Tag: Vincent van Gogh

Fame vs success vs being ‘cool af’ in the arts

We all know the story of Vincent van Gogh – the troubled but beloved genius who apparently only sold one painting (officially) in his lifetime and we (cool people who read art blogs like mine) draw inspiration from this. The term ‘starving artist’ is probably derived from his story, history books are unapologetic at how weird he was and yet you and I know he was cool and our hearts have compassion for him.

Vincent Van Gogh -The-Red-Vineyard
Vincent Van Gogh -The-Red-Vineyard -1888- the only painting he sold in his lifetime!

Vincent didn’t need a rock star level success to feel like he was doing good work but he did need positive feedback from his peers. This is of course why he took it so badly when Paul Gauguin didn’t turn out to be his best friend and champion after he was invited to live with Vincent in Arles.  Gauguin was probably just bored and frustrated with Vincent’s eccentricities which caused his sharp tongue to say things he wouldn’t have said if he wasn’t in a de facto domestic partnership with the poor guy.

Vincent didn’t hide his work away from the world and when he was given opportunities to display his works he took them – such as the the seventh exhibition of Les Vingt (The Twenty) that was held in Brussels from 18 January to 23 February 1890. The Twenty were the next generation of artists after the Salon des Refusés first held in 1863.

You could say, in terms of rock music, the original ‘rejected’ artists like Edouard Manet and James Whistler did what the Beatles and Rolling Stones did for popular music (exactly) 100 years later – they opened the doors to a whole new wave of artists – look at what changed in terms of what was acceptable on the radio from 1963 (when the Beatles got started) to 1990 – that’s the year Dave Grohl joined Nirvana.

Vincent wasn’t a lone freak with no one who understood his scene – he was just a cool kid in the cool kids club right before everyone wanted to be a cool kid.

Mr Bean accidentally destroys the painting called Arrangement in Grey and Black- Portrait of the Artist's Mother painted in 1871 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Mr Bean accidentally destroys the painting called Arrangement in Grey and Black- Portrait of the Artist’s Mother painted in 1871 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

The cool people you know from history were basically famous or infamous depending on where you sit and as you get deeper into the genre of your preference you find others who were equally cool but not so famous – for example most people who have heard of Michelangelo (the Italian Renaissance artist) haven’t heard of Giorgio Vasari but he was cool af (if you don’t know what the af means just ignore it)!

quote-as-long-as-art-lives-never-shall-i-accept-that-men-are-truly-dead-giorgio-vasari-136-73-98

Nowadays fame is meaningless – you can be famous for just about anything, it does not mean you did anything cool – and as for mingling with famous artists – yukk who wants to be so famous that the likes of Tony Podesta would collect your art – let me die before my peers are that ‘spirit cooking’ crowd!

Tony Podesta art collection Google search
Tony Podesta art collection Google search

Success? How do you measure it and where does that lead to? I’ve seen great local artists who scramble to fill wall space with sub par hurried work when they are given a gallery show – maybe they got a couple hundred more dollars with all that hard work but is that success? With that attitude at what point do you measure the money vs the amount of time you put into it and decide to get a ‘real job’?

Success can only ever be measured by how you felt about your work after it was done – it’s a bonus if someone else likes it. I wrote the following as a you tube comment for my favorite punk rock band Mean Jeans (hell, maybe they don’t consider themselves punk but it’s punk from my old school view point). The song is here (it’s their unsolicited unpaid jingle for Polly-O string cheese).

I know that most people don’t get it and that’s cool – most people aren’t punk rock in how they think – they are just punk flavored if anything. One thing is certain – the Mean Jeans pay attention – they listen and they not only get the hilariousness of copying a stereotypical sound or phrase but they can replicate it and even make it better. Would Mean Jeans exist without the Ramones and Screeching Weasel? maybe but I doubt what they made would hit the spot like this for me. Luckily the world is so saturated with media that the Jeans can’t possibly be as big as Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson but fame just ruins any good band anyway – it’s inevitable and as certain as death – but there’s a sweet spot where a band can do no wrong because they get it for what it is and they can see themselves in that moment and they can appreciate it. Since no one but perhaps the Jeans themselves will read this, guys it’s ok to have this amazing resume to show that you can do anything musically – when you want to do something different you’ll be successful in that too – you can milk it till it’s dry or flip to being something else entirely but your legacy as musical geniuses will endure as long as we have a means to playback these great first albums!!

