I tried to avoid the steady gaze. It seemed like the brown eyes pierced into my very soul, asking questions, surveying my existence. So contemplative, so knowing. I unwittingly mixed in a little introspective therapist into the pastels I applied, and I had to giggle a little when I stood back to survey the finished product. He’s very regal, very convicting, on his leather couch, eliciting introspection as he silently listens.
While drawing this winter, I listened to Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, a fascinating book in bite-sized pieces detailing the routines and habits of around 160 artists, musicians, writers, and great thinkers. Along the way, as I layered fur and leather, I thought about my own daily habits, my own rituals to entice and encourage my artistic creativity.
I have to say, after listening to over 100 stories of artists’ bad habits – alcoholism, substance abuse, and some really weird rituals – I feel a little bit better about myself. They do take a lot of afternoon naps, though; I wish I could incorporate that into my life. What a lovely habit.
I began to worry, as I have joked in the past, based on the biographies of great artists such as Van Gogh, Degas and the like, that I will never be a very successful artist unless I have more problems, more existential throes, more drama. Luckily, after I finished Daily Rituals, I listened to Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic. Speaking on the same subject – these crazy artists literally killing themselves over their creativity, living in the bowels of anxiety and personal torture – she gives a different view:
On these grounds, naturally I am tempted to make the case for drinking myself to death as a creative exercise, but that would be self-destructive.
Creativity resides in making the choices that make you happy, and anyone who tells you otherwise — your inner critic, your outer critics — is fooling you. Originality is out, authenticity is in.
Whew. That’s good news. As I finish up “Bogie” the dog, I relax a bit, look him in the eyes and say “thanks.” We made it out together. He seems relaxed.