Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Lie About Artists Exposed

There is a terrible rumor flying around out there about us artists, and I think it is time that we confront it head on. I say this because too many of artists have believed it and have been using it in masochistic rituals against the very core of our beings. Over enough time believing this lie will, at the very least, leave us creatively crippled and at the worst will destroy our spirits, the part of us that makes us amazing and wonderful creations of a creative God.

The lie is simple. Artists are lazy. Now, I have to admit that there are few posers out there who have adopted the title as artist to justify their tendency to do as little as possible and live on other people’s couches and eat from their refrigerator. However, simply adopting the title does not mean one deserves the title. True artists are anything but lazy. The problem is much of our progress is difficult to measure in standard terms.

We are seen sitting staring at dust motes in the sun, following the patterns in the carpet, or getting lost in a movie. To the outside observer all of these things can be considered lazy, pointless even. What you can’t see, is the sifting process going on in our brains. If you don’t believe me ask an artist to tell you what they see in the film you watch together. Most people will tell you about the plot and the scenery or that really great actions sequence, we will tell you about the symbols and color pops, the way shots were framed, the use of music to set the tone, or the theological implications if such a thing were true.

A true artist never gets a moment alone, our heads and hearts are filled with images and ideas that like hungry children are begging for our attention. I cannot remember a time when I did not have the next painting forming and shaping itself in my mind, a character in a book not yet written pleading to have their nose described and defined by my words, or some great void of inspiration begging to filled. They are always there, when I am driving, brushing my teeth, and trying to sleep.

And like children, I tell them they can wait. I tell them I will see to their needs in a little while, and like children, they know when they are being placated so I can have moment’s peace. So many of us develop methods of coping. For me it is pacing, I pace with determination and purpose. So much so that if you were to study the padding beneath the living room carpet you would find distinct levels of compression indicating my paths.

Adding to the chaos is the number of voices, if you are or love a creative person you know that we have a million and one great ideas. We have to figure out which ones should be ignored and which ones should be embraced and nurtured. I have rejected a reoccurring idea to dye myself purple, writing random bits of poetry on the walls of my home, and welding a sea horse like apparatus to the hood of my car. I would like to say I rejected these ideas because I realized their impracticality, but the truth is I have yet to find the right shade of purple, my landlord wouldn’t appreciate the graffiti, and I don’t know how to weld.

So I have to figure out what I can do with the tools at hand, and getting to that idea requires tremendous concentration and focus – hence the pacing. Sometimes, I have to take more drastic measures to scatter the ideas enough to pick a single one from the foray. This means Air Supply has to be blasted from the stereo and I must sing loudly and off key until the proper level of tranquility has been reached. And the really sad thing is, I don’t even like Air Supply.

Then and only then, can I begin to work. Now, I call this work, others would probably call it a series of false starts. As with this blog post which was started and deleted four times to date. To the average on looker it could appear as a wasted effort and an abuse of time, but I know that all of this starting, stopping, creating and destroying is a part of the process. It’s the winnowing of the words and images that I am trying to capture. It is working out the impurities and refining the molten ideas of my heart. There are no short cuts. It is a simple surrender to something that others may not understand or value.

I think this is why so many artists must work in seclusion. We need the freedom to file our nails, and stare at our faces in the mirror before putting pen in hand, brush to canvas, or finger tip to key. The weight of scrutiny is just too much to shoulder when you are already laden with so many sensations both tangible and esoteric. We don’t need to worry about appearing strange or odd to a perplexed audience. I also think this is why there are so few famous women artists, but that is a post for another time.

Creation is labor intensive. It always has been. Even God declared the need for a rest after his endeavors. Not that he needed one, but he knew that we would need a space in time to silence all the demands of the creative process. He understood that taking a moment to consider dust motes would allow us to rest in the greatness of a God who created even these insignificant bits of wonder.

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Just ran away to McDonalds to sit in the corner with laptop to read this blog, yes that's me in the corner, drinking coffee, smiling reading swaying to their music.

Even reading this blog is part of my process as a writer/artist. Owning that I'm not hiding, but seeking.

Thanks for the inspiration to embrace the process, even if what I'm doing doesn't look like I'm working on my art, when all my life is just that-my story/my art.
Great writing as usual friend.