The Art of Looking Sideways, Instead of Up

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I read a great quote from actor Tom Hiddleston (loved him as Henry V) who said of his contemporary peers, “I used to look up for inspiration, like every actor does, to people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh … Now I look sideways.” [Quote Link]

Most artists learn by studying the masters of whatever craft that we aspire to learn; however, by looking sideways to our great contemporaries we learn to be part of our craft’s current zeitgeist.  Our peers inspire us to get to work towards our own ‘mastery’.  Comparing masters and peers is like saying that was great, what about now?  That’s the great thing about art.  Any creative craft by its nature wants to evolve.  Whether we are great or not, if we’re going to call ourselves artists, we are responsible for now. This may seem like an obvious fact but if you’ve spent most of your career studying instead of doing; it becomes a necessary reminder.

Now, we wouldn’t call anything a ‘master work’ if it didn’t have a timeless quality that speaks to any generation.  However, it’s not comparable to an artist who is living in that generation.  I guess that depends on whether you believe that art is a reflection of its society.

One startling realization, after reading Tom Hiddleston’s quote, is that all of my favourite poets have already passed away or are definitely from an older generation.  I don’t pursue contemporary artists unless they are being loudly celebrated and awarded.  And unfortunately, contemporary poets are not loudly celebrated.

Funnier still is that there are many masters and master works that did nothing for me. A ‘master’ work can suck as much as amateur one, in my subjective opinion, and a master work can easily escape ever being published or promoted, yet I still assume that I should study the established canon more than a contemporary artist.

The poet, Warsan Shire, that I featured in a previous blog is one of the first living and contemporary poets that has truly moved me – ever.  She’s just 28!  How did I find her?  During a Google search for something other than her.

I would love to say that for this week’s poetry video on the lyw YouTube channel, I have a montage of clips from our latest and greatest contemporary poets, but the task to hunt down copyright permissions is not worth a 5-minute video.

Instead, here is a link to some great contemporary poetry contest prize winners online as well as larger poetry sites, with copyright permissions.

Thanks for reading this blog/rant.  I realize many of my opinions in this one are strong and there are many other artists that would argue in other directions just as strongly.  It is just something to consider, and should in no way take you away from your art — to argue about art.

blog by lyw

Author: lillian y wong

lyw (lillian y wong) is a writer.

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