the central question
This is a blog about being an artist. And not the “I have devolved into insanity and sliced off my own ear for the postman to try to get back at a prostitute that didn’t love me”* kind of artist—I mean being an artist in the world today, maybe with a family and a full-time job. Or maybe, like me, your job is making art full-time, and the marketing and the worrying and the business side of things sometimes gets in the way of your art. What I want to talk about is how to strive towards living an artistic life.
Probably you are an artist because you feel things very deeply, things that other people might not notice or feel in the same way, and you need to express it. I honestly believe that everyone in the world feels deeply and has the ability to appreciate or even create art, but artists, or people who want to dedicate their lives to art, often are the kind of people who will find a fucking rock in the middle of a city and have an emotional breakdown. It happens because, apart from the rock, we also experience something small and sturdy and borderline eternal that is just sitting there ignored in the middle of the absurdity of a place like New York or Phoenix and then we will see ourselves in the rock and then have to go cry, or paint, or write something. For artists, a floor is not always just a floor; it is the ground and support network we stand on or a vast expanse of white, meaningless Matrix-style tiles. Artists experience pieces of the everyday world and symbolize them, abstract them, and connect them to our own identity or other experiences and out of this, newness is made. Being an artist and experiencing the world this way can be wonderful.
But I think you have also probably experienced that it is a little difficult sometimes to be an artist in the everyday world. The everyday world doesn’t allow the time and space for mini emotional breakdowns near the hotdog cart over small pieces of quartz during your lunch break. You can’t just wander off and paint/write/compose about said rock until you have internalized the experience when you need to be back in the office for a 1pm meeting about marketing strategies.** But also your need to paint/write/compose about the rock, in the scheme of things, is much more important and satisfying to you than your meeting about marketing strategies. So how do you balance the two? How can you exist as a person in the everyday world and not slice off your own ear but still “follow your heart”?*** How can you be an artist and not have to check yourself into rehab just because you are an artist?
These are the questions we will attempt to answer together. I don’t have a complete answer for the problem, although I have some answers to some issues that I’ll share with you—but this will be more of an exploration. While I strive to be a professional artist, truly what I want is an artistic life, where I have room for my deep feelings and need to express myself, but am also satisfied and healthy. I’m creating this blog so that I can spend time thinking about this issue, meditate on it, follow my little transformative experiences to their source, and maybe help build a community of people who also struggle with the same problem.
What I’ll leave you with today is a reading by my favorite poet, Chuck Bukowski, of his poem, which inspired this blog, “Bluebird”:
and a question for the comments: what’s your bluebird?
*Not to knock Van Gogh or mental illness, but you know what I mean: the people who think they absolutely must suffer and show proof of suffering to produce art
**I am literally writing this blog post in my living room at 7:25am and I need to leave for work† at 8 and I have not worked out, eaten breakfast, or showered. Today the everyday world takes a backseat to art.
***Better term, I think: follow your art.
†I came up with the idea for this blog about a year ago; I have since quit my job and begun writing full-time because of something a friend said to me that will get its own blog post