On David Bowie and the True Definition of being an Artist

Photo by Gabriel Bassino on Unsplash

Bowie died on this day in 2016 and left for the space (the place where he came from).

A lot of great artists, musicians and fans have poured their heartfelt thoughts in reverence of the electrifying rock star.

This isn’t another obituary for the late David Bowie.

This is a tribute to a man who knew what it means to be a true artist.

Mr. Spaceman was, indeed a true artist in many ways — not because he was universally loved, accepted or revered. But because he had complete clarity on what makes a person an ‘artist’ in true sense.

Bowie was more than a rock/pop star, he is an icon, a true artist.

And that’s why he means so much more today than he ever did.

Bowie knew art is all about self-expression — he was weird, cocky, uncanny, peculiar but ever so real, honest and fearless.

Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke, Alladin Sane…Bowie adapted to different characters and personas like a chameleon but never lost the fabric of his inner self.

After all, for him, art was always about self-discovery.

The less questioning I did to myself, as to who I was, the more comfortable I felt

An alien. A rebel. A misfit.

Perhaps he simply molded his different moods into lifelike figures that gave him new avenues to explore himself and express his art.

I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be superhuman

Needless to say, whatever he did, he did with immense passion, genius and courage in a truly nonchalant way about what society might think, say or do.

He might not be honest with everybody, but most of all, he was honest with himself.

Bowie used the art inside him to become a popular legend we all know and love. He was authentic and that’s why he really did blow our minds, multiple times in his lifetime.

And that precisely, is the true mark of an artist. Taking pieces from your soul and turning them into art with the fabric of love, curiosity and passion.

Bowie was the quintessential avant-garde artist — someone who pushed the limits and standards a bit further. Someone who never settled with an insatiable curiosity to explore what life had to offer.

He knew and understood that the purpose of art isn’t validation but creation. It’s not competition, but expression.

Whether you are a painter, a writer, a musician or a designer — as an artist, if you can truly be yourself in a world that is desperately trying to change you — you are a true artist.

And I have learned this lesson from David Bowie.

Artists like Bowie knew they always had to be on the edge, a little deeper into the pool, a little farther into the ocean, a little closer to the cliff…any place that isn’t safe, comfortable or secure.

David Bowie was the perfect antagonist to a society fond of accepting rules and following the paths laid before us.

From his style choices to his musical expeditions, Bowie always pushed the envelope further. Maybe that’s why artists like him are labelled as ‘free souls’.

To quote him —

I am an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me

Bowie was an artist, an explorer and a rebel. That’s why he went beyond his creative boundaries and provoked the rebels in us to push our own limits too.

In an age of social conditioning and plastic emotions, it’s both a challenge and a responsibility to be yourself. It’s the age to be a hero — not for anyone but for our own selves.

We can be heroes, just for one day

Just like Bowie, artists today need to step outside the heed mentality to follow their heart fearlessly. Being brave is not just a virtue of a soldier or a fighter, it is what every artist must strive to achieve.

For better or for worse, it’s time for artists to be themselves and seek no validation from established notions and benchmarks shoved by the society.

No matter the era, decade or age — being a true artist is all about embodying your individual spirit and manifesting that into your art.

As an aspiring artist, I learned this valuable lesson from David Bowie.

I particularly love a moment from a DVD called ‘Inspirations by David Bowie’ where he shares his feelings on what it feels to be an artist —

Never work for other people Always remember that the reason you initially started working is because you felt that if you could manifest what was inside your self through your art, it’d help you understand yourself or your role in the society better

Perils of wisdom from the man who sold the world (but didn’t sell his soul for the world).

Further in the interview, Bowie goes on to say —

I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. I think they generally produce the worst work when they try to make others happy

I remember when I first heard these words and how relieved I felt. Almost as if a heavy weight was lifted off me, it was magical and motivating. It was captivating and uplifting.

Bowie reminded me how satisfaction and excitement with your own work is the biggest reward (and the only goal an artist should chase).

He literally explained everything about being a true artist in the simplest of words. That itself is another mark of how prolific a thinker and creator he was.

Dear David, you are a true star in the sky. Unapologetic. Brilliant. Pure.

For all the music and wisdom you gave us, all I can say is thank you Mr. Jones — I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring!

There was no one like you and now that you are gone, the world needs more artists like you.

Rest in Peace, Starman — you are immortal.