Will today’s free spirited and fun loving Mean Jeans be tomorrows suit encrusted ad men or money grubbing record producers – maybe, but I suspect they won’t be playing the same stuff tomorrow as they are playing today – they are too creative!

You can be famous, you can be successful but it’s something else that makes you cool as fuck. I know that the term ‘cool’ has been around since at least the beatnik era – maybe it goes back before then (jazz era I suspect) but being cool is why we had a Grateful Dead and not some unknown blue grass cover band instead.

I don’t subscribe to the misery of religious evangelicals or crusty vegans who boycott everything except free range lentils due to the perceived evilness of everything fun (and believe me I tried to go there at one point in my life but it made me so uncool for a second that I hated myself) so I recommend you watch the Grateful Dead documentary on Amazon Prime called Long Strange Trip. Yes, I know Amazon is probably an evil company causing destruction and zombie apocalypses all day long but it does show that Jerry Garcia was cool as fuck because he just wanted to play and make people happy and when you are cool miracles can happen and the world is a better place.

Motto

I play it cool
I dig all jive.
That’s the reason
I stay alive.
My motto
As I live and learn,

is:
Dig And Be Dug

In Return.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
New York : A. A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1994
Edition:1st ed

 

Be cool and you’ll reap rewards far deeper than mere fame or success!

Let’s face it, you can’t have a cool kids club without the existence of not so cool kids – it’s all part of the ying yang – aren’t you lucky that you are in the cool kids club even if you aren’t famous or wealthy etc yet? You can’t buy cool as Mojo Nixon said!

My non-famous but genius friend Biff Brown wrote the following song for me because I am cool and so is he! 

My non-famous but genius friend Dave Moses wrote the following song – Nashville Fauxgrass. Just think, there are billions of people who will never enjoy this gem – too bad! 

And the following video is for all of us cool kids!

The following songs are cool as fuck in my opinion – go listen to the music you like now!

Advertisements

Why figure painting and sculpture is still relevant

“How can there be other without self?” – Alan Watts

By appreciating the other we can define the self and thus gain understanding – with understanding of the self we can then see the other more clearly.

Vive la différence. I am a male painter who often paints the female figure using the classical tradition of light and shadow. I am not interested in portraying our day to day reality (I know that women fart but I don’t have to make art about it). I am carrying on the Renaissance concept of ‘God made us – let’s celebrate the best about humanity and therefore we honor God’.

I didn’t care so much about drawing female humans at first – because I was terrible at drawing them. I wanted them to look as awesome as the illustrations in my childhood fairy tale books but found that drawing the alien and the grotesque is far far easier than drawing anything classically beautiful.

Allegory of enlightenment by Daz Lartist
Allegory of enlightenment by Daz Lartist

It took a long time for me to get my art to the point where I am happy with it but it was worth it. I may not work from a model like a classical painter (my method is far more of a synthesis like Paul Gauguin used rather than Vincent Van Gogh’s observational one) but it is fine art in the same fashion as my ancestors and it pleases me to have dedicated this life to following in their footsteps.

“You paint too fast” says Paul Gauguin to Vincent Van Gogh who then replies (in the brilliant movie Lust for Life) “You look too fast”!! Often art can creatively tell the truth better than mere documentary evidence ever could!

Just because we use the figure as subject matter here and now in 2017 doesn’t make the results less important in the gestalt of art history. When you make the figure the subject matter in your work you are adding to the glorious legacy of work that started thousands of years ago ! You are a peer to Praxiteles!! You could have discussed art over coffee with Cabanel and Courbet (and like anyone with an ounce of coolness in their soul, then dumped off Cabanel at L’Académie and painted the town red with Courbet all night haha)!!

You have a common language that transcends culture when you make the figure the  subject matter in your art. All détente starts with commonality. Sadly there are still cultures that cannot handle art with people in it – oh well can’t please everyone!

