What does it take to be a great artist?
Creativity? Talent? Practice? Inherited ‘gift’ from parents in your genes?
Maybe none of the above.
There are two things that separate a good artist from a great one. And surprisingly, the answer is hidden in plain sight in one of the episodes of the popular sitcom ‘The Office’ (US). Incidentally, most people would have overlooked this part of the episode because the dialogues are delivered by a side character; but it has stuck with me since.
In Season 3 Episode 17, Pam invites her co-workers to her art show. At the show, Oscar (her co-worker) and his partner Gil starts criticizing her work without realizing that she’s standing right behind them.
And that’s exactly where Gil reveals the ‘secret’ to being a great artist. The conversation goes something like,
Oscar: “It’s her first try”
Gil: “On Van Gogh’s first try, he drew the hands of the peasants”
Oscar: “Meaning what?”
Gil: “Meaning…real art takes courage and honesty.”
Oscar: “Well, those aren’t Pam’s strong points.”
Real art takes Courage and Honesty.
Ouch, that must have hurt. But let’s be honest, it’s something to ponder upon.
The more we try to be someone else, the more we move farther from being a great artist. We may still be good. But great? Well, that would need courage and honesty.
I’m sure most people would only remember this episode because Michael appreciates Pam’s work and buys her art. But that’s just a feel good ending. The real life lesson, in my opinion, is hidden in Gil’s brutal critique.