If you previously missed the opportunity, here is the Matisse interview I’m referencing now for the second time.


I had to touch on the subject of “Suffering” that was discussed in part two of the interview, because I share Matisse’s sentiments and combative attitude toward a generally accepted view of what art is. But more important, despite the overwhelming risk and sacrifices involved and the stigmas associated with pursuing a career in art, I am quite grateful that a filtering process of privation and perseverance exists, to sift through and separate the “Sunday painters,” as Matisse calls them, from practiced craftsmen who are inherently driven to create, oftentimes by a force or Will not entirely their own. That’s not to say that the “Sunday painter” is incapable of creating great art, but simply, that dabbling doesn’t make one an artist.

My predilection, as an example, is a love/hate relationship that I ultimately had to come to terms with, accept, and consciously embrace as an intrinsic attribute that has shaped my life. It is as necessary as eating and sleeping for me, not necessarily a passion as many would like to believe. We are inseparable, my brushes and I. So it can seem unfair when popular opinion permits anyone who wields a brush or pencil or who models a piece of clay to be considered “an Artist”, whether such urges are entertained on a whim, out of boredom, or serious interest. That sort of general acceptance erodes the arena of fine art by cluttering and confusing the marketplace in a way that no other profession really has to indulge. It’s the equivalent of saying that just because I wrote mommy a letter, I’m now a writer, or, because I have an opinion about the state of our economy, I’m suddenly an expert economist, or that nursing my own minor injuries qualifies me as a doctor; so on, and so forth. In no other field do such unsubstantial efforts constitute “authority”, except in art. So I agree with Matisse wholeheartedly when, concerning art students, he says, “They should be given a volley of blows with a stick and led back home,” because then we’d know with absolute certainty which of them have any real conviction.

But my stance on the subject is entirely a passive aggressive one, purely steam (as we come full-circle), because the truth of the matter is that without a muddled art-scene… the struggle that informs and fuels my creative energy may also not exist. “It is necessary that there be a straining. It is necessary that life be hard…” Matisse declares. And one may have to be an artist to truly appreciate what that means.

I’ve experienced, first hand, the subduing effects of being well fed, and it’s not as productive as one would think. In fact, my hunger (both literally and figuratively) is the very source of my contradiction in this discussion, but also, what allows me to brush off the mild annoyances without insult or injury. Although I won’t go so far as to say that starving is necessary to create, a stimulus of some kind is, and starving just happens to be mine. It is a driving force, to EARN my place (among the stars – because if I must dream, I dream big), perhaps even an aspect of my ingrained work ethic that is defined by the desire to be exceptional at whatever I do (so as to make the task worth doing). As a consequence, however, I tend to experience an oppressive heaviness, a stifling lethargy when satiated, almost as if contentment extinguishes my desire to strive for “more.” Maybe that’s a healthy attitude. And maybe it’s not. It’s an eccentricity I barely understand and can only attempt to explain as a conflict between a physical Self, my human element, and the Spirit, which seeks transcendence, inasmuch as the conflict has become a recurring theme in my work. Despite the fact that the body houses the Spirit, there is no denying that these dueling aspects require contrasting stimuli in order to function, flourish, and mature. And the very question of which to indulge has become a decision I face almost every day. I have to ask myself, “Do I want to feed my body, or feed my Spirit?”

More often than not… I willingly choose the Spirit.