Some of my favorite figurative art comes from female artists. Look at the wonderful Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge by Mary Cassatt. We see the woman as one of the pretty flowers in the field, she’s not flirting or being coy she’s just showing her beauty because it is appropriate to do so.

Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge by Mary Cassatt
Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge by Mary Cassatt

A female painter starts from a different set of memories and feelings than males do about our common first love (our mothers) and by our second loves who are our sisters, aunts, grandmothers etc. Paternal love, brotherly love, the love of our peers and comrades also affects how we will see art with the figure in it of course but we all have a common first contact with the figure.

Sisters will have a different feeling about girls (competition perhaps) than someone like me who is an older brother and (naturally) feels protective to them. A parent will see a child in a different way than a person without children and a grandparent will have yet a different one on top of that. Obviously there are many variations of families and interactions that create each persons general view about our most basic archetypes of life and these all influence the work we do but how much of that you use is up to you.

Frank Frazetta paintings - Framed by Daz Lartist
I put my favorite Frank Frazetta paintings (from the covers of the paperback that I’ll probably never read)  in these frames – to me this is the archetype male – ok so Hollye makes me keep them in the garage but I could still kill zombies if i had to!

Another female painter that painted women and girls so well was Madame Vigée Le Brun. She, like Mary Cassatt, brought out the beauty in all her subjects, she painted to inspire and to make people happy.

 

Self portrait of Elisabeth Louise Vigee LeBrun and her daughter Julie
Self portrait of Elisabeth Louise Vigee LeBrun and her daughter Julie

Madame Vigée Le Brun was one of the painters in the court of Marie Antoinette if you want to have a general time frame for the life time when this was done.

The bather by Elisabeth Louise Vigee LeBrun
The bather by Elisabeth Louise Vigee LeBrun

You can (still) go to the link below for a website with tons of information and the lovely art of Elisabeth Louise Vigee LeBrun http://www.batguano.com/vigee.html

Her autobiography is also available for free in its entirety, and its worth a look! (I quoted some of it below)…

I will begin by speaking of my childhood, which is the symbol, so to say, of my whole life, since my love for painting declared itself in my earliest youth. I was sent to a boarding-school at the age of six, and remained there until I was eleven. During that time I scrawled on everything at all seasons; my copy-books, and even my schoolmates, I decorated with marginal drawings of heads, some full-face, others in profile; on the walls of the dormitory I drew faces and landscapes with coloured chalks. So it may easily be imagined how often I was condemned to bread and water. I made use of my leisure moments outdoors in tracing any figures on the ground that happened to come into my head. At seven or eight, I remember, I made a picture by lamplight of a man with a beard, which I have kept until this very day. When my father saw it he went into transports of joy, exclaiming, “You will be a painter, child, if ever there was one!”

I mention these facts to show what an inborn passion for the art I possessed. Nor has that passion ever diminished; it seems to me that it has even gone on growing with time, for to-day I feel under the spell of it as much as ever, and shall, I hope, until the hour of death. It is, indeed, to this divine passion that I owe, not only my fortune, but my felicity, because it has always been the means of bringing me together with the most delightful and most distinguished men and women in Europe. The recollection of all the notable people I have known often cheers me in times of solitude.

http://www.batguano.com/vlblsmemoirs.html

~I had the following below on a separate page but it is essentially the same theme as above so I will include it here – Daz~

I like to paint allegorical figures.

Allegory of Imaginative Dreaming by Daz lartist

I was asked by a fellow artist what my fascination with the female form in art is.

Im not sure I have any particular fascination beyond the traditional ones, appreciation of beauty, sexual interest, that feeling of protection, pride and potential we get from seeing mothers and children. It is an innate pro-human solidarity in a multiverse of creatures! I like organic lines and shapes and the emotions we get from faerie tales where we can live happily ever after if we just believe!

One of the most interesting things about being human is how multi-faceted our minds are and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what pushes my buttons.

That exploration of psychology is another part of what I find interesting in art and the female figure is often the most complex motif to decypher. We all see the figure through the filter of our life experience.

