There’s the Leonard Cohen line from “famous blue raincoat” …
…”You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.…”
The product I make is artwork – a part of my imagination, reason, history, future. If I can’t sell it, it’s because the market doesn’t want it. The reasons could be many. I’m working for a-buck-an-hour. I can’t go any lower than that. Sometimes I want to cry out of frustration but I can’t see the point in that. That’s self-pity. I met my doppelganger over 2 decades ago and it taught me to turn around and face what fears you.
Do I have to change what I do? Yes, I have to modify my approach – even change tack – so, be flexible. As often as required.
Do you compromise? Not with ‘who’ you are.
I remember reading about well-known artists who gave up or almost gave up and came back with something reborn. In order to fail those artists were cleansed by alchemy. What they produced after the pause was extraordinary.
Gallen-Kallela changed within two years after the death of his daughter. Francis Bacon destroyed most of his works early in his career, like Whiteley (after New York). O’Keeffe rejected the way she was working her art and almost walked away from it all. Only to be reborn in the desert.
The other extreme is to die like in a wreck, broken, poor and be recognized after the event of your life… I remember Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt (who went bankrupt a few times), Hercules Seghers, Clarice Beckett…
Vemeer died from stress from money problems. His work was executed slowly and there aren’t many Vemeers around. His works were mainly bought by a particular collector and as such the monopoly caused his work to un-flourish in popularity – he just wasn’t well known outside of his home town. Seghers isn’t well known today! Rembrandt bought his works and experimented with them further. Becket spent her time looking after ailing parents and putting in work before morning and at night. A grueling routine. Once her parents died she succumbed a few years later largely un-credited and forgotten until after her death.
I still feel this palm-sized smooth stone in my hand that is my artist’s life. It is better to have failed from trying than to fail from not trying at all.
We are simply a scratch on the rock of this earth. My life, per se, isn’t much as a scratch. How many artists just fall into obscurity, how many street musicians never make it, or dancers who are great but don’t get selected. It hurts when you don’t achieve a measure of success or recognition and you say ‘I’ve given my best’ and ‘that’s all I got’….It won’t do to say ‘Yes, well keep trying’ and ‘you’ll get there one day’. That’s patronizing. Perhaps it’s better to say to yourself, with honesty, and bluntness ‘what went wrong’ and ‘how can I do this better’ or ‘what do I need to change’ or ‘where should I be going?’ and ‘does this still feed me/feed my soul’….
I take a daily reading from The Word for Today. On 30 October it said:
The three important questions are:
What’s my present position?
What’s my desired destination?
What are the in–between steps?
The last step is often the most nebulous.
“Don’t expect them to be quick or easy. Creativity is messy. It’s far from an exact science. But unless you know where you want to go and identify the steps that will get you there, ten years from now you’ll still be where you are today. So the word for you today is: Make the most of every opportunity.’ ”
(from The Word for Today, Thursday, 30 October 2014)