I would have loved to have been an artist.
Possessed, wild, crazed and crazy in my drives. It felt sexy to me, sexual and sensual, to be that passionate, to be fucked by your muse so deeply, so completely. I wanted art to consume me until there was nothing left but the desire to be consumed by it, again and again and again.
I wanted it to kill me.
Yet my art, if it is art at all, has never come out that way. It has always been mannered, laden with effort and concentration; diligence and clinical thought. My muse is not a sensual creature, does not fuck my passions into igniting; it is a stern and humorless, stone faced and sexless golem. It is blood from a stone sometimes, occasionally more forgiving, but rarely. Real artists seem to create in flames, in a beautiful and inspired state of grace. I create on nails. It is not entirely unpleasant, sometimes, a form of self flagellation akin to connecting with God; touching his face. Sometimes it feels like trying to push the earth out of its rotation single handedly. It is hard fought, every small victory hard won and then instantly derided due to the fact that it is so hard come by.
When you work so hard on something, when every note or word or line is painstaking, you see all of its flaws. When you already exist in a comparative state, where you compare your work with that of all other artists, you suffer in that comparison. It hobbles you, takes your weight from under you, sows doubt into you. It pushes you onwards, to do better, to be better, but it raises you with one hand while beating you with the other.
Perhaps that’s the trait of the true artist; to make it appear otherwise.
Perhaps every artist labours under those feelings, yet their genius is in making it all seem so effortless and unaffected. Perhaps their opportunities were more accommodating, their work instantly taken from their hands upon completion and given to the people before the artists hard eye was able to disseminate it and destroy it in their own mind. How much of an influence does having an audience make on an artists work? How much of their drive and ambition begins to rest upon them?
It is always easier to do for others, anothers critical eye is never as harsh as your own. An audience has a specific need, specific wants and desires from their art. It’s easier to aim for a pre-designed idea or agenda. My own is so malleable, it is a mirage you never truly get to or are able to define. Can an artist just place their trust in the opinions of the public? Even if it is counter to their own opinion?
What does it take to silence those inner voices? Should they be silenced? And what would remain if they were to leave?
Peace. Perhaps an absence. It is possible to be filled with nothing. A hole still takes up space.
Maybe the constant struggle to silence those voices is more desirable, more attainable than trying to fill the hole that otherwise would exist. Or perhaps I think too much.
But isn’t that the job of the artist? To think, to feel too much? To be an expeditionary, to go further than the rest of us?
Exploration is painful. It is an ordeal. But it brings back the world. It opens doors and reveals vast new continents. But it’s never easy.
The American painter, Chuck Close said that “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Most of us will never create in flames, draped in a state of grace. Maybe none ever do. We just go to work and try to create something from nothing. Sometimes we fight for that something. Sometimes that’s all we do; fight. Sometimes you feel less like an artist and more like a soldier, a boxer. You become a fighter. Every time you pick up your brush or your instrument or sit at your writing implement of choice, you step into the ring. It’s like the world is challenging you to be who you really are, to manifest all your inherent potential, your true voice every time you take up your art. Sometimes you succeed. Mostly you fail. But, hopefully, you keep fighting. You keep swinging.
Because when it works it is transcendent. There is nothing like it.
There are no artists. There are only fighters. Some are just better at throwing punches than others.
“All art is a struggle to be, in a particular sort of way, virtuous.” Iris Murdoch