Does Being an Artist Mean We Must Suffer?
“It seems that the more I tried to make my life about the pursuit of art, the more money controlled my life: collecting unemployment insurance, the humiliation of borrowing money from friends and family, tossing and turning at night while trying to figure out how to pay the rent. To survive I had to work hard jobs and afterwards I’d feel too tired and too stressed to paint. It’s very hard to create under those circumstances. Creativity is a delicate process. Often times I wonder if I should have just pursued a career for the first half of my life, obtained some degree of financial security, and then transitioned into art.”
And of course with that comes many, many many comments. Here is my personal contribution to the conversation:
We dedicate our lives to learning, studying, and practicing yet somehow society doesn't think we deserve to finically support ourselves from out art. If we love what we do then we we are somehow not working hard enough. Society sees art as unnecessary, therefore not worth paying for. Yet people don't seem to realize that art is necessary, it's around us everyday. Every single thing that we do or use in our daily lives is art. Someone thought about it and created it. People like the idea of the starving artist. We spend thousands of dollars on education, art school is almost as much as med school, yet we are faced with uncertainty for our futures. We value athletes and performing artists and fashion designers (actors and musicians) and pay them millions every year, but have little value for the applied arts. Most of us are not asking for millions, I know I'm not, I just want to be able to support myself and contribute to society in a way that comes naturally to me. Is that too much to so? Apparently so.
Many of us, myself included, know this struggle all too well. Many people think that being artist is romantic and about escaping responsibility. We are seen as these rebels of society who just want to sit around and make things all day. We hold artists of the past in the highest of regards, praising them and honoring their legacy, yet the living artists of today are ignored and chastised by the majority of the population.
Another commenter asks: "But can happy people really make good art?"
I can't even begin to tell you how insulting that comment is to me.
We are expected to suffer in order to make great work, yet at the same time, according those whose who believe in this logic, art is supposed to be beautiful and if its not beautiful to look at then its not art. Sooo......basically, miserable people are expected to make beautiful things, that make other people happy when they look at them. HUH???? What an enormous contradiction!!!
So we should just pretend to be something we're not, and then therefore, be miserable human beings so that in the little free time that we would have we can make art that those who are uneducated and who have no interest in being educated can deem as worthy or not. It's seriously fucked up.
Art is a language, just like any other. It's a form of communication. It's about how we encounter the world and our natural tendency for communication. Almost every artist I know has to supplement their income in other ways, anyway they can.
What most people fail to realize is that we worked 10 times harder than the average person, we believe in something, we want to make the world a better place through our work. And matter what it is, be it traditional arts such as painting and sculpture or performing arts, or design, or music, first and for most we are artists. Just like Lady Gaga says, We were born this way. Its who we are, we don't know how to be anything different.
"Sara, you've lost your joy",Sure I could go get a job in an office somewhere, and make a decent salary but I would be a miserable person, probably the kind of person that people don't want to be around, imagine a world full of people like that!!!! In fact I did have an office job for quite a while until an old friend said to me one day, I thought about that a lot and realized that she was right, so I took a huge risk and a few months later, I quite my job. There is no way I would be able to make the kind of work I do if I was not a happy person. My work has become exponentially better since I left that job.
And while yes, I am lucky that I get to do what I love, make no mistake about it, its really, really hard and I am still not able to support myself solely on my art, and I know this is true for many of us. Like I said I don't need to be a millionaire, I just want to be able to support myself.
My work is my joy, it's the happiest place that I could possibly be and in turn that makes me a better person, it makes me more enjoyable to be around, it makes me treat others better, it makes me want to help others.
Imagine if the world had more people like that! ( I don't mean people like me, I just mean people who are happy and do what they love) Imagine what a better world we would live in! If you meet one of those, miserable, suffering, artists, I would guess that either they are not able to practice the one thing that feels most natural to them, therefore communicate with the world around them, or they are just a miserable person, that just happens to be an artist.
I would REALLY love to hear your thoughts on the subject, please tell me in the comments below!