Why are you an artist?


Are you an artist? I want to ask you a very serious question: why are you doing this? Why make and try to sell art?
I have a form of blood disorder called Polycythemia Vera. There is no cure. I receive treatment weekly for it in the oncology lab. Often I feel pretty crummy. I am not telling you this for sympathy. I don't need any one to say I hope you feel better or bless your heart, none of that makes a damn bit of difference for me at this stage. It just is what it is.
Every week for the last year there was a fellow who was on the same schedule as me. Jim Saunders was a jeweler who loved turquoise which I also love. Jim died last week, and it was not expected but his numbers tanked, his liver shut down from the radiation treatment and within a few hours of me talking to him he was dead. Let me tell you, when the guy you get treatment with weekly dies on you, that will make you think about a lot.
But something I want you to think about, what of your art when you die? I am not talking religion and I want no comments about your faith. But think of this. My friend gifted me with several pieces of his jewelry, and I bought several for June (my wife). People all over the world have his work as he has been at it for 45 years. Over my desk is a painting from an Art Professor I had, One of my absolute favorite pieces or work. He passed a few years ago. In the corner is a metal sculpture from another dear dear friend who passed a few years ago too.
Last year my art went to all 50 states and 13 countries. People I have never met have my art on their walls. My art is in 90 or so offices and stores from Chicago to LA.
I find myself rubbing the stone in my rings that Jim made thinking about him. I wear a piece of his soul in a way. I am looking up at the painting my favorite professor did and realize there is some of his heart in that. Not to wax philosophical but art changes the world, makes it more beautiful and as artist every piece of our art that is out in the world is leaving a bit of our heart, our soul, our creativity.
This isn't about faith, as someone may believe differently but this is about what we have in common as artists outside of faith. Jim Saunders and I believed very different things, but we had art in common.
What you do as an artist is vitally important to making this world bearable, beautiful, meaningful. You will die, but as long as your art is around part of you is in this world raging against the ugly and the darkness of human pain and suffering.
Don't let success or unsuccess keep you from making art, your work is important even if it never sells. The flower on the hillside that no one ever sees still makes the world a far more beautiful place.