Marketing Mondays: Do You Think of Giving Up?

Image from the Internet

When I first moved to Manhattan I was without a studio for three years. In some ways, they were the happiest three years of my life. SoHo was the center of the universe then, and Saturdays were full of artists like myself making the rounds of galleries on Thompson, West Broadway, Wooster, Greene, Mercer, Broadway, and up and down the "ladder" of streets from Houston to Canal. On Sundays I went to the museums. Best of all, I was freed from the routine of sending out those packages with $50 worth of slides that rarely came back to me. I didn't miss that ongoing exercise in rejection. No, I didn't miss that at all.
Though I was tethered to a nine-to-five job, I loved having evenings, weekends, and vacations to myself, with the freedom to spend art supply money on things like taxis and dinner out. And with the money I wasn't spending on studio rent, I went to Italy. Three times in those three years.
I was aware I was living the artist's version of the Rumspringa, that time when Amish youth leave home to explore the world. But while I was livin' large, a tiny twinge of displacement was busy growing into a very big sense ofhow to describe it?feeling not fully myself. I was looking at a lot of art but I wasn't making any. I wasn't quite me. Yeah, yeah, I kept a sketchbook, did some life drawing, and took a lot of photographs, but I wasn't filling the hole.
When I finally got my studio in Union Square and set to painting, I returned to myself. I never felt better! You know that feeling: working alone in the studio, conjuring images out of nothing but firing neurons and some pigmented goo.

At the same time, I never felt worse. That Rumspringa freedom flew out my fifth-floor studio window, just as money angst and rejection came skulking back in through the door. With the lease I'd signed, I knew that tens of thousands of dollars would be plowed into a 450-square-foot space over the ensuing years, with weekends, evenings and vacations spent not in Italy, or at the beach or sleeping late at home on Sunday morning, but in the studio making the most of a second 40-hour work week. La croce e la delizia, the burden and the pleasure, rolled into one.
With few exceptions, the material life of an artist is all uphill. You know what I mean. So, these are some questions for you today:
. Do you ever think about giving up artmaking?
. What keeps you from doing so?
. Have you ever gone for a long period without making art?
. What made you come back?

. Have you given it up and not looked back?
. Or do you look back with longing?

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Nancy Natale said...

Three years without a studio! That's a looong time. I have never gone that long without working and now I don't know if I could. Not going to the studio this weekend was one of the worst things about this storm. Without art making, I definitely have a personality disorder. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have guilt-free time off, but I know I couldn't survive.

Five years ago when we sold one house and bought another, I was without a studio for some months. Even though I was totally involved in painting walls, renovating, packing, unpacking, and all the rest of it, I was not happy. I worried about all my art materials, the lost time, the ideas I couldn't make come alive, the me that wasn't there.

I know now that I must keep working. It's not only the work, but the time alone in the studio that refuels me.

Kristine said...

I'm sure others feel like this too but so many of your posts hit me at just the right time! I've been giving this a LOT of thought recently. Every time I read that the way in to a gallery is thru other artists I think great - I don't know anyone!
To answer some of your posed questions:
Do you ever think about giving up artmaking? Yes with every rejection note...slight exaggeration.
. What keeps you from doing so? I don't know what else would keep me going. I look forward to doing my art work every day.
. Have you ever gone for a long period without making art? Not really. Even when I didn't have a studio and had a very tiny apt in NY I made art quilts.
. Have you given it up and not looked back? I sometimes wish I could.
I will say that at the most critical times I have thought of stopping I have received something, an email from someone who likes my work, an exhibition opportunity, that keeps me moving forward.

Anonymous said...

I've maintained a studio since 1985. I feel fortunate for shows, grants and teaching gigs I've earned. On the other hand, I'll covet others' bigger successes. For me it comes down to that I'd rather be in my studio than pretty much any place else. When I was a kid, I thought Cezanne and Manet where the coolest artists ever. Now that I am not a kid, I'll fess up that I admire Simon Rodino lots. I don't have his talent, drive and vision, but suspect I might be just as crazy.

Anonymous said...

