What makes one a serious artist? This is a topic I explored in my full length play Charcoal Sketches. I would argue that you cannot aspire to become a serious artist. You are either destined to become a serious artist or not. It is entirely determined by your character. A serious artist will give serious thought to a variety of intellectual and aesthetic matters. You are either inclined to do so or you are not inclined to do so. If you are inclined to give serious thought to intellectual and artist matters then that defines you as a serious artist. You are defined by what you do and not by what anyone thinks of you.
To give serious thought to the human condition and human nature does not mean that you have to be grim or pessimistic. Too many serious artist brood on things like the Holocaust to establish their reputation as a serious artist. I’m not inclined to dwell on morbid things. What you should be serious about is art itself. Art should mean something to you. You should place a high value on art. You take it seriously because it represents a serious need. You should be dedicated to serious art. If you feel it is lacking in your life, you should go out of your way to seek it out.
What allows you to take great art seriously is a genuine appreciation for its fine qualities. You should value beauty in its more sublime forms. You should feel a yearning for great art. As I said previously, it is something you should seek out. I like to travel to experience novelty and I’m intent on exploring the culture of every country or city I visit. I like to find obscure films or novels set in the city I plan to visit.
Too many serious artists nowadays think they have to be a political activist to be a serious artist. Unfortunately, they come to value their prissy morality more than their art. They may win applause for their political position while receiving none for their art. Eventually they get used to seeking approval for their politics and give up on trying to please anyone with their art. If you are more dedicated to politics than art then I don’t consider you to be a serious artist. If we are defined by what we do, then giving political activism priority defines you as a political activist. The true artist is ruled by his vision and not by his politics. Increasingly I find myself annoyed with serious political activists because their lazy self-righteousness is unpleasant. Often they are fools devoted to the fool’s quest of fixing human nature through relentless moral scolding. I have to keep reminding myself that it is a good thing that I’m not associated with these people. It would not be pleasant to hang around with serious political activists what with their relentless finger wagging.
Many self-righteous artists nowadays also scorn the notion of genius. Personally I’m not above calling myself a genius and I still respect the concept of the inspired genius. If you don’t want to work with or be associated with artistic genius then that is fine by me. Leave the genius director to direct my play and the genius actors to star in my plays. When you scoff at the notion of inspiration what do you offer the world except uninspired theater? I can certainly believe that a lot of contemporary theater was not the product of inspiration since it indeed appears to be so uninspired. I will be seeking out inspired theater. I don’t have a moral duty to give serious attention to the crap fest which is the work of political activists.