While examining the perfectly assembled nest of a song sparrow yesterday, my hiking buddy mentioned that her daughter, studying forestry out of state, had been ruminating on the idea of painting landscapes. “Do you think I have what it takes?” she’d asked her mother. “Of course she does,” I said. “Because her love is nature, she needs only to pick up her brush to see where her spirit takes her.”
For Mark Lo’s 2021 documentary Count Me In, rock drummers gathered to share their origin stories, while the art forming and artistry of Art Blakey, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Ringo Starr and others were discussed and cited as universally electrifying and galvanizing. Samantha Maloney, drummer for the bands Hole and Mötley Crüe remembered receiving her calling the first time she banged on a few pots and pans. Each drummer told a similar story; of a dramatic and precipitous moment of recognition while drumming – which informed them of their life’s purpose. While I can’t speak with authority to other passions, art continues to reveal itself as a sledgehammer informant – the anointed person thumped and then invited to apply for their life there.
As artists, we can tell ourselves that the reason for the sledgehammer is because as a job, art is difficult – the sledgehammer merely a taste of thumpings to come. Or maybe it feels like a sledgehammer because art is just, genuinely, way more powerfully fun than other activities. The would-be outdoorsperson painter already understands herself as a person in tune with the environment and capable of bringing attention to it by way of an aesthetic experience. Before asking herself if she has what it takes, she must first embark on the great and arduous quest of discovery to find out what she might uniquely have to say about the natural world, and then develop the ability to do so. Communicating the message skillfully, artistically, effectively, and with influence can then arrive after a few hundred thousand goes at the kick drum and snare.
PS: “An artist is not special. An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special.” (Ruth Asawa)
Esoterica: Whether avocation or vocation, painting invites itself into your life as a sledgehammer of challenge and pleasure. Art remains accessible to anyone with the desire to summon their own expression from its mysteries. Masters Roger Taylor (Queen), Topper Headon (The Clash), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz, Carlos Santana), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Nico McBrain (Iron Maiden) and Stewart Copeland (The Police), as lifers, are still vibrating – foaming, really – when they describe, through mouth beats, hand and foot taps, body sways and face pulls, the all-encompassing joy, and the communicative and connective potential of art. “Passion,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.”
You can stream Count Me In on Netflix.
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“A work of art is a corner of nature seen through a temperament.” (Emile Zola)