I stopped making art for several years. It was a gradual process to get there, doing less and less over time. I was involved in several collaborative projects; one group I was involved with for several years that finally came to the point where we 'broke up' to pursue other interests. I think at that point I hadn't had an individual practice for a long time, so I decided to take a break.
and have a baby.
In retrospect I probably thought that a baby would 'fill the hole'-- that idea seems pretty laughable now, but it took me 2 babies, and a serious illness from my spouse, some serious life changes, and some pretty bad postpartum depression for myself before a therapist told me, "I think you should start making art again."
Of course I had to sort of start all over again, just filling sketch books up for about a year & building from there. And it's still hard to find the time for studio, but I know now that need it in order to DEAL with everything else in my life. I'm just not a fully functional person unless I'm making art. I'll never go back.
Plus I do have connections to draw on from my 'previous life.' that help me get my work shown, recognized & sometimes purchased; when I am included in an exhibition, or artists talk, etc. my work always seems to be well received. That's nice, but even without the recognition, I would still be working in my studio. Art has given me so much, especially in my darkest days, that I just have to give back.

natalie said...

right about the time things started picking up for my artwork in i think late 2007 to 2008, a string of things started going badly for me. my grandfather passed away, my significant other (aka primary bread winner) lost his job and was without work for a year. my tiny income was our only source of support and the stress threw me into a deep depression. read periods of catatonic depression. he finally found a job, and was then diagnosed with cancer. just when i thought things were going to get better, they turned worse.

when the depression started in, something i've fought on and off all my life although it had been a while at this point, i stopped creating. and i had a really hard time picking it back up again. it wasn't that i didn't want to. i just couldn't and that lasted for almost 3 years.

now, i'm back to working, steadily and with much more concentrated effort despite lack of real studio space. the art is now my job, and as much as i love it and i feel my work is maturing exponentially, it's nothing like what i'd expected. before, i'd never dealt with proposals and grant applications, applying for residencies, et al. it is daunting, and i wonder, am i really cut out for all this?

but i know that this too shall pass. it is just the period of learning how to do something new. the rejection doesn't get me down as much as it did before. i find i'm better equipped emotionally to understand that it's not, at least always, a personal rejection as it is not a good fit.

realistically, if i'm not creating something, being painting, jewelry, knitting, embroidery, whatever, i'm not grounded and i'm not satisfying a fundamental part of my personality. so as frustrating as it may be at times, i know i'll always go back because to do otherwise is to deny who i am.

Bernard Klevickas said...

I found this little movie from Chuck Close on the Huffington Post. It's rather inspirational

Bernard Klevickas said...

We all stake out our own territories or work to improve on some more established routes but that doesn't mean what any of us do will be respected by the art illuminati. A problem arises when the work is developed and advanced farther than a general non art educated populace can appreciate and is not to the tastes of the Art officialdom. Studios get filled with work and the artist feels in their gut that they are developing important work or will hit on a formula that successfully expresses the sublime to others.

I quit for two years while ironically fabricating art for other artists at an art foundry.
Then I began using 3D modeling programs on computer to design new sculpture while I did not have my own studio. Virtual space can be seemingly endless. I finish some of my own projects after their deadline and swear that I quit, but then the next day I come back.
The art says the things that I feel I can't say in words.
It almost always feels that that art isn't understood.
When I think of 30,000 year old cave drawings I get inspired, I have a strong feeling that creative visual and spacial exploration from painting to toolmaking, etc. are tied to evolution, but maybe I'm wrong.

Christine Sauer said...

I have really enjoyed hearing all the responses to this post. I can relate to them all. This topic comes up often in my artist friends circle. I gave up(sort of) my studio practice for almost 15 years while I worked at avery demanding job teaching art at a private school. I was creating installations and also painting and showing my work in art centers and galleries. But, I was getting burned out from teaching, creating and renovating a house. And, the direction of my work felt like it was coming to a conclusion and I wanted to explore other media. During those years I was fiddling around with learning to work in textiles. I had planned to make an exodus from teaching to start pursuing art again when Katrina turned life upside down. But I also realized life was short so I made a plan to save as much $$ as possible so that I could take a 2 yr self funded sabbatical from having "a job" and just get my art career up and running again. Much has changed via the internet and artist career help bks that has helped give me a strategy to move forward. I was also chosen for two Creative Capital Career Development workshops which were great, inspiring and motivating. I am happy I made this transition (I am in the second year of my plan) though it sometimes feel daunting to put it all together. I just keep moving one step forward at a time.

