The Artist's Responsibility

“It is the only point of getting up every morning: to paint, to make something good, to make something even better than before, not to give up, to compete, to be ambitious.” 
― Lucian Freud

‘Sweetheart’ prints here

 

The artist’s ‘responsibility’ is a topic I have been thinking about a lot recently. I wanted to write about a specific angle of this, but since finding and reading the articles linked below, I realise there are many ways to interpret this topic, which would probably require a few different blog posts! So for now I will focus on one angle, but please follow the other links I found to get you thinking about the other angles too!

(Linked articles:

Interesting blog post about what individual artist’s see as their responsibility / role in society : read here

Including,  Inspiring others, bridging boundaries, bringing communities together, therapy, connection, insight, societal change etc.

 And a lovely short piece on the ‘burden of the artist’ that captures an emotive angle on this idea: read here )

 The angle I want to talk about is that which as any type of artist I believe you are born with. An internal calling, a drive, a talent, whatever you want to call it. For many, myself included, this is recognised by others from a very young age. This then enforces and encourages your own internal belief and want to do it. Of course this is a beautiful and precious thing, but does in many ways come with a burden, a responsibility.

“I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort and disappointment and perseverance.”
― Vincent van Gogh

For most of my life I have known what I wanted to do, not the specifics, but an artist, a creative, of some description. Yes, along the way I have had doubts and indecision, but mainly due to the fear of others/ society as a whole or my own doubt that pursuing this was even an option. Knowing what you want to do from a young age could be described as a blessing and also curse. I always had this internal drive and desire and direction, whilst a lot of my friends and people around me were waiting, or wanting, to find what that was for them, what they wanted to do. I have always felt lucky that I knew what I wanted to do, but sometimes I think it actually feels like a pressure, a weight, that if I were to abandon it and work in something entirely unconnected, it would feel like I had turned my back on something huge, something that was given to me and I just wasted it. That, to me, is a fairly significant responsibility, and at times when self-doubt creeps in, it is tempting to dream of a life where I made different choices and I had a job where I work to get paid, to go home, to switch off. But ultimately, what I have really realised recently, is that there never was another option for me, there never will be. Which strangely brings great comfort and reassurance in what I am doing and the choices I have made.

 The responsibility is that ultimately, if the internal call is so strong and compelling, there is no option, no alternative, no matter what the cost. It may mean for many artists making certain sacrifices, often prioritising their work even when it is tempting to give in to the lure of a more ‘comfortable’ life without challenging yourself so much.

There are many artists that I have come across touching on this idea and the way they express it in words,  or how I interpret their words, is that it is an internal desire that is like a fire that has to be fuelled by doing the work, and that will go out entirely if it is left, but with consequences. Tracey Emin talks about feeling low and depressed if she doesn’t paint. A professional dancer I worked with years ago, told me she got so anxious and physically itchy all over if she didn’t dance every day. Sometimes I will go for days, or even weeks at a time where I haven’t created new work, not because I am not working, but because I am forcing myself to do all the admin that inevitably goes along with it, and I do go through times where I feel low, tired, uninspired, and I often turn to books, or yoga or meditation to try and ease this feeling. And then when I draw or paint or create again, it hits me so clearly that this was all I needed to do.

 I want to conclude by saying that these are musings and thoughts that scratch the surface of this topic, with which I hope others can relate to. I also want to make clear that I would never change this or what I do, but that like many things in life, depending on how you perceive it, sometimes it can feel like a responsibility to continue on this path.

Please comment below or get in touch if you can relate to this in any way, I’d love to know how others interpret it!

 Thanks so much for reading,

Holly

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“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent”. – David Hockney

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