Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao
Giving with great kindness
Speaking with great integrity
Governing with great administration
Handling with great capability
It is therefore beyond reproach
The true artist is the one who serves his/hers highest purpose, which to communicate with the viewer with integrity. Lao Tzu uses the characteristics of water as an analogy to describe the actions and the capabilities required to be an authentic artist. Like water, the artist is to dive into one’s own depth, into places, where many wouldn’t go. Using the solid knowledge of understanding the materials and technique (a solid base), the artist is to create with sincerity, and honesty to oneself and others and with his/her art, without arrogance, to speak to everybody, no matter how artistically informed or knowledgeable the audience is.
And above all the artist is to go, as they say “with the flow” and not against ones own nature or external abstractions.
Working in applying all those attributes together the artist would be successful in conveying his/her message and making their own statement/contribution with their art.
* I am using Translation by Derek Lin as examples of verses, but there are many different translations with different nuances and sensibilities of the translators.