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments here today is very inspiring.I have learned a lot already. Your wonderful blog is a lifeline.Thank-you so much for your generosity. Yes, I have thought of giving up. My inner critic gets louder every day, and I can’t really afford art supplies any more, or even my (luckily)very cheap studio rent. I am still paying off heavy student loan debt, only now with an attached paycheck, (I went back to school quite late in life to finish my MFA degree) Yes, I feel like stopping, or I have had the fear of stopping, when I compare myself with friends and relatives my same age that had normal jobs their whole lives and now have greater financial security. It is not just the money, it’s the whole family-social life thing they have built that I missed I guess, with my crazy obsession. What is it I have built, or am building? I don’t know what, if anything tangible. I admit I also fall into the trap of comparing myself to more successful artist friends. Maybe they got into teaching earlier, and/or, well, who knows, they are just better artists. I even revel in my own self- pity sometimes I fear! My art job drains me of physical energy I used to take for granted, and that I need now to work at my money job, but still I can’t give it up. The artmaking space, when I am in it, makes me feel happy, and I feel active, not passive, in my life.

Christopher Pelley said...

Yes, I thought about giving up. I had a succession of really nice studio spaces in Manhattan, but the hefty rent kept me working hard outside the studio instead of inside making the best use of the space (and my abilities). In 2005 I bought an apartment and soon after that commitment, painting sales dropped to a mere trickle. I had no extra cash to pull me through and was reduced to putting my mortgage on credit cards. I wanted to give up. I felt it was no longer worth the struggle. It was a long time since I was 'just out of college'. My identity as an artist was completely tied up in having a studio space, and the reality was I could no longer afford it, and therefore was I no longer a real artist? A close friend asked me if, honestly, I could see myself not making art. He was right. I gave up the studio, and in the process of trying to work in my livingroom, rethought what my art was about, and what I am about as an artist.

I have never looked back with regret. Sure, I miss the idea of having a large, well lit dedicated work space, but now I travel and live half the year in Italy, work on interesting projects (for me) and installations, and yes, I paint large paintings in my livingroom when I'm in NYC.

Mark said...

I have been going at this for 30 years and to keep going is about all I have. I love the absurdity!!!

Philip Koch said...

I've been painting actively since the late '60's. Over that time I have watched many talented and hard working artists become discouraged and gradually withdraw from actively making and showing their work. The world is a less interesting place without the artworks many of them would have created.

Over time I've come to value survival itself as a talent that is right up there along with having a genuine vision and a sharp eye.

And I have more respect than ever for any artist who is able to keep the little fire of their enthusiasm alive and keep working at their art over decades of time. Some of then are unsung, some of them don't always produce the very best work, but still to me they are quiet heroes.

seamusgreen.blogspot.com said...

These comments and blog entries are so inspirational to me. I am 22 and have just left University so I am in a transitional period but I feel I am in it for the long haul even though that seems like a road to far right now. Having read these comments it lifts me up and makes me want to work even harder, less and less I think about a career as a painter and more and more I value the time I have in my studio just painting. From these comments it is clear that the time spent in that space between euphoria and agony is time well spent. Thank you to everyone

Anonymous said...

I stopped for about 12 years due to rejection and having to work jobs I hated. Slowly I began again and have for about 10 years. Still, there are days when I feel squashed by the lack of support. I keep on because it is what I love and what I do best.

Anonymous said...

Giving up what? Expectations that one day I'll magically be "discovered" by a great dealer who gets my work into museums and the hands of top collectors? Yeah, I'll give that up. But I won't give up my work. I'll keep grinding away at my day job as long as I have to in order to keep doing what I love: studying, making, improving my craft and showing my work. Very little else matters-sometimes almost nothing.

Patrick Jewell said...

