“Pride,” said Alexander Pope, “is the never-failing vice of fools.” This certainly applies when we kid ourselves that something we’ve done poorly is somehow worthy. Fact is, pride’s always suspect, even dangerous. Religions warn against it. Along with envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth, pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
But I’m calling it “true pride” here, and I think it’s good stuff. A sense of pride is one of the finer arts that we need to learn. We need shots of pride when we enter our work place, when we handle our tools, as we proceed in our processes and when our projects are drawing to a close. Here are a few ideas for the care and maintenance of pride:
Develop professional, workmanlike habits.
Build joy into your working hours.
Take care, be patient, raise standards.
Organize for efficiency and creative flow.
Know that unrest is part of the program.
Gain power from learning and knowledge.
Demand artistic truth and integrity.
Be in love with your own intuition.
In humility, find your divinity within.
Sign with eternity in mind.
Every creator, to a varying degree, has what I call an “intrinsic passion.” It’s an exhilarating state that can easily be deflected by obligation, expectation, guilt and other factors. Unless one’s passion is somewhat followed, no number of mechanical motivators will work very well — and scant satisfaction will occur. But satisfaction is not the same as pride. It’s actually dissatisfaction that leads to higher accomplishments and true pride. Here, I’m talking about the well-being of the living, breathing artist.
Feeling he lacked integrity is what propelled Mark Rothko into his last miserable years of depression, drink and suicide. Appalled by the high prices his work was achieving and by the seeming simplicity and repetition of his dealer-motivated style, he angrily fussed over minor measurements and innocent slights — masking his lack of pride and diminishing self-esteem. The same could be said of Vincent, who put all of his prideful optimism into anticipation and had the additional burden of perceived personal failure.
PS: “No artist is pleased. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” (Martha Graham)
Esoterica: If you ever doubted the grace of pride, you should see a movie called Born into Brothels. It’s a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art — a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red-light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New-York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes. The children get to enlarge, frame, compare, sign and exhibit their photos. The show travels to other lands and the kids go with it, filled with pride.
This letter was originally published as “Time for pride” on January 3, 2006.
The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.
“The picture must be… a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.” (Mark Rothko)
Relax, enjoy, create!
Photography/watercolors/acrylics/mixed media. Group activity room (floor to ceiling vista). Ghost Ranch Lodging/meals provided. See why Georgia O’Keeffe loved Ghost Ranch. Each workshop/retreat is different. The June workshop leans heavier on all kinds of materials –textiles and dye, printing, painting, pouring and more! The October workshop combines the media of photography, watercolor, ink, acrylic and more — using watercolor paper, clayboard, etc!
Daily demos, slide presentations, door prizes and optional happy hour. The website shows how I work from Ghost Ranch scenes to finished paintings. www.darlabostick.com