Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Does Art Suffer Because the Artist Does Not?

Dark Night of the Soul, Tracy DiTolla
Remember the days of the starving artist?  I mean the really starving artists.  It was not that long ago but it seems to be a rapidly fading concept.  It is such a romantic notion - the artist living in poverty by choice because nothing on earth was more important than focusing on the art.  It was a higher calling, a noble path - the art must come first, even before the artist's own well-being.  The artist should toil endlessly at his canvas without nourishment or sleep because it was the art that was sustaining him.  The art was feeding his soul and driving him with a passion that could not be stopped by anything.  Any meager amount of money made was to go to paint and canvas, there was nothing else. 
Think Toulouse Lautrec, Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Modigliani, much of most of their lives were spent in poverty and they seemed to live only for their art.  Today that does not really happen, at least no one I know is living that way.  Most artists have “day jobs” that often have nothing to do with art.  There is no longer that high awe-inspiring respect for an artist who abandons everything and spends all of his time creating and exploring different visual theories - if you do that now most people will think you’re crazy and a loser.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; I’m pretty sure most of us do not want starving artists dressed in rags begging for food, oil paint and conte crayons on the street.  But how does the lack of time an artist gets to focus on his/her art reflect in the artwork produced today. 

I Can't do This Anymore, Tracy DiTolla

Look at the Impressionists, Dada, the Futurists, the Abstract Expressionists, this list goes on – would those movements have come about and changed the world of art if those artists came home from their day jobs, made dinner for their kids and then after cleaning, doing bills, being distracted by RHONJ and getting everyone settled into bed then start working on their art?  Artists are not getting any existential suffering in and that is leaving us with art that often lacks substance.  I’m in no way saying that artists should abandon their responsibilities to focus on their art, I’m saying it is too bad that art does not seem to be as respected and as important to people as it once was by society as a whole.  And I am looking at a lot of the artwork around today (not all of it, there is still great art out there ;)) 
and some of it really falls short and I think it is because of the general loss of the importance of the artist’s vision.  

The 11th Hour, Tracy DiTolla

P.S. Sorry for the shameless self-promotion.


  1. Well it's the age old question, especially amongst musicians, do you have to suffer to play the blues. And in my 30 years of musical experience the answer I've come up with is...sometimes? if you grow up in a completely stable environment, you want for nothing, loving parents, etc.. what do you really have to say? what kind of depth of emotion will you have if all you know is nice and good? Depth of emotion comes from some kind of pain, i don't think tht can be argued, I mean, it can, but I think the truth and musical history bears out what I'm saying for the most part.

    But is this what you are really asking? Is THAT the question or are you asking that, unless you throw yourself completely into your work, will your work ever be worthy of appreciation. Will you just be skimming the surface of your own ability because the time was never put in to learn it correctly.

    OR, is it the fact that we have become such a distracted society that it's nearly impossible to put the kind of time in to become as absorbed as the artists you mention? I'm sure that is part of it. None of them had computers to write blogs on, no offense to your doing this of course, just saying. But part of their greatness came from the fact that they were going to live or die doing what they did as THEY saw fit, and if they got paid and recognized and their own terms, then great. Today's artists and musicians maybe want to be loved and more importantly, paid, so badly that they will bend what they do to satisfy whatever or whoever it is they think they need to satisfy to get what they are really after, when what they should really be after is the lack of fear to bear their souls to the world. Or maybe, just maybe, that's exactly what they are doing, and it's their souls that are empty, and while they may appreciate great art, they themselves simply have nothing to say, and that is what you are seeing.

  2. I think all of those things are relevant. I don't think anyone has not had some type of suffering such as a broken heart, a spiritual emptiness, mental illness - even if they have grown up in the most loving environment with the most supportive family and friends on earth.
    But I do think a big part is what you said in your last paragraph. Aside from the blog part - I think this just takes place of the writings on art that most artists did anyway. Whether in diaries or published magazines or any other venue.
    We are a distracted society and a society that does not place an emphasis on the arts, any of them. From visual arts to music to film - I feel like they have all lost something over the past 2o years or so.

  3. yes I was going to put that in my reply as well, that everyone will go through some kind of emotional pain, but to process that into some kind of artistic outlet...I've known some pretty messed up people who were/are musicians, and all it did was keep them from doing anything great. So it's not a prerequisite, it won't always lead to something, but if you take someone who grew up as I mentioned before, the chances are a lot less likely that that person will grow to do anything meaningful artistically.

    the bigger problem is the emphasis on acquiring stuff. if you are lucky enough to be able to shun the pressure of society telling you you are not a worthy person unless you can afford certain things, then there's a much greater chance (if you are already an artist of some kind) that you'll be able to accomplish something.

    but there is also something else..the idea that you will find a way, regardless of what's been afforded to you, you will find a way to make it work. that you NEED to do this, not just want to, but need to. If you can't afford to go to school, so what, there are different ways of acquiring knowledge. Meaningless jobs for money to afford supplies, things like that. How many people do you come across who feel that way? I would do what i do regardless of the money it makes me, because I simply have to, I don't have a choice. But of course, when you have that kind of drive, there's a much better chance that something WILL come of it, isn't there. Almost beyond your own will. It isn't just society at large, it's the artists fault as well that the depth and quality have gone by the wayside. You can't expect society to appreciate you if you don't expect more of yourself as well. I always say to people i play with, even if the audience doesn't entirely understand what you are doing, if you are giving it everything you got, your heart and soul, they will see that and maybe it won't affect everybody, but a good many will and that's something you can build on. If you find your students watching the clock, tell them to leave and get to wherever they are going to that is more important than the art they obviously don't care about.

  4. another queston you can ask is, or another way to put it happiness and contentment the enemy of creativity?


    Interesting relevant article.