Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Joy of Painting

The Joy of Cooking was clear. The joy of cooking. Not The Joy of Being a Cook. 

The joy of painting. Not The Joy of Being an Artist. I'm not sure I have ever seen any Joy of Being an Artist. Not any that wasn't completely delusional. Not any that wasn't a charade. It is a cliche of the first order to say that the pleasure is in the doing. Cliches are cliches because they are tiresomely true. The joy is in the painting.

It is like the real estate cliche. The joy is in the painting. The joy is in the painting. The joy is in the painting. And you have to keep saying it and never forget it.

Lately I find I avoid my artist friends because they are caught up completely in being artists. There is no joy in painting when you do that. I recently had the misfortune of trying to cheer up an artist at an opening who had just humiliated themselves at an auction where they had had to talk about their work to start the bidding; and no one bid! They just stood there as the egg was dripping off them.  I gave them every possible piece of sunshine regarding their work, and threw in a boatload of extra. It was like snowflakes in hell. They didn't want to hear about their work; they wanted to hear about their career, their success, their glory, their immortality, their fame and fortune--how great they are.

Now I have a friend who would be old enough to retire from teaching who is actually going to go into an art program(read school) and has to scrape up the money to pay for it. Money he doesn't have. Money he wants to bum from other people. And why does he really want to do this? Because he might be "discovered." Discovered by people who are still waiting to be discovered. He doesn't want to go to learn; he wants people to tell him how great he is. The last thing he wants is someone breathing down his neck while he is doing the one thing he loves. The last thing he wants is someone trashing the one thing he loves. Picking apart the one thing he loves. 

It is like these people who force their little girl up onto the stage. He is literally sacrificing this innocent thing, the joy of painting, for some greater glory. I've seen and known these artists with the greater glory. Half of them killed themselves. The other half were just miserable. There is no joy in being an artist. There is joy in painting.

Three painters I regularly enjoy talking to about art recently had their big shows. I haven't spoken to any of them at all since. I suspect they think it is because I am envious of their good fortune. Not so. I want nothing but the best for them. What I would prefer not to do is listen to them go on about how they were not selling, or not getting the attention they deserved, or not getting the parade carrying them off the field. At an opening a week or so ago I made the mistake of speaking to an artist because their work was an incredible relief. It was fun and funny. Then they proceeded to tell me how it wasn't their normal work. That their normal work was all about war and stuff, but they didn't think people wanted to see that. It was like stepping in dog doodoo. I spent ten minutes trying to get it off my shoe. People are the only creatures who make their own pain. Artists too often make the mistake of rolling around in it.

I love hearing about these people who achieve glory and success in some field like politics or movies and then turn to painting for pleasure. They really enjoy it. They love to paint. They never ever ever achieve any success as an artist. Never. Not one of them. You can't get in the back door. Not Winston Churchill. Not DH Lawrence. Not Garcia Lorca. Not Lawrence Durrell. Not Henry Miller. Not Anthony Quinn. Not John Lennon. Not Paul McCartney. Not Anyone. But. But they thoroughly enjoy painting. Sometimes I like their work just because of that. The joy, the innocence, the naivite. It is what is behind the appeal of outsider art. The joy of painting.

But not in the art world. Art World. In the art world that is just a load of hogwash. Something else is going on. Can you guess? Not the joy of painting. In point of fact, the opposite would probably be true. Isn't that sad? I think it is where Richard Tuttle and I parted ways; the sheer dismissiveness for the joy of painting; the sneer for those who felt it. Art is about something else. It is pain. Reminds me of the Crusades(killing for the love of God). The worst he ever dressed me down was when I really loved this little piece of his. Big mistake. It was all about his pain. Why didn't I see that!

I have work by Garcia Lorca, Henry Miller, and Lawrence Durrell hanging on my walls. Right up there with works by Pollock, de Kooning, Guston, Motherwell, Resnick, Picasso, Braque, Walker, and Jensen. Right up there with work by my children. The Pollocks and de Koonings have to meet those standards, and they do. Maybe it explains their success. The paradox of it. If you forget you are lost. The joy of painting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Everyday Olympians: Tilting at Windmills

Drop the Ball. Muddy the Waters. Shoot Yourself in the Foot. Tilt at Windmills. Put Off. Turn the Tables. Fake It. These are just a few of the events of the Everyday Olympics: the Olympics for the rest of us.

These are our skills. The things we really learned from our families and teachers. We're good at this stuff. We deserve to be recognized! If we can't medal we can at least be contenders. We could have all been contenders!

Over in the Media Pavillion at 3pm is the Fault-Find Floor Exercise, and we've already had our first scandal! The shoe-in for the Gold has been disqualified! Shocker! It seems he worked as a successful management consultant his whole life, staying in shape well past retirement. Fortunately, amateur status is still observed. Apparently there was also some question as to whether he was taking steroids. 

This evening, over at the Aquarium, Muddy the Waters will be held in the four Olympic pools simultaneously. Bring your glasses. At the same time Putt Off was supposed to be taking place in the Youngian Arena, but was postponed until later on in the Games. This is an event that often gets concluded some six months later, if ever. 

Tilt at Windmills is a fan favorite, along with Fight for the Right to Be Wrong, and Drop the Ball. Shoot Yourself in the Foot would be right up there, except that by the time the Games start, hardly a country in the world can field a team due to injuries. 

Of course for some people the Opening Ceremonies are the most fun.  The competitions haven't started and the entrants are still good-natured. This year the United States once again enjoyed the roll of host nation and as a result lead the way with this season's Queen of Da Nile, and you know who you are. The problems start immediately after that however, with the Japanese Involve Everyone Else in Your Argument team getting everyone in a huff. Getting everyone in a huff used to actually be one of the premium events until they dropped it when the French kept cheating and winning.

The raciest event is always Cover Your Asset. This year promises to be no different, with some of the biggest assets in recent history making their way to the Games. These are the true Everyday Olympians, which is why this event is saved for last.

News Flash! This just in! Over in Jack Horner Stadium they finally have a winner. Canada and Switzerland tied for the gold and Tibet took the bronze in Hide in a Corner. Happens every time, and still the Tibetans cry foul! Of course, in Cry Foul they did take the gold, so why complain?

My personal favorite has already taken place, and this event always leaves a pit in my stomach. Drop the Ball. I was so proud to see my wife on the stand. It is her fifth medal in these games. I swear, she is so fast you would never know she ever had the ball. 

I trained all year for Nit-Picking, but who knew the competition would be so stiff? I didn't even make the US team! My wife suggested I try out for Nagging, but even there I was out-classed. I'll be ready next time. Watch out! I've beefed up my regimen.

So that's it from this Everyday Olympics. Until next time, have a Happy Holidays, and remember: you have skills that could make your family and teachers proud! Bring home the gold! Just do it! (Oops! That's THEIR event!)