Friday, April 13, 2007

How Green is That Grass?

The other day a friend asked me if Scott would continue to paint if he won the lotto tomorrow. Scott was having a particularly challenging week painting so the answer this week was a most definite, “I’d never touch a paintbrush again! The first couple of thousand paintings were pretty fun, but after that, not so much.”

Since Scott has been making a living as an artist for well over 20 years, his perspective about painting is quite a bit different than mine is about writing at the moment. While attending to the demands of the job that generates a paycheck, I squeeze in an hour or two here and there to write, and I imagine my fabulous future writing life. I sit down with my morning coffee and blissfully hammer away at my latest masterpiece, full of inspiration and incredible ideas. This vision, I realize is probably about as accurate as the fantasy I had about artists before I knew any personally. The artist of my imagination worked in a big loft, wore a French beret, held a palette in one hand, a brush in the other and had a long cigarette holder clenched in his creative teeth. He worked his emotional furor out on the blank canvas before him and was allowed fits of temper. How this turned into a paycheck never entered my mind.

While Scott has periods where he’s truly inspired, energized and doing the best work of his career, he also has periods where he’s painting commissions that don’t rock his boat or he’s painting a subject he’s no longer passionate about, but is selling and in demand by his galleries. He’s got packing and crating, ordering supplies, website changes, negotiations with galleries, advertising, cleaning brushes and a laundry list of the less glamorous tasks that are all part of making a living as an artist.

During the “up” periods, I’ve asked Scott the same question. Would he still have a desire to paint if he didn’t have to? Then his answer takes on a different slant. “If I didn’t have to depend on painting for my income, I’d probably like to set up an easel in my garden and paint what I see just for my personal enjoyment. I'd paint what I want to paint.”

What’s the difference between the fantasy and the reality? It’s pursuing your passion as a hobby versus having to pay the bills. With creative vocations, people frequently don’t understand the difference. Many times I’ve seen Scott smile and grit his teeth when someone says to him, “gosh I wish I could have your job”, and I imagine working writers might feel the same way.

Maybe that’s one of the benefits of making a career change at the ripe old age of 45 and understanding that it’s all hard work, but working at something you love beats the heck out of working at something you don’t.

10 comments:

Shirley Quaid said...

Lisa,
How lucky you are to have the reality of an artists life on one hand and the burning desire and committment to write on the other. Good luck to you. Don't lose your enthusiam. And thank you for this blog. You don't know it but you have helped me see some things with more clarity..........hmmmm, must be a writer at work!
Shirley Quaid

Shirley Quaid said...

OK, so I can't spell..............color me embarrassed.

Lisa said...

Shirley,

Spell-schmell, I am so glad to hear from you! Thanks so much for checking this out. I am brand new to doing this so I don't know how to do half the things you're apparently supposed to on a blog, but if it results in me hearing from an old friend and a wonderful painter, so be it. Please stay in touch and I'd love it if you wanted to share how your painting is progressing.

The Writers' Group said...

Lisa, this blog of yours, only days old, is truly inspired. I have to link to it. I'm eager to see where your journey takes you.

Amy

Shirley Quaid said...

Lisa,
With your permission I will have my brilliant webmaster (my son) add your link to my website.
Now off to work on a commissioned painting.
Shirley

Lisa said...

Amy,

I am truly honored that you've added my link the The Writer's Group. When I told a coworker earlier this week how late last Monday I'd started a blog, his response was that nobody accidentally starts a blog. True enough. Perhaps impulsive and spontaneous would have been better adjectives. I honestly didn't think anyone outside my circle of immediate friends and family would ever stumble across it. Most of those closest to me have sent private emails to comment on Eudaemonia and how the concept of striving for self-actualization resonates in their lives, so I'm happy that impulse overrode my normal inclination to meticulously plan things out until I'm certain I've got it right.I do believe the world provides signs to let us know whether or not we're doing the right things and this week, I've gotten a number of them and yours was the first. A post from author Patry Francis was another incredible surprise and honor. Thank you again for your wonderful words of encouragement.

Lisa said...

Shirley,

I'd be delighted! I hadn't visited http://www.shirlequaid.com/ in a while and wow! You've completed some incredible work since my last visit. You're now one of my links too. I'd love it if you'd share with us your thoughts and your experiences in becoming a full-time working artist. You're what this site is all about :-)

N. Hyde said...

If I won the "big one", I'd be doing exactly what I'm doing today, except with a better haircut, new casual clothes to cover in paint whenever I wanted them, a house and studio of my dreams, and the same husband. <--- I kinda like that guy. :-)

Lisa said...

Nic,
What a great affirmation to know you wouldn't change any of the important aspects of your life! Can't blame you for keeping Wes around. I kind of like him too :-)

Leslie said...

Lisa,

WOW.

When people have asked me about my family, I gotta tell you I’ve often commented - “my sister is really a writer” – I kid you not! I’m so proud of you – and happy – the blog really makes the fact that you’re really happy with your life sing. I only hope that I’ve inherited half your talent.

I’m really impressed. I have only to figure out what I want to be/visualize for myself. You’re an inspiration. Beautiful stuff – good on ya!

--Bugley (your fat-headed sister!)

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


Virginia Woolf