Yesterday at Wednesday Art Group I painted in acrylic the same picture I'd done in watercolor a few weeks ago. I'm quite pleased with this one, too. Whenever this happens I feel uneasy about which medium I like the best, as if I had to make a choice. It's the same with subject matter....what do I like the best? For some reason I'm always thinking I have to dedicate myself to one thing. I feel like a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
Our discussion over wine and cheese had to do with what it means to be an "artist." We discussed devotion to our work, time spent on it, setting priorities. We like to think that we are different from the ordinary person in some significant way. We forgive ourselves all conventional shortcomings, deferring to the "artistic personality," the artist's life. We exhibit the ultimate self-indulgence. We congratulate ourselves endlessly, while taking a humble stance. We are cut from a different bolt of cloth, we think, and are proud of it.
We all lamented the fact that we did not have enough time to devote to our higher calling. Or at least that was the consensus. I, who have time to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it, do not long for time but inclination. I am not "called" to create. For want of another way to spend my time, I have made art a significant part of my life. It is what I do. But I could have easily done something else. At different times in my life I have devoted myself to other things, always trying to be the best at whatever I was doing. When sewing was important to me, I couldn't rest until I could make a continuous lap sleeve, a perfect rolled hem, a bound button hole. I had to make all the clothes for myself and my children. When I cooked, I wanted to learn to do everything the great chefs could do and threw myself into the task. I made doughnuts and home-made pasta and souffles. Playing the piano using the melody accompanied by chords, which was my father's way, was not good enough for me. I had to be able to play Rachmaninoff's 18th Variation on a Theme of Paganini, the original version. I macrameed the most complicated items I could find, knit the most complicated patterns and stitches, needlepointed using basketweave instead of the inferior diagonal stitch, learning every stitch I could find, designing my own peices. I crocheted and quilted and crafted. No jumping on a horse for a trail ride on a Western saddle for me.....I had to have my own horse. I had to learn dressage. When I was a parent of young children I was the one who did the PTA newsletter, who passed out cups of fluoride, made cupcakes with Santa on them for the Christmas party and heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's day. I sewed Oscar the Grouch costumes and painted scenery for the class play. For awhile I was a social worker, for awhile I was a writer. I was interested in politics and government, a heartfelt democrat. I was a reader of the Utne Reader, an environmentalist, a protester. I learned not one, but four foreign languages. I got not one B.A., but four. I am passionate about animal rights, much more pasionate than I am about art.
In the end I took the easiest path. I was born talented in drawing. With such a head start, I could develop that talent with a minimum of effort. I fell into the roll of "artist," and that has become my identity. It was the path of least resistance.