(My blog turns 8 years old on July 15! As I have done for past anniversaries, I am republishing 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 the ime 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!
What I wrote eight years ago still rings true.
Most importantly, THANK YOU to my 61,000+ subscribers for taking this journey with me!
Comments are welcome!
A: Big breaks sometimes happen, but in my experience an artist’s life is made up of single-minded dedication, persistence, hard work, and lots of small breaks. I recently finished reading “Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never stop Learning” by Leslie Odom, Jr. I like what he has to say to artists here:
“The biggest break is the one you give yourself by choosing to believe in your wisdom, in what you love, and in the gifts you have to offer the waiting world.”
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.
I saw what skill was needed, and persistence – how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page – the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me the most joyful of circumstances – a passion for work.
Mary Oliver in Upstream: Selected Essays
Comments are welcome!
Ms. Dillard is speaking about writing here, but her comments apply to all the arts.
Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art. Do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Giacometti’s drawings and paintings show his bewilderment and persistence. If he had not acknowledged his bewilderment, he would not have persisted. A twentieth-century master of drawing, Rico Lebrun, taught that “the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up its secret to an unrelenting line.” Who but an artist fierce to know – not fierce to seem to know – would suppose that a live image possessed a secret? The artist is willing to give all his or her strength and life to probing with blunt instruments those same secrets no one can describe in any way but with those instruments’ faint tracks.
Admire the world for never ending on you – as you would admire an opponent without taking your eyes from him, or walking away.
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something else will arise for later, something better. These things fall from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to an apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, and do not waste time.”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Comments are welcome.