steven j. simmons - artist

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Plato-ing My Idio-Socrates

(Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30, 2013)

The word autodidact refers to an individal that is self educated.   Some famously talented autodidacts include Benjamin Franklin, Frida Kahlo, Mark Twain, Jimi Hendrix, Stanley Kubrick, Malcom X, Frank Zappa, Helen Beatrix Potter, William Blake, Ray Bradbury, Jean Michel Basqiuat, Booker T. Washington and many others.

 

Yesterday I encountered a post online where several people were making fun of the publicly available (in other words, free) art tutorials via YouTube and other free or inexpensive means.  Many of the posts suggested that it was shameful, and perhaps even laughable, to become a respectable artist by tapping into the vast numbers of online tutorials and other free forms of learning (some actually called out mild mannered Bob Ross as if he were a threat to their very existence).

 

This artsy fartsy snootiness was so upsetting that I felt compelled to conduct some research to teach myself a bit more about autodidacts (oh, the irony).  I was impressed by the number of amazingly talented people that didn't receive a formal education in their field and even more impressed by statements such as this one from Beatrix Potter:  "Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of my originality."  You go Beatrix (uh, I mean, don't go, to school that is).

 

Why do I care about this, you ask?  I confess: although I am fortunate enough to have two degrees from very good institutions, I have no formal art education.  I am completely self taught.  Therefore, as an artist, I am an autodidact. 

 

For years I was shy and apologetic about my self educated status, especially around other artists.  But that era has officially come to an end as of yesterday.  I now see my autodidact path as a true blessing.  I am glad that no one ever taught me such biases and myths as: to be a legitimate artist, you must follow a very specific path of formal education that you can only receive from a tiny list of accredited art institutes.  I am glad that I have been nothing but myself, good or bad, in my trials and tribulations as an artist that happened to “re-emerge”  later in life (more on the subject of re-emergence later). 

 

Don't get me wrong.  I am not against formal training and of course I know, admire and respect many fantastic artists with degrees from fine art schools.  Some of these formally educated folks have been kind to me while others have not given me the time of day (wha-evuh!).  Instead, I am simply a huge advocate of self teaching, especially when formal methods are not a viable option for an individual due to life's constraints such as family, time, money, and other professional commitments. 

 

This post is dedicated to all of those individuals that are passionate enough to make an effort to fulfill their dreams, as Malcom X once said, by any means necessary.


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