Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanks Dr. Z

I shared a Grateful List for my birthday, and it really hasn't changed much. I'm a pretty grateful kinda gal. To that list I've got one more addition to honor the holiday.

It's been a frustrating couple of weeks in my studio. Some ideas that have been floating around in my head don't seem to translate onto paper or canvas. Inside my noggin, they're beautiful renditions of the acres of birches we saw in the U.P Michigan. On paper, well, it's another story. It's been frustrating, to say the least. Especially since I saw a really beautiful exhibit by Hal Haloun at Kiechel Gallery in Lincoln, Ne. Achingly beautiful.
Deep sigh.

So many people have said to me "Oh! It must be so much FUN to be an artist!" And I smile and mumble something about it being better than kick in the pants. Satisfying, certainly. But fun? Playing cards with friends is fun. Sharing a meal with family is fun. Being an artist? Mm, not so much.

When I was in college, I had an instructor who was refreshingly honest with me. During our last conversation, while I picked up the last assignment of the year, I asked him whether I should pursue an art degree, or get a 'real' job. Of course, I was hoping he would smile sweetly and tell me how wonderful an artist I was.

He didn't.

What he did say has stayed with me all these years (and it's been alot of years).

He said, "You've got the talent. You can do it if you want it, but it's going to be hard work."


I didn't understand the hard work part. For me, just like those people, painting was FUN! I hadn't yet spent hours trying to make the perfect mark that would hold a painting together. I hadn't spent days working on one small painting, wondering how to get oil paint to look like air. I hadn't yet spent hours in a studio, alone, facing the fear that I had no idea what I was doing. And doing it anyway.

I get that art is not like hauling rocks from one site to another, or saving babies from burning buildings. No one has ever used a canvas of mine to protect themselves from an assassin's bullet.

I'm grateful to Dr. Z for being honest with me, and telling me that being an artist is hard. Not saving babies hard, but ego-bruising hard. Not back-breakingly hard, but intellectually hard. Inventing a new language hard. Sharing your private thoughts and hopes with strangers hard. Had he not been honest with me and shared that little nugget of truth with me, I'm pretty certain that I'd be working in the food service industry, or the local Shop-n-Drop. It may yet come to that. But until then, I'm going back into my studio and face that canvas one more time. Dr. Z will be standing with me, shoulder to shoulder.

I'm grateful for that.
Happy Thanksgiving.


Preenie said...

How interesting!!! I have been struggle with the same thoughts,questions and wonders for a couple of weeks. Hmmm...I'm pondering. Thanks for that "golden nugget" : -)
I'll keep on treading ahead!
How did the show at Graham Gallery turn out for you?
Talk soon!

Nancy and the fatties said...

I think you've summed it up for all of us painters, Patty. Your talent speaks for itself, and the hours of hard work show.
happy turkey day from across the miles!

Karine said...

Ah, the wisdom and candor of Dr. "Z"!!! So true! I can't tell you how many people don't believe me when I say that being an artist isn't what one might think (fun).