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Pearls from artists* # 377

Barbara’s studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Life for an artist, any artist, was difficult.  There were few rewards other than the most important, which was satisfying one’s need to create.  But in the art world of galleries, collections, and museums that the avant-garde artists in New York would inherit in the late 1940s, the difficulties experienced by the men who painted and sculpted would be nothing compared to those of the women.  Society might mock the men’s work and disparage them for being “bums,” but at least they were awarded the dignity of ridicule.  Women had to fight with every fiber of their being not to be completely ignored.  In a treatise on men and women in America published at the start of the war, author Pearl S. Buck wrote,

The talented woman… must have, besides their talent, an unusual energy which drives them… to exercise their own powers.  Like talented men, they are single-minded creatures, and they can’t sink into idleness nor fritter away life and time, nor endure discontent.  They possess that rarest gift, integrity of purpose… Such women sacrifice, without knowing they do, what many other women hold dear – amusement, society, play of one kind or another –  to choose solitude and profound thinking and feeling, and at last final expression.

“To what end?” another woman might ask.  To the end, perhaps… of art – art which has lifted us out of mental and spiritual savagery.”

Mary Gabriel in Ninth Street Women

Comments are welcome!

Q: You seem very disciplined. Do you ever have a day when you just can’t get excited about working?

Studio wall with self-portrait

Studio wall with self-portrait

A:  That happens occassionaly, but I still go to the studio to work.  You know the expression, “99% of life is just showing up”?  Well, of course I have to show up at my studio to accomplish anything so I keep fairly regular studio hours – 7 to 8 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week.  In the evening I spend another hour or two answering email, sending out applications, organizing jpegs, etc.  When you are an artist there is always work to do and for some of it, no one else can do it.  That’s  because no one else knows the work from the inside the way the maker does.  I like what Twyla Tharp says in her book, “The Creative Habit.”  In order to progress an artist needs good work habits that become a daily routine.  And Chuck Close likes to say, “Inspiration is for amateurs,” meaning a professional works whether she’s in the mood or not.  I completely agree so I keep working and slowly moving ahead. 

As Tchaikovsky wrote in a letter to a friend:

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.  If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it halfway, we easily become indolent and apathetic.  We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.  A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration.  Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness.  But my patience and faith did not fail me, and today I felt that inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write today will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it.

Quoted in Eric Maisel’s A Life in the Arts. 

Comments are welcome.        

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