Who’s Got The Remote? I Want To Change The Channel

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 4.21.30 PM“Who in the world am I?  Ahh, that is the great puzzle.” Lewis Carroll

It’s not something you can turn off. It bubbles up when you least expect it. If you would allow it, it would consume every waking minute of every day. You work hard to fit in to the normal world…family obligations, work, the challenges of everyday life. But, admit it, all you can think about is that unfinished painting, sculpture, poem, or whatever, fill in the blank. You know you are different. You may have suppressed the urge for years. Parental pressure, societal influences, may have forced you to conform temporarily, but eventually, it WILL emerge. “Normies” call it the creative impulse, or urge, the drive to create. For men, it’s usually around retirement age or after they have achieved a level of financial success, when it becomes acceptable to make a career transition. For women, it’s generally when they get close to 40, get divorced, or transition out of motherhood…the time when they realize the window of opportunity is closing. Lucky artists (usually with supportive parents) are able to embrace their creativity at a younger age, and acknowledge their life will never be normal.

There are just not enough words in the English language. It is a popular urban legend that Eskimos have hundreds of ways of saying the word “snow.” We just have one word for artist. And, it is one of the most misunderstood words in our vocabulary today. Imagine it’s career day at your local high school and the counselor asks, “How many of you know what an artist does?” Seems like an easy question, your hand pops up, we can pretty much all agree artists create things, books, music, paintings. But, therein lies the problem. The question should not be what an artist does, but, rather what an artist is. Most of us, including artists themselves, harbor the misconceived notion that being an artist is a career, or a chosen profession. The natural (and sensible) conclusion to that assumption is being an artist, like any other chosen profession, should result in some monetary gain. Hence the development of the stereotype “starving artist” or struggling artist, both terms refer to the lack of income artists are notorious for. The two words starving and artist have been so inextricably woven together that our collective consciousness can no longer define the word artist, without including the connotation that artists will always be deprived financially. The myth also conveniently includes the artist finally achieving financial success, but only after death. But, what if we could separate the notion of artist as wage earner and artist as creator? What if it was in our power to change how people THINK about what it means to be an artist?

It’s a huge leap for most people. But, if you start the dialogue with everyone you know, it may be a beginning. We must get people to understand that “being an artist,” is not a career or a profession or a way to make a living. Any more than you would expect the fact that you have blue eyes or red hair will enable you to make a living. Artists need to redefine themselves for themselves so they can educate the people around them to accept the fact that art making is an integral part of who they are as individuals, it is NOT a job, NOT a career, NOT a profession and NOT something you chose. It chooses YOU.


3 Responses to “Who’s Got The Remote? I Want To Change The Channel”

  1. Suzanne Morlock said:

    Apr 02, 10 at 3:17 pm

    I am seeking to find the way as an artist as described above:

    “But, what if we could separate the notion of artist as wage earner and artist as creator? What if it was in our power to change how people THINK about what it means to be an artist?”

    I’m interested in connecting with others and organizations and mentors who believe there is a separation. I have straddled the two worlds for some time, making my “living” at something which would not cripple my art. Recently I have shifted to giving the creative side more time and am looking for resources.

  2. robert costanza said:

    Apr 15, 10 at 8:08 am

    I believe it was Einstein’s’ quote about having the need to have a Vocation and Career. The career is what one does for their livelihood, their income. The vocation is what one engages in for their heart, to fulfill their purpose in life. If you merge the two one risks corrupting what is most important to us.

  3. Leslie Nicole said:

    Jun 18, 10 at 12:01 am

    I think it’s good to recognize that art is integral to who we are, but a word of caution: don’t use it as an excuse to be flaky about your art or lazy in your life. We still have a responsibility to be successful in whatever way we decide is important.

    Per Robert’s comment. I understand that perspective and it has validity and is one way to go. On the other hand, deciding to BE an artist also makes you take your art seriously.