Hazrat Inayat Khan here gives a brief view of art, by which he means the pictorial arts and perhaps also sculpture, in comparison with the unlimited work of art which is nature. These insights can be beneficial both to the artist and to the student of life.
Nature is the perfection of whatever choice man can make, and this itself is the proof that it is a creation of a Creator Who has not created blindly, but with intention and choice, proving thereby His perfect wisdom and skill. Nature therefore is the art of an Artist Who has made it to come up to His choice. Mineral, vegetable, animal, even human creation are from Him, but in the human creation He changes His choice by experiencing life through a human mind and body.
As the perfect spirit, God creates in nature all He wishes to come into being, and does not find anything lacking, for He has the capability of creating what is not there. But when the ray of the same Spirit works through the human garb, in the first place it is incapable of seeing nature as a whole and enjoying the perfection of its beauty. And yet, being the ray of the perfect Spirit, and as by nature it seeks perfection, it wants to create what it does not find there, and it is this which brings about the necessity for action.
Nature therefore is an action of God, and art the reaction of man. Art is divided into two classes: imitation (copying), and production (improving and improvising). The first wave of the artistic impulse is to imitate what he admires, and in this there are two tendencies that the artist shows, to copy and to improve. There is one artist who is more capable of copying, another of improvising. The skill in both aspects is equally great. To copy nature fully is beyond human capacity, and the greater an artist is in his art, the better he can copy nature. To copy nature, not only a keen observation but a deeper insight into the object before him is necessary.
The improvising faculty may show in certain ways greater, for the artist tries to make the copy of nature better than it is; in reality nature cannot be bettered, considering it as a whole. But when nature is observed in its parts it most often requires to be made better; and the ray of the Creator’s spirit, which is the soul of the artist, tries to perfect that piece of nature which is imperfect when taken as apart from nature, proving thereby the action of God and the reaction of man.