Self-deprecating humor is not in my DNA. I figure the rest of the world has enough opportunities to critique us that we don’t have to steal anyones’ negative thunder. That being said, I seldom miss the chance to laugh at myself when I do or say something foolish, and for that, there’s plenty of opportunity.
Recently, I had a happenstance chat with Linda Chambers, an artist I greatly admire and a fellow instructor at Marco Island Center for the Arts. She commented on how stridently I market my work and myself.
“I have to,” I replied. “It’s my business; it’s how I pay my mortgage.”
Linda seemed a little surprised but certainly not shocked. Yet, for some reason, I thought it necessary to share that I was confounded by the artists we knew who continually put themselves and their art on the line; haul their precious works to and from shows, festivals, and exhibitions; took the time and effort to teach; all for the love of…what? “If I weren’t earning a living,” I said. “I’d still be creating, but my endeavors would just be gifts to my enormous extended family and select friends.”
What bull. Thinking back on this immaculately glib response, I can only conclude: I WAS HAVING ONE OF THOSE DAYS.
“Well,” said Linda graciously. “There’s probably a different reason for every artist. Some do it for the awards.” (That would mean acknowledgement from your peers that you have accomplished your artistic standards. Darn it! I knew that.)
“Some,“ she continued, “like instructors, might do it for the chance to share their vision, their understanding of art, with others. (Darn it! I knew that, too!) Okay, I’m surely misquoting Linda, but I plead forgiveness as I believe I have her general ideas true.
Obviously, our conversation inspired me to obsess…I mean ponder…the various impetus behind every artist‘s endeavors: to share joy or pain; to unveil; to record; to invoke a story; to pass on an extraordinary reaction to a seemingly ordinary subject; to make people happy; to make people think; or to communicate something. Truthfully, our desires are as various as leaves on a tree. See? I did know this.
All that marks the difference between professional artists and artists is dollars — much like the difference between professional athletes and amateurs. It’s simply a matter of being paid, but not being paid makes one no less an artist anymore than not being paid makes one any less an athlete. Think world famous golfer Bobby Jones, who never did turn pro, or Vincent Van Gogh, who only sold one painting in his lifetime. We each strive to accomplish what we need to satisfy our souls — nothing more, or hopefully less, than that.
Legend has it that Pope Julius II once said to Michelangelo, “You are not an artist through choice; you are an artist because you have no choice.” Amen to that.