HOW EL GRECO TAUGHT US TO VALUE OURSELVES.
If you’re anything like me, you may not know a whole lot about this man. But digging through his story, I can now say I wish I could have met him.
Not only was he an amazing artist, but also a kick-ass, confident dude. He was a painter, sculptor, and architect born in the mid 16th century. Best known for his post-Byzantine style painting, he was a man who was not afraid to step outside artistic constructs and distinguish himself.
His main form of doing this was by inventing new and quite unusual interpretations of tradition religious work.
Back in those days, the majority of paintings were based around Biblical subject matter. The Crucifixion. Adam and Eve. King David. And El Greco was no exception, but where he did do his own thing was in the way he painted these scenes.
In the days of El Greco’s time, artists like Michelangelo and Raphael had set a pretty high standard of what art was and how it should look. El Greco felt huge amounts of gratitude for both of these men. They were, in a way, his artistic mentors, the people whose work he looked up to while creating his own. But he also used their work to challenge himself. To make himself better, maybe even rival them, in healthy competition.
El Greco valued his imagination and intuition over whatever subject he was painting. He sought to dramatize rather than describe his scenes, and he did this through his use of strong, bold color, rather than proportion.
Much of his work is bright and colorful, but the figures are elongated and stretched. Like many artists who tried to do their own thing, he was criticized and reprimanded, but he didn't care. I picture him, getting told off by some critique, and then standing up, putting his hand on his hip, giving the finger and walking out of the room.
He was basically the poster child for “Haters gonna hate” and not giving a crap. He valued who he was. He was confident in his art and in himself. He did what he loved and he knew where his value could be found.
El Greco was an extremely spiritual man. Not just in a religious way, but in knowing the fact that he possessed a spirit and an artistic spirit at that. He let his spirituality melt into everything he created and through it he brought out real, human emotion in his work.
So what does this mean for us? No, please don’t give the finger to everyone who tells you they don’t like your work. We still have to be kind. But we can value ourselves and what we create.
Set yourself apart. Don’t follow what everyone else is doing, and don’t worry about what they say. Be you. And be you fearlessly.
“Artists create out of a sense of desolation. The spirit of creation is a excruciating, intricate exploration from within the soul.”
You wouldn’t be who you are right now if hadn’t been for certain people or certain experiences. Let them know you are thankful. You don’t have to name a painting after them, or base a character off of them, though you totally could, but find ways to let them know you are thankful they have been around for you.
“I was created by the all-powerful God to fill the universe with my masterpieces.”
Value your imagination.
No one else has an imagination like yours. Think of it this way. You might read Harry Potter, for example. And so might I. But I can almost guarantee you, that we will imagine things differently. There might be a gilded trim around the portrait hole that I see and you don’t. Or you might see the Fat Lady wearing a blue dress and I might see it as mustard yellow.
Whatever it is, your imagination works differently than anyone else’s. It’s a fingerprint, unique and special to you. So whatever you make with it, whatever you imagine into being, is unique and special to you and who you are. Remember that, friend.
“You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul.”
Show your spiritual emotion through your work.
You don’t have to be a “religious” person to be spiritual. We can almost all agree we all have spirits, right? So bleed that into your work. Make your spirit one with whatever you are creating.
“I paint because the spirit(s) whisper madly inside my head.”
You have value, friend. And so does your work. Your imagination is like no one else’s, and your spirit belongs to only you. See what you can make with it.
Teagan Olivia Sturmer is a maker and published author currently living in Nashville, TN. She believes that more people should enjoy the simple pleasures of matching pajama sets, hot tea and a good book. She makes and writes because it grounds her and gives her a sense of belonging. If she could have her way, it would always be Autumn and Winter, and always Christmas. You can find her work on Etsy at Muted Rose Mercantile, and on Instagram @teaganolivia