Does My Friend-An Artist-Count?

Most of us have a friend who paints- at least I do. I ‘Ooh,’ and ‘Aah,’ over his paintings, cite Van Gogh’s example if he makes self deprecating remarks, and secretly wish he would take up a real job. I propose that those who can draw, colour and create can work as graphic designers, illustrators, art editors, art curators, art directors, etcetera, and choose to paint for pleasure only in their free time. Art related fields are competitive and whimsical and it is only natural that I wish my friend would employ his talent to obtain a steady income. I know, I know, nothing is steady, and one should be fluid, and life is unpredictable, and we should follow our dreams, but to quote Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, ‘A new branch of mathematics was developed over the last 200 years to deal with the more complex aspects of reality: statistics.’

The statistics-from a country of opportunities such as the USA- also make for uncomfortable reading. Noah Berlatsky in a thought provoking article writes: ‘Out of the 2 million art graduates in the United States, only 200,000, or 10 percent, earn their living primarily as artists. In another article ‘The myth of the starving artist is anything but a myth,’ Eileen Kinsella writes, ‘The struggle is real.’

I suppose fame requires a delicate alchemy of personality, talent and patronage. Michelangelo never removed his boots; his feet would fester and skin peel off. Georgia O’ Keefe painted in her car, Picasso carried around a gun for people who annoyed him, and Monet, known for his beautiful nature’s scenes, surprisingly drew offensive doodles of his teachers. The list of famous artists and their quirks is endless, and one can only wonder if the persona was created by the pressures of the vocation, or if the vocation demanded that a persona be created.

I refer once again to my friend the artist. He draws inspiration from abstract expressionism, a post World War II art movement that developed in New York in the 1940s. He talks knowledgably about Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline; artists he admires. I like his paintings. I can infer whatever I like from the odd shapes and misshapen figures. The colours merge almost at will. He meets all the requirements of his calling. He is young and passionate, driven by melancholy, shaves once in a few weeks, and drinks large quantities of vodka. After his third drink he usually says- with an expletive I can’t write here- that statistics mean nothing to him. Even if he never makes money off his work, he knows he’s born to be an artist. If he says it, I believe him and yes, he doesn’t have to be up there with the known artists to count. It’s enough that he knows it himself.

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