“Are you still doing the art thing?”
That’s the most asked question when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Either they don’t know what to say for conversation or they actually see my art making as a phase, a thing I did. Something I picked up and put down like a decision between a can of dole pineapples in place of the real thing. Or like a magazine I pick up to stare at in the checkout line just to put down when I’m next up. This manner of viewing art and artists is all too common and at times, exasperating. In most cases our expertise, skills ,and laser like use of imagination is reduced to hobby status, or worst yet a relished pastime. Yes, there are those who practice art as a hobby or did it as a pastime, just as there are those who sing in the shower or play around in the kitchen. But then there are those of us who are called. I won’t fully unpack that word since I’m choosing blog over book.
I’ve answered the call that so many of us hear with clarity at a time when our lives are less complicated. Only to lose touch beneath the cacophony of social expectation. I’ve, at times, struggled, to make out the distinct yet faint voice of that thing that bids me to make marks on paper, canvas, or stage. To sculpt the future in the present and personify the past. This calling leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. It’s so much than what I do. It’s who, what, where, why, and how I am. To present an alternate and sometimes cooperative view of living and being in this world is part and parcel to being an artist obedient to the raging calm. That calls for a being that is both fluid and stolid in varying degrees. A person open to designing against the grain or seeing beyond the scene without undue concern about how they are seen. A man or woman who is still a hair’s breadth away from the child within and in constant conversation with the God of their choosing and the devil of their devising.
The word art is much like the word life. It is alive and shifting, ever growing, and morphing into more of itself. Those of us who saddle up and take the ride are prone to the same. Whether it be on cloth, film, page or stage, to deny that calling is to deny who and what we fundamentally are and exist out life as a truth that is not ours. Some may call that a lie. For me it was purgatory. No, I will never tell you that every moment is glorious and sunshine and rainbows, but I can paint them when I choose. Even in the challenging times, I remind myself that I get to do this. Heaven is just on the other end of my brush tip or pencil. And yes, hell is never far behind. That is the conundrum that is the art life. It is what keeps the pendulum swinging, just as the negative and positive firing of neurons keeps us kicking in this space.
Yes, I am still doing the art thing. Just as the engineer is still doing the engineering thing and the doctor doing the doctoring thing. We are just as valid and must see ourselves as such. The art thing feeds the soul. It is something most people don’t give conscious thought to as a profession. Art is the salt and spice of life that is noticed mostly when missing. Never mind the lack of understanding up front. That is a part of our calling, to inform, shed some light, sometimes by exploring the darkness. By doing, we give permission to do. So in being called, I know there is someone, something doing the calling. There is a path for us. It may not be a crystal stair but it’s there. Even when I walk through valleys covered with the shadows of death, I will not give up for anything that comes against me. Will you art with me? …Yes, I am smiling.