Art comes first
“Art comes first.” That was the reminder I received from an unexpected source. Yesterday, my friend Julie and her husband, Ralph were doing me a favor, turning on our furnace and teaching me how to bleed the radiators in our house so they’d work more efficiently (and hopefully more cheaply).
We had worked our way, with some mishaps such as water spurting out of the furnace because of too much pressure, through all the radiators on the first floor, and all the artwork lining the walls. Upstairs, Ralph wanted to start at the front of the house, so we walked into the art studio. I don’t remember now what the question was, but my answer was, “well, this is mostly Betty’s studio, and I have some things I work on over there if I ever get the time.” “Oh, art comes first,” Ralph said very declaratively. My answer? “Right now, money comes first.” Then we continued working on the radiators, finishing up with green tea and conversation before they left for their son’s soccer game.
But I haven’t gotten his comment out of my mind. I’m a creative person, but there are many ways to express creativity, and I do. When I work on the layout for the NADmag, choosing an elephant (who never forgets) for the background of an article called “Lest We Forget;” or when I work to “harden up” my colors to fit my client’s aesthetics, when my own colors are softer; or when I write this blog or other articles; or when I cook; or when I work on presenting Betty’s art to the world; or when I come up with a new idea to put on a t-shirt or other products for my online stores, never knowing if anyone else will ever like them, or ever buy anything. All of those are my creative endeavors.
But art is different. It’s not just creative and challenging and engaging, it’s healing. For me, art isn’t painting or drawing. It’s pulling together disparate pieces and creating a new wholeness, a new unity from them. The end result may be a card, or a piece of jewelry, or something to hang on the wall. But the end result isn’t the point for me. It’s the process of bringing these different things together visually that heals me.
But the responsibilities of life, the need to earn money, to take care of business gets in the way. Maybe I think my artwork isn’t good enough and no one will buy it. Or maybe I’m afraid they will buy it and I’ll be doomed to repeat it to earn money. Then art will stop being about creating and healing, but about earning a living.
“Fear is the mind-killer,” wrote Frank Herbert in Dune. But some fears are so ingrained in our beings that we don’t know they are there, manipulating us all the time. Art should come first, for so many reasons. Maybe soon, it will.