Artists through the ages: Michelangelo

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Art, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been meaning to get back into posting about art with all the devotion and attention to detail I can muster. It looks like that day has finally come. I want to start up a new series – a progression of posts that take a look at various “great” artists throughout time.

I’ve always found that people enjoy art – they like looking at it, they appreciate it, they think it’s cool. But they hate learning about it – because  that’s boring. I can’t argue there. I was lucky enough to have an incredible teacher, but learning about guys long dead who threw some paint on a canvas and had some profound thesis written about why it was a tragic masterpiece about a girl and her bunny – which was an allegory for life and its unfortunate occurrences – isn’t exactly entertainment.

But it can be.

I think we’ve got a lot to learn about the great master’ and the influence they’ve had over art, culture, society and just humans in general. I like teaching people about the things that make me passionate, and art is definitely one of those things. I also like changing people’s minds – maybe I can make these posts entertaining for those of you out there that don’t enjoy history lessons on your morning stroll through your daily blogs.

I also enjoy relating everything back to writing. I mean, that’s why we’re here isn’t it? Most of us, anyway. That’s definitely why I’m here. So, that’ll be the goal here: 1. Entertain you. 2. Teach you. 3. Tell you why writers should be aware of these people.

Easy. (I hope.)

We’ll start off with a well known artist: Michelangelo. (Which, by the way, is pronounced Mick-ell-angelo, not “Michael-angelo.” Yeah, I’ve been pronouncing that one wrong for a while too.)

Michelangelo was born in the late 1400s and lived until the mid 1500s. He was a sculptor above everything else, but he was also into painting, architecture, poetry, engineering, and wine. Okay, I made that last one up. But, I mean…he was Italian. Weren’t they all into wine?

Interesting facts:

  1. He is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.
  2. His versatility earns him the title of “Renaissance Man,” of which Da Vinci is also considered to be.
  3. He is the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive.
  4. He’s called Il Divino (“the divine one”).
  5. His personal style literally launched an entire movement in art – Mannerism – as artists that came after him tried to imitate him.
  6. He thought painting was a low form of art. (Ouch.)

His most famous works of art are La Pietà, David, and his work in the Sistine Chapel, which includes The Last Judgment and The Creation of Adam.

This is a very, very short list for a very, very prominent and prolific artist. But if you were to know anything of Michelangelo, it would be these.

Read about some of my time in Italy, which includes when I saw La Pietà in person!

So, what can this man teach us about writing?

Surprisingly… A lot.

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.”

Michelangelo was a human being. He wasn’t a god, an angel, a werewolf, or an ood. He was human. An incredible, brilliant, one-of-a-kind human, but a human nonetheless. He worked hard to achieve everything that he did. He achieved greatness because he let his passion guide him and didn’t let fear or uncertainty hold him back.

Let’s face it: about 99.999% of us aren’t going to be the next Michelangelo of writing. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Which brings me to my next quote…

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

Some people don’t mind living life just getting by. They’re content to put in the minimum amount of work possible. And that’s fine – for them.

But for the rest of us? You get out of life what you put into it. There’s no reason not to work your tail off trying to reach your goals and see your dreams come true. Why settle for writing one novel? Why settle for just adding “published author” to the end of your name? Those are stepping stones towards something greater. Dreams are only unrealistic until they become reality.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

This is my all-time favorite quote from Michelangelo. There’s a story – I don’t know whether or not it’s true – that says that Michelangelo came every day to stare at a piece of marble. That’s all he did – stare. For months and months. One day, a man went up to him and asked him what he was doing. “Working,” replied Michelangelo. He’d spend all day staring at that marble, until one day he find took hammer and chisel to it. Soon, David was completed.

Everything starts with an idea. Some people have the patience, the ability, and the know-how to carve that angel from a solid piece of rock. Some don’t. It does take a lot of talent to write a novel, but talent has no use if it is not first preceded by an idea.

More than likely all of you have already seen your angel. You’ve probably been carving for months, or maybe even years. It can be so frustrating (marble is solid rock after all), but never give up hope. These things aren’t meant to be easy. If they were, the reward for finally finishing wouldn’t be so great.

And, finally…

“Genius is eternal patience.”

I think there are a lot of people out there who are naturally gifted – whether it’s with writing, art, math, or unicycle riding (of which I’m terrible). And I think genius is one part natural ability.

But the other part is patience.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but if you have no patience, you’ll never be able to put that talent to good use. Look at JKR – Harry Potter has had an incredible impact on the world. She taught children to love reading. She taught us lessons about life, death, and love. She created a phenomenon from a silly little idea that she thought up while on a train.

Do I consider that genius? Yes. And it took a great deal of talent to take that from a silly little idea in her head to everything we know and love about the Potter universe.

But imagine the patience it took too. She worked on that story for nearly TWENTY YEARS. Seven books, all intertwined. All details incredibly important, no matter how trivial they seem at first. Lines from the first book impacted the last. Characters who seemed unimportant became driving forces behind much of the action in the last few installments. Events in Sorcerer’s Stone parallel and mirror those in Deathly Hallows.

This was not a mistake. And it wasn’t just talent. It was patience.

With a little bit of talent, a lot of determination, and a bucket load of patience, we can all achieve everything we’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Michelangelo was the son of a politician. He held no interest in school. His mother died when he was just six. And he was born in the freaking Dark Ages.

And here I sit in 2012, at my laptop and in a world he never could have imagined, still talking about him.

  1. Julie Glover says:

    I read The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) in college, and it was an amazing book about Michaelangelo and what all he did. He was incredibly talented, but he also worked very hard. I found it fascinated how much time he spent studying–other sculptors, cadavers, materials, etc. There is definitely much we writers can learn from his life. Wonderful post!

  2. Reblogged this on Rhiannon Hall Writes and commented:
    Never give up. I just wrote words to a song that I wrote the chords for nearly 20 years ago. The process reminded me of the Michelangelo story, so I googled it to make sure I had the right guy. The JKR kicker was just too much… don’t give up, even if no one else understands.

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