Yes, I have thought of giving up, and no, I'm not sure why I haven't done so, except that I love to paint and it somehow seems unrealistic to give up at this point. I've been living and working in Brooklyn for 20 years, by the way. Giving up is almost like a fantasy, a crazy wish. Sometimes I fantasize about opening my studio, getting a big scale, and selling my work by the pound, like the catch of the day. To clear out the place. then getting on with a 'normal' life. Or starting over.

You just turn around one day and realize you've been working the equivalent of two full time jobs or more for x many years, and you get hit by the toll that's taken on you and your relationships and opportunities and personality and morality. The stress and strains built of my own selfishness as an artist. I have a son, I'm going through a divorce, I have another new relationship-- how do I have time for anything? I don't know. There can be a lot of guilt involved in being an artist. A friend of mine believes guilt is the major impulse in artmaking. i don't know.

i guess maybe there's something freeing about acknowledging the desire to give up, but it can also be kind of narcissistic -- to be honest I have to admit that I hope that friends and family would be shocked at the thought.

Thanks for the chance to air out this subject a bit.

Fanne Fernow said...

I was without a studio last year. Finances were bad and I thought I would work at home, a 1,000 sq ft loft. In the beginning, that seemed like a good solution. I was keeping things under control. Six months later it was a disaster. There was wax all over the floor (still scraping it up), the wax traveled all over the space, and I was in trouble. I thought about stopping then, but like Nancy Natale: "Without art making, I definitely have a personality disorder."

While I was "working from home" my art career was heating up. Isn't that the way it happens. Ultimately, I had the opportunity to rent a new studio space, and I grabbed it believing that I could take it on faith that it would pay for itself.

A few months later, I was rejected from Santa Cruz Open Studios, an event I had been in for 12 years. To make matters worse, I am the chair of the planning committee. That rejection put a real damper on my "heating up career." After being told that my work was "monotonous and uninspired" I thought about quitting again. Oh me of little faith. I got over myself again knowing that something else would happen in its place. But I still have the studio. Because through that journey, I really showed myself that I would/could not quit, even though I do think about it from time to time.

lucy mink said...

I paint as much as possible in a room in my house, I have two kids, we continue to figure things out financially but not as bad last year. i will never go back to a life without painting even if I am almost out of cadmium orange and red and yellow and cobalt blue all at the same time. in my box of paints i have paint from the late 80's and paint from two months ago. in the past full time jobs made it so i couldn't always paint as much, now my full time job is parenting, but the home studio makes that really work. i had stints without a studio in the 90's and the worst was an old boyfriend i lived with before grad school, we were waiting for an apt to be ready that we were moving into and so temporarily he had us stay with his detoxing from heroine friends attic, the whole time i felt like writing a diary, i swear i did tiny drawings in a sketchbook by flashlight and i think a critter was in the corner. i moved on to grad school soon after and better relationships and studios.

Kristy Bishop said...

I relate to my deepest core with all of these comments. For me, it is a constant struggle to make time for myself in my studio. I wait tables full time and with that comes a lot of exhaustion....and guilt. I feel like I devote more time and energy at my day job than to my artwork. Luckily my studio is at home and therefore very cheap but that can also be a hindrance.

Also, I feel that my social life suffers as well because I turn down a lot of plans so that I can work in my studio. This is good for my artwork but bad for my friendships. If I were to hangout with my friends as much as I would like and work as much as I need to to support myself that would leave hardly anytime for making art. Therefore this leads me to the constant guilt I feel anytime I am away from the studio.

Even though I have this constant struggle with making time for art I don't think I could ever give it up. The longest that I have gone without making art is about two months. The last time I did that was after I finished work for a show and I was so burned out afterwards.

I feel useless if I am not making something or at least being constructive and that is a big part of what keeps me going.

Steph said...

For me, art is truly a response to a call. There is a hunger inside me that craves the act of making art.
Only once have I given up art. It was after I went on an extended trip to Italy. Instead of being inspired, I was discouraged by all of the amazing art that was being made, even on the streets of Florence. I felt like I was just a drop of water in an ocean of talent. I did not make art for one year. When I finally came back to the work, I had a fresh vision, a new direction.
Now I have a different perspective, I believe that if you have the "call" then you also have a responsibility to answer with your singular ability.

jane said...

