Monday, June 13, 2011

What's a true artist?

     "Untitled "  50x 70 cm.  Ink on paper

 A lot of my artist friends are having exhibitions right now and a small stirring is happening
 in my artist's heart.

 I had a show last year at this time in Nice and everyone claimed it a success.  I paid for the buffet, the gallery and the framing with my earnings and that is considered a success here, especially if the exhibition runs only one week and the gallery is off the beaten path.

 I was pleased and gratified by all the pieces that were bought by my friends and a few strangers.   People were kind and complimentary.  Several good pals helped me with the hanging and the transport and it all worked!  It was exhausting but it worked!

But then something happened.  I stopped painting.   I defiantly stopped for several reasons that I can pinpoint but I am not really sure myself of the real reasons.

 I am trying to analyze this and maybe throw some light on it for other artists who are stopped in mid stroke.  I see by my blog stats that it is not just my friends who are reading this blog now .  Maybe there are some others out there trying to get from A to B with their life and maybe we can start the process here of moving forward one step at a time.

First of all, I stopped creating because, not surprisingly, I needed to earn money.  A couple thousand euros a year doesn't keep one in biscuits and tea or even pay for art supplies.... even if one were to manage two shows a year. And  I stopped painting because art suddenly seemed a naive indulgence.   A show seemed like giving oneself a giant birthday party where everyone had to come, like it or not and bring a present!

   Of course to earn more in the "art" world, one could cater to the tourists here in a tourist town.     But compromising to sell "lavender fields" on the Cours Saleya is really the death of a dream and I question: is it really art or strictly commerce when you have to cater your output to a mass audience?

 Lavender fields is my euphemism for tourist art which is often slapped out with the overuse of the palette knife and lots of garish colors to please the masses.  With few exceptions, the offerings I see for sale for tourists are" paint by lobotomy": formulaic painting and hideous.    Sorry but I can't be kinder.

 And according to my three buddies who do sell art to tourists,  it is a bitch to get a placement or stand and there is fierce competition and jealousy among the sellers.  Still it is a living and I don't disparage what my friends have managed to produce and sell.  Personally though, I don't know if I have the stamina they have to drag oneself and one's cart out the door at "dawn's early light".

Another reason I stopped is that the "real job"  I do,  often with lots of back and forth on the internet, often waiting for clients to arrive "whenever" from the airport , does not lend itself to those long moments of uninterrupted thought or focus.

An artist has to go off in his head somewhere.    That means you have to get lost in a dream place.  That usually happens only when you are actually creating something or just sitting there with nothing going on.  So, first of all you have to make time for this fertilizing of the ground.  I haven't done this for a year, really, except for moments here and there for my engraving class.

Another reason I stopped is that I felt I wasn't a "true" artist.  A true artist, in my book, lives and breathes art and is helpless to abandon it.  Art colors one's whole life if one is a true artist.  I am not that.  I enjoy other things.  I am really a good teacher and sometimes I like being with people more than holing myself up in a darkish studio.

But even with all of these reasons and excuses , I found out there is a small crater, a sadness in my artist's heart.

  I thought I could live without art and I found out that I can't.  If one is a "maker of stuff" a "creator of stuff" ... you just are ...and you have to go with it, you have to honor it.

 This is what I am feeling now.    I am looking forward to gimping along with my engraving this summer.  I will experiment a lot and catalogue a lot of "mistakes" and  if I am lucky I will start to feel ....  I don't know....enthusiastic perhaps ?  Yes, that would be a good start.    Baby steps...think baby steps.

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