Once when in grad school I was overcome with anxiety and feelings of guilt at the thought that I was leading a hedonistic life as an artist. What right, I thought, do I have to be here in my studio making useless drawings when there is so much wrong to be righted in the world?…. That didn’t last for long. I either liked my hedonistic ways too much to give them up, or maybe for me there was something right about being an artist.
Being here at Blue Mountain Center and surrounded by vibrant creative people from a wide range of ages, motivations, interests. All seem to be socially and environmentally aware. I began to wonder why they live this life.
So I began a really unscientific investigation with this question: The life of the artist (creative) is one with few rewards such as we are experiencing here at Blue. Why do you choose to live this life?
One artist replied: because I like to make things. I have to make things. It keeps me sane. I can’t not do it. I tried.
Ginnah Howard told me she started to write later in life, but she had enjoyed drawing as a child. She had a good experience being introduced to creative writing as an adult. She takes pleasure in spending years creating a whole world in her novel Night Navigation of which she is working on the final book of the trilogy. She says that writing provides her with a disciplined way to live a life.
Another artist relates her work to playing as a child, even though sometimes the work is hard. She also makes the point that she sees the life of the artist as a service to others, that through her work she makes the world better.
Joel Katz disputes the premise that the artist’s life is any harder than anyone else’s. Any life can be hard. He dislikes the romanticizing of the artist’s life. As an educator he sees students whose lives are very hard indeed, yet who keep on plugging away at becoming educated. He does his work because he has to.
Another artist does art because it helps her find order, making sense of a tiny piece of a chaotic world. And, she loves the sensuality of great paper and the reflection of graphite, or the dying light in the drying ink.
I asked Oola and she says: “Art is necessary to exorcise demons. Like if you never took a shit, you’d die”.