Did no art - that's right, absolutely nothing - for 8 years, through university and the early years of working - 90+hr weeks not conducive to anything other than sleeping!

Thankfully have been able to work part time (30hrs) over the last 3 years, and have really seen my painting take off - onwards and upwards!

Catherine Carter said...

I never SERIOUSLY consider giving up, although I admit to being frustrated when I see others my age who have more material things because they’ve lived a “normal” life. My inspirations for continuing are: 1. Nothing is more fun to me than painting, NOTHING; 2. Believe it or not, I actually ENJOY applying for grants and other art-related opportunities; and 3. Like Joni Mitchell, I think of all the women who for one reason or another haven’t been able to create, and I realize I have been given a gift and an opportunity, so I continue on FOR THOSE WOMEN.

Susan Schwalb said...

Around twenty years ago while I was complaining about my career and art life to a friend she replied, "You can always give it up". I was speechless, feeling what else could I possibly do. I have never complained in quite the same way since. Being an artist is in fact a calling- you have to do it to live. When young people ask me whether they should become artists I have always replied- only if you have to. Although it is a wonderful life it is filled with disappointments but it is the only life I could ever lead.

Mead McLean said...

Giving up never really crosses my mind. I've been making art for 10 years now, with roughly 5 of those years spent making mediocre work.

I haven't had a studio for the past year (though that's changing in a few days), and it does drive me nuts. It forces my work into my imagination. I figure if I can't make something physical, I'll just draw a sketch of it. If I can't sketch it, I'll write the idea in words.

I've made some prints and pieces on paper, gotten back into drawing, and done some street art (there's a legal wall in town). I've also recently designed a typeface and turned it into a font, and I tricked out my website with a store. Next up, I'm going to teach myself some 3-D modeling to plan out the more complex pieces I have in my head.

I find that the best thing about taking a break from making things is that your assumptions about art and the world come clear and eventually disappear. I no longer see boundaries and limitations that my schooling put on me. I feel like I can shift my ideas through any medium I want, put it in any form, and still stick to my agenda.

School trained a certain negativity into me. I was really harsh on some amazing artists, and I still am at times. But now, the range of art that I like has expanded greatly. I also was turning some negativity on myself. I would push away certain ideas that kept invading my head because they weren't within the bounds of the main things I was doing. I'm much more open to those ideas these days, and a lot more fun has been creeping into my work, at least for me.

Diane McGregor said...

As a painter I have been searching for my "absolute" for over 30 years, knowing that inside me was a way to paint that "successfully expresses the sublime to others" (as Bernard said here so eloquently). After 3 decades of hard work, persistence, and not much material success, I feel I have finally found my "formula" - my authentic voice. But it had to be built upon all the bodies of work that came before, and if I had not been there for those other paintings, I could never have arrived where I am today.
I don't think I ever entertained the possibility of taking a hiatus or giving up -- I can't imagine not painting, as dismal as my life and my mental health have been at times. It's my life blood, my constant quest.
This has been an enriching conversation and I'm grateful to Joanne and everyone who shared.

Anonymous said...

I think about quitting almist every day. When I look at the space it takes up in my life - physical, emotional, mental, financial - I imagine how I might make room in my life for other things. Maybe I'd have some money to travel, or time to do this thing, or that.

I often question my motivation, my artistic vision, my technical talent. I ask myself whether I'm working hard enough, am I more afraid of rejection or success? Do I really want to work this hard?

Yes, I think about quitting every day. But then, I keep going.

Thanks to everyone who has answered the question, it's good to know I am not the only one.

LXV said...

Joanne & everybody else who has shared their feelings and their stories: I find this to be the most affecting experience I have ever had on the internet. The question was simple. The answers are profoundly moving. We've all been there. We are all there. I have often compared being an artist to having a handicapped child. It takes a while to acknowledge the reality, and then to accept it in all its manifestations and to provide for it and nurture it, never really knowing if what you are doing is the right thing. It is lonely and difficult, and sometimes tragic. But from what I am reading here, nobody who is an artist can walk away from it. We are all afflicted. But we have something no one else does. Thank you all for your honest sharing.

Betty Carroll Fuller said...

