Monday, 1 February 2016

Of art and money.



I'm posting a few thoughts on the professional aspect of art and artists this week.

A topic divisive in nature and often poorly understood the first-hand experience provided by a decade's long career will ground the considered opinions expressed by the discourse.  As always, and though reviewed prior to publication ~ this remains as much a family-friendly establishment as reasoned exculpation will allow ~ comments are encouraged.  I will express no surprise should my conclusions find offense in certain corners. 

They are presented as a reader's choice of humor and object lesson.

While a marginally interesting subject for consideration however there's little here worth getting excited about when compared to larger events.  A man seeks first to fulfill the weekly mandate of the schedule established on behalf of the blog.  The second most pressing concern is entertainment of both reader and writer.

Beyond those lofty ambitions, a fellow of limited talent and less time rarely considers.

The writer must also do his best to be as clear as possible in his representations lest accidental offense to a party unknown be the unwanted result.  The great sensitivity of modern society makes clear that to expect the formerly common sense to govern reasonable discourse in such an information-rich era is asking too much.  For the modern approach to communication though generally self-absorbed and often impolite must be held to a standard of innocuous vacuity suitable for digestion by all.  The preference for mono-syllabic and simplistic verbiage suitable for quickest consumption and easiest summation is also renowned.  A hyper-sensitivity to the hyper-sensitive has been confirmed and appreciation for it now is demanded on a societal basis.

The resulting assault upon intellectual freedom has been many things including sad to a thinking man but ultimately, no surprise.

That will remain a topic for another discussion however as the nuts and bolts that bind the body and mind of the professional artist is the topic at hand.  These more worldly matters are the substance of the current conversation and nothing beyond their simple evaluation its goal.  For the artist like everyone else is held together by the same real connections either with or without consideration of his ~ or her ~ work.  While well established that the creation of art is a higher effort managed primarily by the brain it would be impossible without the functional support of a healthy body to manifest it.  The connection of art and artist is as undeniable and real as that between sustenance and survival.

Without one there can be no other.

The first responsibility of professional artists like everyone else is thus survival in the temporal reality we know as our world.  While most with early dreams of arts careers make choices better suited to lives of routine comfort a stubborn minority follow them into adult life as full-time vocational efforts.  To discover a success relative to talent and commitment or otherwise these dreamers commit their lives to individual artistic talent.  In professions that include writing, music, painting, acting, film, stagecraft, or any of the endless varieties of endeavor available today these fearless few persist.  The choice is little different than other self-employed careers in fact despite being more obviously dramatic in outward appearance.  These are also the individuals with and about whom this post is primarily concerned.

No matter what we're doing as full-time practitioners we are each responsible for earning our living.

To feed one's self is not only elemental but emotionally enriching.  Even a poverty stricken existence when derived by the effort of one's own hand is intensely rewarding.  For an artist there exists no more damning evidence of the righteous nature of his thankless path than the sale of his creative output.  The most meagre of returns are often sufficient to sustain those chained to the grinding millstone functionally represented by it.

There exists no acceptable substitute for the sale of an artist's work.

Without it survival is impossible and survival is the only true absolute necessary to artistic creativity.  Like any tradesman the artists needs payment to keep working.  Though higher matters may occupy the design and intent of the work the act of creation requires sustenance derived solely from the payment generated by it.  In the absence of it art work will inevitably be exchanged for alternate effort that results in provision of that fuel required.  The art is then most often abandoned as it has been by artists throughout the untold generations of our kind.  While a great and obvious oversimplification of a common and heartless reality the gist of the point is easily conveyed.

All must earn their survival and if art be his or her work then it must be sold if either of them is to do so.

Call it avarice if self-righteous indignation moves you but the facts make consideration otherwise inappropriate.  Short of undertaking a nine-to-five occupation rendering the full-time pursuit of art impossible in addition to its ordinary difficulty few alternatives are either known or practised.  Wherever your artistic talents lay, at some point they must either produce revenue or be relegated to the status of avocation.  With literature among the least capable of doing so the relative limitations of its vocational appeal should not surprise.  The professional prospects for writers in most fields have for decades been under assault from the ever-expanding role of the citizen journalist/author/filmmaker/broadcaster widely enabled by the web.  Similar circumstances have laid siege to most industries in the early years of the latest century as we struggle to assimilate the many new realities unleashed by rapidly evolving technology.  Most writers today ~ as ever ~ work at writing part-time when full-time occupations and the usual obligations allow.  The more things change cosmetically meanwhile the more they remain essentially the same circumstantially according to written history.

While no doubt awash in data we appear increasingly bereft of knowledge.

In my case acceptance of this harsh literary reality came years ago.  The unattractive facts of a life supported by the artistic pen contributed mightily to my looking elsewhere for gainful employment.  I was also fortunate however and blessed with additional talents that combined with my few writing skills allowed an alternate and satisfying life in the arts to eventually be secured.  The gratitude for this good fortune is foremost in the daily awareness of my somewhat unique and entirely satisfying vocational circumstance.  For rarely is a man blessed with abundance such as that bestowed upon this writer.  Though not a wealth accurately measured with mortal riches you have my assurance the cup overruns with reward sufficient to my need.   To have something loved to work at is perhaps life's greatest gift, while to be paid for doing it a long established sign of true appreciation.

My work has long been appreciated by a dedicated few and for this I remain ever grateful.

A man hopes; perhaps with a fool's optimism, a fate no worse than encountered by his erstwhile recording career might someday welcome his literary efforts.  For despite a limited commercial appeal a level of critical appreciation followed by a run of broadcast support eventually enabled a small success.  The echo resulting supports a continued dedication to the craft of performing that long ago and once again provides sustenance to the writer of fiction.  So too a lifetime of sustained and private dedication to the literary craft; commercially enabled by the potential of the internet, is now exercised.  A start at the least encouraging is made and the stubborn tenacity of a common mule plainly lingers here.  Likewise the karmic wheel turns uncaring of the times while the writer lives the ironic déjà vu that underlies the seeming endless vagary of life itself.

Of course most will claim I've spent a lifetime pursuing windmills visible only to myself.

The prospects though realistic and limited are, given time and effort it would seem, achievable.  That expectation early managed is future disappointment later avoided and together lead to satisfaction is also noted.  As per usual the same old tune plays on despite the evergreen claims to the contrary.

A once and future realist inhabits this domain.

As few things motivate a man ~ or woman ~ at work more than feeling good about doing it that too is likewise considered.  For most any activity judged as positive soon builds interest in doing more of it.  This reliably leads to improvement.  As what feels good tends to get better with refinement of technique to seek regular opportunities for practice is inevitable.  The more the thing is done, the greater the improvement in skill.  This leads to more joy and the near inevitable response can only be to want to do it again.  Like the mythical perpetual motion machine or the dream of cold fusion the situation feeds on itself in an endless circle of practice, improvement, and happiness.  The writer's claim is that rare activities such as these, once identified, are best pursued with reckless abandon and for as long as possible.  In my travels I have so far identified only three of them, with writing the earliest and music the last.

As mentioned earlier a family-friendly establishment operates here and thus I'll allow imagination to identify the second activity meeting the criteria.

As an aside to this note a matter of some significance took place with last week's post, number fifteen since inception for those counting, when unique reader visits went over one thousand here.  My thanks go to each reader for witnessing these missives with best wishes for the happiness of your individual journey.  May your intelligence be respected and your good humor magnified by review of the hare-brained notions here weekly presented.

A wise man once said we are best (he also wrote it best and I thus paraphrase with respect) if our time is spent not in worry but in happiness.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.

-          TFP
February 1, 2016

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