The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:38 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Kim, not sure what you're trying to say. I mean, if the mind turns to examining the picture behind the text, I'll most probably either like the picture or dislike it, ...

Hi, pt1,
I'm a firm believer in art as communication, but I do know that not all art communicates with all people. Maybe that's the difficulty here, and you would respond more easily to different art - I don't know. Your approach of responding to the components separately misses the fact that they interact with each other ... if you let them, anyway.
I don't want to explain it all, because explaining art is like explaining jokes - if you have to do it, you usually kill it - but you might like to think about the effects, meanings, implications, and/or attention-holding qualities of
- the same picture without any text
- the same picture with a completely different text (an advertisement, for instance)
- the same text with a really ugly/industrial picture behind it
- the same text without any picture

Over to you,
:namaste:

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:31 pm

Hi Kim,

I think I see the source of miscommunication:
Kim O'Hara wrote: Your approach of responding to the components separately misses the fact that they interact with each other ...

The point of taking the text separately from the picture or any other component like background music for example was that I was kind of thinking in terms of how abhidhamma takes consciousness to occur - e.g.visual and auditory consciousness cannot happen at the same time, but one after the other. And each moment of consciousness (citta) will have certain mental factors that accompany it (such as attention, concentration, etc, but also such as greed, hate, or generosity, wisdom, etc) and make it wholesome or unwholesome.

Of course even while reading just the text, there will be many, many moments of different cittas, but speaking in general terms, if my attention is on the picture, it's not on considering the text at that moment, or if the attention is on the sound (music), it's not on the text, etc. Of course, the problem is that most of us have greed and hate (liking and disliking) as ingrained habitual reaction to seeing a visual object or hearing a sound, etc. And greed and hate make a citta unwholesome, while only wholesome cittas lead to awakening. Hence my conclusion that encouraging unwholesome cittas with extra sense objects like music, pictures, etc, is counter-productive.

Again, it's not the picture or music or any other kind of a sense-object that's the culprit here, but it is the ingrained habits of reacting to sense-objects with greed/hate that is the problem. That's just how things are before awakening. So my thinking is, if we're going to try to transmit dhamma (and thus encourage wholesome cittas that are accompanied with wisdom), then why make the job harder by encouraging unwholesome cittas with additional sense objects like music, pictures, etc?

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby chownah » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:25 pm

I would like to ask the original poster if the term "The Artistic Process" means 1. that it is a process for creating art....or 2. it is a process that is itself "artistic". For example, "a difficult process" means it is a process that is difficult itself but does not mean that it is a process to make things difficult.

Also I'd like to ask whether the Greek statues of naked people are art and if they were created by people using "the artistic process"?

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby MayaRefugee » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:39 am

chownah,

I started this thread to better understand what goes on in the mind and the imagination during what I believe to be the artistic process - when I started this thread I'd never heard of the word papanca which I'm tending to think sums up the artistic process.

The way I see it, somewhere in the mind of an individual they learn/observe that certain instigators of sense-consciousness either alone or in arrangements/formations give rise to certain reactions/phenomena in the mind of the individual being subject to these instigators of sense-consciousness.

For whatever reason the individual that observed the arising of this certain reaction/phenomena in either themselves or someone else decides that they will play with these instigators and see if they can to get the same phenomena to arise in either themselves or someone else.

I think the imagination comes into it when the individual tries to invent instigators of sense-consciousness that haven't been manifest in a particular way before i.e. the individual is envisioning something and not just depicting what already is.

So to answer your question it is a bit of 1 and 2 - the result of thinking/acting artistically is a work of art but there are more ramifications to it.

In regards to the statues in Greece I would say they are art as it is my assumption that the sculptors were trying to get certain phenomena to arise in those viewing them. I assume the sculptors would have observed how people reacted when subject to aesthetic formations of instigators of sense-consciousness and tried to provide a means for evoking these reactions.

I would then go on to divide these artworks/sculptures/statues into those with imagination and those without. There are statues of Pan for example, half goat half man, as far as I know he is a figment of someones imagination and not a depiction of something that already is - working from a vision or something imagined IMO is harder then working from something that already is so I would say that the more imagination employed in the artistic process the more artistic the resultant instigator of sense-consciousness is.

I would really like to delve into this some more so it would be good if you all joined me in this and continued contributing to this thread.

