The Golden Staircase And The Demise Of The Self-Taught Artist

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Stairway to Heaven 20x24 Large framed

Stairway to Heaven (20″x24″) acrylic on canvas

Have you heard stories from the late 1800’s of the Klondike Gold Rush? If so, you’ve probably also learned about how the pioneering prospectors crossed Chilkoot Pass on foot to get from coastal Alaska the Yukon interior? While climbing to the summit, any man who ventured off the path would fall through the snow to his waste, he would quickly discover that the path less taken was not a good thing. The Golden Staircase was the way and step by step the benefit of following the person ahead was indisputable. The Golden Staircase made it possible for each man to go up and down repeatedly until he hauled all of the supplies that would be necessary to become independent on the other side. Every man’s goal was to stake his own claim.

The Golden Staircase at Chilkoot Pass  (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Golden Staircase at Chilkoot Pass (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The creative process can also be a slippery slope and we all go about gaining traction in different ways. Some seek out as much instruction as possible. Why re-invent the wheel when if you don’t have to. Some strike out on their own and forge new ground, holding fast to the notion that creative Nirvana is the product of autonomy. Perhaps the person who only imitates others will never experience the joy of expression. Likewise, the person who never seeks guidance or help from others might get bogged down in minutia of the process, never to see the light of day in the land of innovation. Luckily for us, we live in a day and age where we can learn about art everywhere we look. I believe we are living in the greatest renaissance in history thanks to the golden staircase we call the internet. Today, it’s practically impossible to not be influenced by other’s work and not to be inspired by other’s originality. The open sharing of ideas is creating solid steps that will allow us to climb to creative heights that were unimaginable 100 years ago.

A few years ago, I mistakenly considered myself to be a self taught painter because I’ve had very little in the way of formal instruction. In fact I held fast the false notion that the influence of others would taint my independence and originality. Only in the past couple of years have I come to realize and appreciate that greater heights of independence and originality are made possible by participating in the greater whole. The collective body of knowledge, inspiration and interaction that I’ve found via the internet has become my Golden Staircase. Do you think originality will Benefit or Suffer, because of the internet? How have you been inspired by others through the internet?

8 thoughts on “The Golden Staircase And The Demise Of The Self-Taught Artist

  1. Cannot really explain my feelings about the influence of the internet on my own work but did love your post. That time in history, especially the courage to embark upon the unknown, is rarely seen these days. I doubt that has anything to do with the web but, on the other hand, things do seem to come so easily, perhaps at the risk of taking that dubious risk, eh?

    Thanks for giving me the chance to ponder the extent to which I am touched by what I find within my own glowing little screen. 😉

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