When we hear that term, “The Struggling Artist,” we usually associate it with the financial struggles that seem to plague almost every artist that I know. We’re not the icons of the entertainment world, rolling in dough and tripping over the diamonds to get to the fridge to snack on caviar. Nah, we’re a lot like writers. Dirt poor. Often doing other jobs to support our addiction to writing, painting, sculpting, and so on. There’s nothing glamorous about that.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m referring to is the perception that artists (painters, sculptors, etc.) are so good at what they do that they always get it right the first time. Maybe some do. I am not one of that lucky “some.” I make no pretenses that I always get it right, or that I always know what I’m doing, or even how it’s going to turn out. With me, it’s very often a case of trial and error, and learning from mistakes. I once had a vision of painting this gorgeous wild wolf. I ended up staring at a smiling golden lab, or some such creature. I tried to paint over it and fix it, but failed. So I put the wolf vision on hold. However, I now know that I can paint dogs really well. I’ll go back to the wolf idea again, someday. I’d bet that there are more artist out there who also have this struggle, but…uh…ya know…sometimes ego wants us to let the whole world think we always get it right the first time.
I deliberately slew my ego years ago. I didn’t have room for anything
that big taking up space inside my head so I sent that bitch packing.
Look at it this way: If it was easy everyone could do it — and then there would be no need for anyone to hire us to paint anything because they’d be able to do it themselves. The fact that we paint, paint over certain areas (or sometimes even entire canvases) to get the result that we want requires patience and an extremely emotional dedication to this art. Every single painting that I am asked to do is a labor of love, and more often than not you can take the “labor of” out of it.
“Every single painting that I do is love.”
Artists live inside their heads. Maybe we spend too much time in there, looking like burnt-out skeletons while sitting at some cluttered workbench covered in cobwebs with a coffee to the right and a cigarette to the left, ignoring the bugs and spiders that march over us while we ponder life’s mysteries, and it’s hateful downward emotional mud-slides, and it’s euphoric upward swings when we get moments of what we believe are pure genius. From the outside, onlookers only see someone who doesn’t move much, and maybe is incapable of thinking, as well. Still waters run deep, you know.
We talk to ourselves a lot. Sometimes we get answers. Sometimes we only confuse ourselves even more.
We get fat. It would seem that one can run a thousand miles a day inside one’s head and not burn a single calorie. And why is “calorie” spelled with an “ie” instead of a “y?” Calory. Makes more sense to me. Sorry, I just had a “squirrel!” moment.
We can spend hours in a public park, just staring at the mesmerizing effects of shadow and light on a sunny day, or how the mood of a dark, gloomy day seems to send its hopeless vibes even into the bark of tree trunks and benches and grass. Everything droops in sadness.
We stare at people with interesting features, mentally visualizing how we’d paint that kind of nose, or those particular eyes, or that hair, in public places like on a bus or at a food fair in the mall. Hmmm…what brush would I use for that? Would that work better with charcoal, oil paint, pastels, acrylics, or water paint? Hm.
And then we realize they are glaring at us for staring so rudely at them, while scratching our chins like crusty old bearded men, when we have no beard.
Now and then we rub at the frosted windows of our minds to clear a space to look out of…and we realize that the universe is still unfolding as it must. Nothing has changed.
And that’s why we quickly go right back inside. We can be or do anything we want in there.
Oh, sweet oblivion!