Feeling Special as an Artist / by Jeannine Cook

A dear friend sent me a text on Whatsapp the other day, just when I was beginning another residence at the wonderful artist's retreat at Bordeneuve, chez Noelle Thompson, in the French Pyrenees. It came at a moment when I was feeling as though I was once more stepping into the unknown, without a specific goal in art creation, but conscious that I needed to forge forward and try to do the best art that I can.  Always a challenge that seems daunting until I get going again in the drawing process.

The text came in Spanish:   "Los artistas son de las personas mas dinámicas y llenas de valor sobre la faz de la Tierra.  Tienen que lidiar con mas rechazos en un año que lo que la mayoria de las personas en toda su vida. Cada día se enfrentan al reto financiero de vivir con trabajos temporales, con la falta de respeto de la gente que cree que deben obtener trabajos “reales”, y su propio miedo a no volver a trabajar nunca más.

Cada día tienen que ignorar la posibilidad de que esa visión a la que han dedicado toda su vida es un sueño muy lejano. Con cada año que pasa, muchos de ellos miran mientras las demás personas de su edad obtienen los valores de una vida normal -el coche, la familia, la casa, el nido-  Pero ellos se mantienen aferrados a su sueño sin importar los sacrificios. ¿Por qué? Porque los artistas están dispuestos a dar su vida entera a un momento -a aquella linea, risa, gesto, o a aquella interpretación que le robe el alma al público. Los artistas son seres que han probado el nectar de la vida en ese momento detenido en el tiempo, cuando entregaron su espíritu creativo y tocaron el corazón de alguien mas.  En ese instante, estuvieron mas cerca de la magia, del cielo y la perfección de lo que nadie jamás puede estar. Y en sus corazones saben que el dedicarse a ese momento vale mil vidas más.   “La vida del artista”, David Ackert.

Reading this text about artists made me feel validated in all that I try to do as an artist.  I translated it to savour of it and share it, as a creative artist.  Only when I had done so did I search out David Ackert on line, where I learned that this is his most oft-quoted statement as a businessman and inspirational coach to businesses.  What fascinated me that his statement in English referred only to actors, not artists in general. Selfishly, I prefer the more generous Spanish version of his words - this is how I translated them:

"Artists are among the most dynamic and courageous people on the face of the Earth. They have to deal with more rejections in a year than most people face in their entire life. They grapple every day with the financial challenge of living from freelance work, facing a lack of respect from people who believe that they should be going out to do “real” work, and their own fear of never being able to work again.

They daily have to banish the possibility that this vision, to which they have dedicated their whole life, is a very tenuous dream.  With each year that passes, many of them watch others of their age achieve the markers of a normal life – a car, a family, a house, a nest egg… But these artists cling to their dream without counting the sacrifices.  Why?  Because artists are ready to sacrifice their entire life for a single moment – to that line, that laugh, gesture or to that single interpretation that touches the public’s soul. Artists are people who have drunk the elixir of life in a moment suspended in time, when they proffered their creative soul and touched another human’s heart.  In that instant, they find themselves closer to a magic and a perfection than anyone could ever dream possible. And in their hearts, they know that their dedication to that moment is worth a million other versions of life."  

Thus my apologies to David Ackert for slightly altering the intent of his statement. Nonetheless, I suspect that any artist relates to this reminder that we all are basically seeking our private version of a holy grail, an aspiration that drives us onwards against all odds.  In essence, it reminds us that we, all artists, are the counterbalance to today's ever-more materialistic life that does not necessarily bring great happiness and satisfaction.

And now, back to drawing - once I have stoked the wonderful stoves with logs against the Pyrenees' chill! I love to try to follow in the footsteps of so many wonderful artists whose example we have in history.

Maya Lin, then only a 28-year-old architect, pauses in her New York office in 1987.

Maya Lin, then only a 28-year-old architect, pauses in her New York office in 1987.