Peace.
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:19 am

pt1 wrote:Hi Kim,
... The point of taking the text separately from the picture or any other component like background music for example was that I was kind of thinking in terms of how abhidhamma takes consciousness to occur - e.g.visual and auditory consciousness cannot happen at the same time, but one after the other. And each moment of consciousness (citta) will have certain mental factors that accompany it (such as attention, concentration, etc, but also such as greed, hate, or generosity, wisdom, etc) and make it wholesome or unwholesome.
... it's not the picture or music or any other kind of a sense-object that's the culprit here, but it is the ingrained habits of reacting to sense-objects with greed/hate that is the problem.
... if we're going to try to transmit dhamma (and thus encourage wholesome cittas that are accompanied with wisdom), then why make the job harder by encouraging unwholesome cittas with additional sense objects like music, pictures, etc?

Hi, pt1,
I've never looked far into the Abhidhamma. Maybe I'm missing something that will revolutionise my understanding of the world or of myself, but maybe not; what you describe here certainly does not match my subjective experience of the world, though I can see that it is at least plausible in theory.
I've got to say, then, that I don't think your analysis is relevant to my, or most people's, experience of art. I also wonder how it deals with such simple sensory conflicts as, for instance, a dhamma verse in a font you dislike intensely.

We all can, and often do, choose how to organise our sense impressions (and sense impressions are, of course, all we ever have). Check out the 'Understanding Engineers' thread for examples of some poor alternative choices. :tongue:
But if your way leads you towards enlightenment, or even simply makes you happy, stay with it.
:namaste:
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:54 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I've never looked far into the Abhidhamma. Maybe I'm missing something that will revolutionise my understanding of the world or of myself, but maybe not; what you describe here certainly does not match my subjective experience of the world, though I can see that it is at least plausible in theory. I've got to say, then, that I don't think your analysis is relevant to my, or most people's, experience of art.

No worries, abhidhamma is not so widely discussed nowadays, even though it is one of the three pitakas. Being involved with arts for the most of my life, I find abhidhamma really helps to sort things out in terms of what's real and what's not, what's a concept and what's a reality, etc. And of course, what is the right view of reality that leads to awakening. I guess all this relates to what you call "subjective experience of the world", because in arts in particular it's all about figuring out the "subjective" bit I guess.

Kim O'Hara wrote:I also wonder how it deals with such simple sensory conflicts as, for instance, a dhamma verse in a font you dislike intensely.

There are many moments of consciousness (cittas) in every instant. Reading just one verse would require many many cittas to happen. Every citta must have an object. Though we can go into incredible detail here, in simple general terms it could be said that the verse will be the object of one citta, while the font would be the object of another citta. So there is no conflict, as one citta will come after the other, though they would happen so fast that it would seem that they happen simultaneously. Not sure if this makes sense?

Kim O'Hara wrote:We all can, and often do, choose how to organise our sense impressions.

Well, it depends how deeply you want to relate this issue to buddhism. As I understand it, the whole point of anatta teaching is to understand that all dhammas are conditioned, so it seems impossible that there can really be any choosing "how to organise our sense impressions". Unless of course one believes that there is a self which chooses how sense impressions (or anything else for that matter) should be, though this of course goes against most buddhist tenets as I understand it at least.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:21 pm

pt1 wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:We all can, and often do, choose how to organise our sense impressions.

Well, it depends how deeply you want to relate this issue to buddhism. As I understand it, the whole point of anatta teaching is to understand that all dhammas are conditioned, so it seems impossible that there can really be any choosing "how to organise our sense impressions". Unless of course one believes that there is a self which chooses how sense impressions (or anything else for that matter) should be, though this of course goes against most buddhist tenets as I understand it at least.

In those terms, "choosing how to organise our sense impressions" is, I admit, a bit misleading. "How to interpret our sense perceptions" may be more accurate, and the "choice" is most often an automatic response resulting from the sum of our prior experiences.
You seem to want to discuss art in terms of ultimate reality but conventional reality seems to me to be more appropriate. On that level it is certainly possible to choose to flip between two interpretations of one image - think of the classic figure/ground illusions, for instance - and, I think, to consider a work of art as more than the simple sum of its parts.
:namaste:
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:39 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:In those terms, "choosing how to organise our sense impressions" is, I admit, a bit misleading. "How to interpret our sense perceptions" may be more accurate, and the "choice" is most often an automatic response resulting from the sum of our prior experiences.

