Friday, February 4, 2011

To Paint, or Not to Paint...

Not a painting. Pieta, Michelangelo.
I am not a painter. I can paint, I have painted, I know HOW to paint, but I don't ENJOY painting. It is too imprecise, too time consuming, takes too much preparation and clean up. The paint dries too fast, or it dries too slow, or you didn't mix enough and then it is impossible to get it to match. The brush never does what I want it to do, the list goes on. Yet the first question anyone asks when they find out I have an art degree is "do you paint?" Every commission I have ever gotten has been for a painting. People buy paintings, people don't pay for a sculpture that they can't display on a coffee table. So, I am left with a choice, practice an art I hate but may yet yield some coin, or do what I like and give up the hope of it ever translating into a paycheck. Many artists have felt the pain of this decision, even in the times of Michelangelo, a sculptor who will forever be remembered for his most famous work, the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, a PAINTING. Now there's a man who hated to paint, yet did it anyway for the paycheck. In fact, this situation is an analog for the decisions we make every day as adults, do the work that pays, or the work I love? Is it fair to sacrifice for my own happiness when there are people dependent on me? I maintain that it is a MUST to do work that makes you happy, whether it is your primary job, volunteer, or simply a hobby. A person who spends all of his or her time doing something that he hates is miserable, and miserable to be around. If you make this sacrifice for your family, you may be able to give them more *things* but you will have less *you* to offer. A child isn't the only one who needs to play, it is a human thing to need to feel joy in the work we do. And maybe an animal thing, too. It is a basic necessity, the highest of needs on Maslow's pyramid, self-actualization. Michelangelo didn't just paint, he carved the Pieta, David, and other hauntingly beautiful pieces that, in my opinion, far outshine the Sistine Chapel. But, don't get me wrong, you still have to pay the bills, so, by all means, paint.

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