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Can Serious Art be Made by Sane and Happy Artists?

February 7, 2014

Art writers often cite the focus on symbols of sex and death in the work of famous artists. It can seem as if you've no chance of making 'great art' unless your paintings or songs or novels are 'dark.' Must your work be heavy with passion and dread, to be considered serious or even good?

 Here are 5 suggestions on how you can handle this popular prejudice. The secret to staying happy in your Art is the same as in Life itself. You'll find the way that best suits you in these 5 suggestions.

 1. You can ignore the whole deal. It's just journalism, after all.

  • You're not Picasso or Wagner or Balzac, how does it apply to you? Well, here's the thing...

You're already tackling the subjects of sex and death in your art. Don't believe me? Then just think about the last painting you made.

  1. Let's suppose you're a floral artist and you work in a realist style, not figurative and not any of the Abstract styles. Unless you fudged reality by rendering every petal and leaf  as perfect, free of any blemish caused by damage or the decay of time, that piece at least hints at death.
  • If you're a songwriter, your most recent musical work is likely to be, in some way, a love-song. Its melody may be lilting, its words may flow gentle as a watercolour ode to Romance. Yet passion thrums beneath the pale skin of its lyrics, lust licks the rhythms of its music and the death of love stalks its final bar.
  • Maybe, you're a novelist. Yes, I know – you do it because you can't help yourself. Just like every other artist, you can't not do it. So, like every other Art, yours will reflect and refract real life. Whichever genre you've chosen, your current manuscript entangles your characters in danger and distorts their natures in passionate conflict. If your pages allow them a cosy old age, their end is still… you know it, death.

2. You can embrace the reality. There's no Art without contrast.

  • Light against shade. Sharp against soft. Sour against sweet. None of us can enjoy a bowl of porridge for every meal. How excited would our audiences be if we gave them the same stuff every time?
  • That's not to say dissonance is a bad thing in art. The single brush-stroke of discord colour, the fifth note or unexpected power chord, the surprise pairing of concepts in a story. All add keynotes of contrast to an artwork.

3. You can resist overdoing the dark side for the sake of novelty.

  • Digestive systems rebel at a diet riotous in exotic combinations. Minds can also be revolted by unrelieved distortions in Art.
  • Escalating use of violent colour and deliberate ugliness in paintings.
  • Empty phrases and brain-numbing repetition in song-writing.
  • Cruelty disguised as humour, and crude, unimaginative language in books. 

Used to excess, these are symptoms of artists who lose self-confidence and end up as traitors to their real natures.


4. You can find your own balance between dark and bright.

  • Balance is the hardest thing to reach - ask any tightrope walker.
  • Balance reached creates the truest beauty – ask any ballet dancer.
  • Balance in relationships brings the deepest joy – ask any happy lovers, happy parents and their kids. That brings us back, full-circle, to Life itself.

Life can be seen as one point of a line whose other point is death. The line can be of any length but the two points are fixed.

  • One cannot be without the other.

5. Now, ask yourself, “how much do you remember from the time before you were born?”

  • ( Hey, stop here a moment and try, really try, to remember as much as you possibly can.) See?

So now you know: there's nothing, nothing to fear.

Go ahead, live your life and make your art your own way, not according to whatever is being promoted by current fashion. Your unique art can be satisfying to yourself and enjoyable to others, yet still be freighted with subtle meaning that inspires.©Dorothy Gauvin

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