Thoughts on being an artist

To be an artist is to be starving, in so many ways.

There is a tendency toward arrogance in artistic circles. I think it’s compensation for downright weirdness. There is this hierarchy. Maybe it is because I am at the bottom of the artistic hierarchy, but when I see the top of the hierarchy’s art, sometimes I am impressed. Sometimes I am not. Maybe I am just jealous. But maybe it’s just bad art.

I confess that I hold my paintbrush wrong. An artist friend pointed that out one day, along with several other mistakes I was making. I made an honest effort to hold my brush the right way for an entire summer. I would lean toward the canvas, squooshing paint around, and wishing I were someone else. Now, I just hold the brush wrong. I am contented at the bottom of the artistic totem pole. When I paint, I lean toward the canvas, forgetting my hand, concentrating on the subject, breathing in and out like I was made for this. And when it’s done, no one asks me how I held my brush. After all, if ever there were a place to break the rules, would it not be within the beauty of art?

I have never been one to like things because others tell me they are refined. I do not like Jane Austen’s writing. I do not like those paintings that look like 80s splatter paint. I do not like espresso. I do like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I don’t care if everyone else likes it too. Maybe that’s why it’s good art. Maybe it’s because it speaks to the common man.

I paint on stuff I find. I found a splintery piece of wood with rusty screws once. I painted a mountain scene on it. I like it. It’s really bad wood. The painting isn’t that good, but I like it. It’s hanging in my living room. My Dad gave me a piece of wood used for shipping pieces of furniture. Crap wood. It is my current project. I primed it with housepaint. I’m like the trailer trash of the artistic world. I even have Christmas lights strung onto my easel. I leave them up all year.

Mostly I just like art. I like looking at it. I like making it. I like breaking the rules. I don’t mind starving a little.  I like the way it heals people. I like the way children are almost all naturally good at it. I like that it’s universal. A piece painted by a Portuguese artist may as well have been painted in Mandarin or English or sign language. I like being part of something Divine.

I shall conclude today’s entry with a quote by Madeleine L’Englie, “Our truest responsibility to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find the truth.” Yes.

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One thought on “Thoughts on being an artist

  1. I told a student a few weeks ago that I loved most of all looking at art created by children. I talked about its vulnerability and freedom…How a child says, “I like the little city I drew and I love purple, so I shall paint the city purple!” Cities aren’t purple and it doesn’t matter. Cities are purple today. Cities are purple in this picture. It makes me feel free and alive.

    I love what you love about art! I love your Christmas lights and beads, and I love the little stained-glass birds. I love Van Gogh 🙂

    I loved your line, “After all, if ever there were a place to break the rules, would it not be within the beauty of art?”

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