Why? (Blog Archive)
Sunday, February 14, 2010
While hauling all of my painting crap to the studio today I was reflecting on how artists are willing to continue doing what they’re doing regardless of incredible odds and so much negativity in a world that really doesn’t understand, or want to understand, the urges one has to create.
I mean, really, what’s in it for us as artists, right? You know that the average Joe must scratch their heads in wonder at all these artists doing what they do by hook or by crook, for little or no money, many in total anonymity. It’s a puzzler for them. Though, to be fair, I think this is less of a question in the minds of many Europeans, because I’ve found they have a pretty good understanding and appreciation for the arts. That’s what good schooling does for you. But in America, it’s a wasteland and you have to sort of embrace the drought, as a buddy of mine, John Hitchcock is fond of saying.
The funny thing is, sometimes I have to wonder myself why I keep doing it. It really is a compulsion. Paintings and drawings, at least for me, are sort of like puzzles, or chess problems. I love to try and solve them. I like sorting them out. There’s great satisfaction in that for me.
And there’s certainly great satisfaction in just the doing of it. It’s easy for the layman, and students alike, watching someone who is proficient at it, who makes it look easy, to forget the long hours of frustration and struggle it took to learn how to do this stuff. It’s not always play, to be sure. It could and can be the most frustrating thing on the planet. That never ends. But more often than not it’s worth it to see these things materializing beneath your pen, pencil, brush, etc.
Not to mention being able to see the effect it has on the lives of others. I know how powerful an effect the artists I was into had on my life. I was ravenous for their work. I couldn’t get enough of it all. My pulse would go nuts at the sight of some of that work. And in my heart of hearts I knew I HAD to do that someday. The compass of my life was set. Nothing else would do.
Those little hurdles that I was making, those small plateaus that came so frequently back then aroused in me the same exhilaration I imagine a skydiver feels stepping out of the plane into empty space. There’s nothing else like it.
Why was I, and so many like me, susceptible to things in print, to design, to shapes on a page or in nature, to color, to line and paint? What makes that happen? Weird, isn’t it? Nature or nurture? There’s a little of both in my background. My parents both love art and have a propensity for that sort of thing, though my father never pursued it in his lifetime. My sister was gifted, but didn’t pursue it either. My uncle and my aunt were both artistic, cousins, etc. and so on down the family line. But there was nothing overt about any of that.
On the other hand, I was surrounded by books and magazines and it was also a time (60s 70’s) when illustration was everywhere. I couldn’t turn around without seeing some kind of artwork. What a great time!
I see it in my daughter. She’s got the bug. She’s in tune with color and lines and making a mess on paper. She gets lost in the paint and it’s wonderful to see. She has a very vivid separate reality at times. She can entertain herself quite well.
As I get older I appreciate more and more the classroom because, for me, it’s a social function. After years and years of happily sequestering myself in my little room and making pictures, I find I now want company. I seek it out. The classroom is a great place in that respect. That’s when I envy musicians and dancers. Theirs is a more social art form, at least on the face of it. Though I know they spent the same long, long, long hours mastering their craft in solitude as well. But their final art, the one we see, is a social event. How great! The doing for us, and writers, is still solo, for the most part, in monk-like solitude.
So no answers, really, just ruminations.
Anyway, here’s to those who love what they do and will continue doing it for no other reason than for the joy of the journey and for Art’s power to transform and redeem.
Below are the original comments that came in for this post and my replies:
I don’t think europeans, as a whole, have more understanding or appreciation for the arts. I mean the regular people, the worker who only wants to drink beer and watch tv, but too the businessman who’s life appreciation is based on money over all…
I think art is a way on find a sense to our lives. In a world with so many destruction, art means creation, a light shining on the darkness and, as you said, a way of redeem human societies from their faults and crimes against nature and other human beings.
Monday, February 15, 2010-7:57 AM
My mention of European appreciation of the arts is based on my own observations. Having been fortunate enough to have my art be appreciated over there to have them fly me about and show me their wonderful cities and museums, I’ve met many, many, many interesting people.
Without a doubt the individuals I spoke with could intelligently discuss art and what it means to them, as well as what it means historically. Indeed, many impressed me as knowing much more about the subject than even me, and I think I have a pretty thorough knowledge of art. But more importantly, art seems to influence them in their daily lives.
In America we’ve thrown so much of our history to the winds, sold to the lowest bidder. Architecture is torn down to make way for the new. Most buildings seem to be thrown together with no concern towards his they fit in with the landscape or with what was there before. And most of it feels transitory, as if it isn’t meant to last in the first place. But there, they live in the midst of their past, as well as their futures. The old sits with the new, though, yes, not always nicely so. But the rich history hasn’t been paved over. It’s why we travel there, no? To wallow in the architectural and artistically historical world that is Europe.
But, I agree that art is such a positive force. I try to get students to talk about their “art moments”, where art overcomes one physically and emotionally. I have these moments all the time. Hell, maybe it has a lot to do with my sort of depressive nature, my chemical imbalance. But I’m moved to tears by art all the time.
Watching Cirque du Soleil I was totally overcome with emotion. That humans can do such amazing things! It made me proud to be a human. Watching a television show which I missed first run called “Slings and Arrows” I’ve been moved by every episode. But most assuredly when they put on their productions and show me a Shakespeare play that is so incredibly moving, especially when they juxtapose it with current life. It’s been nailing me. Again, that humans can create such wonderfully moving things is amazing!
It’s the best we have to offer, really, aside from the great virtues.
Yes, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to practice what I do and that there is an audience willing to support it.
Saturday, February 27, 2010-4:22 PM
Inspiring words George. Thank you.
I’m not sure why I keep going either, but I’m thrilled to be a part of it every day. And, ya know, nothing feels as good as creative expression, at least to me.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010-3:17 PM
Well, your sketchbooks alone are reason enough for anyone to want to continue doing art. They’re some of the most beautiful works around. They’re inspiration in and of themselves.
What I like most about them, about most sketchbooks generally, is their unassuming nature. This has sort of taken a back seat these days as younger artists seem intent on making their sketchbooks words of art, rather than the place where they let their hair down and do the things for themselves, without any regard to any audience.
Sketchbooks have become a sort of “check me out” thing now. And it’s not that they’re not incredible, they are. They’re beautiful. But I like seeing an artist’s sketchbooks where they’re not performing for anyone. They were just doing their thing and there’s amazing stuff happening, and some…not so amazing stuff happening. And their not afraid to let the good lie with the bad. The contrast make the good stuff even better.
Can’t wait to see you guys when you’re down soon!
Saturday, February 27, 2010-4:27 PM
Very well written, George. I feel the same, even though the money hasn’t come, yet, I still feel the desire and urge to create works of art. It’s a sort of therapy to some degree. A way to relax and focus my mind on the beauty of nature.
Thanks for writing this.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010-3:53 PM