Saturday, May 30, 2015

Set it on Fire

Something has been bugging me for a couple of weeks. Usually two weeks is my limit before I know I have to write it out or implode.

I was watching the American Pickers TV show. I like it because there's a profound lack of wankiness found on so many other "reality" TV shows, plus, I like the cool stuff that they find. Anyway, Mike and Frank were picking some guy's place when Mike asked the guy, "So, what do you do?" The guy shrugged and replied, "Well. I don't really do anything, so I guess I'm just an artist."

That's when I started swearing at my TV screen. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it included "...shittastic attitude and profound lack of fucking passion... artist my ass!"

I took huge exception to his statement. According to Mister Junk-Hoarding Turd, my father housed, clothed and fed a family of seven by not "really doing anything". Mister J-H Turd couldn't be more wrong. My father may have had his issues, but he also worked his ass off. Work ethic was something I learned from both of my parents - from my "not really doing anything" father and from my "just a housewife" mother.

Yeah. Because saying an artist isn't really doing anything is right up there with calling a 24/7 hard-working woman "just a housewife". (Oh, step off. I'm well aware that the job a wife and mother does is far more essential than art work. That's not the point.) When I was a nanny, I was often given the raised eyebrow and the, "Oh, you're just a nanny... do you ever think about getting a real job?" treatment. Had there not been children present, I might've become a bit stabby.

And now, here I am, an artist. A paid artist even. I typically work seven days a week. It's rare that an entire day goes by without me doing something in my studio. When I'm really into a project it takes over the day and then some. I'm still thinking about it when I fall asleep. I dream about it. I jump out of bed in the morning, look at what I've done, and think about it some more as I scrub the sleep out of my eyes. When I'm out in public, I look at everything around me for clues into some new project, for inspiration and color and, oh, how can I capture that tiny moment of wonder. When I watch movies I ignore the characters and look at stuff in the background - what's hanging on their walls, catching the light on their dresser, and look how the sun dapples the leaves in that scene.

I'm an artist and I'm never not working. And I love it. I'm passionate about it even when you see me sitting quietly and reading a book. When someone asks me what I do, I proudly state, "I am an artist." Because people seem to find artists fascinating (even those of us who are slightly less than eccentric), they always ask, "Oh, what kind of art do you do?" That's when they get the full force of my passion. I'm passionate about what I do because I love to do it - every day of the week, of the month, of the year of the decade, world without end, Amen.

The thing is, Mister Junk-Hoarding Turd wasn't without talent. He had some cool stuff sitting around that he'd done. But he sure was without the necessary passion to carry it.

Right around the same time, I had posted a quote by Pablo Picasso. A friend made a self-deprecating comment that basically said she wasn't intelligent enough to appreciate Picasso's work. I got riled.

I don't appreciate Picasso's work either, but it's not because I lack the intelligence to appreciate it. I get what he was shooting for. I just... don't like it. The same way that I'm sure that while liver and onions are delicious to the right person, they just aren't for me. There are lots of artists whose work I love, but I couldn't really tell you why. There are works by certain artists that I love and yet other works of theirs leave me wanting.

None of it is about intelligence. None of it is about an artist's abundance or lack of talent. It's preference. Some folks like wine, some like beer. Some won't drink anything but white wine; others give you the evil eye for even suggesting anything but red. It's personal. So is art. Art is about making people feel something, so even if you feel revulsion, the artist has, on some level at least, succeeded.

But. Passion. It has to be there. Without passion it's just talent. Talent is nice and it helps pass the time (as, no doubt, Mister Junk-Hoarding Turd will attest), but it won't set your mind on fire. Me, I prefer a nice warm blaze.


  1. I love this, Barb - well spoken and passionately written. Burn baby, burn!

    1. Ahhhh... the warmth of the blaze. Thank you, Madame J!

  2. Now I know why your blog caught my attention all those years ago -- Passion! I think I've said it before but it is still true, Barb Black, You ROCK!


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