TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #8: You’re only a REAL artist if you’re ONLY an artist

Myth: Real artists devote their entire life to art; real artists never compromise! (And its corollary: Artists sleep til noon because they don’t have real jobs to go to.)

Reality: Any time you can make art is a good time to make art!

I’m beginning to think that history books and movies have been the source of most our myths about artists.

Again, remember that what makes for a good “sound bite” doesn’t always reflect real life.

We’ve all seen the movies about artists who devote themselves passionately–and exclusively–to their art. Marriages, kids, friendships fall to the wayside in their relentless pursuit of their vision. Charlton Heston as Michaelangelo, lying on his back painting the Sistine Chapel as he exchanges barbs and retorts with the pope. Or Ed Harris as Jackson Pollack, fierce in his artistic throes, with the entourage that devoted themselves to promoting his art (who ended up tossed by the wayside as they burnt themselves out doing so.)

And what do we know about artists throughout history? Usually a sentence or two, or at most a paragraph in the history books. An entire chapter, or maybe even a book, for the stellar ones.

So we’re only a “real artist” if we devote every waking minute to our art, and plow through our personal relationships with the sensitivity of a back hoe.

There are other ways to make art, of course. And the artists involved are just as “real” as you and me.

Yes, some artists are fortunate enough to pursue their art full-time. But their art becomes their profession–they work just as hard at it as anyone else does in THEIR profession. If they sleep til noon, it’s because they just spent 36 hours straight completing new work for an upcoming exhibition, or they put the finishing touches on a new CD, or they finally figured out how to use QuickBooks to bill their galleries, or they just got back from a grueling four-day wholesale show on the other coast.

Real artists run the gamut of everything you can say about artists. Some are so successful selling their work, they can support themselves and a family doing so. Some work part-time or even full-time jobs to pay the bills, painting in their spare time. Or they marry someone whose passionate profession pays more money than making art does.

Some get famous, some don’t. Some blow through people like kleenix, others have solid relationships and happy families. Some create public murals that cover tall buildings that thousands see every day. Others make wonderfully tiny artifacts you can cup in your hand and known to literally a handful of people.

Again….there’s room for us all.

Of course, the converse is also true. If you work full-time or engage in other activities, and don’t make time to make art, then you may be an artist at heart. But there will be nothing in the world that reflects that intention.

If you watch TV, do housework, put everyone else’s priorities ahead of yours, then your art will indeed only take up only the tiniest space you’ve allotted for it–nada.

Yes, life happens, especially if you are the caregiver in your family, the social planner, the “fall-back” person. Our sales fall off and we have to scramble to pay the bills. We get sick or injured, or a loved one does. We enter periods of self-doubt and despair. Our desire to create can seem fragile, tenuous during hard times.

But ultimately, we have to come back to this–the only person who can make your art is YOU.

Whether it’s a song, a prayer, a painting, a dress, a garden, a play, a dance, a necklace, if it’s in you, find a way to get it out into the world as soon as you can.

So make time for your creativity a priority. Carve out a little space for it in your life. Plan for it. Honor it. Respect it.

Because if, like I did once, you walk away from it entirely, you will always feel that empty space in your heart.

I will never go “there” again. And my wish for you is that you never go “there”, either, at least not for very long.

Tip: This is where a well-written, passionate artist statement comes in handy. The kind where you really talk about the WHY of what you do. When you read yours, YOU should be inspired to get back in the saddle and ride off into the sunset with your art.

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6 Comments

Filed under art, career, choices, courage, craft, creativity, depression, fear of failing, inspiration, life, mental attitude, myths about artists

6 responses to “TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #8: You’re only a REAL artist if you’re ONLY an artist

  1. Lovely and True! I make as much time for my art as possible even it it means I have a few cobwebs in the rafters… ;o)

  2. Uh-oh, Luann, I’m one of those myth-perpetuators! I’m at an age and in a place in life where I can spend ALL my time making art or thinking about making art or TALKING about making art — and I do. It pervades my entire waking, even sleeping life…and doesn’t even need to be about making money, because I don’t need to making a living at it. It took a lifetime to get to this place, and I deeply appreciate the gift of this time and total absorption in creating, learning, growing and expressing. May I live to be 98 and work as long and as well as Georgia O’Keefe (oh and a little fame would be OK too!)

  3. Oh, Denise, I know all about those cobwebs! (Mine, that is, not yours. I’m sure yours are nice ones!) :^)

    Hello Jeanne, so nice to hear from you! I think the key words in your comments are “I’m at an age and in a place in life where I can spend ALL my time making art….”

    That’s the happy place we all desire to be, and good on you for getting there! Some people give up because they CAN’T be there right now, devoting all they can give to their art, and that’s the myth that holds them back.

    Thanks for letting us know there’s light at the end of the tunnel! :^)

  4. Thanks for the push to focus more on my art!

  5. Hi Luann,

    Your writing on this topic is oh so true. I work full time to pay the bills and support my art. And I do make time to create my art. Even though I may struggle with, “why do I keep doing this?” I find that it is something I need to do and wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t being creative.

    Thank you for this well written and inspiring post. It has helped to reinforce my convictions.

  6. I re-read this post at the perfect time….I am always amazed at how timing is so very important. We can hear or read something one day, it doesnt affect us, yet at another more oppertune time, when our mind is open to it…we “hear”. THANK YOU.

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