Keeping the vision alive

I just read Sue Smith’s latest post at Ancient Artist. She asks the question: Given that most artists aren’t going to make a lot of money doing art, how do we keep the vision alive?  My comment on her page started to run to three paragraphs, so I thought it would be better to post my response on my own blog.

True, painting will probably never make any money to put towards my retirement (retirement! What?! I’m going to die in my traces, I am). In fact, my addiction to art has cost me money, not just in the river of cash that flows to Daniel Smith, Dick Blick, University Art, and Accent Arts, but  in terms of lost opportunities (taking that life drawing course instead of a tax accounting course, for example).

But the simple fact is,  I can’t not paint and draw. I know, this sounds facile, like something a freshman college student would say, but here it is. It’s like something burns inside of me, compelling me to seize my world and force it onto a piece of paper or canvas (or anything, really. I’ve even drawn with soap on the shower door). That internal blaze is what keeps my vision alive. Because, quite simply, it hurts me when I don’t work. I don’t sleep well, can’t eat, feel weepy. Creating is absolutely necessary.

That said, there are benefits to following this pigmented path. I feel like painting has resonated throughout my public life. I think it makes me better at my day job, makes me better able to communicate with folks, and it keeps me sane in the face of the madness of everyday life. So I’ll keep painting, even as the rest of the world makes tons of money selling insurance, or widgets, or whatever they do that’s so “successful.”

I had a wonderful high school art teacher, Art Adams, who used to say, “If you put a man in a prison cell and give him a piece of rope, most men will just hang themselves with the rope. But an artist will take that rope and make something wonderful.”

Excuse me, I’m going to go play with some colors now.

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