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Life’s an Omelet

August 7, 2013

Please don’t call me Thoreau today. I’m currently channeling the spirit of Vincent Van Gogh, that mad painter who gave himself to his art – and died penniless at the age of 37.

On the face of it we don’t have much in common. His career ended at the age mine’s beginning. He was a painter; I’m a writer. I’ve never cut off an earlobe or tried to marry a cousin, and my youthful ambitions had nothing to do with becoming a pastor.

But I admire Vincent’s dedication.

As Christian Bale says in the movie The Prestige: “Total devotion to his art. Lot of self-sacrifice. You know? It’s the only way to escape… all this.” Bale’s character is talking about a magician whose illusions extend into his daily life. Any time he goes out in public he dons the guise of an old cripple, so no one will ever suspect he can perform amazing feats of strength.

It takes devotion to make it in all walks of life. For artists, the path isn’t clear cut or well-trodden. It can’t be. To find the way requires a kind of devotion that can often manifest as craziness to the outside world.

For all Van Gogh’s foibles, there’s much we can learn from him. Keep trying. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You have to crack eggs to make an omelet. If at first you don’t succeed… you get the point.

Of course it’s all about perspective. Would Van Gogh consider himself successful if he knew how revered his works are today?

It comes down to a single question: why does an artist make his art? If the value is in the act of creation, Van Gogh was a success. But if more value is placed on reputation and sales, he wasn’t – at least not during his lifetime.

Some people just want to be remembered. To each his own. Personally I’m trying to hone my craft to a fine point so I can share my philosophy with the world. This means I have to get very clear on what my philosophy is, and very good at transferring it into a form that’s both intriguing and entertaining.

There’s a lot to do. And, unlike Van Gogh, I have responsibilities beyond myself. It seems the time is not yet ripe for utter devotion. But I can get started: these days there’s more to being an artist than doing art.

Why do you make art? Is the creation enough? What eggs are you willing to crack to cook your life’s omelet?

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