Luckily my experience with females has been mostly positive, so my figures reflect those experiences in some positive way.

The main reason I paint the female figure though, is because it is a tradition in art, the ultimate motif to master and a challenge for me to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors.

I like the idea of using a female figure to represent an idea.

For example the concept of ‘truth’ has been traditionally represented by a nude female. Truth is probably the main allegorical figure I use, I see a truth and represent it. For example the truth being represented in this painting below is that girls often feel a need to spontaniously pose. Obviously there is a biological and sociological reason why females show themselves off, but more than that, it is art in the purest form.

fairy-painting-dazlartist
Moonbeam dancing girl painting by Daz Lartist

I was driving by the park near my home when I lived in New Jersey and there was a group of young people chatting , one of them happened to jump on a rock, make a momentary pose and then jump off. It was totally spontaneous and for one brief moment she was the star, her friends were the audience as was I. It was a moment of art that transcended the everyday and I wanted to pay homage to that moment in a painting. The other figures represent things too but it is obvious who is the center of attention!

A theatre group asked to use that art and they made the following!

What the Moon Saw Flyer - using Art by Daz Lartist
What the Moon Saw Flyer – using Art by Daz Lartist

 

Girl with Swirlifants by Daz Lartist
Girl with Swirlifants by Daz Lartist

How to paint – without stress of failure

Critterz - spontanious painting - oil on cardboard - Daz Lartist
Critterz – spontanious painting – oil on cardboard – Daz Lartist

If you do not want to read all this then you can listen on the youtube video I made (of me narrating this post)!

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!!

The Hound from Game of Thrones telling you to quit whinging!
The Hound from Game of Thrones telling you to quit whinging! I borrowed the pic from here.

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.

albertpinkhamryderfarmyard
“it was property formerly in the collection of…” If A.P.Ryder was so “mystical” why are you treating this like a used car? This artist is in the art history text books!!!! At least the comic strip Apt.3G gave A.P.Ryder a mystical tribute and the “Fifty Two Pieces” blog post about that (linked here) from 2009 explains that brilliantly!!

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!)

music-to-listen-to-music-by-belly-jeans-mcrackins
Music to listen to music by CD – long ago vanished unfortunately

“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.

Belly Jean Mcrackins search 2007-8
Belly Jean Mcrackins search 2007-8

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~

 

 

Michelangelo vs. Leonardo : great artist or genius who made some great art?

Inspire graphiti art by Daz Lartist
Inspire graphiti art by Daz Lartist

If you study art history then you’ll know that during the Italian Renaissance there were hundreds of artists that could sculpt and paint on par with Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (both still so famous that we can just use their first names).

There was a lot of marble, charcoal and fresco plaster dust in the daily life of an artist back then, not to mention the fact you had to make your own paints! Only the rich could even consider fine art as a hobby and much like today still, parents preferred that that children find a better career than ‘artist’.

Leonardo, or as Michelangelo called him ‘that lute player from Milan’, was apparently a dandy (a man unduly devoted to style, neatness, and fashion in dress and appearance). Leonardo was a genius for hire rather than ‘an artist’. He used his genius level art skills to make fine art but it wasn’t who he was.

They called Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Il Terrible”. He was young, twenty-six, brilliant and arrogant, so arrogant that he didn’t sign his works1; he thought that people would know the creator, by looking. Just the man to attack a large marble commonly referred to as “Il Gigante”, lying in a churchyard. Agostino di Duccio had attempted to carve a David out of the stone thirty-five years prior. “Il Gigante” intimidated every sculptor there after. – Marjorie Masel

Being an artist in the way we think of it today was quite different 600 years ago. Back then it was more like being a contractor, a professional who constructed things and who was respected for doing a competent job – but rarely with the possibility of  becoming a celebrity. It took Michelangelo’s dedication to change this perception; to translate his passion for the craft into what we now consider fine art.

Because we as a society  respect fine art it has allowed me to paint on walls that I didn’t own and to be appreciated for what I love to do rather than to get in trouble for it. When I have been exhausted and paint splattered from a day of mural painting I often think of Michelangelo and say “thanks man”!

