Is Struggle Necessary?

In popular culture, the role of the artist is often dramatized and the underlying theme of many of these dramatizations is the struggle the artist must endure, before finally finding success.  Often, the struggle only results in success after they meet with some tragic, perhaps self-destructive end.  Does it have to be like this?

Events that conspire to thwart you, as an artist, are actually neither good nor bad.  They are just events.  The fact that getting ill or going broke stops you from painting for a while has nothing whatsoever to do with the ambition you have to paint; it is all about a value-free event that inconveniently and co-incidentally stops you in your painterly tracks.

Looked at from that perspective, such events present every artist with a choice.  Do I make a big deal about the obstacle, saying things like “this always happens to me” and allow myself to be a victim of circumstance, do I look upon the event neutrally and continue to seek out ways to pursue my art anyway, or even better, can I make that event turn into some hidden opportunity for further improvement?

Picasso had a blue period, where he famously used only blue paint.  What if that was not because he woke up one morning and decided to eschew the other colours he owned?  What if that was the only paint he had left and he didn’t have the money to buy more?  The struggle is all in your own perceptions and how you choose to look at it.  When you don’t have everything you think you need to make your art, maybe that’s just a chance to see what you can make and how good you can make it, with whatever you do happen to have.

Constraints can often enhance art.  Having too much choice can lead to paralysis.  Having a reduced palette, or only one cheap old guitar might force you into artistic choices you might never have made otherwise, which can result in you discovering a new way, something original or help you to hone a skill that may never have received attention, if your resources were less limited.  You may be travelling the road less travelled because you have to.  That means you may be in artistic territory that nobody has ever been in, simply because you are the only one that has ever had to (so far).  Seasick Steve, a former homeless, unemployed, broke guy, had only three strings on his six string guitar.  But listen to his music!  It has moments of sheer, divine beauty.  It’s enough to make you wonder why ordinary guitarists insist on using all six strings!

So the struggle might not be necessary.  Maybe you can make great art from a position of having every resource you deem necessary.  On the other hand, the things that appear to get in the way might actually be improving your skill, your craft and your art.  The struggle might be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Just as it is when painting a scene, it’s all in how you look at it.

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About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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1 Response to Is Struggle Necessary?

  1. From my times where the essentials had to fit in a bag, I kept a sense for painting on table corners.

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