Although some artists may put me down for this, I’m pretty sure that the production of art has to do with a sense of well-being. I’ve found that art is at its best when the art more or less takes over your life. It’s great if you happen to be a fan. Other specifics contribute as well, like the ability to access both sides of your brain. I call this “bicameral wobbling.” Sometimes “BW” is automatic, at other times you have to put a cattle-prod in your ear. We all know about taking the time to half-close our eyes, but do we always remember? There’s also proper planning, a knowledge of the basics, and the surety of the rightness of each project. But there’s more to it than that. Effective work includes the whole artist: health, mind, family, self-esteem, intuition. When your machine is hitting on all four, you can feel it in the whole chassis. “Our body is a machine for living,” said Leo Tolstoy. And while living in our work may at times be difficult (you may even hate your work) we are thankfully given a lifetime to search for the warm and fuzzy to guide our hands. And I’m here to tell you that in life and art you must learn to love.
“Thou shalt love thy work,” is a commandment that artists have long taken for their own. Other professions have seen the wisdom of the idea. Love is deadly because you can look at your work and see when there isn’t any. When you’re loving your work, you know what you’re doing. Where does it come from? It’s a cricket you keep in your pocket. It’s a state of evolution, a double-mindedness, a giddiness, abandoned control, controlled abandon, it’s supercalifragilisticexpeialidocious.
And it’s all such a beautiful mystery.
PS: “When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music. To love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s innermost secret. All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” (Kahlil Gibran)
Esoterica: How did I come to be so blessed? What miracle has led me to this easel? How daring of me to flirt with the gods and to take part in these marvels.
This letter was originally published as “Love made visible” on May 24, 2002.
“Never forget that the nurturing and preservation of your own muse is job one.” (Robert Genn)