I'm now in my 60's (yikes!) and have had periods over the years when not much got done...mostly when my two daughters were babies and when I got divorced soon after that. The reason for not doing art has always been financial, the need to work and get paid. But here I m a grandmother, adjunct professor, college gallery director and still doing my work. I have never thought that I quit just a temporary work stoppage! It is still difficult financially but I love being an artist, I feel dead if I'm not working.

Philip Koch said...

I feel this is one of the most rewarding series of comment to read through I've ever seen on this blog. Thanks to all of you.

Joanne Mattera said...

Thank you all for commenting. I, too, am moved by your responses. When I came across the Internet image of a person rolling a boulder up the hill, this topic almost poured out of me.

Patrick's comment brought me to tears:
"You just turn around one day and realize you've been working the equivalent of two full time jobs or more for x many years, and you get hit by the toll that's taken on you and your relationships and opportunities and personality and morality."

As for the guilt issue, that's going to be another post.

Leslie said...

I don't seem to be capable of stopping - contemplate it occasionally in those times of frustration and depression and realize I can't. Closest I came was when my kids were tiny - and then I'd work in watercolor so I could lay down a wash during naptime. Now as my kids are growing up and leaving home I find more time taken by being a caregiver for aging parents but still, somehow, find studio time. I have more to say in the studio even if the time is sometimes more fought for and the market a continuing challenge. I agree with Susan Schwalb - one should only do it if one must - and then it's not a choice is it?

Anonymous said...

I never think of giving up . I work mostly in my head now. My sculptures are expensive to make. It takes a long time for me to commit to a project now .Something I thought was good a year ago might not be so good now . I have hundreds of models and sketches.

Art Epicurean said...

Wow - this is a comment thread I read each and everyone. The answer to your question is yes. Have I given up - no and I no longer feel so alone. Thank you for this post.

Eva said...

It's weird to read this today as I was just writing in my diary of being rather broke, but then again, when was I not? Oh, when I had the Big Job in NYC, made a lot of cash, drank very good wine and.... made very little art. Some people didn't even know I was an artist - too big a suitcase to open up! And where were all the new pieces, if indeed I was an artist? The more I worked this big day job the more I stuffed this essential part of myself away.

I never think of giving up because obviously it was hard-wired into my DNA. I couldn't drink it out, smoke it out, none of it. BUT I do sometimes entertain ideas of streamlining. We do a lot of different things as artists - as you, Joanne, can especially attest to. It's not just about a body of work. Sometimes I look at all the different things and wonder how to simplify. I do believe old artists (not that I am one yet!) simplify. Not sure what it all means, what it all will be. I guess what I mean is that I want to be able to do it forever and the terms may have to change some.

Daniel Sroka said...

Every. Single. Day.

Art is a tough, brutal, quixotic profession. It is also pretty cool and amazing. Doubt is just part of the bargain.

Eddie Hudson said...

Wow, Wow, Wow! @ the comments! Just read a few but sounds like this does ring a bell/sound an alarm with many. I gave up art for a long time - 25 years approximately. I have a space I use in my basement the size of a storage space and most of it is jammed with exercise equipment and a huge desk. But it works for me. Give it up? Not if I can help it. Even though I test software, I've been unemployed for over a year, so this has been a bittersweet time for me as well. Work whenever I want (and my mom, church or wife don't need something done) and look for work. I haven't sold enough to speak of, but truly "no one knows the joy, when you create..." If I didn't do this, if I quit now...seriously, it would have to be for something far better! Yes, I want to sell and yes its discouraging that I'm not, but I remember 25 years of not painting. No, never want to do that again! I may be returning to work, soon, which means I will have to paint in the evenings, maybe cut down on gym time. But I think I have to be creative or else!

Pretty Lady said...

For twenty years, it never occurred to me to give up.

Then I had a baby, the economy tanked, and our family was so broke we had to leave New York and move in with in-laws for nine months. That did it.

Getting out of the NYC 'art world' was *exactly* like getting out of an abusive relationship. In both situations, you give your heart, your soul and your mind, and in return you get verbal abuse, emotional disconnection, and eventual bankruptcy.

