Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Enemy lines

The struggle for six hours daily to make fingers move at lightning speed, and in the balance of the day to re-shape one’s mind into a vast reservoir of history, style and technique, impress the right teachers and build the pedigrees that could make all the difference in earning potential  – this felt, to my 17-year-old mind, like a serious distortion of what I knew and loved about music.  Six hours of practise daily – good exercise, but no balance with laughter.  There was nothing playful about it.

I never found a mentor there, or perhaps I wasn’t open to the possibility after receiving a damningly dismissive letter from my Conservatory teacher just months before.  The world of music study felt cold and hard.

So I put my cello away for a decade and pursued fine art – York University in the ’80’s, Sheridan College in the ’90’s, many joint and solo exhibitions since.   With apologies, because I’m just beginning the process of overhauling this old website, here’s some of my work @ www.crowsink.ca.

At the time I believed that music and art were two different things.  Silly me.  Eventually I figured it out, got my cello & vocal chops back and have included music and performance in every art show I’ve done since.

Here we come to my point – ANY artistic discipline is equal parts cold, hard and terrifying, and deeply, soul-quenchingly rewarding.  There’s no way around it, if you’re serious about the job of being an artist.  We serve our communities by tackling the toughest questions and finding (hopefully pro-active) means and ways to offer solutions, generate discussion, make precise, accessible statements that have universal resonance.  It’s an incredibly difficult job to do well.

Ask any serious artist about obstacles – constant lack of time or money is the obvious one, though I’m  frankly sick of the the ‘starving artist’ stereotype – so often this comes from an overblown sense of entitlement.  In some few cases artist poverty happens for legitimate reasons rooted in abuse and mental illness, but such is the case in any profession.  Being a professional artist in this culture includes the hard work of attending to self-promotion, maintaining multiple streams of income, and making sure you respect yourself enough to cover your needs.

A conductor friend of mine once told me that he spends only 3% of his time on his craft.  The remaining 97% he spends building and maintaining the continued possibility for good work.  Most young artists don’t understand this  – it’s where we mostly fail.

However, I find that the difficulty of mastering those things pales when I’m finally alone in a studio, developing a piece, a show, a concept, and building the images that will describe what I’m trying to communicate.  It takes a strong stomach to face down the inner demons who will tell you:  Nobody will get it.   This is weak.  This has no relevance whatsoever to what’s happening out there.  You can’t see.  You can’t draw.  This work has no function, no meaning.  You’d be better off mowing the lawn.

The enemy lines.

I have been at it long enough to know that if I don’t feed them, the demons will fade away.  If they’re stubborn, I pick up my cello and dissolve them with music.

Happy art-making, everyone.  Stick it out, and make it good.

 


2 Comments

trouble

definition:  the difference between what you believe and what someone else believes.  The greater the difference, the more trouble you’re in.

For humans (who should know better), there must also be a fairly strong element of denial involved to make this so.

This oak tree thought it would live in one place it's entire life. Then it was sold and planted somewhere entirely different (without any of its 'birth' soil, without its taproot). Trouble, yes, but with copious amounts of water, a healthy will towards life, and supporting caretakers, not permanent.

Example 1.

(DISCLAIMER:  this following does not refer to any specific event or person in my own family – I have a larger scope here.  So, B, S, A, G, D, F, J, L, P, M, C – if you take any of this personally, I will personally come and ply you with bad jokes. no mercy.)

I might believe everything is a-okay with my family, no need to check in. In fact, I can actually feel them close by (in a non-corporeal sense), supporting me through these troubled, stressful times – thank god my family has always been so good at intuitive mutual support.  I can, without question, ALWAYS count on them to understand.

But Family feels Differently.  They feel that they’ve become less important than my Work.  In fact they have not been sending me fair speechless (supportive) messages, rather there is deep resentment brewing, and siblings,  parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and in-laws have been sharing & comparing their lists of my failures and inadequacies for months and months – years, in fact, if you really examine history.

That’s when I finally show up for dinner, expecting hugs & congratulations.

Ah but Family can be cruel, hey?  However, situations such as this can be resolved, given some willingness to let go of the ‘victim/perpetrator’ model of relationship, to rediscover the idea of tolerance, and re-affirm one’s own sense of humility. As the gap in belief narrows, mutual support increases, and wounds are healed.

how appropriate - the bleeding heart. I must say though, that the flowers so named are incredible to look at - orchid-like.

Example 2.

I fall crashing into love.  Cannot imagine who I was before I was hit with this person’s beauty, wit, wisdom, kindness & my own level of inspiration by same.  My entire life is forever changed, and I never want this exquisite,  joyful pain to end.  I make plans & take action to ensure that it won’t.

The trouble is, it’s not reciprocal.  Also and in fact, said object of worship is sadly unworthy, in the light of day.  Has bad breath, is mentally & emotionally undisciplined, doesn’t like hockey or classical music or books, and tends to be the room’s top ‘drag’ on the collective energies.  Folds his kleenex when blowing his nose (urrgh).  Too bad we got married?

Or perhaps, let’s tear up this contract that we both thought meant something different, and re-write it.

Spurge, exhibiting great uniformity of purpose.

Example 3.

I might develop a belief, over many years at the same job, that I have earned the right to self-determination.  I know that my bosses and the bosses that rule them are benevolent, that they value my presence, my competence and my experience as indispensable to the business we are in together.  Operations run so smoothly here that there’s hardly any need for communication – I am fully empowered to do first and explain later.  Thank god for this long leash, although I know I’ve earned it, these past three decades.  Life is good.

…until I get called into head office, with a recommendation that I bring my union rep with me.  Maybe I shouldn’t have shortened my work week by a day without permission.  Big oops Trouble.

Perhaps this is what good union reps are for – to build bridges over gaping canyons between beliefs, like the one above?  Should folk such as these be trained & ordained as priests from the New Church of Re-claimed Humility?

Happy transplanted Rowan tree

In closing:

Oh astonishing we (humans) –  surprising, wicked, warm and impossibly, perpetually bound for trouble.

It’s all okay.  I can take the trouble I make on the chin, with a (humble) chuckle, I think.

In the meantime, the trees grow and the flowers bloom and the bees get the job done.