of talent; I don’t know any writers who are without it. But a unique and exact way of looking at things, and finding the right context for expressing that way of looking, that’s something else. It’s like style…It’s the writer’s particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There’s plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time. (On Writing). 

To me this means to write, photograph, design, illustrate, paint and film those things that you wish you could experience that no one else is doing. 

And if you can’t figure that out, then maybe interrogate your art and worldview a bit more. 

This is what makes disruptive ideas disruptive. It comes from a drive to meet an unmet need in as simple and surprising a way imaginable. 

Art is no different. Art that draws us in, we can call it original, is really just art with an articulate point-of-view on something, art that the creator makes because they have a need that’s not yet been met. 

We’re drawn to this originality and POV because the artists themselves share a human experience and tension with the rest of us, but they articulate it in an unexpected, honest way. 

But the inherent irony is that trying to be original is unlikely to meet a need, surprise, or engage anyone. 

It comes across as obtuse and showy, even desperate. 

It really does have to come from a place of violent obsession, heated passion, and fierce honesty about who you are and what you believe. It comes from something pretty unpleasant, actually. 

A place of frustration, anger, irritation as much from a place of unremitting joy and exuberance. Both of the latter “positive” feelings can be just as miserable as the negative ones if they don’t worm their way out of the right channel, though.

And what I’m not saying is to not emulate, even copy and borderline plagiarize art and thinking you love. I do it all the time. 

I work with some of the most talented minds in advertising and I adopt habits, philosophies, and even writing styles that I find help articulate my own nascent ideas in fresher, more brilliant ways. 

The art and points of view that you love actually identify a unique need already within you. So it’s helpful to interrogate, explore, and study their conceptual architecture. Know the mechanisms behind them that draw you in, and use them as an early template for your own point-of-view. 

Then, when the medium is mastered, get off the island and set out for your own. It’s this journey that will produce the ideas and art that satisfies both you and your audience.