Right now I'm choosing to put my creative talents to good use in building a business, writing a book, creating healing spaces and caring for my family.

I can intuit that there may still be 'art' lurking in my soul, which will one day have its way with me, but I'm in no hurry to get on with it.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

My comment comes at what seems to be a point in my life where I'm seriously considering giving up both making art and continuing it as a career.
I went to a prestigious London art school for my MA (for US readers; MFA) around 12 years ago and prior to that I had been painting longer than I can remember, certainly from early childhood. It's always been my calling, my communion, but unlike many other comments here, I've always seen art making as being a contribution to a collective aesthetic language; the catharsis element of art making is little more than indulgent therapy otherwise, or as a well known London art critic recently pointed out, 'it's not just about you, it has to be transpersonal you know'. And in that sense, as a personal commitment to a transpersonal language, I've been struggling with art for over five years now. It also stands in stark contrast to my early years after art school, when I made a lot of work and seemed to develop very quickly with much commercial success, both in Europe and the US.
My struggle roughly coincides with the onset of depression that was officially diagnosed around three years ago, but I'd been suffering from severe depressive episodes some years prior to my accepting it.
I've been at my happiest in life when I've felt things are going well in the studio, it is the only thing that completes me and defines my purpose for being here. Enduring years of making really bad work, feeling my work to be, for the most part, mediocre, is still the cause of so much misery and pain in my life. I sometimes wonder how long I can go before considering taking my life as a way out. I certainly know that the depression seems to also have me in a catch-22 situation with it all, despite therapy and learning more about it.
And so here I am, in a kind of limbo really, making art but feeling thoroughly adrift from both myself and any hope of happiness in life. I'm afraid of who I'll be without art, I'm afraid of carrying on hopeless, I'm afraid that things will never be better. Can I hope for some happiness? It's the most miserable aspect of my life, desperately wanting the desire to make art but feeling utterly empty and lost.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... Good question! Have I ever started? I am an interior designer by trade. In college, my teachers told me I would waste my time and talent if I chose interior design over fine art. I didn't agree. I didn't like to paint or draw. I still don't. I have always been good at changing what I see, but I have never been one to paint directly from my mind without some sort of inspiration. Through observation though, I see. I really see. And I have great eye/hand coordination to boot. I can manipulate any new medium and make it work for me the first time around. I know this is a gift. Plus, color is so easy for me. And spatial relations and mechanical ability are a piece of cake. Iam certainly not saying I am a artistic genius (by any means!), but I can produce works of art. So what is at the root of my issue?I'm guessing it is perfectionism. Fine art is painful for me. I bet my teeth have lost about a 1/4 inch of enamel through the years (j.k.), as I grind my teeth when I paint. And everything ends up realistic, because the perfectionism kicks in. While taking graduate painting classes, a professor advised me to accept that I was a super realist paint. Sigh. Through my interior design career though, I have worked through a bit of that by creating full room murals in oil and glaze. I definitely recommend working that large to anyone having similar issues.
So where am I now? I still have all of my art supplies. I drag them from move to move, and occasionally pull them out when I am inspired. Usually that is when I want to give something as a gift. Am I an artist? I don't know. I don't call myself one, but just about all of my clients do. They say I have an artist's ability to see and that it makes a big difference in interior design. I guess I do see a difference between my projects and other interior designers who are not as creative. If that is considered art in your mind... I have never considered giving up.

Fiona the unknown artist said...

I agree that an artist's life is an uphill struggle. I had a big struggle to get to Art School, then spent the next 20 years painting mostly full time while engaged with other jobs. Sometimes I had a studio, sometimes I didn't. The only time I stopped painting was when my long-term partner died suddenly, and I stopped for a few months. Then I decided to paint from the grief, and some very colourful paintings resulted.
Now I'm newly married and juggling many obligations, and I also work part-time as a Carer, but I still paint almost full-time. I couldn't ever stop, in spite of numerous rejections, because I experience life through painting. It's a cliche, but I live and breathe my art. With it, the world feels full of potential for creativity.
I have thought of giving up, usually after a rejection, but now opportunities are turning up. Even without them, I would still carry on as painting is my response to the world.