Friday, March 20, 2009

The Reluctant Gardner

Anemones, oil painting on panel, 8"x10"

The Reluctant Gardner

A personal note about this site: All of us have responsibilities if we are going to live in society, to it, to ourselves, to each other. We have to pay our bills, feed our families, think of the future and care for the ones we love. If you want to be an artist it becomes a difficult juggling act. That is what so many artists, that are struggling or frustrated say the problem is.

There may be a great deal of reality in that thought, but the real truth is that many artists are not connecting life with their art. They treat it like two separate entities and they attempt to move down two different roads hoping they arrive at the same point on the map by chance! However difficult it might be to balance work and life, you must develop a synergy.
The artist Lynton Lamb spoke of this problem with a most interesting parable.

“For serious artists, painting is a permanent attitude of mind. It is a scheme into which the general run of experience fits. However difficult it may be to reconcile work and life there remains a sense in which, as Saint Paul said, “all things work together.”
If painting is a relaxation quite separate from his ordinary living, it will not be strengthened by daily experience, it will be weakened by its contrary direction.
It will become something outside itself, to be maintained by visits: like a distant allotment garden into which he occasionally inserts an artificial flower.
Preparation for Painting, Lynton Lamb, 1954

What a wonderful analogy, if you’ve ever had a garden, you know that just a few days without tending and you have weeds. Neglect it long enough and instead of a ripe, bountiful, succulent harvest you have scrawny, tasteless nearly unrecognizable objects. We do the same thing with our art. No one has ever developed a skill without practicing it and none have mastered it without applying it to their lives. For this artist, at least for my art, I must tend the garden every day. Which means making choices that help me spend time with the work I have passion for and not letting physical obstacles stand in the way.

Besides, I’ve never judged an artist on the amount of money he or she spent on an easel. But I do when someone tells me they want to be an artist but don’t have the time or means, and drive a giant SUV, live in a McMansion, and eat at the best restaurants every night.
At times it seems that we have it backwards, we claim to be creative people, but do not apply that same imagination to other parts of our life. Often letting needs and wants of our daily existence dictate our artistic life. There are better choices based on what you want out of life.
I truly believe that anyone who has the desire and motivation to be an artist “can” be.
They may never hang work in the Louvre, but they can find a niche or an arena where they can produce a living. The pie is big enough for everyone who tries, without eating beanie weenies everyday. Is not that really our goal, to continue making art?

There are more ways today for an artist to reach their audience than ever before in history. If they can’t, that is just inertness. The market for competent, reasonably priced art is larger and more varied than any market since the first artist scratched an image on a cave wall. How does the painter approach this opportunity? First by producing work they believe in, and by selling that work at a price that will allow them to produce more work. Whatever that price may be, just don’t price yourself out of the market. Think of it this way, in millions of homes people spend thousands of dollars on the rug under their feet, the couch they sit on, the big screen television they watch, and on their wall have a thirty dollar picture?
Remember it is about synergy.

To be successful as an artist you need all the skills you can develop and the only way to achieve this is by working. Painting is not an abstract of the intellect but a part of life that needs mental and spiritual concentration. That synchronicity is my goal, the more I paint, the more I learn about painting, the more I see as an artist.

Linda and I will be planting another garden this spring. I look forward to the time we spend together, the things she teaches me and the fruits of our labors. We gain so much from it, produce you can’t get anywhere else and moments together that are priceless. As I see it, it’s just another creative answer to help keep me painting and certainly healthier.

Enjoy Jim.