This blog has been longer in the making than most, and started brewing one day in conversation with a fellow artist-friend about what we do, why we do it, and how. Most of us artists have not been doing this one thing our entire adult lives. In fact, most of us are still doing something else on the side while we do our art, in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, and buy us more time to make art.
Anyway, we were talking about the role and calling of artists, particularly in a world that is post-industrial revolution and deep in the midst of a technology and information revolution, and what it is exactly that we still have to offer. I realize too that I've made enormous sacrifices in order to offer this thing to the world. So here's what I've come up with....
In essence, artists are people who peddle honesty for a living. What has remained constant throughout history, and is still so today, is the search for truth. We long for someone to simply be honest and tell us the truth. In an age of 24/7 news cycles, an internet that offers new information at the moment there is anything new however insignificant, and a culture that is so addicted to the latest updates on their smartphones we can't look up long enough to see who's seated with us at the dinner table, we are, strangely enough, still not finding that illusive truth. Enter the artist.
Artists who make the leap into the full-time expression of their craft, do so because they know they have something that must be said, and this something points to an honesty that, despite our unprecedented access to information, is still a rarity that can cause a stir and make people stop and take a second look. Artists have the ability to hit the pause button on all our electronic distractions and make us actually go somewhere in our thoughts that we may not have been to in a while, if ever. Painters, writers, filmmakers, poets, sculptors, performance artists, composers and musicians, all understand that they are compelled to speak out through their medium and express the truth as they see it. We are compelled to be honest, sometimes brutally so. And when we are, something magical happens. What we say resonates with enough people that it creates a shift in perspective, both individually and culturally.
An artist's affect on people and culture, however seemingly small to the artist, is always like a pebble dropped in a lake. The ripple effect continues beyond our sight both in distance and depth, and so often goes beyond our own personal knowledge. What keeps me going as an artist, especially in the early stages when I am still building this life, is the promise that the work speaks and has an effect that is meaningful, even if I don't always know of it. As long as I am committed to the calling, I can trust my vocation and know that it is doing its work.
Something else that speaks honesty and truth to others, is not just the artist's work, but the artists's life. Many of us despair over the snail's pace progress in our craft. And yet all the while, others look on, who have long dreamed of something other than the life they lead, and are inspired by the life we as artists lead. It may be hard to believe, when we are taking yet another part-time job to cover expenses while we make our art, while others are living "the good life" in a home they own, in a job that pays the bills (and buys much more), that we are the ones to be envied. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it's true. I live exactly the life I want to lead. My day is determined by no one other than myself. And the majority of it is spent doing the thing I love most. Who wouldn't envy that?
The artist's life speaks volumes about bravery, determination, perseverance and creativity, to those who are still in the dream stage of the life they want to lead, those who still feel trapped in a life that has been determined for them by convention, culture, and the pressure of others. But they can look at artists and have some sense that it is possible to break with convention, to make the leap and commit to something likely very unconventional but most certainly more honest. We all seem to instinctively know that in living and expressing ourselves more honestly, we will find real freedom.
So as I continue peddling honesty, day by day, and painting by painting, I realize what a huge risk I've taken. What if no one listens? What if no one sees? I think I know by now that as long as I stay honest with myself about what I am supposed to do and say, the prospect of no one hearing is simply not possible. If I make the journey, others will be inspired, and follow to that freeing place. The crux of it all is in staying honest with myself....