Sacrificial giving is not really a fashionable phrase nowadays is it? It is certainly not something readily associated with the work we do in our first world, consumerist societies. Yet those two words have been a signpost to the huge shift that took place in my own career a few years back, highlighting my hard earned corporate job as empty and void of real personal meaning, and elevating a creative life as a gift I could no longer ignore.
My work journey has been as Accountant to Artist. The ‘to’ is past and present tense; the change is still working itself out day by day, the gift of art a lifetime in the unwrapping. There is sacrifice on the journey, as anticipated; intermittent pay, low (no) job security, self doubt, and occasional loneliness.
Capitalism breeds few artists and society shouts “get a real job!” But a leopard cannot change its spots any more than an artist can ignore the creative tune pulsing from within.
It would be a mistake to succumb to the common misconception that an artist is tormented and crazed, chain smoking, alcoholic, too lazy to apply themselves in the ‘real world’ (any or all of these titles). In my own experience I’ve seen artists as kind, hardworking, intelligent and sensitive souls often juggling several jobs as sidelines to their creative work. Many volunteer endlessly in hopes of making vital connections and securing better opportunities for their art. They spend small fortunes on quality materials and framing, and face the disappointment that money is not always made back in sales. Some commit to studying on an ongoing basis, constantly seeking to refine and enhance their creative abilities. They are frequently misunderstood, their work sometimes even more so. This is no easy gig. It is certainly not hiding away from the real world. This is as real as it gets. This is sacrificial giving.
Perhaps on your next visit to an art exhibition you may keep the above in mind. Before proclaiming “is this really art?!” or “my kid could paint that!” think of the possible stories behind each artist; the years of study or life experience under their belt, the opportunities they’ve turned down to be true to their creativity, the thankless jobs they have (and often, still) work to fund their art, the fact that they have the courage to simply show up to something so widely unappreciated and frequently dismissed. Think of all of these things and I believe you’ll be halfway towards becoming the kinder and more thoughtful audience that all artists hope for.