I read an interesting article about discovering the current stereotype of a city by typing “why is ————- so” and letting Google’s auto complete fill in the common searches. That led me to wonder what the stereotype for artists is these days. So I keyed “why are artists” and then “why are artists so” and guess what — people think artists are weird, poor, liberal, sensitive, emotional, depressed, moody, messy and important. Crazy also came into play. (At least some people think we’re important – but they didn’t know why, because they wanted Google to tell them. )
This experiment came on the heels of a day out painting plein air in downtown Medford. I thought I’d found a quiet street but there were lots of people who came by and if they said anything they mostly said something like, “Looks like you’re having fun!” Fun. Okay. It’s kind of true, but it’s pretty revealing about what people generally think artists are doing. Art is fun when things are going well. When you’re in a groove, when you’re so engrossed that you don’t need to eat, won’t answer the phone etc, BUT people don’t get that if we’re supposed to be anything but Sunday painters having a nice hobby in retirement that it takes consistent, persistent WORK. And struggle. In the moments when the best work is created there is a zone that is awesome, but to get into the zone you have had experiences that are to the right or left of the zone, where you over correct and have some painful crashes. For me, to achieve the work I want to create, I’ve had to study and keep at it, and even now I have goals I want to achieve that I have to study and work at a whole lot more. Not only that, the very best artists make art every day, which I almost do, but not quite. The fact is, I couldn’t make anything that anyone would care to see without having put in in tons of time and thought and preparation over many years. Fun, on the other hand, is a nice dinner with friends and family. Fun is playing at the beach. Fun is relaxation. Painting is sublime, but it’s work. It’s exhilarating and heart breaking. It’s more fun than fun and it’s not fun at all.
Being misunderstood may just be why we’re so crazy, depressed, weird and moody all the time. 😉