Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rejection and Inspiration, the ups and downs of being an artist

Here I am working on my response to rejection and being fueled and inspired by Patrick Finn's article
'Artists are Dangerous'.
Collecting Reference Material: Self Portrait
Oil on Canvas
22"x 28"
(was entered into the National Portrait Gallery of London's BP Portrait Awards 2013)
Olina Ballerina
Oil on Canvas 
11"x 14"
(was entered into The Portrait Society of America's International Competition 2013)

This past Wednesday was a difficult day full of ups and downs and was all too typical a day in the life of an artist.
As my day drew nearer to it's close, it ended up taking an inspiring turn that I would like to share with you. The following is a good portion of an email I felt absolutely compelled to write:

Dear Patrick Finn,
I am writing to you because I just read your fantastic article 'Artists are Dangerous'.

I am a painter. My name is Daphne Cote. I live in Stony Plain, Alberta. I have just had an all too typical day of an artist where I received two letters of rejection from two major international art competitions and a phone call saying that the classes I am teaching got enough enrollment to make them possible. Ups and downs. I decided to take these large rejections and a small thumbs up and let it fuel me to work even harder. Before going into the studio I decided to get pumped up by looking at art and reading some articles on the web. Your article 'Artists are Dangerous' serendipitously was the first one I came across. I found in your words a description of exactly who I am and what I think it is to be an artist.
   I found your article inspiring and that it reaffirmed the fire that burns within me telling me after each rejection letter to work harder and after each success to think bigger.
Thank you for putting your words out there and I hope you consider allowing me to use/reference your article with the intention of inspiring others.
With gratitude,
-Daphne Cote

Patrick Finn generously wrote a response within a few hours encouraging me to go ahead and post his article, I hope it inspires you as much as it did me...

Artists are Dangerous

Patrick Finn
Calgary is a city of visionaries. To inspire us to reach greater heights through our planning process, we have engaged a number of people to provide their personal views on the future of the arts in Calgary. This article presents the views of Patrick Finn.
Artists are dangerous.
Don’t be deceived by the fancy scarves and all that kissing on both cheeks stuff. Artists are dangerous creatures who go straight for the jugular… actually, that’s what those scarves are for: protecting the neck from other artists.
Make no mistake: artists pose a direct threat to life as you know it. People in power are aware; artists are the first to be silenced when tyrants seize control. Throughout history artists have terrified Kings and Queens, CEOs and Generals, Popes and Prime Ministers.
Thinking of becoming an “Arts Champion?” You better know it means. The following is a public service announcement of sorts… a warning for delicate souls out there.
Artists work harder than you. They don’t take breaks, don’t have casual Friday, and they don’t have conferences in Miami. They punch in once, and don’t punch out until you put ’em in a box. If you complain about how hard you work to an artist, they won’t even have time to laugh in your face.
Artists are better with money than you are… and they work for less. You can’t bring in foreign workers to replace them, and you can’t outsource their jobs, because even the oppressed don’t want their spot. An awful lot of governments and businesses plan and spend like drunken teenagers, but artists deliver on time and on-budget every time. Ever hear the phrase “the show must go on?” It’s a blood oath.
Artists are fearless. People talk about tolerating risk in order to be innovative or entrepreneurial. Artists eat risk. They see comfort and walk the opposite way. They run into the fire. You cannot scare an artist. And if you could, it would only make them stronger.
Artists are not artsy. Being artsy is like being a kid in the suburbs who dresses like a gangster from South Central LA. Artists don’t have time to be artsy just like gangsters don’t have time to play at being gangsters.
Artists are drop-dead sexy. It doesn’t matter how rich and powerful you are; it doesn’t matter what you drive, or who makes your clothes; your partner has an artist fantasy. Heck, so do you. Seriously, no one dreams about running away to Paris with Jenkins from accounting. But don’t worry; artists are too busy steal your partner.
Artists are time travellers. Freud said that every time a scientist makes a discovery an artist has been there first. Artists look into today and see the future. Forget economists, astrologers and weather forecasters – artists are the only ones that glimpse the road ahead.
Heroes are those who relentlessly pursue a journey in order to fully realize the quest that is the complete expression of their lives. That’s a word-for-word description of what it means to be an artist.Artists are heroes. Heroes are those who relentlessly pursue a journey in order to fully realize the quest that is the complete expression of their lives. That’s a word-for-word description of what it means to be an artist.
Artists don’t need you. We often hear people talk about funding the arts as if it were something artists need. They don’t. They will work with or without your money. We fund the arts for our children and for ourselves. There is no such thing as a society without artists. You should fund the arts for your own self-interest. Just know that if you do, no matter how much you give, you will never own even one percent of an artist. The only artist worth funding is one you can never buy. And that’s exactly why we should fund them.
Artists manipulate your brain. We live in an age of rapid change that continuously speeds up. The only defense is to develop a nimble mind. Artists are experts at challenging the status quo and shaking up minds. They can navigate the depths. There are stormy seas ahead, and artists are deep-water specialists.
Artists will tear your heart out. True artists make you feel. Sometimes, they make you feel more than you want. They will rip your heart to shreds and leave you pulverized. But when your heart heals, it will be stronger. Then, when life brings the real tears, you’ll be glad they prepared you for the genuine tests of the heart.
Artists are not entertainers. It’s nice to be entertained, but every moment you commit to entertainment is a moment your brain is taking a break. It is running in old ruts… following patterns from the past that will not serve your future. Art will move you, change you, and challenge you. Entertainment is for moments when you are too weak to face the world and need a time-out before continuing your quest. Once you’re rested, come back to art, and get back on the trail.
Artists are warriors. A lot of people go to pretend boot camps these days. You want boot camp? Artists will boot camp your heart, mind and spirit. Come on, tell the truth: would you rather be lusted after for the song in your heart or for the relative density of your buttocks? In time, all bottoms fall, but with art, the spirit endlessly ascends.
Artists are Calgarians. They are mavericks, ranchers, pioneers and adventurers. “Titans of Business” and true government leaders align themselves with artists. They recognize fellow travellers. Champions march side by side.
Artists do not criticize. Their work is out ahead. You don’t have to be book-smart or in the know to connect with art. You don’t have to “get it.” The only requirement for embracing art is full-stop bravery. Real artists don’t lecture you or pretend to know what’s best for you. They are on the field, not on the sidelines yakking.
Artists are dangerous. They are there before the first-responders. They are “the abstract and brief chronicles of the time.” They are unafraid of things that keep you up at night… and they are everywhere.
Those who support artists commit themselves to lives of courage, adventure, and discovery. The faint of heart had best stay home.
So, if you want to be an “Arts Champion,” by all means saddle up, but you better be ready for one heck of a ride. And don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
Dr. Patrick Finn is a performance expert who found a home in the Department of Drama at the University of Calgary. He has worked as a professional musician, writer, designer, programmer, as an artist/academic and consultant. The central theme of Patrick's work is Human Performance and Information Technology, where technology can be everything from vocal technique and colour palettes to alphabets and computer code.