Making Special

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

What is ‘making special’, you ask? Well, if you think about it, it’s one of the most basic and defining characteristics of human activity. Making special is something that we all do, in countless ways, to make our lives more interesting, and to imbue our daily routines with greater meaning.

One obvious example can be found on any calendar - reminders of upcoming holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. For some, these ‘special days’ simply provide a welcome relief from the monotony of our ‘day to day’routines. For others, they may be indicators of deeply meaningful religious ceremonies, rooted in practices that go back centuries. In fact, ‘making special’, just like eating, sleeping, and moving around, is one of the primary things we humans do, every day of our lives.

Early Paleolithic Art

In some ways, making special can be seen, ultimately, as a survival technique, a bastion against Man’s innate ‘fear of death’. It is generally thought, for example, that Paleolithic cave paintings, found in more than 400 sites around the world, probably served as graphic incantations, created to appease the gods, or ensure a successful hunt. Often found deep in dark, hard to reach caverns, it seems likely the drawing were certainly not meant to be viewed by the general population. No, these were meant to be ‘special’.

Cave paintings, perhaps, represent Man’s earliest attempts at ‘making art’. Certainly, all the other artistic endeavors we have since devised, including, music, drama, literature, film, architecture, etc., have, on some level, a utilitarian purpose. But ultimately, most artists (as opposed to hobbyists), likely give some thought to ‘creating a legacy’, which is, by definition, a way of surviving ‘life after death’.

Craftworks To Artworks

Early signature

In the15th century, around the time of the Renaissance, artists began to include their initials or signatures on their works. Prior to that, artistic creations were thought of as crafts, often made in guilds by artisans. As such, these works generally had a utilitarian, and oftentimes, decorative function. Such works included jewelry, sculpture, and musical instruments, as well as furniture or other household items. They were expertly made, and artistic, to be sure. But it was, to a large degree, this new practice of signing their works that transformed artisans into artists, enabling some to attain an historically significant, ‘celebrity’ status. So it can be said that the practice of signing their works was, of itself, an act of ‘making special’, and an important step in the aforementioned ‘quest for immortality’.

Rembrandt signature

Of course, this practice has persisted, such that, today, we expect to find the artist’s signature on virtually all modern artworks. Perhaps we are all artists, and Life is our canvas. Certainly we each want our lives to be meaningful. In fact, books have been written about ‘the art of life’... and for me, it’s a very intriguing notion. And one day, two or three hundred years from now, I hope people will still be enjoying an original ‘Sam Siegel’ painting. But then, you needn’t wait that long... have a look now!

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