I’ve found that painting/writing with just the barest idea of what I want to manifest on the canvas/page allows for the most satisfying process and results. I do not like stress.
People often ask me to draw or paint them something and if it’s something I enjoy (and would draw or paint anyway) I don’t mind as long as they have no expectations, however, people also say “would you copy this photograph of this loved one so I could frame it and have a nice gift – I can pay you of course” to which I politely say NO (go pay a professional portraitist 10 times more- you’ll be much happier regardless of how good an artist I might be).
I do not ask my friend who is good with cars ‘you are an awesome shade-tree mechanic – it would mean much more to me to have you change the oil in my car than the garage down the street – I can pay you of course (the going price is about what I make an hour at my office job)’. I do not ask my friend who brings great cookies into work to ‘make me some of those awesome pumpkin bars – I’ll pay you (the couple of bucks I can buy similar items for in the gourmet section of the bakery on fancy-pants people street)’ – so why ask me to do something that I’m good at for you?
DO you even know what I like to paint or do you think that you are being friendly by acknowledging my identity as an artist and are playing your identity as a patron? I don’t care for the idea that my identity is subordinate to yours, no offense. God is a creator and that is a pretty good role model; I have a day job and I don’t care if I am subordinate to all the whinging clients and bosses – that isn’t my identity! My identity is how I have chosen with my free will to explore this life and you cannot change that!!
Another statement, meant honestly but perceived less than politely that I have heard many times is “you could sell that” – to which I typically respond internally (depending on who said it) with a comment such as “you could sell those tits at the strip club” or “you could sell your wife for a penny a go in the park after midnight“. You can’t buy my creativity with just a bunch of numbers in an account! I allow you to gift me large sums of sweet abundance according to your talents and means should you desire the fruits of my labor but it’s a case by case basis – my consciousness must be involved in the transaction!
Being forced (if only by your own expectations) to do a particular creative project that you have envisioned (exactly as you envisioned it) typically results in stress, writers block etc etc at least for me – my mind wanders as does my brush and unless the sum of bank notes offered for consideration will allow me more time to be an artist (aka dump my day job) then it’s just chump change.
As Alan Watts (the great 20th century bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies) said (in the entertaining and educational video below) and I paraphrase here ‘a lot of people think that the spontaneous -or completely natural life – is to act according to whim (but Zen is more like being ready for anything )‘. Bashar, another great speaker who’s mouth lives in the magical land of California, also states that being spontaneous is the key – as when you aren’t getting in your own way by ‘thinking’ then synchronicity (literally) opens the path up – if you aren’t expecting the path to look differently then you are open to see it when it appears – all you have to do is consciously choose to follow that path once it appears.
Most pain comes from unfulfilled expectations as Bashar stated – people regularly assume that the solution to a problem must come in a particular way (the way the brain has settled on as the ‘right’ way) but as we all know and experience often – there are often many paths to an effective and satisfying solution – just allow yourself to be open to more than just one of the possible solutions.
I do not claim to know the totality of the wisdom of Bashar and I am not even close to understanding the ways of Zen but I can tell you that I do not have stress when I paint and I am often delighted at the results of my spontaneity.
Many artists feel that they cannot gauge their worth without patronage. They will even throw their creative process out the window to mechanically mass produce work when given a gallery show with space to fill. Is it worth being in that rat race? How many thousands of dollars can you make from your local yearly or semi-annual ‘one man show’ to make a living on par with an office job?
When it comes to being an artist – I’ve been there and done that and yes, I know all about the ghettos that art websites almost immediately became on the internet when people realized they could make a few bucks there too. This is why many artists are ‘housewives’ (no offense intended with that word – if you have a wealthy and kind enough spouse so that you can make your art career without stress then you are winning in the best possible way).
Money for your work should always be a sprinkle on the icing on the cake – not the reason for making the cake – or you will be fighting for scraps (no offense intended). The crappy mainstream media has reduced fine art to how much it is worth in terms of money – or, if it is so famous, it can be labeled ‘priceless’ which means someone like me, a regular person with no silver spoon, would have to pay someone to see it. Of course something can be ‘priceless’ and still be put up for sale.