Giorgio Vasari, former student of Michelangelo (and his biggest fan), was a competent Renaissance Man in the complete definition of the word. His love of and dedication to the artistic lifestyle lead him to literally be the father of art history. He immortalized himself when he wrote his Lives of the most excellent artists biographies. The artistic lifestyle is one that has been romanticised ever since the time of Michelangelo and thank you Mr. Vasari for starting that meme!

There was a time when Leonardo could have inspired his people as much as Michelangelo did in a artistic sense, but, as Vasari said (I paraphrase), Leonardo didn’t like to get dirty, and doing art on a grand scale requires one to get filthy!

Haha makes me think of the movie Paint Your Wagon and that song “the best things in life are dirty“, hell, Michelangelo washed his feet less than Sid Vicious! (yes I know all we have is Vasari’s account of how Michelangelo slept with his boots on and movie quotes from Sid and Nancy to back up that last statement!).

I think Leonardo could have done so much more, to inspire everyone than he did back in the day. Remember that while generations of people thrilled to the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David et al, Leonardo’s sketchbooks were not publicly available until relatively recently.  The Mona Lisa is a little overrated in terms of painting in my opinion.

I have a beef with Leonardo because he drew the greatest Renaissance sketch ever, The Battle of Anghiari and then never attempted anything as spectacular again!

Peter Paul Ruben's copy of Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari
Peter Paul Ruben’s copy of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari

Leonardo saw art mostly as a job or at best a tool, but Michelangelo did art to glorify God and to inspire people. Michelangelo showed what was possible, even by someone who considered themselves tragically flawed.

The artist doesn’t need to look presentable but the art does! This of course is something we saw happen in music when the Beatles opened the doors for the counterculture. The anecdote about John Lennon on stage in Hamburg with a toilet seat around his neck is just a funny reminder that human beings are multi-faceted. You can be a genius and an idiot at the same time and that is perfectly acceptable!

Perhaps the following quote is closer to the point I want to make.

By the time he moved from the Borinage to Brussels, in the fall of 1880, van Gogh was committed to being an artist—a commitment he would never break. –  Nellie Hermann

As you know, prior to being the artist we know him for, Vincent Willem van Gogh was a preacher. The scene where (Kirk Douglas playing Vincent) sees the children in the Borinage coal mine in the awesome 1956 movie Lust for Life is powerful. You can see that clip via this link to youtube. In the long run it was the coal miners themselves that saved their children from the barbarism of that time of course. Vincent, after deciding to just be himself instead of trying to be something that society/culture offered, gave us one of the greatest inspirational stories in the art world.

Almost a century later a group of young men around the same age that Vincent was when he decided to be a real artist, (the same age Michelangelo was half a millennia before that when he sculpted his David), were on tour, the final Black Flag tour. The excellent documentary REALITY ’86’D filmed by David Markey might not be your cup of tea but it shows that passion for the artistic lifestyle can make a lasting impression in art regardless of commercial success in it’s time. 

You can look to the results of what people dedicated to being full time original artists, like Vincent van Gogh and like Greg Ginn (founder of and guitarist for Black Flag) did as your inspiration if you want to reach your full potential (like I did). You may have to load your own equipment and may ultimately die as an unknown weirdo but if you want to be a great artist you have to be all in. You might even accomplish something as great as what Michelangelo did if you are dedicated to being a great artist!

I too decided to become a ‘great artist’ in my mid 20’s, I literally proclaimed this improbable statement and meant it! It has been quite a journey avoiding the ‘sensible’ career path and was the right choice. Ultimately if you don’t want to be a ‘great artist’ you can still make great art (like Leonardo did) but your story won’t be as romantically inspirational! As Jim Morrison said (I paraprase) did you have a good enough life to base a movie on? Vincent and Michelangelo did  and Greg is still kicking ass today!

A still from the movie REALITY '86'D showing Greg Ginn rocking out on Main ST. USA is most excellent!
A still from the punkumentary movie REALITY ’86’D of my favorite scene. Greg Ginn is rocking out on Main St. USA making art that no one has done before, knowing it is good and not caring if no one else gets it. Pure inspirational genius.