*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
To be astonished is to be caught unawares by the revelation of realities denied or repressed in the everyday. Astonishment has an intellectual as well as an emotional component – in it, the brain and the heart come together. Far from distracting us from the strange and the uncanny in life, the astonishment evoked by great artistic works puts them square in our sights. The work demands that we feel and think the mystery of our passage through this body, on this earth, in this universe. We realize afterward that the world is not what we thought it was: something hidden, impossible to communicate though clearly expressed in the work has risen into the light of awareness, and the share of the Real to which we are privy is proportionately expanded.
JF Martel in Reclaiming Artin the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
A: As artists each of us has at least two important responsibilities: to express things we are feeling for which there are no adequate words and to communicate to a select few people, who become our audience. By virtue of his or her own uniqueness, every human being has something to say. But self-expression by itself is not enough. As I often say, at it’s core art is communication. Without this element there is no art. When artists fail to communicate, perhaps they haven’t mastered their medium sufficiently so are unsuccessful in the attempt, or they may be being self-indulgent and not trying. Admittedly there is that rare and most welcome occurrence when an artistic statement – such as a personal epiphany – happens for oneself alone.
Most importantly, always listen to what your heart tells you. It knows and speaks the truth and becomes easier to trust as you mature. If you get caught up in the art world, step back and take some time to regain your bearings, to get reacquainted with the voice within you that knows the truth. Paint from there. Do not ever let a dealer or anyone else dictate what or how you should paint.
With perhaps the singular exception of artist-run cooperative galleries, be very suspicious of anyone who asks for money to put your work in an exhibition. These people are making money from desperate and confused artists, not from appreciative art collectors. With payment already in hand there is no financial incentive whatsoever for these people to sell your paintings and they won’t.
Always work in a beautiful and special place of your own making. It doesn’t need to be very large, unless you require a large space in which to create, but it needs to be yours. I’m thinking of Virginia Woolf’s “a room of one’s own” here. A studio is your haven, a place to experiment, learn, study, and grow. A studio should be a place you can’t wait to enter and once you are there and engaged, are reluctant to leave.
Be prepared to work harder than you ever have, unrelentingly developing your special innate gifts, whether you are in the mood to do so or not. Most of all remember to do it for love, because you love your medium and it’s endless possibilities, because you love working in your studio, and because you feel most joyously alive when you are creating.