Monday, October 11, 2010

Take Inspiration

When an artist sells a picture, it's a red letter day. It justifies the time and effort spent creating, it's confirmation that someone likes, or even loves what you're doing and it inspires you to carry on. But when your art isn't selling, or worse, isn't being seen, making art can be difficult. Unless you're particularly strong willed you need someone (other than a partner, relative or friend), to validate your efforts and give encouragement.

I could do with a little encouragement myself at the moment. My problem is time, of which I have plenty, but not enough in one block. I need two sessions of 8 hours each to work on 2 projects. But I feel guilty leaving the dog alone for more than 5 hours. Before you ask, no I can't take him with me and I can't leave him in the car. I could leave him in the garden, in his kennel, which is very comfortable but I'd be worried that he'd escape. Until I think of a solution I have to busy myself around the house.

Of course my problem is trivial even laughable compared to the suffering and insecurity experienced by artists. Art history is littered with artists who didn't sell a thing, and at times like this, when I need perspective they are a great inspiration to me.
George Catlin - Shon-ka-ki-he-ga, Horse Chief, Grand Pawnee Head Chief (oil on canvas, 1832)
I'm looking at an old postcard. It's from the Smithsonian, it's of a Native American called Shon-ka-ki-he-ga. The original was painted in 1832 by George Catlin. George has the distinction of being even  less successful in his lifetime than Van Gogh, who at least sold a few of his paintings to his brother Theo.

George Catlin was inspired to paint the Native Americans by the introduction of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced mass migration on the native people and in effect was genocide. George travelled west several times, no mean feat in those days, to paint the people and the landscapes he saw being destroyed.

Trying to support himself and his wife he took his paintings around the country in a touring show, but never covered his costs. He failed to persuade the Smithsonian to buy his collection and he tried and failed to get the government to sponsor his work. He died bankrupt and disheartened. His debts were paid by a Philadelphia industrialist who acquired the entire collection of 600 meaningful portraits, which he donated to the Smithsonian.

In a rather uncanny coincidence, while writing this piece I've just sold a photograph.

1 comment:

  1. That's a tough one, and not trivial. Being a desperate animal lover myself, I understand your anxiety surrounding the responsibility and I appreciate your devotion to your dog's well being. Seek out a good pet sitter who can be trusted. It can be costly, but your dog AND YOUR ART are worth the price. The peace of mind will buy you some freedom and flow. The results of that will more than likely pay over and above for the pet nanny.



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