About a year ago, when I was engaging in the ultimately fruitless endeavor of looking for a job as a full-time artist, I went through a couple of interviews for such employment. It haunts me a little that I never got these jobs, as I do think in my heart of hearts I would have done well by my employers. Art can be rather subjective though, and it just was not meant to be. One charge I had leveled at me (at the time I think a backhanded compliment) at one of my interviews was that my outlook and art seemed “boyish”. When I heard that, I didn’t know whether to cry foul or acknowledge it.
I tend to over analyze aspects of my life, the struggle between trying to be humble and hubris being one of them. How far should pride go? When is it valid and when does it become a tragic flaw in a Greek play? Is my work “boyish”? What does that mean? Sophmoric, trite? Should I become more “mature” or just follow what I love? What observations and advice is valid? Do my critics know more than me?
That is where my pride comes in. If I do commercial art, I try to think like the client. Their needs are paramount. I just use my experience for them. But my personal work, I admit it – I fall in into a certain “boyish” outlook. I’m excited. My color palette becomes over the top. I like things to pop, I feel energy. Sometimes, especially during long artistic layoffs, I almost forget that I can draw. The making becomes a foggy memory. And then I start the process. And I feel like a spectator of a sort, I fall into a combination of trance and internal conversation with the piece. During this talk, I feel a companionship and guidance with a part of me I keep submerged so I can function in society as a grown man. As an atheist, I don’t believe in deities of any sort. But the whimsical side of me can almost feel something greater, at once both wise and child-like helping me. And that inner voice tells me to ignore what others say and do what you love. Forget your cares for a while, and engage in the art. Hopefully others will see your joy and take joy in it also.
When I come out of this state however, the criticisms of people can sting. And being a fretful flinchy artist at heart, I can have 10 likes, and 1 dislike and I start wondering. I get defensive in my mind, then I stop and think – are they right? Should I listen to them and change my process, do more mature work? And even worse, if I do immature work, does this reflect on my general outlook on life? Am I immature and shallow? What do I contribute with my whimsical “boyish” drawings?
My art, at heart, when I can do it, is a release and an escape. I know full well that there are wars, people die from disease, accident and old age. I am an avid reader of history and politics. I am concerned about the environment. I loathe know-it-alls and bullies. I am aware of all of these things. It weighs heavily upon my thoughts.
Strangely though, it doesn’t affect my art. I wonder why? I think that although I care deeply about these things, I feel I can’t really do much beyond my inner circle. I try to provide comfort to family and friends, and give to charity when I can spare it. But I’m not an activist. About 10 years ago, I could feel myself slipping into being very angry politically, and in the end, after a time, I realized I was pretty much powerless. The joy of my life was being sucked out.
I disengaged and disconnected. When my career back in PA wasn’t going anywhere (after almost 20 years), I realized I had to change course to bring what was left of my artistic soul back. I sometimes wonder – am I a quitter, a runner? Am I running away from something or running towards it? What is my “artistic soul” anyway? And is it “boyish”, should it remain “boyish”, and should I despise this? Will I ever “grow up” artistically? Do I want to?
In the end, with my artwork (and perhaps my outlook on life) I have determined I must remain noncommittal to keep mental balance. I get too emotional, as I tend to be on or off in what I choose to engage in. I must make my life, live it and be true to myself. If I remain a boy at heart, then that is what it is. If I change into someone more mature, as long as it as true to my development, then so be it. However, if I remain someone who has a certain child-like exuberance in his work and outlook(which, after 44 years of life seems like an indicator this may last for a long time), then I have to be right with myself. Make the work, live the life, and let it be judged on its own foils and merits.
That being said, this boy now needs to go out and play.