*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
The obstacles faced by women who hoped to leave a mark on humankind have, through the millennium, varied in height but not in stubborn persistence. And yet, a great many women have stubbornly ignored them. The desire to put words on a page or marks on a canvas was greater than the accrued social forces that told them they had no right to do so, that they were excluded by their gender from that priestly class called artist. The reason, according to Western tradition, was as old as creation itself: For many, God was the original artist and society had assigned its creator a gender – He. The woman who dared to declare herself an artist in defiance of centuries of such unwavering belief required monstrous strength, to fight not for equal recognition and reward but for something at once more basic and vital: her very life. Her art was her life. Without it, she was nothing. Having no faith that society would broaden its views on artists by dethroning men and accommodating women, in 1928 [Virginia] Woolf offered her fellow writers and painters a formula for survival that allowed them to create, if not with acceptance, then at least unimpeded. A woman artist, she said, needed but two possessions: “money and a room of her own.”
Mary Gabriel in Ninth Street Women
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* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
How strange the human mind is! When I first began, I think I should have been willing to work at it from the tops of a church steeple, whereas now, even to think of finishing requires a real effort. And all this, simply because I have been away from it for so long. It is the same with my picture and with everything else I do. There is always a thick crust to be broken before I can give my whole heart to anything; a stubborn piece of ground, as it were, that resists the attacks of plough and hoe. But with a little perseverance the hardness suddenly gives and it becomes so rich in fruit and flowers that I am quite unable to gather them all.
The Journal of Eugene Delacroix edited by Hubert Wellington
Comments are welcome!
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Q: I just got home from my first painting experience… three hours and I am exhausted! Yet you, Barbara, build up as many as 30 layers of pastel, concentrate on such intricate detail, and work on a single painting for months. How do you do it?
A: The short answer is that I absolutely love making art in my studio and on the best days I barely even notice time going by!
Admittedly, it’s a hard road. Pursuing life as an artist takes a very special and rare sort of person. Talent and having innate gifts are a given, merely the starting point. We must possess a whole cluster of characteristics and be unwavering in displaying them. We are passionate, hard-working, smart, devoted, sensitive, self-starting, creative, hard-headed, resilient, curious, persistent, disciplined, stubborn, inner-directed, tireless, strong, and on and on. Into the mix add these facts. We need to be good business people. Even if we are, we are unlikely to make much money. We are not respected as a profession. People often misunderstand us: at best they ignore us, at worst they insult our work and us, saying we are lazy, crazy, and more.
The odds are stacked against any one individual having the necessary skills and stamina to withstand it all. So many artists give up, deciding it’s too tough and just not worth it, and who can blame them? This is why I believe artists who persevere over a lifetime are true heroes. It’s why I do all I can to help my peers. Ours is an extremely difficult life – it’s impossible to overstate this – and each of us finds our own intrinsic rewards in the work itself. Otherwise there is no reason to stick with it. Art is a calling and for those of us who are called, the work is paramount. We build our lives around the work until all else becomes secondary and falls away. We are in this for the duration.
In my younger days everything I tried in the way of a career eventually became boring. Now with nearly thirty years behind me as a working artist, I can still say, “I am never bored in the studio!” It’s difficult to put into words why this is true, but I know that I would not want to spend my time on this earth doing anything else. How very fortunate that I do not have to do so!
Comments are welcome!
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