From Aphorismi by Hippocrates

Craftsmanship is Key

Practice your craft. Hone your skills. Make masterpieces.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in art school was to work diligently to produce impeccable work. I vividly remember most of my professors continuously reminding us that creating the highest quality work was of the utmost importance. The content of our art was always secondary to the quality of the craftsmanship. And the first step to creating impeccable work is devoting time to learning and practicing the craft of your chosen medium. Honing your skills is one of the simplest and easiest ways to create your very own masterpiece.

It is one thing to pick a medium and haphazardly throw something together and call it art. It is another to methodically and deliberately compose and create an expression of your feelings, thoughts, or ideas. Numerous people do the former and proclaim it "ART." Their only rebuttal is that you can't claim it isn't art because "l say it's art, my art." This claim is the weakest and most immature defense of one's work. If you practice your craft and create impeccable creative work, it forces the observer/receiver to robustly and rationally defend their claim against the artistic qualities of your work. You force them to at least leap one mental hurdle to support their criticism.

The content of your work is of minimal value if the observer can not visually or mentally move beyond the shoddy construction or careless presentation. That was the point my professors were trying to drive home. What you are trying to say gets lost in the noise produced by poor craftsmanship.

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.

This quote is from the opening lines in the book Aphorismi by Hippocrates; the Greek physician historians consider the father of medicine. When translated, the aphorism reads:

Life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experimentations perilous, and judgment difficult.

His quote is one of my favorites. It drives home the idea that practicing your craft is vital. It encompasses a mindset that can help you achieve your most significant work in art and life.

Hippocrates was a medical doctor, but his quote is often used as a metaphor for art. The word "Ars" translates not to "art" specifically but to the English word "craft." In context, Hippocrates was speaking about the practice of medicine. He wrote about the effects of the work you perform lasting long beyond your lifetime. Therefore, we should be diligent in our effort today because our time to work is so limited. Time is our most valuable resource, and if you use your time to hone your skills in any discipline, the work you do has the opportunity to outlast you, be of value, and be worth the time invested.

I would also add that honing our craft helps us as creative people and artists to more easily define the mysterious qualities that do make things we create "art." It helps define what art is in a sense. Check back soon for more ideas about: What is Art?

Anything can be art, but not everything is art.