For some weeks now, I have been pondering my life as an artist.
I suppose it is a cumulative response to a series of recent challenges. But if I am truly honest, I have been questioning this uncommon path since the beginning. The offbeat path of an artist is known to come with its own unique set of challenges as defined by the “starving artist.” Art history is riddled with the sad stories of great artists who never sold a single painting until after they were dead and gone. In my heart, I believe so much of this scenario resulted from the masses not understanding the chosen path of artists. The common response even now of non-artists towards artists is often conflicted, encompassing both an open curiosity and attraction mixed with projections of sublime suspicion. For example, whenever I meet someone new, and I respond to the common question of what I do with being an artist, I always get a smile with the comment, “How nice.” But then comes the silent glare that wants to pierce my soul, and extract the real understanding of what being an artist is all about. There is an immediate sensation for me, as the artist, that I am dancing to a mysteriously different drum. There is both respect and suspect in those silent glares. The suspect is quite OK with me since I find myself at times questioning my own path. But when the suspect becomes disrespect, I take offense. I once was in love with a man whom I truly thought respected my life as an artist. After we parted, I heard through the grapevine he had told friends how I spent all day in the studio finger painting. Artists, for better or worse, are willing to walk the razor’s edge.
One of the challenges for artists is the need to also show up as a business person.
Artists are asked to become multi-dimensional, traversing both the imaginary and the material realms. Their work is by no means limited to the art studio. If their work is to find its way into the world beyond the studio, they must master the demands of business. Every artist dreams of being represented by the perfect gallery, or better yet, finding a Patron for their art. But many artists I know, myself included, bear witness to horrific stories of gallery representation, and the Patron remains elusive. For an artist to show up as a business person is asking a fully dominant right brained being to exercise their less dominate left brain to perform with a fair degree of professional competence in order to survive. Most artists graduate from art school with zero understanding of business. They face the tasks beyond the studio of putting together portfolios, creating inventory, pricing, framing, promo materials and learning how to present themselves and their work. In these times, artists need an online presence which they must learn how to create or source out if they can afford it. Then there is the ongoing maintenance of their site with digital files, posting, shopping carts, newsletters, social media, traffic generation and a slew of projects that belong to this other worldly realm of the web. If an artist undertakes all these needed responsibilities in order to sell their work, one might ask when it is they ever find the time to create their art. Many artists would choose the creation of their art over their selling and marketing responsibilities, and risk starving instead. I know this to be true. This is a dilemma all artists eventually encounter as they navigate much needed solutions if they want to succeed.
Most artists carry on with a commitment to creating their art despite all the necessary demands for promoting, marketing and selling.
They push on because there is no turning back once the alchemical life force for expression has rooted in their souls. An artist’s commitment to their art is a commitment to their own human growth and evolution. All creations of art are a reflection of this growth, and the desire burning in the artist spirit to see and experience beyond the norm. No one creation can ever be a finality, but merely a landmark for where the artist has been on their path. Art is born of the imagination, and the journey into imagination is unique to the artist traveling there. The alchemy of art is untamed, abstract and beyond reason. It is governed by a life force akin to the Creator, and seeks the wonder of infinite new vision and expression. It is the magnificent process of discovering hidden gems in a place where no one else has dared to go. It is a place that defies all understanding with the mind, yet exists like a great ocean teeming with life. It takes courage to travel these uncharted waters, courage to express what is found there. This is the world of the artist, to which they return over and over again in the process of creation. Their deep hope is the inevitable, natural unfolding of this process. We can count on their return, and thus, each new work of art holds the promise of even more to come.
It is a fact that the happiest and most productive cultures on the planet are those who appreciate, support and participate in the arts.
This speaks volumes for the human desire to grow, and the connection of growth to art. I have heard it said more than a few times that the business of creating art is a luxury. Some artists might retort that dependable income of a nine to five, a real job, is a luxury. I believe all of us humans are ultimately on a path of human growth whether or not we are aware of it or even desire it. Perhaps artists possess this keen awareness and burning desire, and choose the creative process as the road to get them there. If a culture supports, appreciates and participates in the arts, they acknowledge the acts of creation as being a powerful path for themselves and the whole to evolve. In this way, we are all artists to the extent that art is the eventual result of our growth and evolution. Every life, every breath becomes a work of art.