Friday, November 5, 2010

Gustave Flaubert - A Dog's Life?

Dance Tunes #4, Oil/Cold Wax

Apparently, the French writer Gustave Flaubert said: "Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living" An artist might make a similar statement about making art. I could agree in some respects, except to say that the dogs that I know lead a very sweet life, and not at all hard to take.

However, just for the fun of it, lets expand on Flaubert's notion, and think about the downside of being an artist.

First of all, it can be a solitary, sometimes tedious business. After long stretches of time at work, there is the occasional reward of a fairly decent passage on the canvas, or a particularly expressive section in the clay sculpture. But mostly it's only the artist who recognizes these tiny accomplishments, as there is no one else around in the studio to tell you one way or the other if you're onto something (except the cat, and he's asleep).

Then there can be those long periods of unproductive agony, when you seriously consider taking up some other form of useful employment, such as computer repair. The mere thought of which sends you into spasms of apoplexy, which further freeze your creative juices, sending you staggering to the nearest newspaper to frantically search the "Help Wanted" ads.

Your spirit sinks further, as you constantly doubt that anyone would actually want to trade cash for one of your creations. For weeks you have tingled with excitement as you moved paint around the canvas, or sculpted the finest nose you have ever sculpted. But will anyone else's breath catch with amazement, or their eyes cast a riveting gaze at your work? Will anyone even stop to look?

Worst of all is the panic that sets in when you wonder if you will meet your self-imposed deadlines. Ten months ago it all seemed possible, with plenty of time to spare. Now you are down to the last few days before your solo show and you're wondering if the paint will dry in time, or if the kiln will break down just before your final firing, and Lord knows it takes two weeks for replacement parts to arrive!

And all this couldn't matter less to the rest of the world - it only matters to you. That's the reality. And that's why we are artists.

Next post: I'll take the dog's life, or why it matters to me.


Martha Marshall said...

I so identify, Barbara. Looking forward to your observations on a dog's life.

Barbara said...

Well, Martha, for every action there is supposed to be an equal and opposite reaction. Right? I can tell from your vibrant and spiritual work that you have some thoughts on a dog's life also. This should be interesting. :-)