Sunday, November 21, 2010

Am I really an artist?

Dad "You've heard of the starving artist, right?"

Dad "When I was in school we called people like that artsy fartsy"

Mom "Maybe you should have a career to fall back on"

Mom "Do you paint whatever you want, or does it mean something?"

former boss, reacting to my resignation from the company to pursue an art career "you're no Picasso"

ex-wife "when are you going to get famous?"

current wife "the art stuff is ok as long as you make (insert dollar amount here) per month"

countless others "you should make a children's book", "you should get a gallery show", "have you ever seen (name of other artist here)? I love his stuff"

The real litmus test is how other people describe you when you aren't there. Do they say "he's a dishwasher", "he's working in NYC right now", "my son does graphic design", "my brother works for a TV company", "my friend Mike does something with computers", "I'm not really sure what he's doing right now" ---- or do they say, emphatically and without hesitation, as if you were a doctor or a lawyer, "he's an artist"

Until you make a living from your artwork, nobody will see you as an artist. They will see you as a delusional, self-indulgent freak who is too stubborn, lazy and self-centered to accept reality and get a real life. 

The artwork we make must be so undeniable, that it makes money, pays other people's salaries, buys houses, buys cars, becomes iconic, influential, changes people's lives and commands respect. Otherwise one lives in a personal ghetto, unknown, making unknown pictures, living like an underground fugitive, a spy, a legend in one's own mind, pretending to be "x" when one is really "y".

Michael Bowman

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