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©Katherine Dunn.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stopping for that hot dog

I listened intently to a 2 hour interview with John Prine yesterday [as Billy the pug slept], who I have followed and loved since the early '70's. He said that he is one of the most non-committed song writers he knows and that if he is in the middle of writing a song and someone offers him a hot dog, he'll drop that song to take the hot dog.

I am 'supposed" to be painting. Instead, I am doing all sorts of important things, but painting. So, is this ok? I am also playing the 'artist-kicking" game. It is a game I see all artists play, even really well known ones. Here's how you play. Become a full time artist and make your sole income on art. Sell the art over the years, gain a following. Feel good, make more art. Sell more of the art. Feel even better. On the very first day you do not sell anything, or even get an email or inquiry, say to yourself, "Well, let's see, the fact that no one bought even $5 of art today means that I am done as an artist, and perhaps, even, my art is done, it is no longer something anyone wants to buy. " This will then allow you to NOT want to make art, and the more art you don't make, the more you repeat the above statement, over and over.

Eventually, if you hang in there as an artist for a long time, you will learn to play this game at times, but then kick yourself in the butt and get on with it, and eventually, something does sell, or better yet, you make a great piece of art and just appreciate it for what it is. But it is very easy to fall into a hole of self defeating thoughts when sales are not coming in. I've been doing this 10+ years. Somehow, I always am presented with what I need the most at a given time, it is a fact that I calmly hang onto and remind myself of in lean times.

The hardest part of mixing art with commerce, I feel, is the constant nagging in one's head of - 'what can I do to increase sales, why did that sell and not this one, how do I get more people to the site"....on and on....If I were rich, would I paint in this same rhythm I am in now? Or would I cease all together to care about producing, and simply make a few respectable canvases a year and be content? I don't know. I know I would always be busy, never resting, and creating 'something', like monkey houses, or bad knitting, or pickles.

I also know that making a living on art is a grind. But not the life itself. My daily moments and my life are NOT a grind. I am very lucky. I love being outside, being able to breathe and be surrounded by animals and nature. The grind comes in the constant nagging fact that one MUST make money to live, even if living as simply as we do. The grind is where's the next job, where's the next sale, when, where, how, why not faster, what am I doing wrong? Everyone faces the same feeling of 'grind', no matter the income level, I assume - The surgeon in the ER, the CEO's, the lawyers, the guy that bravely lays tar on the highway, and the millions that loyally go to a little cubicle with their little pencil holders.

I guess, what I mean is, making money to sustain oneself, usually involves a grind in some way. But one's life, if one chooses consciously, does not have to be a grind.

I was interested that the architect Frank Gehry, in the recent PBS documentary on his work, stated that the one thing he always wanted to be was a painter - but that he had never tried. He said that the thought of a flat, blank space terrified him. He also said that each time he started a new project, he would have moments of wondering if this was it, if this was the project he would not be able to find a solution for, that he would 'lose it' and this would be the end of his career as he knew it. That gave me comfort - to know he had those thoughts even at his stage. I look at architects, such as my own father, and am so in awe of their ability to clearly see and think spatially in 3 dimensions. It is a gift, and I will never have it. Physicists and engineers too - very admirable.

I am in some sort of stage where the 'creating' I am doing more of, at this particular moment, is not on a 2D piece of material. Rather it is a of little creations that are bringing me fulfillment, even though they might be considered silly or wasting my true talent by some. I did a wonderful canvas 2 weeks ago, and have another blank piece on the wall. I will do it - I am just slowing down maybe. Today I wanted to make my pumpkin sculptures. Last night I made my donkey doll. They will not sell, and if they did, not for much. But the muse took me there.

I guess, it's like this. Right now, today, if I was working on a painting and someone offered me a hot dog, I'd stop to take that hot dog.