In my opinion it is the combination of Imagination and Vocabulary that make up Artistry.
Vocabulary is developed through focused, dedicated and frequent practice. This I believe is attainable by almost everyone. Discipline is essential and can take time and be very frustrating to develop. We are subject to so many distractions and can even find justifications for these distractions, regardless they are still distractions and need to be set aside so that practice times can remain focused.
Dry, dry, dry and true. In order to have fun playing an instrument we need to see and feel progress and to see and feel progress we need focused practice time. What a conundrum, unless of course you find a way to enjoy practicing and I don’t mean by practicing stuff you like every time you sit down to practice. Shifting our perspective of practicing could help a ton. Also, tailoring our practice to either suit our current musical needs or musical desires could help.
A good teacher can also help focus our practicing. They may offer material that may not seem to suit our goals but may be necessary for long term growth. As we come to enjoy practicing, our vocabulary will increase and probably so will our desire to use it. And here we have a potential pitfall of having a good vocabulary….. “Verbal Diarrhea”.
As we amass a great vocabulary we develop what I believe is craftsmanship. If we have a substantial vocabulary that we are able to use then we have definitely developed skill. Skill, for me, doesn’t mean being an artist. It is merely a part of the foundation of artistry.
The next ingredient is imagination. To be clear I don’t feel that always playing the most unique part in a song will be in good taste and art is subjective. I do believe that there is “something” that differentiates great players from great artists. Perhaps it is a unique voice on the instrument or the desire to find new parts; and not at the expense of the music. Maybe it is just being true to yourself and being confident with the musical choices you make, regardless of what others may think. Developing imagination, I believe, is possible. To do so our imagination practice could consist of “Letting Go!” To find something new you may have to let go of something old. Sometimes making music with a real sense of abandonment can be liberating.
Imagination is ambiguous and elusive, which is maybe why we use the phrase “strive to be an artist…” I believe that to have imagination an individual needs to have a certain freedom from “popular opinion” and the opinion of our peers.
Many people have been called an artist, but when you are able to establish what your criteria of “Artistry” is then maybe you will be a bit more picky about who you would call an artist. In turn your desire may be fuelled to developing your own artistry.