Agreed, this sounds much more relevant.

Kim O'Hara wrote:
You seem to want to discuss art in terms of ultimate reality but conventional reality seems to me to be more appropriate.

Yeah, sorry about that, I mostly read on abhidhamma lately, so tend to bend that way. I'll try to use a bit more conventional terminology.

Kim O'Hara wrote:On that level it is certainly possible to choose to flip between two interpretations of one image - think of the classic figure/ground illusions, for instance - and, I think, to consider a work of art as more than the simple sum of its parts.

Well, I'd agree that on conventional level there might be an illusion that it is possible to choose/switch between different interpretations of the same sensual impression. Anyway, let's focus on what does it mean to "consider a work of art" in reality? As I understand it, the sense perception involved is a real process, the liking/disliking of what's seen (heard, etc) is also real, un/pleasant feeling associated with what's perceived is also real, but the interpretation of the meaning of what's perceived, is based on concepts, and according to abhidhamma, concepts are not real. So, likewise, the inferred meanings of beauty, ugliness, innovation, novelty, etc, of a particular "work of art" are all concepts, so not real. On the other hand, liking/disliking, or basically attachment to these concepts is also real!

So the question becomes how is experiencing a work of art (and this I hope is directly related to the thread topic) different from experiencing an ordinary object? When experiencing an ordinary object, the sense impressions involved are still there, the liking/disliking are also there, the un/pleasant feeling is also there, and so are the concepts about the meaning of what's seen for example. But, as far as I can tell, there's much less attachment to the conceptual meaning of what's seen.

E.g. let's say I see a rock, I might conclude "a nice-looking rock" and just move on. But if the rock was sculpted by a famous sculptor and I'm very much into sculpture, I might go on and on about how well the work was done, what I like and what I don't like about it, how meaningful it is to me at this point in my life, how well it expresses the battle between good and evil tendencies in a human being, etc. All this would be simply conceptual proliferation, and every person would have a different conceptual story to tell about the rock. Now, even if we take the abhidhamma stand and just dismiss all these concepts as mere illusions, the important fact remains that the attachment behind all those concepts will be real in every single case, and according to the 4 noble truths, attachment has everything to do with suffering. Hence, I struggle to see how can art have a positive effect for someone trying to gain freedom from suffering.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby MayaRefugee » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:37 am

pt1,

When you say attachment to concepts is real are you also implying realness equates to wholesomeness?

Isn't overcoming attachment to fabricated concepts is one of the goals of the path?

Doing this is supposed to allow you to see things naked/how they are and lead to realisations congruent with the following sentiments:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour....William Blake

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun....Ecclesiastes 1:9

Art could be positive/lead to the cessation of suffering if it entices someone onto the path or to "enter the stream".

"Art is the lie that let's you see the truth"....Picasso.

Without delusion there would be no art.
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:44 am

Also ...
"Music is a means of giving form to our inner feelings without attaching them to events or objects in the world."
But I don't know where the quote comes from - it's on a coffee mug someone gave me. :smile:

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:59 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Also ...
"Music is a means of giving form to our inner feelings without attaching them to events or objects in the world."
But I don't know where the quote comes from - it's on a coffee mug someone gave me. :smile:

Kim
George Santayana of the "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. " fame, among other things.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 7:53 am

MayaRefugee wrote:When you say attachment to concepts is real are you also implying realness equates to wholesomeness?

No, real in the sense that it can be verified as such (in the sense that it really happens) through insight. So attachment can be verified to really happen, while concepts can't. What can be verified through insight to really happen is called a dhamma, so concepts aren't. Of course, attachment is unwholesome, while mindfulness for example is a wholesome dhamma (there are different mental factors, some wholesome, some unwholesome and some that can be both). Regardless, all dhammas are conditioned, impermanent and not self, except nibbana (unconditioned, permanent and not self).

MayaRefugee wrote:Isn't overcoming attachment to fabricated concepts is one of the goals of the path?

