art, inspiration, Musings

Do artists have to suffer to create?

Do artists have to suffer to create? I was asked this question recently by my cousin Greg. We have an online book club, which is a group of cousins that reads and reviews books in email. I had the task of choosing our latest book, and being an artist I decided to choose Claude and Camille, by Stephanie Cowell.

I have always loved Monet. Who isn’t enthralled by his beautiful water lilies paintings? Or the one of his wife Camille on a sunny day with an umbrella with their son? His work mesmerized me, and I still love it. Stephanie’s book brings to life the struggles of the author, as well as some of his joys. Monet lived with many other artists and together started the movement of “impressionism”. Yet they all struggled. It is sad that many artists struggle to be discovered, or make a profit from their art, but in death make their fortunes. It is hard to believe that the creator of some of the most popular art ever made, was mostly quite poor and struggled his whole life.

So why don’t they just give up?

There is a saying…. “Hope.. the most addictive drug of all.” That is what pushes artists forward. They will paint and create, and then a painting will sell. They will enjoy this triumph and then head right back to the studio to create more. And wait anxiously for another sale. This cycle, makes the artist improve his work. It makes him strive to create something better than the last painting. And this cycle is why artists do not give up.

I have to be honest… when I started painting, I enjoyed it, but it was just something I did. A job.  As time went on I naturally evolved into a true artist.  Where I agonized over my paintings.  Struggled to finish some, and doubted myself all the time as to whether I was any good.  I compared myself to other artists and thought I failed in comparison.  I soon, thankfully, learned not to compare myself to other artists, which is terribly hard not to do.  I learned instead to look at their art and be inspired.  Be happy for other artists successes. Because perhaps that would someday be my success.  Art has now become an experience for me rather than a job.  It has honestly changed my life and made me a better person.  A happier and more grateful person, one that is thrilled to be able to create. 

But in answer to the question, I sadly do think some artists must suffer a bit, and also get some life experience to create.  This suffering brings about contemplation, and this contemplation about life, and the artists own work, makes the artist strive to create better art.  It is a cycle that is continuous, and this cycle continually in motion, is what propels an artist forward and to create more meaningful, beautiful work.

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