Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

During a recent conversation I was asked a question that I wasn't quite sure how to answer.  "Are you still having fun", she asked, "or has your art become just a job now?"

c2014 Patricia Scarborough  Labor and Plenty  22x28 oil

Does anyone ever ask their grocer, dentist or plumber if they are having fun at work?  
"How’s the accounting business? Still fun? Or has it become just another column of numbers?"

For some reason it seems that the result of all creative activity is supposed to be “fun!” As in, the final product should bring delight and happiness and enhance the furniture. Or sit on a shelf and attract attention. Or be cute and induce smiles and satisfaction, like a home-made rocking horse or patio planter.

If it doesn’t engender a smile; if the final product is thoughtful, or a challenge, or discordant somehow, or maybe there’s a little whining that goes along with it, a problem has arisen, now…well, now it’s just a job.

(As if having a job creating things is unfortunate.)

Here’s what I wish I had said:

“Fun is what I have when I’m hanging out with friends and family. As far as my studio work, I am challenged and frustrated and delighted and I can hardly wait to get to work every morning. I am successful just often enough to think I can work out to a satisfying conclusion the problems I’ve set for myself. I am frustrated with my inadequacies and stunned at my (occasional) brilliance. There are elements of my day that I find less than thrilling, like picking titles and prices and keeping records. I'm sure all jobs have that same problem. Yet when I squeeze tubes of paint into piles on my palette, or set out my pastel boxes, my heart quickens and I feel a satisfaction deep in my bones that tells me I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
So, yeah, I'm having fun and I've got a job. And I'm having fun at my job. Thanks for asking.
See the results of my efforts, and the efforts of fellow artists Sharon Ohmberger, Karen Krull Robart, Tom Quest, Susan Hart and many others at The Burkholder Project in Lincoln, Ne. beginning July 2nd through July 31st.  Come say hellow at our opening reception, Friday July 11 from 7 - 9 pm.



Karen Krull Robart said...

I love your thoughtful response to the question, Patty! Wish it were true that we all had jobs that we have fun at.

Patty said...

Maybe we need to replace "fun" with "rewarding". That might have been a better choice. Rewarding is fun, right?

Karen Krull Robart said...

Yes - a great replacement word! Rewarding is most often fun, though not always.

Patty said...

Karen, I was frustrated with the attitude that the creation of art must be "fun". I don't know any artists who continually have fun while they work. What we do is as challenging as anything else out there.

Karen Krull Robart said...

Agreed, Patty. I suspect that for many who make that comment (myself included, I fear), the question stems from the memory of being creative as a child, and having fun in those young years creating whatever we wanted to. It was fun then, so surely it is fun now - right? Playing doctor was fun then, also (or so I've heard, because I never, ever, not in a million years would've done that -- just want to make that clear in case my mother reads this!), but I suspect most doctors would not describe their work as fun. Rewarding, yes, so let's agree to start using that term instead of "fun" when we talk about creating things.