Yes, I believe so, just as abandoning attachment to feeling, perceptions, forms (what would I think include all sense impressions as well), etc

MayaRefugee wrote:Doing this is supposed to allow you to see things naked/how they are and lead to realisations congruent with the following sentiments:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour....William Blake

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun....Ecclesiastes 1:9

Not sure what sentiment the above verses are supposed to express, but I guess relating your "to see things naked/how they are" in a buddhist sense would mean to see through insight the arising of all conditioned dhammas (realities) as suffering, impermanent and not-self. Afaik, this is what brings dispassion and the mind starts to incline towards the deathless, nibbana, instead of chasing after impermanent dhammas.

MayaRefugee wrote:Art could be positive/lead to the cessation of suffering if it entices someone onto the path or to "enter the stream".

I agree that art can provide an entry point - introducing someone to the dhamma, but that's not the issue here I think, the issue seems to be whether art is at all helpful to that someone from then on (provided art is not the only source of dhamma from then on). I mean, why not just stick to suttas for example?

MayaRefugee wrote:Without delusion there would be no art.

True. So then why indulge in art if we're aiming for dispassion and non-delusion?

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby MayaRefugee » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:40 am

pt1,

Thanks for clarifying those things - :bow:

The sentiment I feel is expressed by those qoutes is the sameness of things i.e. nothings special, it just is - it's how I imagine art would seem when witnessed from the nibbanic view-point. Earlier in this thread zavk mentioned papanca, I'm still studying it but from what I'm gathering it's only when we indugle in papanca that things become more than they are.

If art that had allusions to The Dhamma was the catalyst that started me on a pursuit for truth/wisdom/the cessation of suffering I would be pretty foolish not to check out The Dhamma.

In saying this, with all my defilements reading The Dhamma might be laborious as I struggle to concentrate on it/give it my attention so I end up not sticking with it.

On the other hand, The Dhamma presented in a form that suits my defilements is less laborious to concentrate on/give my attention so I am more open to it and I might stick to it longer than I stuck to reading "The Dhamma".

After a while if this "artistic" source of The Dhamma is communicating the teachings successfully I might decide to work through my defilements and I might even reach the point where I can sit and read The Dhamma - then it comes to a point where you don't need your old source of The Dhamma anymore i.e. the art and you can, as you say, just stick to the suttas.

I don't really know why you would indulge in art when we're trying to cultivate disppasion and non-delusion, that's one of the reasons I started this thread.

From where I am at the moment I would say:

- there are worse ways you could spend your time.
- there is a chance you could help someone shed some degree of ignorance and thus ease their suffering.
- it's a way to keep the body busy/skill you can develop while you use your mind to contemplate.

Other than that I'm at a loss to think of a beneficial reason to indulge in art.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:38 am

MayaRefugee wrote:I don't really know why you would indulge in art when we're trying to cultivate disppasion and non-delusion, that's one of the reasons I started this thread.

From where I am at the moment I would say:

- there are worse ways you could spend your time.
- there is a chance you could help someone shed some degree of ignorance and thus ease their suffering.
- it's a way to keep the body busy/skill you can develop while you use your mind to contemplate.

Other than that I'm at a loss to think of a beneficial reason to indulge in art.

Well, the reasons you state are fine. On re-reading the thread, it seems I'm arguing against art - don't take what I say on any authority, I'm also really just exploring this issue.

I think one thing that should be considered very carefully is motivation, especially during the creative process. I.e. the usual artistic motivation in creating is about chasing (liking) the mental state that can be conventionally described as "inspiration" and the pleasant feeling associated with it and the concept of creating something entirely new for the first time. Of course, there are worse kinds of motivation like for financial or other kinds of gain (e.g. pride as in in "look how great I am at what I do"), etc.

Anyway, all these are selfish kinds of motivation, so the question is can art be performed/created with unselfish motivation? I.e. with mental factors of generosity and kindness, instead of greed and hate (liking and disliking)? I think most definitely. But it's not easy, because it requires very keen understanding of the difference between wholesome and unwholesome mental factors and states. Even though I try to stir in that direction, I still think that 99.99% of all the moments when I'm involved with art end up being unwholesome because the habitual reaction of responding to sense-objects with liking/disliking is just so deeply ingrained. So, at the moment it seems spending the time on studying the dhamma straight out of the dhamma books is a time much better spent.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby chownah » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:59 pm

pt1 wrote:
So the question becomes how is experiencing a work of art (and this I hope is directly related to the thread topic) different from experiencing an ordinary object?

