Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Private Struggle of the Artist

"One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever comes to sit by it.  Passersby see only a wisp of smoke rising from the chimney and continue on their way."
 -- Vincent Van Gogh

One of my favorite email newsletters comes from artist Robert Genn.  It's always full of tips and advice, not only on art techniques but on the life of an artist ... and life in general.  This morning he quotes a letter he received from Keith Wright, an Australian artist who despairs his life as an artist. "I have a studio full of paintings and a wife who denigrates my career. I have no money, no sales, no hope. I can no longer believe in myself because no one else believes in me." he says.

I look at his art and wonder why he's not selling ... his work is lovely.  And then I wonder at the thousands of artists who do not sell.  And, then, of course, I think of myself.  I haven't done art in almost four months.  I blame it on the move and the chaos of my life.  But, also, there's the fact that I had my first gallery showing and sold nothing.  Which is it that's keeping me away from creating art?

And, even deeper, why does our belief in our selves depend upon someone else believing in us? Genn talks about Van Gogh and his struggles with depression and belief in himself and offers a thought for today:
"Success or no success, joy or no joy, we are alone. And it is to this private struggle that we must consign our energy, our focus, and our lives.

Vincent tells us that one needs only to listen to the voice of nature to be fulfilled. That only the beautiful mind is needed. The idealist in us finds this to be true. The pragmatist doesn't. Vincent himself could not live up to his own standards. He too was depressed. 'What am I in most people's eyes?' he asked. 'A nonentity or an eccentric and disagreeable man?'
Truth is, when we're able to kiss off the expectations laid on us by ourselves and others, we have the chance to overcome." 
Kissing off the expectations of others ... a worthy goal ... and a timely reminder.  I just finished a project that did not meet the expectations of someone I wanted to please ... someone who is paying the bill.  The project can be reworked and I think we can get there but the lack of approval still stings.  I have to remind myself of the joy I had doing the project and that I did the best work I'm capable of doing.  That has to be enough.  I can only put out my best ... I can't be responsible for how it is received.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, dear, ouch; I know that sting of rejection well -- as I also know the sadness Keith Wright feels, and yours on not selling anything in a show (that one is PARTICULARLY familiar these days; when money is tight, art is the first thing to fall off the budget.)

    We have to believe that in doing our best and staying open to the promptings of the spirit we are fulfilling our purpose and doing/being all that we can be. But it IS hard to live without that feedback that artists in particular seem to crave more than most.

    Sigh. A difficult conundrum; always good to know we're not alone. I'm so grateful for your presence in my life!