It’s insulting to me to just rank artists as a whole especially by the amount of money that some rich people (whom I label as a whole here ironically for purposes of illustration) have paid for those artists work (mostly because of some arbitrary investment potential that was often contrary to the spirit of the artist). Artists themselves, decades ago, understood the insanity of it all but even canning your feces like Piero Manzoni did results in ‘art’ that rich people buy (instead of helping that homeless veteran or family etc). Who wants the shit-buyer crowd to be your patron anyway?
The allure of fame and fortune, even with its lottery winning odds of occurring is often what takes that child who is naturally creative to become an adult with the identity as an artist. All adult artists have to make a contract with their ego mind that tells them – is it worth it – will I starve and not be able to get laid and/or be loved? Being independently wealthy off your own work is the intellectually saner goal that many artists aspire to but often results in settling down to your art being a second day job where you schlock your wares like a fishmonger in the market – nothing wrong with that but it’s a job and who needs another one of those – talk about stress!
It’s stressful to build an identity as an artist – people are multi-faceted and typically members of a society that requires certain standards and conduct. Luckily we can dress like good old Vincent and be splattered in paint like Michelangelo and not draw attention these days but we cannot just choose to be like Paul Gauguin anymore – sure you can live and paint in Tahiti but you can’t fight the system to forge a new type of art and philosophy with oil paints any more.
You also don’t have to suffer to be a great artist by rejecting society or feeling that you will be selling out if you have a day job – just make your identity as an artist be one of your many facets – a favorite hat to wear when you get the chance. Just don’t be wishy-washy about it – have a passion for your beliefs! No whinging in art – it’s arbitrary! Just paint over it if you don’t like it and don’t set yourself up to fail – it’s not a race to be great!
In some ways, like Terrence Mckenna alluded to, history is running out (at least in terms of oil painting). We’ve mastered the realistic (500 years ago!!). We’ve mastered the emotional and sensual feeling from color field non-objective work (think you can do better than Rothko? – maybe, but you will always live in his shadow). We’ve mastered the surreal, the psychedelic, the erotic, the folky, the charming, etc etc – you name it and many many people can pull their veiny throbbing art meat out and it will be bigger than yours.
For oil painting this is the final chapter in the art history book- ‘having done every possible thing with oil paints on millions of canvases, walls and object d’art- artists finally settled into the realization that like explorers of old, someone had already been there’. Someone has probably already written on this theme before too haha!
Can you do better in your chosen style than the acknowledged masters? YES! For example in a way that (only by pure synchronicity or SEO) will any one of my readers understand – Mean Jeans write better Ramones songs than the Ramones (yes I know that is practically sacrilegious haha)!
My favorite Ramones style song was written by Bil Mcrackin of the Mcrackins. I am weird, oh yes, but why am I STILL (almost a decade later after I wrote my original blog post about it) the only person on the Earth who raves about the track “Belly Jean” (that apparently was only released on Coldfront Records “Music To Listen To Music By” sampler CD). It is still the only song in the world (I’ve searched for) that hasn’t made it onto Youtube (and I like some obscure punk rock stuff trust me!)
“Shared my secret with a few of my friends, should have kept quiet cos they’re laughing again” Belly Jean by McRackins
In 2007-8 I did a Google search for “Belly jean” mcrackins and found two measly hits, one was the Amazon site for the CD that has Belly Jean by McRackins, Music To Listen To Music By (there was a sample of the song on Amazon back then but now it’s completely vanished). The other hit was my old art blog – trust me, this bothers me way more than being a flat Earth believer.
I had even written Bil McRackin, the guy/egg who wrote the song, and even he didn’t consider it a hit single, he remembered writing it and quoted the lyrics, and while he had a sense of pride about it he considered it ‘a rarity that didn’t make the cut for one of their regular albums but it might be included in a rarities CD one day‘.
“My Belly Jean she means the world to me, my Belly Jean if you could only see, could I be that lucky guy, you can’t say I never tried” Belly Jean by McRackins
I loved this song the moment I heard it, it has all the elements of a perfect pop-punk song including the 5 second guitar solo and catchy chorus, even la-la-las! Now it seems like a miracle I ever found the MP3 in the first place; I downloaded the MP3 randomly from Napster (back before it was illegal to do so).
“a ten pin bowling ball, she threw a strike like it was nothing at all..” Belly Jean by McRackins
Do you ever get that feeling that the world makes things just for you? Words cant really describe how grateful I am for this song, even if I am literally STILL the only person who has cared enough to write about it on the internet.
~have fun my friends! I love you all! Daz Lartist~