I think the answer to this one is easy....there is no difference.....a work of art is just an ordinary object.....it is the mental processes which label an ordinary object as a "work of art" which should be examined carefully if one really wants to develop some insight in this matter.....in my view. To think that a "work of art" has some special inate quality is just indulging in self making directed at an object....in my view.....and trying to make art into some overblown consciousness thingy is just self making at the personal level....in my view.

Art is just something that we imagine....hooray for imagination.....but there really isn't much more to it than that....the famous paintiings of the world are just rancid oil smeared on a cloth...the Greek sculptures are just rocks that have been eroded by men....music is just resonant vibrations of air......I love all of it but in my view that's really all there is to it. If a "work of art" points to the dhamma then hooray for that......a pile of compost can do the same so should I start a discussion about the wondreous awakening powers of compost?......hahahhahahahha
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby MayaRefugee » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:38 pm

chownah wrote:....it is the mental processes which label an ordinary object as a "work of art" which should be examined carefully if one really wants to develop some insight in this matter...


Which is inherent in what we're trying to do.

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Feb 11, 2010 4:24 am

chownah wrote:Art is just something that we imagine....hooray for imagination.....but there really isn't much more to it than that....the famous paintiings of the world are just rancid oil smeared on a cloth...the Greek sculptures are just rocks that have been eroded by men....music is just resonant vibrations of air......I love all of it but in my view that's really all there is to it. If a "work of art" points to the dhamma then hooray for that......a pile of compost can do the same so should I start a discussion about the wondreous awakening powers of compost?......hahahhahahahha
chownah

Every statement in the form 'A is just B' is false.
:guns:

:smile:
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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:12 am

chownah wrote:I think the answer to this one is easy....there is no difference.....a work of art is just an ordinary object.....it is the mental processes which label an ordinary object as a "work of art" which should be examined carefully if one really wants to develop some insight in this matter.....in my view. To think that a "work of art" has some special inate quality is just indulging in self making directed at an object....in my view.....and trying to make art into some overblown consciousness thingy is just self making at the personal level....in my view.

Art is just something that we imagine....hooray for imagination.....but there really isn't much more to it than that....

I agree in theory. The problem though is that every conventional activity can be reduced down to imagination, i.e. just a lot of conceptual proliferation backed by the undercurrent of attachment and delusion (politics, business, marketing, etc, all the same in that respect). So the issue is then, if we can't be monks and just leave all that behind, then how do we manage being involved in a conventional activity (like being an artist in terms of livelihood) and yet do it in a way compatible with the dhamma? Looking into how the mind labels some object as a "work of art" is definitely one of the good pointers. What would be some other good pointers you or others might advise?

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby pt1 » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:25 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
chownah wrote:Art is just something that we imagine....hooray for imagination.....but there really isn't much more to it than that....the famous paintiings of the world are just rancid oil smeared on a cloth...the Greek sculptures are just rocks that have been eroded by men....music is just resonant vibrations of air......I love all of it but in my view that's really all there is to it. If a "work of art" points to the dhamma then hooray for that......a pile of compost can do the same so should I start a discussion about the wondreous awakening powers of compost?......hahahhahahahha
chownah


Every statement in the form 'A is just B' is false.


What would then make your statement just as false? Looks like we have a recurring pattern here:

Every statement in the form A ("every statement in the form 'A is just B") is just B ("is false") is false

:tongue:

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Re: The Buddha, Imagination and The Artistic Process

Postby MayaRefugee » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:26 am

pt1 wrote:how do we manage being involved in a conventional activity (like being an artist in terms of livelihood) and yet do it in a way compatible with the dhamma? Looking into how the mind labels some object as a "work of art" is definitely one of the good pointers. What would be some other good pointers you or others might advise?


A couple I can think of:

I think understanding first of all that you aren't a monk/arahant/Tathagata so any expositions of truth or depictions you make of things are therefore products of your defilements/taints/prejudices/impurity and not the be all and end all - I guess I'm alluding to not being conceited or ostentatious about what you produce and are probably also labelling a "work of art".

As a viewer of art I'd say understanding what you are appreciating would be important as to not get carried away. As chownah said a painting is just oil smeared on a canvas - not very impressive - oil smeared in certain formations gets a bit more impressive so its the way the oil has been put on the canvas we are now appreciating - there are more aspects you could appreciate but I won't go into that - I'm just saying knowing the nature of what you're appreciating and seeing it for what it's worth would be IMO important.
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