An Artist is someone who does something with great skills or someone who creates work as a form of expression. It can be inspired by virtually anything that has meaning to the artist, or it can be an exercise in randomness. It can involve very complex and profound concepts or a subconscious zen-like execution. Art does not have to have an audience to exist. It only needs to have the artist.
I will be using the software development as a case study in a moment from now.
A house painter isn’t an artist just because he uses some of the same tools as an artist. The intent is what matters.
When a writer hammers away at a typewriter, he’s creating his art. A musician composing a piece of music is creating her art. To say that a person writing code for a program cannot be art is like saying the writer hasn’t created his work until it has been published or the musician’s work doesn’t exist until it has been performed. Someone who can’t read music may not be able to experience it by looking at the sheet music and a blind person may not be able to experience painting, but the works still exist.
Most, but not all, art forms share some common attributes. Those are the inspiration, process and technology. Painters prepare the canvas, they select their brushes, they arrange their materials and workspace. Art doesn’t begin when the artist first applies paint to his canvas or sketches the contours of his composition. It began when he was at the market, was inspired by an arrangement of produce, and began the act of selecting different items for his still life. The painting may never get finished, but that doesn’t disqualify it. It’s still art when the painter is working on it. The only thing that separates a painting that never gets finished and one that does is the artefact that gets left behind. That’s all that matters to some people because it’s the only thing of value, it’s the only way they can experience it. But that’s not what art is all about.
A programmer may be motivated to code a piece of software to explore a concept in his own mind. If the intent is to create that as a work of art, then he’s creating art. He may see the beauty in code others have written, or see the beauty in patterns generated at random, but those are his inspiration. The computer and the code are his technology instead of a paintbrush and canvas. When he executes and debugs and fine-tunes his code in an effort to see where it takes him, that’s his process. It may end with no one else ever seeing his work and the code fail to execute as intended, but those never take away from the fact that he set to create some sort of artistic expression. Art involves failure too.
Software development is more art than science. Sure, the programming languages that comprise software development have rules and are highly systematic, but the application of these languages is an artistic, highly individual creation. Each piece of software reflects the individual who created it. No two pieces of software are identical. It is this highly individual nature of software creation that makes it so artistic, so one-of-a-kind.
I think the real value of being a software artist is that you don’t quantify, you constantly improve. When you design a project, constantly ask yourself: can this project be designed better? When you write code, after testing all the functionality, sit back, look at it, and ask yourself:
is this code structured beautifully as the finest artwork you have ever seen?
So as Software engineers consider yourself more of a Software artist. Software engineers will stop improving their projects once they checked all the checkboxes, software artists do not have those checkboxes because their work is already above the standards. As a software artist, once you settle down on measuring your project against some baselines, your project is no longer an artwork because you would not challenge yourself any more.
Artists usually influence other people by what they do and/or what they produce. Uber has transformed the transportation industry, creating standards in the market and has inspired others to do the same. This is where art comes to play, you design the foreseeable future. When architecting a design or a concept, think about it if it can stand the test of time or it is just a fashion.
In a nutshell, you become an expert when you are more of an artist in your field. Looking at Leonardo Da Vinci, the greatest artist the world has ever had, he employed artistry in all his areas of interest like invention, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, palaeontology and cartograph. So regardless of your area of specialization, incorporate art into your craft. It singles you out from the crowd.
I am more of an Artist than what you think I am.