AN ARTIST DOING DIFFERENT THINGS IN LIFE
It’s commonly held that dedicated, die-hard artists excel at their practice but are virtually incompetent in every other arena in life (witness Pollock, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc. forever…). Today, with all the millennial self-help gurus we are taught that in order to be complete we must nourish every branch of our tree, the tree a metaphor for a life, a limb representing dimensions, such as the Creative limb, the Family limb, the Love Relationship limb, the Economic limb, the Life Purpose limb, the Giving limb, the Fitness limb, etc. To have great shape to the tree - to use bonsai lingo - all branches must be nurtured. In my dad’s age (RIP), the only branch nurtured was economic, all else withered dismally. Yet he was considered successful. Today he would have gotten an F for producing a grossly misshapen tree.
For me as an artist nothing matters more than the next move on a painting; I have this intense connectivity with the act, the process. Whether this is conveyed to the viewer is another discussion. When my dad passed last August, suddenly art meant no more than a fallen leaf, it just did not speak to me, at all, in any shade, the essence of ‘meh’. I don’t know why, my shrink says I lost my muse. Maybe. I think I’ve been more preoccupied in other realms I guess. Now, six or so months later, too lazy to count, art is speaking to me again, waking from a deep, distracted slumber.
My most developed branch — Creative — is stirring. In the making I love the connectivity of painting to the point where if interrupted mid-process I feel uncomfortable, irritable - indicators I’m getting back on track as I’ve exhibited that behavior good or bad for 30 years. Sounds like a mistress. And now, replacing worrying about marketing so many visual styles — an economic offshoot of the Creative bough — is the conviction to celebrate my stylistic diversity. It is me. (Anti-Trump genes I guess….)
However, we are not all Van Gogh, Gauguin, Raymond Pettibon, whomever, the consumed Western artist without any familial or economic obligations; I’ve got gymnastics lessons, soccer clubs, clothing, Dr. bills, mortgage, everything a successful middle-class dentist or lawyer would likely have expense-wise, but an unapologetic artist is the color I come in. Age old story, still have to pay the bills.
To that end I've become quite competent at designing and implementing e-commerce websites — a good gig if you can get the work, as they say about bartending but it fits here. So, 56, painting a legacy but with no institutional support, immersed in the tech start-up world. Weird. But something’s got to give. The art world must deliver it’s prizes, the internet must deliver its democratic promise, and I must nourish all the tree branches. It’s a lot. Being famous would help. All my famous artist friends have trouble-free bill paying. The opposite for all the non-famous. Lesson: for success as a fine-artist it helps to get famous: Shepard Fairey (OBEY, the Obama poster), KAWS (big in Japan), Spencer Tunick (photos of naked people in public), Cleon Peterson (fighting people), ad infinitum….
My strategy is to harness the power of the internet because I surf well there, conjoined with my art passion. Problem is, I get my core dedicated followers, but nowhere near the numbers Timothy Ferris says is so easy to attain and necessary for success. I am a niche’s niche. Ha. Sounds like the fine art world to me. Yet, reality is reality. If I stayed in NYC all this time 'waiting to be discovered’ I’d be as cranky and disappointed as so many NYC-based artists I know, like a cult of angst, desperation & despair (ADD), anything for art, no family, no fun, no life, depression is good, it means you’re a real artist. Such B.S. As the millennials teach us, why not take a deeper dive and have everything life is meant to offer, or should in the ‘best of’ scenario. Amen. Shape the branches.
But, as a passionate artist I think I fail miserably at my other tree branches — not twigs but brittle at best. When I eliminate the art and only focus on nurturing the other branches, I try and try and try and I am ok, not exceptional, not pathetic, but OK. That means not extraordinary either. Yet I want to have robust branch development on my other limbs!, but truth be told, it’s in the art. As the renowned self-help guru Marisa Peer famously guides you to say, I Am Enough. Well OK, but I feel I can be more.