*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Art is… a longest road through life, and when I think how slight and beginnerish what I have done till now is, I am not surprised that this production (which resembles a strip or half-tilled field a foot wide) does not sustain me. For plans bear no fruit, and seed prematurely sown does not sprout. But patience and work are real and can at any moment be transformed into bread. ‘Il faut toujours travailler,’ Rodin said whenever I attempted to complain to him about the schism in daily life; he knew no other solution, and this of course had been his… To stick to my work and have every confidence in it, this I am learning from his great and greatly given example, as I learn patience from him: it is true, my experience tells me over and over that I haven’t much strength to reckon with, for which reason I shall, so long as it is in any way possible, not do two things, not separate livelihood and work, rather try to find both in the one concentrated effort: only thus can my life become something good and necessary and heal together out of the tattered state for which heredity and immaturity have been responsible, into one bearing trunk.
Therefore I shall determine my next place of abode, all else aside, from the point of view of my work and that only. I want this the more, since I feel myself in the midst of developments and transitions (changes that affect observation and creation equally), which may slowly lead to that toujours travailler with which all outer and inner difficulties, dangers and confusions would really be in a certain sense overcome.. for whoever can always work, can live too, must be able to.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Translation by M.D. Herter Norton
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My blog turns 6 years old tomorrow! Here is the very first post from July 15, 2012. Q: What does it take to be an artist, especially one living and working in New York?
A: The three Big P’s – Patience, Persistence, and Passion. Without all three you will not have the stamina to work tirelessly for very little external reward. You can expect help from no one.
There are so many obstacles to art-making and countless reasons to just give up. When you really think about it, it’s amazing that great art gets made at all. So why do we do it? Above all it’s about making our time on earth matter, about devotion to our innate gifts and love of our hard-fought creative process.
And, my God, it even gets harder as we get older! So what do we do? We dig in that much deeper. It’s a most noble and sacred calling – you know when you have it – and that’s what separates those of us who are in it for the long haul from the wimps, fakers, and hangers-on. I say to my fellow artists who continue to work despite the endless challenges, we are all true heroes!
Lucky me to still be in the same studio! However, when you visit now, you see more tables full of pastels, more postcards on the walls, newer pastel paintings, etc. More importantly, what I wrote six years ago still rings true!
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
A BOX OF PASTELS
I once held on my knees a simple wooden box
in which a rainbow lay dusty and broken.
It was a set of pastels that had years before
belonged to the painter Mary Cassatt,
and all of the colors she’d used in her work
lay open before me. Those hues she’d most used,
the peaches and pinks, were worn down to stubs,
while the cool colors – violet, ultramarine –
had been set, scarcely touched, to one side.
She’d had little patience with darkness, and her heart
held only a measure of shadow. I touched
the warm dust of those colors, her tools,
and left there with light on the tips of my fingers.
Ted Kooser in Art and Artists: Poems, edited by Emily Fragos
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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.
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