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A Perfect World

The Artist's Road
Shared with the Southern Oregon Artists Resource by Elaine Frenett, who received it in an email from The Artist’s Road, a website focused on travel and plein air painting. “Having spent a lifetime exploring and finding purpose and fulfillment through art, we decided to build this art and painting website to share what we have learned and to inspire others in their creative lives. Much of the important content (over 375 articles) you’ll find here is instructional – the steps to making paintings in oil, pastel or watercolor –  often illustrated by videos, slide shows and Step-by-Step demonstrations. Enjoy the free content. We believe that you will find value and inspiration in it.”
Many thanks to The Artist’s Road for this unique and important perspective on the importance of art.
The Dream by Henri Rousseau, 1910 (PD)
The Dream          1910 (PD)          Henri Rousseau

   We recently read a description of what artists do – perhaps the best description ever uttered – in a reprint of a commencement speech given by the late Kurt Vonnegut to the graduating class of Syracuse University in 1994. It is elegant in its spare simplicity and spot on. Mr. Vonnegut was fondly recalling a conversation he had had with one of his favorite teachers:

   “The teacher whose name I mentioned when we all remembered good teachers asked me one time, ‘What is it artists do?’ And I mumbled something. ‘They do two things,’ he said. ‘First, they admit they can’t straighten out the whole universe. And then second, they make at least one little part of it exactly as it should be. A blob of clay, a square of canvas, a piece of paper, or whatever.’ ”

Cut through all the rationalizing we do about why we feel we must continue to make art each day and what it comes down to, for most of us, is that pure and noble desire to make one thing exactly as we think it should be. We have little to no control over anything else. But when we sit down to make something, then the world is ours alone. At those moments, completely absorbed with our thoughts and efforts, it matters not what anyone else thinks now, or in the future. And if we are in the zone and able to create the beautiful thing living in our hearts and minds, then we would be wise to also protect our hatchling from the greater world of Art. By all means share it when the time is right, for sharing is ultimately what art is for. However, be in no hurry to enter into any art competitions with your newborn. Besides wasting precious hard-earned cash, a rejection or two can undo all the inspiration, self confidence and perfection which we seek to instill in our work in the first place. If we have truly made our little piece of the world exactly as we feel it should be, then honestly, we need no further approbation.

Artists need to be able to separate their tender-hearted makings from the cold-hearted enterprises of the larger world. Competing with other artists and selling art can be tough on the sensitive souls whose creations the world sorely needs. There is no easy answer to this conundrum – it is a double-edged sword. That is why we believe it is so important to carve out a space and a regular time when the larger world can be shut out so that we can listen to the song of the muse without commercial interruption.

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