There is a certain romanticism surrounding the struggling artist. The writer who lives of old bread, the artist who paints on newspapers because he can’t afford canvas, the musician who sleeps in his friends’ Volkswagen. Is it possible to be an authentic artist, create what you want or simply must produce while aiming for approval or even fame?
Artists often find inspiration from everything in their milieu. They are the observers, the people who tune into what colors, nature, music and daily occurrences make of their emotions, or what their emotions transcend into their surroundings. How can you collect all of these influences and work from them without taking in society’s opinions as well?
We live in a culture obsessed (even dependent on) likes, followers and general popularity to measure our status or likeability. No wonder people are finding it difficult to tune into their personal needs of expression; this is already clouded by the focus on filtering what form of expression is ‘liked’ best.
Perhaps more then ever, developing the tool of self-awareness (mindfulness) is high on people’s never ending to-do lists. It is also more challenging than ever before. For some this is the start of a spiritual journey, for others it could even just be the realization that external factors cannot be controlled, which is life-changing. This gives the most wonderful sense of helplessness; it is a relief. Imagine if you had no one ever look at what you put out into this world, would it be worth producing?
Vincent thought it was. Before someone actually looked twice at that impasto technique of Van Gogh and realized this guy was on to something he was just an artist with virtually no money, one painting sold in a decade and many nay-sayers around him, including well-respected fellow artist Gauguin.
Vincent called The Potato Eaters his first masterpiece but his only cheerleader Theo called it ‘fine’. Only few of us actually know how many townspeople eating potatoes he had drawn before. The answer is; unbelievably many. Most of them we would not even recognize as Vincent’s because of the lack of technique and composition; Vincent was unable to capture what he would later develop in drawings, which is why his first mentor dismissed him in early stages of his teaching. Yet he kept going, and he found a technique which would become his signature, color palettes which excited him and no one else. Vincent produced purely for Vincent and made over a thousand oil paintings with undying perseverance, ambition and passion. When Van Gogh finally sold a painting, there was no celebration simply because humble Vincent had been celebrating his well-established technique in solo-style for years already. The determination he felt came from within all along; therefor a person applauding his talent was something he might have enjoyed but it was no confirmation of his talent. This is not to say that popping Moët or enjoying praise/fame once is it obtained would be inauthentic. It is to say that our insatiable hunger for outer confirmation, which is uncertain, fluctuating and sometimes short-lived could be fed infinitely by ourselves if we choose to do so.